WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - Tom Daschle, the South Dakota Democrat who was Senate majority leader at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, has disputed a central element of the administration's case for its eavesdropping program: that Congress implicitly authorized spying on Americans when it endorsed granting President Bush broad power in 2001 to combat terrorism.
In an op-ed article published Friday in The Washington Post, Mr. Daschle said he rejected a White House effort three days after the attacks to grant Mr. Bush specific authority to conduct antiterrorism operations within the United States as part of a broader resolution backing the use of force.
In seeking the specific authority for a domestic response, Mr. Daschle said, the White House was effectively acknowledging that the resolution did not cover domestic actions like spying on Americans.
"The Bush administration now argues those powers were inherently contained in the resolution adopted by Congress - but at the time, the administration clearly felt they weren't or it wouldn't have tried to insert the additional language," Mr. Daschle said in the article.
The White House has asserted that the resolution, adopted by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001, freed Mr. Bush from the requirement to get warrants to monitor international phone calls and e-mail of Americans and others in the United States. That resolution authorized the president to employ "all necessary and appropriate force" in response to the attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
But by Mr. Daschle's new account, which appears not to have been made public previously, the White House sought within minutes before the vote on the resolution to alter it to include new wording specifically granting power to carry out the antiterrorism campaign within the United States.
The White House, Mr. Daschle said, wanted the resolution to give Mr. Bush authority to use "all necessary and appropriate force in the United States and against those nations, organizations and persons" responsible for the attacks.
Mr. Daschle said he had turned aside the White House's effort to include "in the United States and" in that sentence, leaving the focus of the resolution on fighting terrorism abroad.
Asked for comment Friday, a White House spokesman provided a written statement that defended the eavesdropping program by referring to a letter the administration sent to members of Congress this week justifying the president's authority for the operation. The statement did not address Mr. Daschle's account of the deliberations over the wording of the Congressional resolution.
In an interview, Mr. Daschle said he and his staff were dealing primarily at the time with Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel and now attorney general. He said the request to add the wording authorizing activities in the United States had been made by the White House through the office of Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, who was then the minority leader.
"They presented a draft that gave the president virtually unchecked authority and the ability to do virtually anything," Mr. Daschle said in the interview. "We were dumbfounded that they were asking for the ability to take these actions" not just abroad but domestically as well.
Mr. Daschle's account suggests that the administration's effort to define the powers of the presidency expansively were well under way within days after the terrorist attacks. In the last week, both Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have defended their efforts to claim broad executive authority as necessary for national security, and have cited the 2001 resolution as one basis for their assertion that the eavesdropping program is legal.
Speaking about the program in his weekly radio address last Saturday, Mr. Bush said: "To fight the war on terror, I am using authority vested in me by Congress, including the Joint Authorization for Use of Military Force, which passed overwhelmingly in the first week after September the 11th. I'm also using constitutional authority vested in me as commander in chief."
Mr. Daschle said that in the days immediately after Sept. 11, there was "grave concern about our ability to respond quickly." But, he said, when briefed by the administration about the eavesdropping program in 2002, "I and others expressed concern."
He said his concern would have been even greater had he known the extent of the program. The description provided by the administration in 2002, he said, left him with the impression that it was more limited than recent disclosures have portrayed it.