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White House accepts judicial review of NSA eavesdropping
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

The US President George W. Bush agreed to sign a bill that would allow for a limited judicial review of the National Security Agency‘s controversial eavesdropping program, said the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R). A White House spokeswoman also confirmed the same.

Sen. Specter said that the bill will clear the way for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to “consider the program as a whole and to make a decision on it.”

Under the “Terrorist Surveillance Program”, NSA conducts surveillance on international and domestic phone calls without FISA court authorization, an action the text of the FISA act calls a Felony. The Bush administration maintains that the program is legal, arguing that FISA is an unconstitutional violation of the President’s “inherent powers” and/or that FISA was implicitly overridden by other acts of Congress. Revelation of the program by a New York Times newsreport triggered a controversy over the legality of the program and the scope of Congressional oversight.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is currently considering two bills proposed respectively by Sen. Specter and Sen. Mike DeWine (R) over the issue. The Specter bill provides for retroactive amnesty for NSA’s actions and brings the program under the FISA court, whereas the DeWine bill provides a legislative foundation for the program.

Sen. Specter said that the bill will allow greater flexibility in emergencies by updating legal language to reflect recent technological developments such as cell phones, allowing NSA a seven day period for obtaining retroactive warrants and allowing “roving wiretaps” which target an individual rather than a particular phone connection. He added that the bill will require government officials to explain why they suspect intercepted communications involve terrorism and creates penalties for misuse of the powers.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D), the Judiciary Committee’s ranking Democrat said that the proposed bill is an “interesting bargain” in which the President “is saying ‘if you do every single thing I tell you to do,’ I will do what I should have done anyway,”.Sen. Charles Schumer (D) is reported to have proposed a different bill.

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White House accepts judicial review of NSA eavesdropping
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