BREAKING: NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program Deal Reached
Allah Pundit has all the details.
UPDATE (James Joyner): AP has details:
The White House has conditionally agreed to a court review of its controversial eavesdropping program, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter said Thursday. Specter said President Bush has agreed to sign legislation that would authorize the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s most high-profile monitoring operations. “You have here a recognition by the president that he does not have a blank check,” the Pennsylvania Republican told his committee
Since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the NSA has been eavesdropping on the international calls and e-mails of people inside the United States when terrorism is suspected. Breaking with historic norms, the president authorized the actions without a court warrant. The disclosure of the program in December sparked outrage among Democrats and civil liberties advocates who said Bush overstepped his authority as president.
Specter said the legislation, which has not yet been made public, was the result of “tortuous” negotiations with the White House since June. “If the bill is not changed, the president will submit the Terrorist Surveillance Program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” Specter said. “That is the president’s commitment.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how strong or enduring the judicial oversight would be. An administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the bill’s language gives the president the option of submitting the program to the intelligence court, rather than making the review a requirement. The official said that Bush will submit to the court review as long the bill is not changed, adding that the legislation preserves the right of future presidents to skip the court review.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (news, bio, voting record) of Vermont, the committee’s senior Democrat, said Bush could submit the program to the court right now, if he wished. He called the potential legislation “an interesting bargain.” “He’s saying, if you do every single thing I tell you to do, I’ll do what I should have done anyway,” Leahy said.
Still, Jay Stephenson thinks Bush is wimping out.