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Specter wants special court to supervise surveillance
By John Diamond, USA TODAY
February 9, 2006

WASHINGTON — A special federal court would be given power to supervise the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program under a bill being written by a key Senate Republican.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview Wednesday that he wants to "assert Congress' constitutional authority" while allowing the anti-terrorism program to continue under court supervision.

Specter said he hopes to work with President Bush on the bill but is trying to build a bipartisan coalition to override a potential presidential veto.

Bush and Specter haven't discussed the bill, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. On Monday, Specter held a Judiciary Committee hearing in which he and other senators told Attorney General Alberto Gonzales they had doubts about the program's legality.

"We welcome ideas that they have," McClellan said.

Specter said his proposal would empower the court established by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to review the National Security Agency's domestic anti-terrorist surveillance every 45 days to ensure it does not go beyond limits described by the administration. Currently, Bush himself reviews the program and signs off on its continuation every 45 days.

The administration has said the program involves at least one party suspected of membership in al-Qaeda or an allied terrorist group.

The program Bush ordered in the weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks is controversial for three reasons: The administration did not seek explicit congressional permission, instead briefing eight senior lawmakers from both parties; the surveillance was done without court-approved warrants; and the NSA was targeting international calls involving one end in the USA.

Even after the program was disclosed by The New York Times in December, Specter was not allowed to be fully briefed of its details.

The White House says it has authority under the commander-in-chief clause of the Constitution to wage war against the nation's enemies, even in the USA, and that intelligence collection is part of warmaking. And Gonzales has said Congress authorized the surveillance when it passed a law after the 9/11 attacks authorizing Bush to "use all necessary and appropriate force" against al-Qaeda.

Specter has said Gonzales' argument "defies logic and plain English."

In the interview, Specter said his proposal relies on an overlooked clause in Article I of the Constitution empowering Congress "to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces."

By giving the FISA court authority over the program, Specter said his proposal enables Congress to avoid the problem of voting on a spy program it knows little about. The classified details of the program would be overseen by a court already privy to highly classified material.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who led the Judiciary Committee when it created FISA in 1978, said Bush should follow the model set by the Ford and Carter administrations in working with Congress.

The White House told Rep. Heather Wilson on Wednesday that it would provide more detail about the program. Wilson, R-N.M., chairs a subcommittee that oversees NSA eavesdropping.

Here's how the modern republican mind works. The congress passes laws, Bush breaks them. Then they pass more laws and hope Bush will follow them. What world do these idiots live in? The only remedy for the lawlessness in the White House is impeachment and removal from office, not more laws.

If a single democrat goes along with NEW laws, AFTER old laws were broken, that democrat deserves the same fate of the GOP - being booted out of office.