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March 08, 2006

GOP Reaches Agreement On Wiretapping

The power is officially granted by Congress, with some oversight, and no investigation:

Moving to tamp down Democratic calls for an investigation of the administration's domestic eavesdropping program, Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that they had reached agreement with the White House on proposed bills to impose new oversight but allow wiretapping without warrants for up to 45 days. The agreement, hashed out in weeks of negotiations between Vice President Dick Cheney and Republicans critical of the program, dashes Democratic hopes of starting a full committee investigation because the proposal won the support of Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine. The two, both Republicans, had threatened to support a fuller inquiry if the White House did not disclose more about the program to Congress.

"We are reasserting Congressional responsibility and oversight," Ms. Snowe said.

The proposed legislation would create a seven-member "terrorist surveillance subcommittee" and require the administration to give it full access to the details of the program's operations.

Ms. Snowe said the panel would start work on Wednesday, and called it "the beginning, not the end of the process."

"We have to get the facts in order to weigh in," she said. "We will do more if we learn there is more to do."

The agreement would reinforce the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was created in 1978 to issue special warrants for spying but was sidestepped by the administration. The measure would require the administration to seek a warrant from the court whenever possible.

Whenever possible. Kind of vague.

Seems to me that Congress seeks to reassert the relevance of FISA by diminishing it.

Congress had oversight, or at least its leaders were kept informed of the program; this agreement simply codifies that. The only real change seems to be the 45-day grace period for seeking a warrant.


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posted by Ace at 11:35 AM

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