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GOP senators introduce bill legalizing limited warrantless surveillance

[JURIST] Four Republican Senators introduced a bill Thursday that would legalize but limit warrantless domestic surveillance [JURIST news archive] of US citizens. Sponsored by Sen. Mike DeWine [official website] of Ohio with Olympia Snowe of Maine, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006 [PDF; DeWine press release] would not, in DeWine's words, give the President a "blank check" but would allow warrantless electronic surveillance for 45 days of the phone calls and e-mails of a suspected terrorist where one party is in the United States. According to DeWine:

To engage in such surveillance, the President must have probable cause to believe that the target of surveillance is a member of or affiliated with a terrorist organization. And, he must believe that the surveillance is necessary to protect the United States from a terrorist attack.
After 45 days, law enforcement authorities would be required to obtain a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [text] or justify continued warrantless eavesdropping to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The bill, which drew criticism [JURIST report] even before its formal introduction, has been assailed as giving the government too much discretion and for being, in practice, an attempt to legalize an illegal and arguably unconstitutional practice. In a press statement Thursday, the ACLU said that the DeWine bill "makes a mockery of congressional oversight." The ACLU has already sent a letter to senators objecting to the legislation. AP has more.

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