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Specter rebukes White House on warrantless domestic surveillance

[JURIST] US Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday that the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] "without congressional intervention or judicial intervention is just plain wrong." In an interview with the Associated Press, Specter said he was not hopeful the White House would listen to members of Congress who want to write the program into law and also criticized the administration for not providing full briefings on the domestic surveillance to the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees. Specter's committee will hold a hearing [meeting notice] next week on two proposals aimed at regulating warrantless surveillance of international communications where one party is in the United States. Specter has proposed [JURIST report] legislation that would require the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [FJC backgrounder] to oversee the program. An alternate proposal [PDF text; JURIST report], offered last week by a group of four Republican senators, would allow warrantless electronic surveillance for 45 days of the phone calls and e-mails of a suspected terrorists. Specter said he plans to shepherd both bills through the Judiciary Committee and the put them to the consideration of the full Senate by May.

The Senate Parliamentarian's decision to assign the bills to the Judiciary Committee instead of the Senate Intelligence Committee has caused some tension. An aide to Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) [official website], chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said that Roberts will probably demand that any legislation approved by the Judiciary Committee be referred to the Intelligence Committee for review. AP has more.

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