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Specter drops bid to subpoena phone companies on alleged record turnover

[JURIST] Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chairman of the US Senate Judiciary Committee, has said that he has abandoned his plan to subpoena executives of three top phone companies after Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday that national security concerns would prevent executives from speaking about allegedly providing phone records to the NSA. Verizon and BellSouth [JURIST, AP reports] have denied the USA Today report accusing them of turning customer phone records over to the NSA [JURIST report], while AT&T has refused to comment.

Specter said that in exchange for dropping his plan to subpoena the phone companies, the Bush administration has hinted that it may support Specter's bill [JURIST report] that would allow the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [FJC backgrounder], established under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [text], to conduct a review of the NSA's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] every 45 days to ensure that the anti-terrorist surveillance is being conducted properly. Since Specter introduced the proposal, the bill has been diluted through compromise [JURIST report] so that the Bush administration would not have to seek FISC approval for domestic spying. Specter has also considered proposing a bill [JURIST report] to eliminate NSA funding if the Bush administration "continues to walk all over Congress."

Specter also said that the committee will again question US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on domestic surveillance, but expressed frustration at his unwillingness to answer questions at previous hearings [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

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