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Critics slam proposed FISC oversight of NSA surveillance program

[JURIST] Politicians, civil rights advocates and privacy advocates have criticized the recent White House agreement [JURIST report] allowing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [FJC backgrounder] to determine the constitutionality of the NSA's controversial domestic spying program [JURIST news archive]. In reaction to the plan US Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) [official website] plans to re-introduce a proposal [H. Amdt. 1065 to H.R. 5631] blocking NSA funding unless intelligence warrants are used prior to surveillance. The bill has failed twice, drawing four Republican supporters on its first vote and 23 on the second. US Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-NM) [official website], chair of the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, proposed legislation Friday [press release] to strengthen Congressional oversight of the NSA and "modernize and simplify the process of getting a FISA warrant."

Civil rights advocates, including representatives from the Center for Constitutional Rights [official website] in New York, The Electronic Frontier Foundation [official website, press release] and the Center for National Security Studies [official website] have also spoken out against the plan, voicing concern with the secrecy of the FISC and the plan's concentration of power in that body. Specter responded to the criticism, stating that the critics should focus on the oversight allowed by the proposal, emphasizing that "this is an important step." While President Bush has agreed to sign legislation authorizing the agreement, Congress must still approve the plan. Saturday's New York Times has more.

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