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White House agrees to FISC oversight of NSA surveillance program: Specter

[JURIST] President Bush has agreed to sign legislation authorizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [FJC backgrounder] to review the NSA's controversial domestic spying program [JURIST news archive], US Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) told the Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday. Specter has been negotiating a bill with the White House since June, when he threatened to subpoena administration documents [JURIST report] related to the NSA program. Provisions of the bill [PDF text] include a requirement that the attorney general provide the FISC information on the NSA program, including the criteria used to determine whether intercepted communications are related to terrorist activities, and an expansion of the period where emergency wiretaps can be secured from the FISC from three to seven days. The bill also requires the Attorney General to submit bi-annual reports to the intelligence committees of the House and Senate detailing the "activities...under any surveillance program authorized under this title." Furthermore, the bill creates criminal penalties for government misuse of collected information and a clarification statement that international calls that are merely routed through the US are not subject to the warrant process under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [text].

An administration official talking about details of the proposed legislation also said that the bill could consolidate all lawsuits challenging the NSA program into one suit, to be heard by the FISC. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the most important part of the bill is the preamble, which recognizes the constitutional authority of the president to authorize such programs. AP has more.

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