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Surveillance bill goes to Senate after clearing judiciary committee

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] approved the National Security Surveillance Act of 2006 [S 2453 summary] Wednesday, a bill that pushes forward Republicans' efforts to confer legal status on the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive], which involves warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency [official website]. The bill would subject the program to a review to determine its legality by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [FJC backgrounder], established by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text]. Sponsored by US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], the bill also proposes to extend from three days to seven days the time surveillance can be performed before the FISC is formally petitioned for approval, and would require progress reports from the US attorney general twice a year. The bill gained passage to the full Senate with votes to approve from all ten Republican committee members, while all eight Democratic members voted against it. It is unlikely the bill will remain in its current form once it reaches the Senate, where division over its contents has led to the development of several amendments [AP report].

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives canceled markup for a bill [summary; JURIST report] sponsored by Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) [official website] that would update FISA, most notably increasing the time period in which the government can conduct surveillance before obtaining a secret warrant from three to five days. Reuters has more.

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