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DOJ to turn over domestic surveillance authorization to Judiciary Committee

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Wednesday that the Justice Department will turn over to the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] the text of an order, granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [FJC backgrounder], authorizing government surveillance of transmissions coming into or going outside of the country where one party was suspected of association with a terrorist organization. Gonzales balked at turning over the order [JURIST report] two weeks ago during a judiciary committee hearing after he informed the committee via a letter [PDF text; US DOJ background briefing transcript, DOC] that the Bush administration has agreed to submit all domestic surveillance [JURIST news archive] requests from now on to the FISC for review and approval under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [text]. The letter explained that the FISC in January had "issued orders authorizing the Government to target for collection international communications into or out of the United States where there is probable cause to believe that one of the communicants is a member or agent of Al Qaeda or an associated terrorist organization."

The orders will only be circulated to committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), ranking member Arlen Specter (R-PA), and to members and staffers of the House and Senate intelligence committees, who had previously received clearance to access the orders. Gonzales said Wednesday that he had never declared the order off-limits to the committee, only that the orders were sensitive and that procedures must be in place to ensure they wont be leaked. AP has more.

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