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Bush offers to share secret surveillance documents with Senate judiciary panel leaders

[JURIST] The White House Thursday agreed to let US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official websites] see classified documents pertaining to President George W. Bush's warrantless domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive], in hopes that it would speed up the approval of proposed legislation to grant telecommunications companies immunity from prosecution [JURIST report] for assisting in government eavesdropping between 2001 and 2007. Leahy, however, has insisted that the entire committee be allowed to view the documents before he will consider endorsing the immunity provisions, and other committee members have followed suit. Bush has threatened to veto any revised surveillance bill that does not include the immunity provisions.

Leahy and Specter sent a letter [PDF text] Monday to White House counsel Fred Fielding demanding the Bush administration comply with subpoenas [press release] for information about the warrantless domestic surveillance program. The committee formally subpoenaed the documents on June 27 in regards to proposed legislation to amend the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive]. The subpoenas mentioned in Leahy's and Specter's letter cover documents and information relevant to the legislation planned by Congress to amend FISA permanently. Leahy and Specter have criticized the White House for sharing some documents on the program with the Senate Intelligence Committee, which debated [JURIST report] and approved the Senate version of the bill last week, while keeping them from the Judiciary Committee. AP has more.

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