[JURIST] A bill [text, PDF; JURIST news archive] designed to put the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] on a sound legal footing failed to make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Thursday. Sponsored by committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], the legislation [S.2453 summary] would have increased the secret warrant time limit from three to seven days, required progress reports from the US attorney general twice a year, and would have submitted the surveillance program for a one-time constitutional review. After Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) [official website] criticized the bill at length and introduced four amendments, Specter voiced his displeasure at what he felt was a strategic move to filibuster the legislation.
US House and Senate lawmakers are considering other bills [JURIST report] relating to the controversial program, including one [summary] proposed by US Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM) [official website]. Congress was faced with an urgent need to deal with the legal status of the surveillance program after a US District Court judge ruled [JURIST report] last month that it was unconstitutional and ordered the National Security Agency [official website] to immediately cease using warrantless wiretaps to intercept communications of suspected terrorists when one party to the communication is outside the US. AP has more.
9:24 PM ET – In a speech [transcript] Thursday, President Bush said he was confident that the federal court ruling on the NSA surveillance program would be overturned on appeal, but said that "a series of protracted legal challenges would put a heavy burden on this critical and vital program. The surest way to keep the program is to get explicit approval from the United States Congress. So today I'm calling on the Congress to promptly pass legislation providing additional authority for the Terrorist Surveillance Program, along with broader reforms in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."