Yesterday Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced that the White House had agreed to a court review of the warrantless wiretapping program.
But what Specter didn’t say is that his legislation does not require President Bush to submit the program to the FISA court; it merely gives the president the option. Under the FISA law, the administration can wiretap persons inside the U.S. But it is required to demonstrate that the targets are agents of a foreign power, like al Qaeda or their affiliates. Specter’s bill actually empowers Bush by making it optional for him to follow the law and rewards him for illegal conduct.
Nevertheless, the media has quickly picked up Specter’s line, calling the legislation a “compromise,” a “concession,” and even a “policy reversal” by the White House. Some examples —
Bush Poised To Accept 2 Curbs On His Authority, Houston Chronicle, 7/13/06:
In compromises crafted by the Senate, the White House was poised Thursday to change the way the United States prosecutes prisoners from the war on terror and to require court review of government eavesdropping on terror suspects.
Bush Agrees To Review Of Domestic Spying Program, LA Times, 7/14/06:
The tentative agreement would mark a concession by the administration, which has insisted the president has the constitutional authority to authorize the warrantless surveillance, initiated after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Bush Says Court Can Review Surveillance, Washington Post, 7/14/06:
Thursday’s agreement is the latest in a series of concessions Bush has made in his hard-line anti-terrorism tactics in recent days.
White House Agrees To NSA Review By Court: Senator, Reuters, 7/13/06:
The White House, in a policy reversal, has agreed to allow a secret federal court review of the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program, a top Senate Republican announced on Thursday.