Specter Caves, Proposes Blanket Amnesty For Illegal Government Surveillance

At first, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) talked tough about the President’s warrantless domestic wiretapping program, insisting that it be subject to judicial review. From the 2/17/06 New York Times:

[C]ritics of the program, including some Republicans..say it must be brought within the scope of the intelligence court. Among them is Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who is circulating legislation that would require the court to pass judgment on whether the wiretapping is constitutional.

Unless they’re prepared to have a determination on constitutionality as to their programs, window-dressing oversight will not be sufficient,” Specter said.

Now, Specter has unveiled a new version of his legislation. Instead of requiring the administration to submit to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the new bill simply makes it optional:

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee has proposed legislation that would give President Bush the option of seeking a warrant from a special court for an electronic surveillance program such as the one being conducted by the National Security Agency.

Further, Specter has now included a provision protecting anyone who authorizes illegal surveillance from legal trouble:

Another part of the Specter bill would grant blanket amnesty to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present law.

Glenn Greenwald, who describes Specter’s bill as dragging “the country to a still new level of lawlessness,” has more.