Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter announced today that the White House has agreed to a court review of the warrantless wiretapping program. Specter said the following at a press conference today:
I am authorized to say that if the bill is not changed, the president will submit the terrorist surveillance program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
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. The AP reports:
An administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the bill’s language gives the president the option of submitting the program to the intelligence court, rather than making the review a requirement.
Specter appears to have received assurances from the White House that, if his bill is passed without changes, Bush would agree to exercise the option and submit the warrantless wiretapping program to the court for a judgment on its constitutionality. This compromise is a sham because it makes optional what Bush is already required to do. 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.
Sen. Patrick Leahy accurately characterized what Bush is agreeing to: “[Bush is] saying, if you do every single thing I tell you to do, I’ll do what I should have done anyway.” The Specter bill makes it optional for Bush to follow the law, while rewarding him for illegal conduct.
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