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Politics

Secret court to oversee U.S. spying program

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published January 18, 2007


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WASHINGTON - The Bush administration changed course and agreed Wednesday to let a secret but independent panel of federal judges oversee the government's controversial domestic spying program. Officials say the secret court has already approved at least one request for monitoring.

The shift will likely end a court fight over whether the warrantless surveillance program was legal.

The program, which was secretly authorized by President Bush shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, was disclosed a little over a year ago, resulting in widespread criticism from lawmakers and civil libertarians who questioned its legality.

The program allowed the National Security Agency - without approval from the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -to monitor phone calls and e-mails between the United States and other countries when a link to terrorism is suspected.

In a letter to senators Wednesday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that "any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court." Gonzales said Bush would not reauthorize the program once it expires.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued the government over the program, called the announcement "a quintessential flip-flop."

"This eleventh-hour ploy is clearly an effort to avoid judicial and congressional scrutiny," said ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero, adding constitutional problems remain unaddressed.

 

[Last modified January 18, 2007, 00:37:18]


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