The White House, in a policy reversal, has agreed to allow a federal court review of the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program, a top Senate Republican announced on Thursday.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said he has negotiated a proposed bill with the White House that would do that and voiced hope his panel would approve it.
“We have structured a bill which is agreeable to the White House and I think will be agreeable to this committee,” Specter told the panel.
Allahpundit has more. I will update when details become available..
Update: Stop the ACLU has an update at the link above, and a link to the AP story.
The legislation would authorize the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review the constitutionality of the National Security Agency’s most high-profile monitoring operations, said the Pennsylvania Republican.
“You have here a recognition by the president that he does not have a blank check,” Specter told his committee
Since shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the NSA has been eavesdropping on the international calls and e-mails of people inside the United States when terrorism is suspected. Breaking with historic norms, the president authorized the actions without a court warrant.
The disclosure of the program in December sparked outrage among Democrats and civil liberties advocates who said Bush overstepped his authority as president.
Specter said the legislation, which has not yet been made public, was the result of “tortuous” negotiations with the White House since June.
“If the bill is not changed, the president will submit the Terrorist Surveillance Program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” Specter said. “That is the president’s commitment.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how strong or enduring the judicial oversight would be.
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.
I have not digested the specifics yet (actually no real details are known yet) but this may end up being a smart move in some ways. The first thing that occured to me is that if the program gets the FISA court stamp of approval, the critics hollering that the President broke the law will look even more foolish than they currently do. If that is possible.
Update II: MacRanger sees a smirk behind this one.