- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter introduced a bill this week to increase congressional oversight of President Bush’s warrantless spy program and require a court review of the program for its constitutionality.

The Pennsylvania Republican said rule of law takes precedent even when the nation is at war with a new type of enemy capable of exploiting modern technology.

“Our enemy is the enemy of freedom, and we will not give that enemy the satisfaction of making us give up the very freedom we cherish,” Mr. Specter said on the Senate floor.

Under Mr. Specter’s bill, the administration would be required to present the program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court, the federal panel charged by Congress with granting warrants for wiretaps for gathering foreign intelligence.

The bill also would require that the administration go before the FISA court to renew the program every 45 days. And every six months, an analysis of the program would be submitted to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Both Republicans and Democrats have accused Mr. Bush of circumventing federal law to spy on people in the U.S. The White House says the program has been used selectively and only on calls coming from numbers linked to terrorists from foreign countries.

Mr. Specter’s bill comes after four other Republicans introduced a separate bill that would address the spy program.

A bill by Republican Sens. Mike DeWine of Ohio, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine would allow the National Security Agency to use warrantless wiretaps for up to 45 days.

At that point, the proposed legislation would require the Department of Justice to drop the surveillance, get a FISA warrant or seek a bypass from congressional leaders.

Among Democrats, only Sen. Russell D. Feingold of Wisconsin has moved yet toward official action in response to the spy program. He introduced a resolution earlier this week to censure Mr. Bush.

While many Democrats have expressed interest in legislation to curb the spying, they haven’t shown much support for Mr. Feingold’s effort and have yet to introduce any bills.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, did write Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales asking for information about any defendants netted by the program who are challenging their cases in court.

“According to press accounts, several terrorism defendants have filed legal challenges to the President’s program of electronic surveillance of Americans without a warrant,” wrote Mr. Leahy and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

“The Judiciary Committee is continuing its inquiry into the President’s ‘Terrorist Surveillance Program,’ and we ask that you send for our review a list of every criminal case in which a defendant is alleging that evidence was illegally obtained through this program … .”

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