- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

3:39 p.m.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said today that he will turn over secret documents detailing the government’s domestic spying program, ending a two-week standoff with the Senate Judiciary Committee over surveillance targeting terror suspects.

“It’s never been the case where we said we would never provide access,” Mr. Gonzales told reporters.

“We obviously would be concerned about the public disclosure that may jeopardize the national security of our country,” he said, “but we’re working with the Congress to provide the information that it needs.”

The documents held by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — including investigators’ applications for permission to spy and judges’ orders — were to be given to some lawmakers as early as today.

Mr. Gonzales said the documents will not be released publicly. “We’re talking about highly classified documents about highly classified activities of the United States government,” the attorney general said.

The records will be given to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who two weeks ago criticized Mr. Gonzales for refusing to turn over documents that even the FISA Court’s presiding judge had no objection to releasing. At the time, Mr. Gonzales said it was not clear whether the court orders could be released without exposing sensitive security information.

The documents also will be available to lawmakers and staffers on the House and Senate intelligence committees. These people already were cleared to receive details about the controversial spy program.

Mr. Leahy said he welcomed the Bush administration decision to release the documents, which he said he will review to decide “what further oversight or legislative action is necessary.”

“Only with an understanding of the contours of the wiretapping program and the scope of the court orders can the Judiciary Committee determine whether the administration has reached the proper balance to protect Americans while following the law and the principles of checks and balances,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Specter did not have an immediate comment, but a senior Republican on the House Intelligence panel, Rep. Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, said the Bush administration still won’t release other crucial documents that explain how the FISA Court’s orders comply with the 1978 surveillance law that the court oversees.

“We are playing hide the ball down at the Justice Department,” said Mrs. Wilson, who has told committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat, that she will support a subpoena if need be.

Mr. Gonzales described the decision to release the documents to Mr. Leahy and Mr. Specter as being the result of ongoing negotiations between Congress and the administration. He said lawmakers most likely will not have to review the documents at the Justice Department, which keeps a tight grip on classified information, but he offered few other details.

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