July 13, 2006

White House agrees to NSA review by court: senator

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House, in a policy
reversal, has agreed to allow a secret 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
achieve 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, which will vote on it perhaps later this month
after members have had an opportunity to review it.

Specter and other lawmakers pressed Bush to seek clearance
from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court for
the spying program, implemented after the September 11 attacks
and first disclosed last December by The New York Times.

Specter earlier said the administration may have broken the
law in allowing the NSA to monitor international phone calls
and e-mails of U.S. citizens without first obtaining warrants.

The act requires warrants from the court for
intelligence-related eavesdropping inside the United States.
But Bush had defended the program, saying he had the power and
responsibility as a wartime president to protect the nation.

Specter said he had been in discussions with Bush and other
members of the administration for weeks to forge a deal.

The Pennsylvania Republican said the court will determine
the program's constitutionality based, in part, on arguments
presented to it by the attorney general.

Specter said the court will also consider an explanation
about how the program is "reasonably designed to ensure that
the communications intercepted involve a terrorist agent of a
terrorist or someone reasonably believed to have communications
associated with a terrorist."

The bill would also require the attorney general to provide
members of the House of Representatives and Senate intelligence
committees with information about any electronic surveillance
program in effect.