[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] has begun circulating a draft version of a bill that would require the federal government to obtain permission before conducting domestic surveillance [JURIST news archive]. The bill, which Specter first mentioned earlier this month [JURIST report], would mandate that the attorney general get a warrant from the special court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) [text] before monitoring the international phone calls and e-mails of US residents. In December, it was revealed that President Bush authorized [JURIST report] the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] to conduct such surveillance without warrants shortly after the Sept. 11 terror attacks [JURIST news archive].
Specter's bill would require the Justice Department to provide the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [FJC backgrounder] with "a statement of the facts and circumstances" leading the DOJ to believe that at least one party to the communications to be intercepted will have non-US ties, along with a "detailed description of the nature of the information sought." The proposal would also require the administration to provide more information about the NSA program to House and Senate intelligence leaders. The administration has backed an alternative proposal that would specifically exempt the NSA program from FISA. Charles Babington of the Washington Post has more.