Specter hits back at surveillance bill critics

[JURIST] US Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday defended his proposal to subject the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] to review by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [FJC backgrounder], saying that the court is well suited to consider the program because of its "expertise" and because "Its closed proceedings and unblemished record for not leaking would make full consideration both possible and secure." In an op-ed published in the Washington Post, Specter said his compromise with the administration was designed "to structure a procedure under which the courts can adjudicate the lawfulness of this highly sensitive program while maintaining the secrecy the president contends is so important." Critics have spoken out against the proposal [JURIST report], arguing that the plan concentrates too much power in the FISC.

Earlier this month, Specter said that he had reached a compromise with the White House [JURIST report] after months of negotiations. In addition to allowing FISC oversight of the surveillance program, Specter's proposal [PDF text] would require the attorney general to provide the FISC information on the NSA program, including the criteria used to determine whether intercepted communications are related to terrorist activities, and an expansion of the period where emergency wiretaps can be secured from the FISC from three to seven days. In his op-ed, Specter noted that "negotiations with administration officials and the president himself were fierce" and said that matter must not be left to "drift indefinitely. If someone has a better idea for legislation that would resolve the program's legality or can negotiate a better compromise with the president, I will be glad to listen."

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