Announced by Arlen Specter, reported by CNN and Fox. Hasn’t hit the wires yet but I should have a link soon. Specter called the negotiations with the White House “torturous.”
The right call, I think, but it’s surprising that Bush would move on this so soon after the capitulation on Geneva rights for Al Qaeda and the embarrassment over Hoekstra’s letter. Maybe he figures it’s best to deal with it all at once and just get it off table. But he’s really taking it in the pants this week.
A bad spell for executive power. But a wonderful week for America’s soul.
Update: No details about the compromise in Reuters’s report.
Update: Details galore from the AP. A compromise indeed:
An administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the bill’s language gives the president the option of submitting the program to the intelligence court, rather than making the review a requirement.
The official said that Bush will submit to the court review as long the bill is not changed, adding that the legislation preserves the right of future presidents to skip the court review.
Why would it give future presidents an out? I guess that’s Bush’s way of proving he’s serious about executive power as a matter of principle even if he personally won’t enjoy as much of it as he’d like. But it can also be touted as a concession that he needs special curtailments because he’s uniquely dangerous.
Specter told the committee that the bill, among other things, would:
• Require the attorney general to give the intelligence court information on the program’s constitutionality, the government’s efforts to protect Americans’ identities and the basis used to determine that the intercepted communications involve terrorism.
• Expand the time for emergency warrants secured under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act from three to seven days.
• Create a new offense if government officials misuse information.
• At the NSA’s request, clarify that international calls that merely pass through terminals in the United States are not subject to the judicial process established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The administration official, who asked not to be identified because discussions are still ongoing, said the bill also would give the attorney general power to consolidate the 100 lawsuits filed against the surveillance operations into one case before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Specter did not explain to his committee that detail, which is likely to raise the ire of civil liberties groups.
Eh, they’d have sued anyway. It’s just one more roman numeral for the brief.
Update: Not related to the NSA wiretaps but very much related to the cave-in theme: has the adminstration abandoned its push for military tribunals in favor of full de facto court-martial proceedings for the Gitmo gang? McCain thinks so, but even he’s not sure what Bush is going to do anymore.