Thursday, February 09, 2006

Specter's Plan

I think this sounds like the answer:

A special federal court would be given power to supervise the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program under a bill being written by a key Senate Republican.

Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in an interview Wednesday that he wants to “assert Congress' constitutional authority” while allowing the anti-terrorism program to continue under court supervision.

Specter said he hopes to work with President Bush on the bill but is trying to build a bipartisan coalition to override a potential presidential veto.

Bush and Specter haven't discussed the bill, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. On Monday, Specter held a Judiciary Committee hearing in which he and other senators told Attorney General Alberto Gonzales they had doubts about the program's legality.

“We welcome ideas that they have,” McClellan said.

Specter said his proposal would empower the court established by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to review the National Security Agency's domestic anti-terrorist surveillance every 45 days to ensure it does not go beyond limits described by the administration. Currently, Bush himself reviews the program and signs off on its continuation every 45 days.

Like Kaus, I think a lot of the rhetoric involving FISA can get overheated on the liberal side, and I don't have a problem with eavesdropping so long as there is some accountability. And, the more this issue is fought out the more it actually makes Bush look good to a lot of people. Would you rather go too far for the purposes of national security or not far enough? The FISA debacle has a lot of people asking that question and that is why it hasn't seem to have hurt Bush. His approval ratings have remained pretty much constant since this started.

Specter's plan gives the President a lot of power, but also exercises ex post controls over the activities. Bush will likely veto it, which is a shame, but it would provide that layer of accountability that changes the situation from having a President and Administration completely unanswerable to anyone but themselves.