Wiretap bill changed to garner support

Sept. 26, 2006 at 1:25 PM
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Republican senators reached tentative agreement to gain support for a domestic surveillance bill, in part by avoiding constitutional questions.

The measure would require the wiretapping program to be submitted to a secret court to rule on its constitutionality, among other things, the Washington Post said Tuesday.

Supporters said the revised language would require a court order for most domestic wiretaps, the Post said. Critics said the bill would maintain the warrantless wiretapping program approved by President Bush.

Three changes were made to garner support of three Republicans -- Idaho's Larry E. Craig, New Hampshire's John E. Sununu and Alaska's Lisa Murkowski -- who were withholding support from Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the bill's sponsor and Judiciary Committee chair, the Post said.

The first change removed language referring to the president's "constitutional authority" to pursue national security programs, the Post said. The second change would clarify a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decision upholding that the legality of the warrantless surveillance program would not give limitless authorization to pursue warrantless wiretaps.

Finally, the administration would be expected to get a warrant if the attorney general cannot give a "reasonable expectation" that a warrantless wiretap wouldn't involve a U.S. citizen, the newspaper said.

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