Author Topic: White House to give Leahy, Specter access to wiretap documents  (Read 2641 times)

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White House to give Leahy, Specter access to wiretap documents
« on: October 26, 2007, 05:55:11 pm »
White House to give Leahy, Specter access to wiretap documents
Nick Juliano Published: Friday October 26, 2007

Specifics still being worked out, Senators pushing for full committee access

In a telephone conversation Thursday, White House counsel Fred Fielding agreed to let the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee see documents related to the administration's warrantless wiretapping program. "In a brief phone call with Fred Fielding yesterday, (Committee Chairman Patrick) Leahy was told that he and (Ranking Member Arlen) Specter will have access to 'documents.' We don't know yet which documents, and Sen. Leahy is pushing to ensure that all members of the Judiciary Committee have access," committee spokeswoman Erica Chabot told RAW STORY via e-mail Friday.

The agreement reached this week represents a major development in the battle between the White House and congress over attempts to update a foreign intelligence surveillance law. The committee has said it would not consider giving telecommunications companies legal immunity for participating in the warrantless wiretapping scheme until the administration provided these documents. Leahy and Specter previously said they would not grant administration demands that telecom companies be spared from litigation until the administration laid out its legal justifications for the warrantless wiretapping. Whether that provision will end up in the Judiciary Committee's bill remains to be seen. An Intelligence Committee bill included telecom immunity after members of that panel were allowed to see the requested documents. Critics have accused the Intelligence Committee and White House of engaging in a quid pro quo to trade access to the documents for an agreement to grant immunity, although the committee and administration have denied that such an explicit agreement existed. Leahy and Specter said such an arrangement would be "unacceptable" in a letter to Fielding earlier this week, but Judiciary Committee staff are still negotiating precise conditions for turning over the documents with the White House.

"To my knowledge no prerequisite like that was place on this," Chabot told RAW STORY, but she acknowledged that staff are unaware precisely what was discussed Thursday when Leahy and Fielding spoke by phone. "I believe this was an A and B conversation and that was it," she said. A White House spokesman suggested the documents were being handed over to the Senate committees because they seemed willing to broach the subject of telecom immunity. Companion committees in the House approved a bill earlier this month that did not include telecom immunity and as a result they have not seen the highly guarded classified documents. “If the committees say they have no interest in legislating on the issue of liability protection, we have no reason to accommodate them,” spokesman Tony Fratto told the New York Times. It remains unclear just what documents will be handed over, whether the full committee will see the documents and how the Bush administration will control access to the legal justifications for its post-9/11 program to warrantless eavesdrop on untold numbers of Americans. The Judiciary Committee has a hearing scheduled for next week to consider its update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress is debating a long-term FISA fix that would close loopholes in the law and correct civil liberties abuses critics say were included in a hastily passed measure from this summer. That temporary update, the Protect America Act, expires in February.

All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately