NSA Wiretapping Program Will Be Supervised

By David Bruggeman
January 18, 2007

The controversial National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping program, which the Bush Administration has asserted did not need warrants to operate, has been changed. In an article published in today’s Washington Post (registration required), the Attorney General has stated this program will be subject to judicial review through the court that administers the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. From the article:

Under the previous approach, such intercepts were authorized by intelligence officers without the involvement of any court or judge — prompting objections from privacy advocates and many Democrats that the program was illegal.

Administration officials suggested that the move was aimed in part at quelling persistent objections to the NSA spying by Democrats who now control Congress and that it is intended to slow or even derail challenges making their way through the federal courts. The Justice Department immediately filed a notice with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit yesterday informing the panel of the new program and promising to file papers “addressing the implications of this development” on pending litigation.

Some Justice officials also said that receiving approval from the secret court will enable authorities to more easily use the information they obtain in future criminal prosecutions.

But many details of the new approach remained unclear yesterday, because administration officials declined to describe specifically how the program will work.