NSA Follies, Cont’d

NSA FOLLIES, CONT’D….Arlen Specter has completed “tortuous” negotiations with the White House on a new bill that will require the president to submit the NSA’s domestic spying program to the FISA court for review. That might be a welcome smidgen of progress except for one thing: it turns out that “require” isn’t actually the right word.

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.

Let me get this straight. Specter’s bill gives Bush the “option” of submitting the NSA program to the FISA court for review, and Specter has a handshake agreement with the White House that Bush will, in fact, submit it. What’s more, it’s a one-time deal that affects no other program and no future president.

What’s the point of this? The president already has the “option” of submitting the NSA program to the FISA court for review. He can do it anytime he wants. I’m a little mystified about exactly what this legislation is supposed to accomplish.

UPDATE: CNN reports some additional details:

In addition, the legislation would give the administration greater flexibility in making emergency applications to the FISA court, expanding its window for doing so from three to seven days. Currently, applications must be made by the attorney general or a deputy; the bill would allow a designee to make an application, Specter said.

The measure would allow for roving wiretaps instead of taps of a phone at a fixed point, he said, and spells out that monitoring a telephone call between two overseas locations that is transmitted through a U.S. terminal would not be subject to FISA approval.

So the bill loosens requirements for wiretaps, thus giving the president more authority than he already has, and in return requires nothing new in the way of judicial review. Those must have been some truly tortuous negotiations, all right.