Breaking Legal News - POSTED: 2007/01/31 23:48
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Wednesday he would let selected members of the Democratic-led U.S. Congress see secret court documents that authorized President George W. Bush's newly revised domestic spying program.
Lawmakers and civil liberties groups called it a significant first step for an administration that in the past often refused to provide information to Congress, but they urged the Bush administration to provide full details about the program.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said he would review the documents and then decide if "further (congressional) oversight or legislative action is necessary."
The administration announced an abrupt end to what had been a 5-year-old warrantless surveillance program on January 17, two weeks after Democrats took control of Congress and vowed to bring the program in line with law. The surveillance program will now be subject to approval from the secret U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Critics had charged Bush overstepped his power after the September 11 attacks with warrantless domestic spying as well as actions such as holding terrorism suspects indefinitely without charges and interrogations that some said amounted to torture.
Democrats had complained that while Bush's fellow Republicans controlled Congress, their requests for information from the president were frequently rejected or ignored.
At a January 18 Judiciary Committee hearing, Democrats and Republicans alike demanded that Gonzales provide details about the agreement the Justice Department had reached with the secret court.