Posted by Randy Gainer

Senator Arlen Specter attempted to attach an amendment to the Senate version of the Supplemental Appropriations bill that was passed by the Senate on May 4, 2006. The amendment would have prevented government agencies from using any funds “appropriated by this or any other Act” to carry out the NSA program acknowledge by President Bush on December 17, 2005, or to carry out any related programs unless the administration briefed the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about the programs. The proposed amendment, SA 3679, was rejected by the Senate.

This is Senator Specter’s second attempt to require the administration to brief Congressional Committees about the NSA’s warrantless spying program. A bill Specter introduced in March 2006, S 2453, would require the administration to brief congressional committees about the programs and also provides a mechanism that the administration could use to obtain retroactive approval of the NSA program. S 2453 has not been passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Specter chairs.

Many scholars and lawyers claim that the NSA program violates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the First and Fourth Amendments. Two federal lawsuits are pending that challenge the NSA program. If Specter is genuinely interested in preventing the administration from continuing to violate FISA and the Constitution, he will have to do more than he has so far. When the history of Congress’ reaction to the NSA program is written, it will not deal kindly with senators, like Specter, who failed their duty to prevent the executive from abusing its powers.