FAIR MINIMUM WAGE ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - January 31, 2007)
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TERRORIST SURVEILLANCE PROGRAM
Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition to join Senator Leahy in the acknowledgment that the Attorney General will be turning over to Senator Leahy and me, in our capacities as chairman and ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, the applications which were filed by the Department of Justice for the change in the terrorist surveillance program and the court orders issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court establishing a new line of judicial review for that surveillance program.
Back on December 16, 2005, the New York Times broke a major story disclosing that there had been a secret wiretapping program, electronic surveillance without the customary judicial review. The customary approach is to have a law enforcement official apply for a warrant showing an affidavit of probable cause to justify a search and seizure for a wiretap which is a facet of the search and seizure, and that disclosure back on December 16 was quite a revelation. As a matter of fact, we were in the midst of debating the PATRIOT Act at that time, trying to get that through on reauthorization, and it was a major bone of contention, with some Senators saying they had been disposed to vote for the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act and wouldn't do so now with the disclosure of that program.
Through a good bit of last year, the Judiciary Committee worked on efforts, through legislation, to have judicial review of that program, and, in fact, at one point an agreement was reached with the White House on a legislative package to move forward. Ultimately, that legislative effort was unsuccessful and the program continued to have these wiretaps without judicial approval. Then, on January 17--earlier this month--the Attorney General announced there had been a change in programming and there would be application made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Board under procedures which the Department of Justice had established with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
I received a lengthy briefing on the nature of the program, but it fell short of the necessary disclosure because I did not know what the applications, the affidavits provided, nor did I know what the court had said. And there was an issue as to whether there was a blanket approval for the program or whether there were individualized warrants, and in order to meet the traditional safeguards for establishment of probable cause, there would have to be individual warrants.
Senator Leahy and I then pressed the Attorney General for access to these documents which would give us a fuller understanding of what was happening. I was pleased to learn earlier today that the Attorney General has consented to make those disclosures to Senator Leahy and myself, and we will be reviewing those documents. They will not be made public. Until I have had a chance to see them, I wouldn't have any judgment as to whether they ought to be made public. My own view is there ought to be the maximum disclosure to the public consistent with national security procedures. The Attorney General has represented that there is classified information here which ought not to be made public, and I will reserve judgment until I have had an opportunity to see those documents.
I know Senator Leahy was on the floor a little earlier today, within the past half hour or so, and I wanted to join him in thanking the President for this action. We have seen an expansion of Executive authority which I have spoken about on this Senate floor in a number of situations with the signing statements, where the President signs legislation but expresses reservations. There is a real question in my mind as to the constitutionality of that. The Constitution provides that Congress passes legislation and the President either signs it or vetoes it. I have introduced legislation to give Congress standing to challenge those signing statements or limitations therein in court and other examples of the expansion of Executive authority.
So I think this is a significant step forward, and I commend the President and the Department of Justice for taking this stand. I am going to reserve judgment on the program itself, obviously, until I have had a chance to review it. But I did want to acquaint my colleagues in the Senate with what is happening and acquaint the American people too because there has been considerable concern about the protection of civil rights, and obviously our war on terrorism has to be fought in a vigorous and tenacious manner, because it is a real threat to our national security and the safety of the American people, but at the same time have the balancing of protecting civil liberties. This is a significant step forward, and I am anxious to see the details to be able to report further on it.
I thank the Chair, and in the absence of any other Senators seeking recognition, I suggest the absence of a quorum.