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Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

Domestic spying papers released

February 1, 2007

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— Attorney General Alberto Gonzales expanded Congress' access Wednesday to classified documents detailing the government's domestic spying program but still didn't satisfy several lawmakers demanding information about surveillance.

Investigators' applications, legal briefs and orders issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are now open to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House and Senate intelligence committees, Gonzales said.

Two weeks ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee - led by Democratic Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania - criticized the attorney general for refusing to answer specific questions about the secret court's new oversight of the controversial program.

"We obviously would be concerned about the public disclosure that may jeopardize the national security of our country," Gonzales said Wednesday. "But we're working with the Congress to provide the information that it needs."

The documents will not be released publicly, Gonzales said. "We're talking about highly classified documents about highly classified activities of the United States government."

Leahy and Specter both said they welcomed the Bush administration's decision to show them the documents, which could give insight on how judges on the secret court consider evidence when approving government requests to spy on people in the United States who have suspected links to al-Qaida.

But Leahy said he will decide after he reviews the papers whether further oversight or legislative action is necessary. Specter stopped short of calling for them to be released publicly but said "there ought to be the maximum disclosure to the public, consistent with national security procedures."

The documents also are available to lawmakers and staffers on the House and Senate intelligence committees, who already were cleared to receive details about the spy program. But several lawmakers accused the Justice Department of still holding back crucial classified documents about the surveillance, including the original presidential order that created it in October 2001.

"We have informed Justice Department officials that the committee's requests for those documents remains in effect," House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said in a statement. "We are hopeful that the administration will comply with those requests in a timely fashion and that further efforts to secure that material will not be necessary."

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