Las Vegas Sun

November 25, 2017

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Editorial: It’s still a bad deal

President Bush has struck a compromise with some of his critics and agreed to submit his administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program to a secret security court for review.

According to a story by the Washington Post, the White House and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., negotiated a deal in which Bush will allow a federal intelligence court to review the constitutionality of the National Security Agency program. The deal also requires that all lawsuits challenging the president's eavesdropping program be submitted to those secret proceedings as well.

It is a turnaround for Bush, who until now has remained steadfast in his assertion that the executive branch has all the authorization it needs to engage in wartime eavesdropping on Americans' e-mails and telephone calls with foreign nations - without obtaining warrants - when at least one of the parties involved is a suspected terrorist.

Specter, Democrats and civil liberties organizations have vehemently disagreed and repeatedly called for some government oversight. If Congress approves the deal, Bush's program will be vetted in a court created under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Democrats don't support the compromise, though, saying it allows the court to make a blanket ruling rather than adhering to a case-by-case review as called for under the 1978 act.

This compromise does not provide the kind of oversight this domestic surveillance program needs. Legal discussions and decisions regarding constitutional issues should result in a record that is open to public review - yet it remains unknown whether the secret court's decision will be made public. And those who have legally challenged the president's policy deserve their day in court - their cases should be decided separately, in the open and on their individual merits.

The fact is that the president's concession isn't much of one. He still doesn't have to answer to the public or prove to Americans that his administration's secret surveillance of their communications is constitutional.