Friday, February 17, 2006
AP: Judge orders release of warrantless wiretap information - Feb. 17
By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer -- Friday, 20 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - A federal judge ordered the Bush administration on Thursday to release documents about its warrantless surveillance program or spell out what it is withholding, a setback to efforts to keep the program under wraps.
At the same time, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said he had worked out an agreement with the White House to consider legislation and provide more information to Congress on the eavesdropping program. The panel's top Democrat, who has requested a full-scale investigation, immediately objected to what he called an abdication of the committee's responsibilities.
Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Jay Rockefeller, left, D-W.V., talks to press after a closed session of the committee on Capitol Hill Thursday, Feb. 16, 2006, on the U.S. law regarding the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program. Democrats have been demanding an investigation, but committee chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., announced after the meeting that he had reached an agreement with the White house to change the law. (AP Photo/Lauren Victoria Burke)
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy ruled that a private group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, will suffer irreparable harm if the documents it has been seeking since December are not processed promptly under the Freedom of Information Act. He gave the Justice Department 20 days to respond to the group's request.
"has invited meaningful debate about the wireless surveillance program," Kennedy said. "That can only occur if DOJ processes its requests in a timely fashion and releases the information sought."
Justice Department spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said the department has been "extremely forthcoming" with information and "will continue to meet its obligations under FOIA."
On Capitol Hill, lawmakers also have been seeking more information about Bush's program that allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop -- without court warrants -- on Americans whose international calls and e-mails it believed might be linked to al-Qaida.
After the two-hour closed-door session, Senate Intelligence Chairman Roberts said the committee adjourned without voting on whether to open an investigation. Instead, he and the White House confirmed that they had an agreement to give lawmakers more information on the nature of the program. The White House also has committed to make changes to the current law, according to Roberts and White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino.
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