Friday, July 14, 2006

White House agrees to oversight of eavesdropping program

By Richard Sisk
New York Daily News

WASHINGTON - The White House reversed course Thursday to seek compromise with Congress on trials for Guantanamo Bay prisoners and its vast domestic eavesdropping program.

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and John Warner, R-Va., said they had worked out a tentative deal with the Bush administration to write new rules for trying terror suspects before military tribunals that would be based on the Uniform Code of Military Justice for courts-martial.

"It is our sincere hope that within a relatively short period of time we can have some legislation from Congress that will allow military commissions to go forward," said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

In a separate move, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Va., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said White House officials had given preliminary agreement to a court review of the controversial warrantless wiretaps authorized by President Bush shortly after Sept. 11.

The compromise legislation would allow the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to decide whether the eavesdropping by the National Security Agency on millions of international phone calls and e-mails was constitutional.

"You have here a recognition by the President that he does not have a blank check," Specter said.

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, McCain, who was a POW for more than five years during the Vietnam War, said the U.S. must abide by international law standards of humane treatment and fair trials for prisoners.

"If we somehow carve out exceptions to treaties to which we are signatories, then it will make it very easy for enemies to do the same to American prisoners," McCain said.

The Supreme Court last month ruled that the minimum protections of the Geneva Conventions applied to Guantanamo prisoners and also directed Congress to sanction rules for military commission trials.
I wish Specter and McCain would do the GOP a favor and retire.