A solution to the FISA controversy is suggested in a Chicago Tribune op—ed by former Clinton Associate Attorney General who supports Bush, and is reinforced by a Tribune editorial explaining and endorsing the concept:
John Schmidt, a prominent Chicago attorney and former associate attorney general in the Clinton administration, sets it out on today's Commentary page.
Schmidt believes the Bush administration already has the legal authority to conduct the broad surveillance at issue. Schmidt argued persuasively in a December essay on our pages that since the FISA law was passed in 1978, every president has asserted that he "retained inherent power" to go beyond the terms of the law and the courts have consistently upheld that position.
So what Schmidt offers today, and this page strongly supports, is not designed to rein in unlawful activity by the administration. It is a means to balance lawful activity with the civil liberties this nation holds dear.
Schmidt suggests empowering the FISA court to review periodically the broad parameters of the kind of surveillance plan now run by the NSA. He notes that this isn't a new idea: Former Atty. Gen. Edward Levi recommended it more than 30 years ago.
A regular FISA court review of the eavesdropping program makes sense. At the moment, President Bush reauthorizes the program every 45 days. Presumably, the president is briefed on the nature and scope of the program, the results of its intercepts, and efforts to make sure that there's no inappropriate snooping on American citizens. That briefing could be conducted before the FISA court.
The administration is under increasing pressure from many Republicans as well as Democrats to yield. On Tuesday, Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R—N.M.), the chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, broke ranks with the White House and called for a full inquiry into the NSA program.
A broad congressional review——even behind closed doors, despite whatever promises of confidentiality are made——runs the risk of revealing more information on how the U.S. intercepts the communication of its enemies. This should be resolved now, by creating a court oversight that doesn't restrict the speed and flexibility of this nation's critical intelligence efforts.
Ed Lasky 2 13 06