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Senate panel approves Bush’s secret wiretap bill

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September 13, 2006

A White House-backed bill that would enable a secret court to review President George W. Bush’s warrantless domestic spying program won approval on Wednesday from the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Republicans backed the measure, saying it would enable the court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to examine the legality of the program begun shortly after the September 11 attacks and first disclosed last December.

But Democrats warned the measure was packed with loopholes, would expand presidential powers and could undermine civil liberties of law-abiding Americans.

On a party-line vote of 10-8, the panel approved the bill and sent it to the full Senate for an uncertain fate in advance of the hotly contested November 7 congressional elections.

The House of Representatives has been struggling to craft and win passage of a measure of its own to answer complaints that the program violates the rights of law-abiding Americans. Bush’s Republicans control both houses of Congress.