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A U.S. intelligence court earlier this year secretly struck down a key element of President George W. Bush’s warrantless spying program, The Washington Post reported in its Friday edition.
The decision is one reason Congress is trying to give legal authorization to the spying program in fevered negotiations with the Bush administration this week, the Post reported.
The intelligence-court judge, who remains anonymous, concluded that the government had overstepped its authority by monitoring overseas communications that pass through the United States, the Post said, citing anonymous government and congressional sources.
The Bush administration expanded its surveillance efforts after the September 11, 2001, hijacking attacks, without court oversight. The court was allowed to review the program in January.
The surveillance court judge’s ruling has prevented the National Security Agency from monitoring foreign telephone calls and e-mails that travel through the United States, the Post reported.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, mentioned the court setback on Fox News on Tuesday, drawing a rebuke from House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emmanuel.
A Boehner spokesman said he did not reveal classified information.
The Democratic-led Congress hopes to reach a deal with the White House in the next few days that would expand the government’s power to eavesdrop on telephone calls and e-mail from abroad.
The effort would modernize the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires court approval to monitor communications with people inside the United States.
The White House wants to bypass the court when spying on overseas foreigners, whether they are communicating with a U.S. citizen or not. Democrats object.