AG letter to Senate leaders regarding FISC decision and conclusion of Terrorist Surveillance Program

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The Attorney General

Washington, D.C.

January 17, 2007

The Honorable Patrick Leahy
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Arlen Specter
Racking Minority Member
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Chairman Leahy and Senator Specter:

I am writing to inform you that on January 10, 2007, a Judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued orders authorizing the Government to target for collection international communications into or out of the United States where there is a probable cause to believe that one of the communicants is a member or agent of al Queda or an associated terrorist organization. As a result of these orders, any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

In the spring of 2005--well before the first press account disclosing the existence of the Terrorist Surveillance Program--the Administration began exploring options for seeking such FISA Court Approval. Any court authorization had to ensure that the Intelligence Community would have the speed and agility necessary to protect the Nation from al Qaeda--the very speed and agility that was offered by the Terrorist Surveillance Program. These orders are innovative, they are complex, and it took considerable time and work for the Government to develop the approach that was proposed to the Court and for the Judge on the FISC to consider and approve these orders.

The President is committed to using all lawful tools to protect our Nation from the terrorist threat, including making maximum use of the authorities provided by FISA and taking full advantage of developments in the law. Although, as we have previously explained, the Terrorist Surveillance Program fully complies with the law, the orders the Government has obtained will allow the necessary speed and agility while providing substantial advantages. Accordingly, under these circumstances, the President has

determined not to reauthorize the Terrorist Surveillance Program when the current authorization expires.

The Intelligence Committees have been briefed on the highly classified details of these orders. In addition, I have directed Steve Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, and Ken Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, to provide a classified briefing to you on the details of these orders.

Alberto R. Gonzales,
Attorney General

cc: The Honorable John D. Rockefeller, IV

The Honorable Christopher Bond

The Honorable Sylvester Reyes

The Honorable Peter Hoekstra

The Honorable John Conyers, Jr.

The Honorable Lamar S. Smith

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).