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Administration looks to push through surveillance changes

CNN | July 30, 2007

The Bush administration is looking to speed through a “significantly narrowed” group of changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act before Congress leaves Washington for its August recess.

One of them would ensure U.S. authorities could intercept on communications between suspected terrorists overseas without a warrant when those communications — due to modern technology — may travel through a switch in the United States.

According to a letter obtained by CNN, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell informed House and Senate leaders Friday that the administration is willing to temporarily shelve the broader FISA reform plan it's been advocating for months in order to immediately push through a smaller package of changes that would “close the critical gaps in our intelligence capability in the short-term.”

The letter describes an “urgent” need for the intelligence community to provide warnings.

Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff told CNN this month that the United States has seen increased activity by al Qaeda and knows al Qaeda wants to launch an attack on the United States. He also noted that the group has launched attacks in various countries during the summer months. But intelligence officials have also told CNN there is no evidence suggesting a specific threat, and none suggesting the group is more likely to strike in the summer than at any other time.

McConnell wrote in his letter, “Although my strong preference is the immediate adoption of the proposal I transmitted to Congress in April, in light of the urgency of the situation, I offer the attached significantly narrowed proposal focused on the current urgent need of the Intelligence Community to provide warning.”

It was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, and House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

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