Senate leader wants panels to pursue spy law changes

Majority leader urges committee chairs to be aggressive in examining recently-enacted provisions that sunset in six months.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wants two committees to work on broader changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when Congress returns in September, and he called on the chairmen of those panels to carry out "vigorous and comprehensive oversight" of a recently enacted extension of the law.

Reid made his case for revisiting FISA in a letter Tuesday to Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Intelligence Chairman John Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

"I would like to see the full Senate consider as soon as possible a bill reported by your committees that addresses the deficiencies in the recently-enacted law and any other matter you believe must be addressed," Reid wrote.

While the recently enacted provisions sunset in six months, Reid urged the chairmen to be aggressive in examining their effectiveness. "While these temporary authorities are in effect, I support all efforts by your two committees to conduct vigorous and comprehensive oversight of their implementation," Reid said in the letter.

The FISA revisions drew criticism from some Democrats for greatly expanding wire-tapping and e-mail screening authority. But after National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell weighed in on the side of President Bush, Democrats gave in to Bush's demands to alter the law.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and other House Democrats have already voiced their intent to revisit the changes next month. In a letter Aug. 4 to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, Pelosi asked that the committees report to the House "as soon as possible after Congress reconvenes" with suggested changes to the legislation.