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A domestic surveillance resolution calling on the Bush administration to abide by the Constitution’s system of checks and balances sailed through the ABA House of Delegates during the midyear meeting in February.

By passing the six-part recommendation of the Task Force on Domestic Surveillance, the policy-making House of Delegates said the ABA would oppose “any future electronic surveillance inside the United States by any U.S. government agency for foreign intelligence purposes” that doesn’t comply with the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

ABA President Michael S. Greco of Boston sent a letter to President Bush on Feb. 13–the day the House adopted the measure–setting forth the association’s position. “We join with you in the conviction that terrorism must be fought with the utmost vigor, but we also believe we must ensure this fight is conducted in a manner reflective of the highest American values,” Greco wrote.

As of early March, the White House had not responded.

The Domestic Surveillance Task Force–appointed by Greco after news reports appeared about the secret, warrantless-wiretap program sanctioned by the administration–worked quickly to craft the report and recommendation in time for the House to consider it in Chicago.

The only attempt to revise the substance of the task force’s recommendation was made by delegate Mark H. Alcott of New York City. He objected to a provision in the recommendation calling on Congress to reaffirm that the Authorization for Use of Military Force passed in 2001 did not provide an exception to FISA’s requirements. Alcott said it was the job of the courts, not Congress, to interpret the law. But Alcott’s motion to delete that provision failed, and the House adopted the recommendation in a voice vote.

The recommendation urges Congress to investigate the domestic surveillance program, to ensure that any such investigation is open to the public, and to review its intelligence oversight process. The measure also urges the president to keep Congress fully informed of intelligence operations.

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