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Controversy has followed eavesdropping program

WASHINGTON—President Bush authorized the eavesdropping program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to monitor telephone and Internet communications in and out of the United States when officials have "reasonable grounds to believe" that one party is a member of al-Qaida or an affiliated terrorist organization.

Administration officials argued that the program, which for years operated secretly, didn't need explicit approval from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court. Instead, administration officials reviewed the program every 45 or 90 days.

But when The New York Times revealed the existence of the program in late 2005, members of Congress and civil libertarians raised questions about its legality.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit found the program violated the U.S. Constitution's provisions enumerating separation of powers and the right to free speech and privacy. The Bush administration is appealing the ruling.

In a major retreat in January, the Bush administration announced that it had obtained approval for the program from the secret court and said it would no longer resort to conducting warrantless telephone taps to search for terrorists.

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(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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