"The U.S. Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to slap restrictions on a controversial Pentagon data-mining program that critics say would amount to a domestic spying apparatus.
By unanimous consent, the Senate inserted a moratorium on the program into a massive spending bill, which is expected to receive a final vote late Thursday or Friday.
The vote represents an unusual triumph of privacy concerns over the Bush administration's arguments that the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness (TIA) program would be useful for national security. If fully implemented, TIA would link databases from sources such as credit card companies, medical insurers and motor vehicle agencies in hopes of snaring terrorists.
Final passage of the moratorium is not certain, however. Because the House of Representatives' version of the omnibus appropriations bill does not include any limits on TIA, a conference committee will have the final say....
On the other hand, the Wyden amendment--co-sponsored by Democrats including Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick Leahy of Vermont--bans TIA after two months unless Congress receives a detailed report or President George W. Bush decides that a halt would 'endanger the national security of the United States.'
Thereafter, if the Defense Department or any other executive branch agency wishes to release TIA to be used on American citizens, it must seek 'specific authorization' from Congress. Exceptions are 'lawful' military activities conducted overseas, or intelligence operations that target non-Americans inside or outside the United States....
Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisc., said after the vote that he would continue to pursue a standalone bill that would also place restrictions on TIA." [CNET News.com]