The Bush administration changed course and agreed Wednesday to let a secret but independent panel of federal judges oversee the government's controversial domestic spying program.
Officials say the secret court has already approved at least one request for monitoring.
The shift will probably end a court fight over whether the warrantless surveillance program was legal.
The program, which was secretly authorized by President Bush shortly after 9/11, was disclosed a little more than a year ago, resulting in widespread criticism from lawmakers and civil libertarians questioning its legality.
The program allowed the National Security Agency â€“ without approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court â€“ to monitor phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and other countries when a link to terrorism is suspected.
In a letter to senators Wednesday, Attorney General Al Gonzales said "any electronic surveillance that was occurring as part of the Terrorist Surveillance Program will now be conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court."
Mr. Gonzales said Mr. Bush won't reauthorize the program once it expires.