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Bush threatening veto of stopgap surveillance bill extension without telecoms shield

[JURIST] The Bush administration warned Democratic leaders over the weekend that US President George W. Bush will veto any attempt to extend the temporary Protect America Act [S-1927 materials; JURIST report] beyond its February 1 expiration date that does not include liability protection for telecom companies, according to the Washington Post Sunday. The Protect Act, enacted as a stopgap while Congress worked on long-term legislation to "modernize" the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive], currently allows the US government to eavesdrop inside of the US without court approval as long as one end of a conversation is reasonably perceived to have been outside of the US. Senate Republicans defeated an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [official website] to extend the Protect Act without the immunity provision for companies that might face lawsuits over data-sharing for an additional month on January 22. Reid then sent a letter to President Bush asking that he support an extension to the Protect Act [JURIST report] as it appeared unlikely Congress would agree to reauthorize FISA before February 1. He has since reportedly denounced Bush's expressed intent to veto such an extension.

In his weekly radio address [transcript; recorded audio] Saturday, Bush urged Congress to approve the Senate's proposed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Bill [S 2248 materials; JURIST news archive] designed to revise and extend FISA so as to - among other things - expand the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [official backgrounder], giving it greater powers to monitor the government's use of eavesdropping on American citizens. The US Senate voted [JURIST report] last Thursday against an amendment [Leahy press release] to the bill which would have incorporated several changes to the legislation that were previously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Washington Post has more.

8:20 PM ET - On Monday, the US Senate voted down [roll call] an attempt by Senate Republicans to end further debate on extending the Protect Act.

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