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US House votes to extend surveillance law despite veto threat

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Tuesday voted to extend the Protect America Act of 2007 [S 1927 materials; JURIST report] for an additional two weeks past its original February 1 expiration date. The extension was passed as a last-minute compromise between House Democrats and Republicans to give the Senate time to pass new surveillance legislation that Republicans hope will include a provision granting civil immunity to telecommunications companies [JURIST report] that cooperate with the government on surveillance. To date, more than 40 lawsuits have been filed against telecom companies that participated in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. US President George W. Bush reiterated his threat [JURIST report] to veto any legislation that did not include an immunity provision in his State of the Union address [text; JURIST report] on Monday. AP has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.

Currently, the temporary Protect America Act, which was enacted as a stopgap measure as Congress works on passing long-term legislation to "modernize" the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive, expands FISA to allow the US government to eavesdrop inside of the US without court approval as long as one end of a telephone or computer conversation is reasonably perceived to have been outside of the US. The Protect America Act had been set to sunset on February 1. Both Bush [press release] and Vice President Dick Cheney [JURIST report] have recently called for Congressional action to do away with the need for future renewals by making FISA permanent.

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