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Bush says no compromise possible on telecom immunity in surveillance bill

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush Thursday reiterated his call for Congress to extend the temporary Protect America Act [S 1927 materials; JURIST report], which expired on Saturday without an agreement in Congress on replacement legislation, and said he can foresee "no compromise" with Congressional Democrats on the issue of immunity for telecommunications companies [JURIST report] from lawsuits related to their participation in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. The Senate passed [JURIST report] the FISA Amendments Act [S 2248 materials] on February 13, but the House of Representatives did not approve the bill before leaving for a 12-day recess. The version approved by the Senate provides immunity for telecommunications companies, while the House version [HR 3773 materials] of the legislation, approved [JURIST report] in November, does not include the immunity provisions. AP has more.

The FISA Amendments Act, supplementary to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text], would make it easier for the government to monitor foreign phone calls and e-mails that pass through the United States. In the absence of new legislation, the government can get an order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor calls and e-mails, set up under FISA. Amendment supporters have rejected this option, saying it creates too much red tape. Strong critics of the legislation, including Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) [official website], have deplored its retroactive grant of immunity to participating telecom companies as an effective endorsement of warrantless wiretapping contrary to the rule of law [transcript; recorded video].

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