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Senate limits debate on surveillance bill granting telecoms immunity

[JURIST] The US Senate voted 69-29 [roll call] Tuesday in favor of a cloture motion [Senate backgrounder] limiting further debate on a bill [S 2248 materials] which would provide immunity for telecommunications companies [JURIST report] from lawsuits related to their participation in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. Congress has mulled the controversial issue of telecom immunity while working on long-term legislation to "modernize" the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text]; the Bush administration has indicated it will veto [JURIST report] any legislation passed without a telecom liability protection. The Senate delayed voting [JURIST report] in December; Tuesday's cloture motion is expected to lead to a quick passage of the bill. Differences still remain with the House version of the legislation [HR 3773 materials; JURIST report], which does not contain an immunity provision.

Also Tuesday, the Senate approved by voice vote an increase in the power of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [official backgrounder] to monitor the government's eavesdropping on American citizens. FISA 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; the amendment will extend the court order requirement to Americans located overseas. AP has more.

2/13/08 - The Senate passed the FISA Amendments Act Tuesday evening by a vote of 68-29 [roll call].

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