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Mukasey urges compromise on new surveillance bill

[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile] said Friday that he was willing to compromise with Congress on legislation amending the Foreign Intelligence Security Act [text; JURIST news archive] but that the legislature would have to provide a "workable bill". Mukasey said that the bill passed [JURIST report] by the US House of Representatives last week, which did not provide retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive], did not meet this threshold. Last month, the Senate passed [JURIST report] a version of the bill that did provide retroactive immunity to the companies. Mukasey stopped short of urging the House to adopt that version of the bill, however, and instead expressed hope that a compromise could be reached between the House bill and the Bush administration, which supports the immunity provision.

Mukasey's comments come roughly a week after President Bush said again that he would veto any FISA amendment legislation that did not include the immunity provision [transcript]. The House bill would defer the issue of immunity to the courts [JURIST report] to be resolved on a case-by-case basis, but would also allow the cases to be heard in closed-door hearings. Last month, Mukasey and US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said that vital intelligence had been lost [JURIST report] while telecommunications companies circumvented wiretapping orders as they waited for word on whether the immunity provision would be included in the new legislation. Mukasey said that the relationship between the private companies and the government had since been repaired and that intelligence gathering activities were now running smoothly. Reuters has more.

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