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House passes FISA amendment granting telecom immunity

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Friday passed [roll call] a compromise version of a bill [HR 6304 materials] amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive] and including a controversial provision granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. The bill also grants the FISA court [governing provisions] authority to review a wider range of wiretapping orders, would prohibit the executive branch from overriding the court's authority, and orders the Department of Justice [official website] and other agencies to issue a report on the country's use of wiretapping orders. Earlier versions of the bill without the immunity provisions had also passed in the House, but President Bush has promised to veto [JURIST reports] any version of the bill without the language. The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week and has already approved similar legislation including the immunity clause [JURIST report]. AP has more.

Many members of the House, which voted 293-129 in favor of the amendment, praised the compromise [press release] for providing new privacy protections and holding the executive branch more accountable for its surveillance program. Senate Judiciary Committee member Arlen Spector (R-PA) [official website] said he still would not vote for the bill [press release] because of the provisions, and the American Civil Liberties Union [official website] had even broader criticisms of the bill [press release], saying it still allowed for massive surveillance of international communications without proper review.

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