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Bush calls on Congress to reject FISA bill amendments denying telecom immunity

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush called on Congress Tuesday to reject amendments [WH fact sheet] to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive] that would deny telecom companies retroactive immunity for participating in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. In a letter [PDF text] sent to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid on Monday, Director of National Intelligence Jack McConnell and Attorney General Michael Mukasey said that they would recommend that Bush veto the legislation if it included the Bingaman amendment [EFF backgrounder]:

Any amendment that would delay implementation of the liability protections in this manner is unacceptable. Providing prompt liability protection is critical to the national security. Accordingly, we, as well as the President's other senior advisors, will recommend that the President veto any bill that includes such an amendment.[sic]
The Bingaman amendment would suspend telecom immunity pending a decision by the Inspector General on the legality of the warrentless wiretapping program. Two other proposals, the Dodd-Feingold-Leahy amendment and the Specter amendment [ACLU backgrounder], would also limit telecom immunity. EEF has more.

Last month, the US House of Representatives passed [roll call] a compromise version of a bill [HR 6304 materials] amending FISA 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].

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