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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Legislative Update: FISA

With the Protect America Act (the wiretapping legislation hastily passed before Congress left for its summer vacation) set to expire on Friday, the Senate is still debating the provisions of replacement legislation that would amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Discussion on the Senate floor has ground to a halt, and rumors are circulating that party leaders are negotiating a very brief—seven or fifteen day—extension of the expiring law in order to further ponder the pending legislation.

Late last week, the Senate voted to table a version of the bill approved by the Judiciary Committee which included greater oversight of executive wiretapping programs and excluded retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies who participated in the Bush Administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping scheme. That rejected bill closely resembled the legislation passed by the House of Representatives late last year. Now, the Intelligence Committee version is pending, which includes immunity provisions and gives the administration much broader power to spy on Americans without judicial review.

Even if Congress agrees to a short extension, the Senate will still have to take up this important issue in the coming weeks, and there are amendments pending on the bill that would substantially improve it. Tell your Senators to reject immunity, insist on oversight, and rebuff the Bush Administration’s assertion that it can secretly spy on innocent Americans without repercussions.

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