Senate Agrees on Terms of Domestic Surveillance Legislation

By Matthew Harwood

The Washington Post is reporting that Senate Democrats and Republicans have fashioned the terms for new legislation on the government's domestic surveillance program.

Key to the compromise was the Democrats agreement to extend legal immunity to those telecommunications companies that previously participated in the government's warrantless wiretaps of Americans after 9-11.

As the Post notes:

Such a demonstration, which the bill says could be made in secret, would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants. Bush had repeatedly threatened to veto any legislation that lacked this provision.

But Democrats were also able to push through some of their demands.

The new legislation will require that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court review how the government decides who qualifies for warrantless surveillance and also ensures that the legislation must be renewed after six years. The Bush Administration had wanted little oversight and the legislation to be made permanent.

The draft Senate bill agreed upon yesterday by the Senate Intelligence Committee is slated to be marked up this afternoon in a closed hearing. According to the Post, the committee's chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), supports the bill.




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