The Washington Post reports that the United States Senate has passed a measure that would expand the government's "clandestine surveillance powers." The legislation includes a controversial provision granting immunity from lawsuits for telecommunications companies that assisted in post-9-11 domestic spying.
The legislation would reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which gives the government greater powers to eavesdrop without obtaining warrants. The bill was approved by the Senate with a 68 to 29 vote. However, Democrats in the House of Representatives had previously approved legislation that reauthorized the law without providing immunity to telecommunications industry companies. President Bush says he will only sign the bill if it contains that provision.
Both bills also revise FISA, with the article reporting that the most important change in the Senate's bill is that it would make permanent a law that expands the government's authority to intercept phone calls and e-mails of people in the U.S. communicating with those overseas, and it does not require a court order.
Both houses of Congress have until Friday to negotiate the differences in their bills, because existing FISA extensions expire at that time. House Democratics have introduced a 21-day extension to provide more time. According to USA Today, however, President Bush has said that he will not sign any more short-term FISA extensions.