BUSH, DEMOCRATS CLASH OVER NEW SPY BILL, IMMUNITY
[SOURCE: Reuters, AUTHOR: Thomas Ferraro and Tabassum Zakaria]
The House of Representatives defied President George W. Bush on Thursday and moved ahead with an anti-terror spy bill that allows lawsuits against telephone companies that participated in his warrantless surveillance program after the September 11 attacks. As the House prepared to vote on the measure on Thursday, President Bush denounced the bill as inadequate and urged the chamber to pass the Senate version of the bill, saying these companies deserved praise, not punishment. "This litigation would undermine the private sector's willingness to cooperate with the intelligence community, cooperation that is absolutely essential to protecting our country from harm," Bush said at the White House. "The House bill could reopen dangerous intelligence gaps by putting in place a cumbersome court approval process that would make it harder to collect intelligence on foreign terrorists," he added. President Bush said, "The House leaders know that the Senate will not pass it. And even if the Senate did pass it, they know I will veto it." While the House bill would not grant immunity, it would allow phone companies to present their defense in a closed-door U.S. district court, with the judge given access to confidential documents about the surveillance program.
* Democrats plan last-minute FISA vote
Before Congress departs for its spring recess at week's end, the U.S. House of Representatives is trying to squeeze in a vote on what's shaping up as one of the most contentious bills this year.
* Hoyer agrees to closed FISA session
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has agreed to a GOP request for a secret House session Thursday to discuss the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA). House Republicans had been seeking the closed session to delay a vote on a new Democratic FISA overhaul, unveiled Tuesday, and discuss its national security implications.
* Private session set to debate House spy bill
* House debates terrorism surveillance in rare private session
* House agrees to rare secret session on spy bill
* President Bush Discusses FISA (White House)
* Bush blasts ‘unacceptable’ House FISA bill
* Democrats Dig In for Surveillance Battle
House Democrats are expected to approve today a surveillance measure that challenges the White House and which President Bush said he would veto, virtually ensuring the spy-power battles on Capitol Hill will continue at least into the spring.
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- Update: House approves surveillance bill, protects telecoms
- Liberal Dems seek secret FISA session
- House defeats stopgap extension of spy program
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- GOP pushes discharge petition to force FISA vote
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- Bush, Dems take fight over FISA to the airwaves