June 20, 2008

House Passes New U.S. FISA Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives passed an updated wiretapping law Friday that includes protection from civil suits for telecommunications companies.

The measure passed 293 to 129, ending a yearlong fight between the Democratic Party majority in Congress and the Bush administration, The Washington Post reported.

Verizon and other telecommunications companies face about 40 lawsuits over cooperation with the government in warrantless wiretapping.

While a majority of Democrats voted against the bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., voted for it. Pelosi first gave a long list of problems with the legislation but said that it includes a key improvement by refusing to grant U.S. President George Bush total authority in some terrorism cases to authorize surveillance.

There is no inherent authority of the president to do whatever he wants. This is a democracy, Pelosi said.

Bush, speaking before the vote, praised Democratic leaders for agreeing on a compromise.

It will help our intelligence professionals learn our enemies' plans for new attacks, he said. It ensures that those companies whose assistance is necessary to protect the country will themselves be protected from liability for past or future cooperation with the government.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill next week.