Senate Approves FISA Amendment

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:23 PM EDT

( - In a vote of 68 to 29, the Senate Tuesday approved legislation to permanently strengthen and improve the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) after rejecting a Democratic effort to remove a provision that would shield telecommunications companies from lawsuits.

"With the Senate passage of this bill we are one step closer to restoring critical checks and balances to the President's surveillance program," said Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) in a statement.

"This is a very good bill that achieves what we set out to accomplish -- restore civil liberty protections through proper FISA court oversight, and allow for targeted surveillance of potential terrorists," Rockefeller, chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said.

"For the first time, we have expanded protections to U.S. persons no matter where they are in the world, and we increased the role of the FISA Court including court approval of minimization procedures to ensure that the identities and information of American's incidentally collected is omitted," he added.

Although he defied Democrats by favoring immunity for telephone companies, Rockefeller criticized President Bush's wiretapping program, calling anger over the program "appropriate," adding that the administration "should be held accountable."

Rockefeller added, "However, we should not hold the carriers hostage to years of litigation for stepping forward when the country asked for their help and providing assistance they believed to be legal and necessary."

No word on whether the House will approve similar legislation shielding telecom companies from litigation.

See Earlier Story:
Reid Files Another FISA Extension (Feb. 11, 2008)

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