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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bush to veto surveillance bill without telecom immunity: Mukasey letter
Caitlin Price at 1:39 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush will veto any terror surveillance legislation passed by Congress that does not include liability protection for telecom companies, a letter from Attorney General Michael Mukasey and National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell warned Congress Tuesday, according to AP. Last week, Bush signed a 15-day extension [JURIST report] to the temporary Protect America Act [S 1927 materials; JURIST report], designed as a stopgap while Congress works on long-term legislation to "modernize" the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive]. FISA currently allows the government to eavesdrop inside of the US without court approval as long as one end of a conversation is reasonably perceived to have been outside of the US. Controversy has arisen over proposed amendments to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies [JURIST report] from lawsuits related to their participation in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. AP reported that the Tuesday letter, sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee [official websites], said that, "Private citizens who respond in good faith to a request for assistance by public officials should not be held liable for their actions." The letter indicated that the Bush administration otherwise supports the bill. A Senate vote may occur this week.

Bush has previously threatened to veto any version of the Protect America Act or of FISA that did not a telecom immunity provision, and repeated his stance during his final State of the Union address [JURIST report] last week. AP has more.

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