House committees OK more wiretap oversight

Oct. 11, 2007 at 12:12 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- The U.S. House Judiciary and Intelligence committees have rejected a Bush administration request to renew the government's eavesdropping authority.

The panels instead voted along party lines to approve a bill that would allow federal judges to exercise more oversight and scrutiny over National Security Agency electronic surveillance, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, chairman of the Intelligence Committee, goes against the wishes of the Bush administration by refusing to grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies that participate in warrantless surveillance with the NSA.

The bill also expires in two years, despite the White House's request that the program be made permanent.

"What's good is they've put some more protections in place. It's a step in the right direction," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union. "What's bad is it still contains provisions that let the administration get surveillance for up to a year without individual warrants."

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