WASHINGTON, March 14 (UPI) -- The U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed a surveillance bill that allows companies to defend themselves in court for giving the U.S. government data.
The measure, approved on a 213-to-197 vote, doesn't grant immunity as a U.S. Senate-passed foreign intelligence bill does.
U.S. President George Bush said he would veto any Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization that didn't include immunity for telecommunication firms that provided documents to intelligence agencies without a warrant.
The House version, while not granting immunity, would make it easier for telecom firms to defend themselves in court, where about 40 lawsuits have been filed.
"We should vote on the Senate bill," said Rep Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. "My friends, are we doing enough to protect America?"
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the measure protects America and safeguards constitutional guarantees.
Hoyer read a letter from Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who said the House proposal "reflects the progress in bringing the new bills together and is a step in the right direction."
The bill allows for "the protection of our country," Hoyer said, "and protects the Constitution of the United States."