Blue Dog Democrats key to FISA action

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- The clock is running for the U.S. Congress to approve an overhaul of the nation's intelligence-gathering law, congressional insiders say.

Key to any reconciliation between the House and Senate versions of the reauthorization bill are the conservative Blue Dog Democrats in the House, The Hill reported.


If Congress does not approve an overhaul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the end of May, intelligence-gathering officials will have to prepare individual surveillance warrants, a time-consuming exercise compared to the wiretapping authority granted in the Protect American Act, the measure that updated FISA, the Washington publication said.

Among other things, the House version does not grant immunity to telecommunication companies that turn over records to government investigators while the administration-favored Senate version does.

"A number of Blue Dogs are working on a compromise between the House and the Senate," said Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., a member of the Blue Dog Coalition. "Blue Dogs are 47 votes; 47 votes will determine how this comes out."

The Protect America Act expired in February, but House Democratic leaders argued its expiration wouldn't affect information-gathering because surveillance orders signed by senior administration officials remain in effect. The orders begin to expire in August.


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