By Joe Kay
14 February 2008
The US Congress has taken steps this week toward passing a bill that would expand government spying powers while granting immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in violations of the law.
On Tuesday, the Senate voted to permanently extend the so-called Protect America Act, originally passed in August 2007. The bill passed by the Senate includes everything demanded by the Bush administration, including immunity for companies that participated in the National Security Agency’s illegal warrantless domestic spying program.
The Bush administration is seeking to place the NSA program on a firmer legal footing by pushing through changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires the government to obtain a warrant whenever it intercepts communications involving US residents.
The Protect America Act includes these changes, but the bill is set to expire on February 15. For this reason, the White House, and leading figures in both the Democratic and Republican parties, are pushing for a permanent extension.
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