House Adopts 15-day Extension Of Protect America Act

With a partisan stalemate in the Senate holding up any revision to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the House today adopted a 15-day extension of the Protect America Act, legislation last August that expanded the surveillance powers of the Bush administration.

Senate Democrats are unable to agree among themselves and with their GOP counterparts on proposed FISA amendments, specificially a Intelligence Committee proposal to grant retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have participated in President Bush's warrantess surveillance program. A dozen Senate Democrats back the immunity provision, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), but other leading Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), are opposed to the effort.

With the Protect America Act expiring on Feb. 1, the House has now acted to extend that deadline for another two weeks in order to allow the Senate to reach an agreement, although there has been no movement on the issue as of press time. The House has already passed FISA-related legislation that does not include the telecom immunity language, and despite pressure from Bush to include it in any FISA bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is urging the Senate to do the same.

"Congress must update the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act by passing a bill that protects both our national security and our civil liberties," Pelosi said in a statment released by her office. "The House has already passed such a bill, the RESTORE Act, which provides flexible surveillance tools for the intelligence community while protecting the constitutional rights of Americans, and I hope the Senate will now follow suit."