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House Dems To Bring Up New FISA Bill On Thursday

House Democrats plan a Thursday vote on their new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act proposal, according to Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), although it is not entirely clear that they will have the votes to pass it.

The new Democratic proposal, portions of which have leaked out during the last several days, makes FISA the exclusive means to conduct any domestic surveillance for intelligence purposes, and it requires the secret FISA court to "approve targeting and minimization procedures" to ensure American citizens are not caught up inadvertantly in an intelligence investigation.

On the controversial issue of retroactive immunity for telecom companies that participated in the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program, Democrats refuse to yield to pressure from the White House on the measure. The telecom companies, who are the target of dozens of lawsuits over their participation in the Bush program, have pushed hard for the provision, but House Democratic leaders will not go along with it, even though the Senate has already included it in its amended FISA bill.

Instread, the new proposal "prospective liability protection for telecom companies that assist with lawful sureveillance activities," states a release from Hoyer's office. The telecom companies would be able to share with federal judges the secret NSA directives they received directing them to participate in the warrantless surveillance program. The White House would not be allowed to invoke the doctrine of "state secrets" to prevent the companies from defending themselves in court.

House Democrats want to establish a bipartisan "National Commission, appointed by Congress, to investigate and report to Congress and the public about the Administration's warrantless surveillance activities." Hoyer said the new panel would be modeled on the 9/11 Commission, and would have subpoena power in order to compel testimony.

Neither Hoyer nor Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) would predict whether Democratic leaders could actually pass their bill on Thursday, and a number of Blue Dog conservative Democrats have urged Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to quickly enact the Senate-passed bill.
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