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House Judiciary Approves FISA Update

The House Judiciary Committee approved the Democrats' update of a warrantless wiretapping law that expires at the end of this year.

The committee approved the measure, 20-14, despite widespread criticism from Republicans at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, in particular because the bill does not include legal protections for banks and telecommunications firms that have shared customer information with intelligence officials.

President Bush held a press conference Wednesday to announce he would veto the legislation if it does not include protections for these companies, which remain the target of numerous lawsuits.

Democrats continue to assert that it remains premature for Congress to grant immunity to these companies until they reveal the full extent of their disclosures to U.S. intelligence officials.

"It would be grossly irresponsible for Congress to immunize companies without knowing whether their conduct was legal or not," House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said in a statement. "Congress should not blindly grant blanket immunity for such a serious matter."

Democrats unveiled the measure Tuesday, and some Republicans expect the majority to bring bill to the floor as early as next week, even though the current law doesn't expire until the end of this year.