Rare Closed Session Changes Few Minds On FISA

A rare closed session of the House to discuss electronic surveillance legislation failed to change many minds Thursday night, as many lawmakers emerged from the closed-door meeting entrenched in their positions on the controversial measure.

While House Republicans — who called for the session to discuss classified information related to the program — said the meeting provided a clear picture of the terrorist threat and the need to grant retroactive immunity to telecom companies, many Democrats said they did not hear anything new. 

“I did not hear any new information tonight that dissuades me from my very strong belief that the FISA bill House Democrats have produced ... is a reasonable, thoughtful, appropriate piece of legislation that will ensure that the intelligence community has all the tools it needs to protect our nation," said House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.).

Congress has been deadlocked for weeks over an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Last month, the Senate passed its own version of the bill, which includes retroactive immunity for telecom companies that aided the government after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

House Democratic leaders introduced a bill earlier this week without immunity, angering Republicans who have been calling for the House to take up the Senate bill. House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) called for the secret session in the hope of persuading his colleagues to support immunity and the Senate bill.

The House is expected to vote on its version early Friday afternoon.


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