The House handed President Bush a victory Saturday, voting to expand the government's abilities to eavesdrop without warrants on foreign...
WASHINGTON — The House handed President Bush a victory Saturday, voting to expand the government’s abilities to eavesdrop without warrants on foreign suspects whose communications pass through the United States.
The 227-183 vote, which followed the Senate’s OK Friday, sends the bill to Bush.
The administration said the measure is needed to speed the National Security Agency’s ability to intercept phone calls, e-mails and other communications involving foreign nationals “reasonably believed to be outside the United States.”
Civil-liberties groups and many Democrats said it goes too far, possibly enabling the government to wiretap U.S. residents communicating with overseas parties without adequate oversight.
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The bill updates the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It gives the government leeway to intercept, without warrants, communications between foreigners that are routed through equipment in United States, provided that “foreign-intelligence information” is at stake.
Bush describes the effort as an anti-terrorist program, but the bill is not limited to terrorism suspects.
Democrats won a few concessions. New wiretaps must be approved by the director of national intelligence and the attorney general, not just the attorney general. The law also will expire in six months unless renewed.
Washington’s representatives voted along party lines, with Republicans in support of the bill and Democrats opposed.