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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 February 2008, 02:55 GMT
Bush warns Congress on wiretaps
George W Bush speaks in the Oval Office in front of Mike McConnell, the Director of National Intelligence (13 February 2008)
Mr Bush said the enemies of the US were already plotting new attacks
US President George W Bush has told Congress he will not accept another temporary bill allowing warrantless wiretapping of foreign terror suspects.

Mr Bush said he wanted Congress to approve legislation which was permanent and provide retroactive immunity to telephone companies that co-operated.

The current legislation, last extended in August, will expire on Saturday.

Congress remains deadlocked over whether to extend it or adopt a revised bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday.

After a day of debate on Wednesday, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted against a tactical move to extend the temporary legislation for another 21 days.

It is time for Congress to pass a law that provides a long-term foundation to protect our country and they must do so immediately
US President George W Bush

The Protect America Act, which amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, allows the US authorities to tap into phone calls and e-mails to or from the United States, as long as the target is abroad.

Previously, they had to seek approval from a special court in advance.

The act did not, however, grant immunity to the telecommunication companies who co-operated with the government's warrantless programme set up by the Bush administration after 11 September.

Several lawsuits have since been filed against them by campaigners for collaborating with the US authorities and violating privacy laws.

'Flow of intelligence'

On Tuesday, the Senate approved full legislation which would authorise the surveillance of foreign terror suspects for another six years and included the provision of immunity for telecommunication companies.

Speaking at a news conference in the Oval Office, Mr Bush said he would not accept another extension, insisting Congress should pass permanent legislation before the current law expires at midnight on Saturday.

"It's time for Congress to ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted," Mr Bush said alongside the Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell.

"It is time for Congress to pass a law that provides a long-term foundation to protect our country and they must do so immediately."

Mr Bush also stressed the importance of giving companies retroactive immunity from prosecution for co-operating with the government without court approval.

"We need the co-operation of telecommunications companies," he said. "If these companies are subjected to lawsuits costing billions of dollars, they won't participate, they won't help us."

But Senate Democratic majority leader Harry Reid accused President Bush of "bullying".

"This is yet more proof that President Bush and his Republican allies are more interested in politicising intelligence than they are about finding real solutions," he said.

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US 'to end warrantless wiretaps'
17 Jan 07 |  Americas
US eavesdropping 'can continue'
05 Oct 06 |  Americas
US judge rules wiretaps illegal
18 Aug 06 |  Americas

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