The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 passed moments ago in the House by a vote of 293-129.
Joining the significant majority were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and House Intelligence Committe Chairman Silveste Reyes. An angry John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, opposed it.
The bill will in practice provide legal immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the President Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) through a provision that will result in the dismissal of lawsuits that might have shined some light on the particulars of the administration’s warrantless wiretapping activities. It does mandate an Inspector General report on the particulars of TSP, but whether that mandate survives the president’s signing statement pen remains to be seen.
During the floor debate, most of Democrats who supported the legislation pointed to a provision that makes FISA the exclusive arbiter of the nation’s wiretapping activities–a provision which will allow the supporters of the bill to express their shock and disappointment when this or any future president decides to ignore the law anyhow.
Now the bill moves over to the Senate where all of these, and other provisions will be debated further.