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Bush: Inaction on FISA endangers U.S.

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: President Bush says U.S. in "more danger of attack" due to House inaction
  • Democrats: Law gives administration all the authority it needs to spy on suspects
  • Temporary revision to wiretapping laws set to expire at midnight Saturday
  • Officials still able to get permission to conduct eavesdropping through FISA court
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From Adam Levine
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush warned Friday the United States is in "more danger of attack" because Congress failed to extend legislation on domestic wiretapping laws allowing the government without a warrant to listen in on phone calls and intercept e-mails by foreign terrorist suspects that are transmitted through this country.

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President Bush said he will not accept another temporary extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Bush's remarks came at the end of a meeting with Republican congressional leaders and Vice President Dick Cheney.

"American citizens must understand, clearly understand, that there still is a threat on the homeland," Bush said.

"There's still an enemy which would like to do us harm, and that we've got to give our professionals the tools they need to be able to figure out what the enemy is up to so we can stop it."

Temporary revisions to the 1978 law that regulates wiretapping are set to expire this weekend.

Democrats said the law as existed before a temporary revision in August will remain in effect and gives the administration all the authority it needs to spy on suspected terrorists.

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"He knows that the underlying 'intelligence' law and the power given to him in the Protect America Act give him sufficient authority to do all of the surveillance and collecting that he needs to do in order to protect the American people," House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Thursday.

The House of Representatives and Senate are split over whether to include retroactive legal protection for telecommunications companies in a permanent overhaul. Video Watch Bush's comments on the FISA controversy »

After Friday's meeting, House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, defended Republicans' desire to give the telecommunication companies immunity.

"This issue of the carriers that work with our government are increasingly concerned about their liability and increasingly concerned about whether they are going to continue to work with our intelligence officials," Boehner said.

Congress is in recess for a week starting Friday.

Bush had offered to put off the start of his planned trip to Africa "if it will help them complete their work on this critical bill," but White House spokeswoman Dana Perino later said the president would leave as scheduled Friday.

"The Democrats have made a decision that their higher priority -- over national security -- is taking another recess," Perino said.

The current laws are set to expire at midnight Saturday. The nation's intelligence agencies then will have to go to court for warrants to listen in on conversations between suspected terrorists overseas.

Intelligence officials said that it will cause unnecessary delays, but the government will be able to get permission to conduct eavesdropping through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

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Even without court permission, agents also can listen in on a suspect's calls without a warrant as long as an application is submitted within three days.

Additionally, any warrants already approved are good for a year from when the initial warrant was issued. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

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