Congress to revisit expanded spy law next week

Hearing scheduled for next week may be first step in addressing widespread complaints about new federal spying powers signed into law earlier this month.

Congressional Democrats don't plan to waste much time in revisiting a temporary expansion of federal eavesdropping law that has met with hostility in privacy and civil liberties circles.

The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on Wednesday afternoon said it plans to hold a hearing on September 5--that is, the day after politicians return from their August recess--to begin exploring, well, changes to the changes to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, better known as FISA.

According to committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), the move is in part a response to misgivings by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She has said the last-minute changes approved by Congress earlier this month in response to Bush administration pressure are "unacceptable" and warrant near-immediate "corrective action."

Meanwhile, the president and his intelligence advisers are angling for further changes--including immunity for telephone companies that have complied with government surveillance requests--to the so-called Protect America Act, which is currently scheduled to expire six months after it was made law.

There was no immediate word on what the Senate plans to do on its end. A witness list for the House event has not been finalized yet, a committee spokeswoman said.

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    Anne Broache
    covers Capitol Hill goings-on and technology policy from Washington, D.C.
     

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