President Bush is pressing the U.S. House of Representatives to act quickly to renew controversial legislation that allows U.S. intelligence agents to monitor suspected terrorist communications without a court warrant. The legislation is set to expire this week if it is not renewed. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports.
President Bush says the lives of countless Americans depend on the ability of U.S. intelligence agents to monitor communications with suspected terrorists.
"At this moment somewhere in the world terrorists are planning new attacks on our country," he said. "Their goal is to bring destruction to our shores that will make 9/11 pale by comparison."
Senators on Tuesday voted to renew the government's eavesdropping program, including a controversial provision that would shield telephone companies from lawsuits for their role in providing the government with phone records.
President Bush calls the provision fair and just liability protection for telecommunications companies that have helped monitor communications with suspected terrorists.
"In order to be able to discover the enemy's plans, we need the cooperation of telecommunications companies," he said. "If these companies are subjected to lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars, they won't participate. They won't help us. They won't help protect America."
The provision to give immunity to the phone companies survived opposition from Senate Democrats who say congress should not give blanket immunity to companies that took part in a wiretap program that was not authorized at the time.
While the president says that protection is critical to the program's success, House Democrats say they want more time and more information about the controversial program before agreeing to retroactive immunity.
The president says he will veto any effort to again extend the existing program temporarily to give House members more time to debate the matter. The legislation, which allows the government to monitor communications with suspected terrorists without a warrant, is due to expire on Friday.