Senate To Pass Bill Overhauling Eavesdropping Regs

WASHINGTON  — The Senate is expected to pass a bill late Wednesday that overhauls rules on secret government eavesdropping.

The bill would also protect telecommunications companies from being sued over warrantless wiretaps, one of the key stumbling blocks in the bitter debate between Capitol Hill and the White House.

Civil liberties advocates have harshly criticized the Bush administration for implementing the wiretaps following Nine-Eleven. President Bush had threatened to veto any bill that failed to provide legal protection to companies like AT&T and Verizon Communications.

The new surveillance bill also sets new rules for government eavesdropping. It would require the government to get court approval before it can monitor an American overseas. 

It also extends the government’s ability to obtain yearlong intercept orders targeting foreign groups and individuals.

The current wiretapping orders begin to expire next month.