The Democratic bill passed by the House Thursday night would bring overseas surveillance under the supervision of judges on the special court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

If you think your conversations were overheard in President Bush’s National Security Agency surveillance program, go sue the phone company.

But will you be able to sue?

That was the question getting much attention in Thursday’s debates in the House and Senate over parallel bills to set new rules for the NSA surveillance program.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, in a deft step by its chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., decided on a party-line vote to send to the full Senate a bill that does not include retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications firms that may have cooperated in the NSA program.

That move came even though the Judiciary Committee had just voted, with three Democratic senators joining all nine Republicans, to reject an amendment by Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., which would have denied telecom firms immunity for their cooperation with the NSA.

That immunity provision was in the bipartisan bill passed last month by the Senate Intelligence Committee by a vote of 13 to 2.

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