US lawmakers set close-door session on surveillance bill

US House Democratic leaders agreed to a rare closed-door session, the first in 25 years, to debate surveillance legislation, an Associated Press report said.

Republicans requested privacy for what they termed 'an honest debate' on the new Democratic eavesdropping bill that is opposed by the White House and most Republicans in Congress, the Associated Press report said.

The closed-door debate was scheduled, after the House chamber could be cleared and swept by security personnel to make sure there are no listening devices, the report said.

The last private session in the House was in 1983 on US support for paramilitary operations in Nicaragua, the report said.
President George W. Bush vowed to veto the House Democrats' version of the terrorist surveillance bill, saying it would undermine the nation's security.

Bush opposes it in part because it doesn't provide full, retroactive legal protection to telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on their customers without court permission after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, the report said.

About 40 lawsuits have been filed against telecommunications companies by people and organizations alleging they violated wiretapping and privacy laws, the report further said.