Senator Russ Feingold explains it simply and clearly.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was put into place by Congress in the 70s to prevent our own government from listening in on our phone calls without a darned good reason -- and a court warrant backing it up.
The Protect America Act, put into place late last summer, changed FISA to allow our own government to listen in, without a warrant, whenever we make or receive calls overseas or basically, whenever it wants to. In addition, an addendum to the act will pardon a whole bunch of telecom companies who have already turned our call records over to the government -- while it was illegal.
Yesterday, the House voted to extend the Protect America Act for another 15 days so that the President and Republicans can find a way to make this shamelessly illegal. police state activity both legal and permanent and keep Democrats from stopping them. The legislation goes to the Senate today.