November 9, 2007

Senator Whitehouse Supports Telecom Immunity, So Far

Carroll Andrew Morse

One issue being considered as part of the reform of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is whether telecommunications companies that have complied with customer information requests from the government should be granted immunity from privacy lawsuits. According to The Hill, an overwhelming majority of the Senate Intelligence Committee has approved an immunity provision

The Senate Intelligence Committee last month approved a bill by a 13-2 vote that includes a provision to extend liability protections for companies that allegedly participated in the [Terrorist Surveillance Program] after the Sept. 11 attacks, provided that the firms can show they had authorization from the government. A corresponding FISA bill in the House, which is still awaiting floor action, does not include an immunity provision.
The Senate rules that this particular bill must follow to reach the floor require it also to be approved by the Judiciary committee.

The Hill article mentions that there are three Democratic Senators who sit on both the Judiciary and Intelligence committees; two of them voted for the bill with immunity provision, one voted against…

Two wildcards on the Democratic side will be Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), who both voted for the bill with the immunity provisions in the Intelligence Committee. Another Judiciary Committee Democrat who also sits on the Intelligence Committee, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, has vowed to strike the immunity language during the markup.

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Andrew, what is your view of immunity in this matter for telecomm companies?

Putting it more directly, do you think phone companies should be able to squeal to the gov't without being held liable?

Posted by: Monique at November 10, 2007 6:33 AM
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