Skip to comments.Bush's phone immunity bill wins Senate vote
Posted on 12/17/2007 5:08:20 PM PST by xcamel
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's demand for immunity for telephone companies that participated in his warrantless domestic spying program won an initial victory on Monday in the U.S. Senate.
On a vote of 76-10, far more than the 60 needed, the Democratic-led Senate cleared a procedural hurdle and began considering a bill to increase congressional and judicial oversight of electronic surveillance of suspected terrorists.
It includes a provision to grant retroactive immunity to any telecommunications company that took part in Bush's spying program -- surveillance without court warrants of e-mails and telephone calls of people in the United States -- begun shortly after the September 11 attacks.
Nearly 40 lawsuits have been filed accusing AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Nextel Corp. of violating U.S. privacy rights.
Backers of immunity, who include some Democrats as well many of Bush's fellow Republicans, contend companies should be thanked, not punished, for helping defend the United States.
But civil liberties advocates and a number of Democratic lawmakers argue the courts should determine if any company violated privacy rights of law-abiding Americans.
Democrats vow to offer amendments in coming days to remove the immunity provision while backing a number of proposed new civil-liberty safeguards that enjoy broad support.
Sixty votes will likely be needed to prevail on any such immunity amendment in the 100-member Senate. "It's going to be an uphill battle," a Democratic aide said.
Sen. Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, interrupted his long-shot presidential campaign to return to Washington to help lead the charge against immunity. "For the last six years, our largest telecommunication companies have been spying on their own American customers," Dodd said.
"That decision betrayed million of customers' trust," Dodd added. "But was it illegal? I don't know. And if this bill passes in its current form, we will never know."
The White House said in a statement, "Providing liability protection to these companies is a just result" and warned that allowing litigation "risks the disclosure of highly classified information regarding intelligence sources and methods."
The House of Representatives last month defied Bush and refused to shield phone companies from lawsuits. Both chambers would have to agree to immunity before it could be granted.
The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requires the government receive the approval of a secret FISA court to conduct surveillance in the United States of suspected foreign enemy targets.
But shortly after the September 11 attacks, Bush authorized warrantless surveillance of communications between people in the United States and others overseas if one of the parties had suspected ties to terrorists.
Critics charged that Bush violated FISA, but he argued he had the war-time powers to do so. In January, Bush put the program under FISA's authority. Terms remain secret.
In August, Congress bowed to Bush's demands and expanded U.S. power to conduct surveillance without a court order.
The Senate bill would provide new protections of civil liberties, such as requiring tougher congressional and judicial oversight.
(Editing by Patricia Zengerle and David Wiessler)
Dingy said a little while ago that he intends to table the bill til January.
TELCOs win the immunity challenge. Good for them.
Damn it, these lefties make me sick. Let them live in the world of their making for a week. They'd be begging the Marines to do anything to save them.
Then the line on the phone burned up like a fuse on a stick of .....
Luckily there was a cell phone to call and complain over.
Dead Lines.......But still like 'em.
Editing by Patricia Zengerle and David Wiessler
Dear Pat and Dave,
If you could for a moment put aside your hatred for a moment and assume the responsibilities of what is presumed when you tag yourself as editors.
Whom you refer to as Bush is the President of these United States, hence, one would think that in the editing process you would have inserted the title President in front of Bush.
Reuters, you are a despicable news (dis) organization.
No bias at al-Reuters; none at all.
They have won nothing, unless this immunity becomes law. San Fran Nan's House must still approve. The House leadership is beholden to the left wing blogosphere.
Why not let the courts decide if privacy rights have been violated? Courts ought to adjudicate the constitutionality, anyway.
I hope they do stop it. I'm not against the monitoring of terrorist activity. I am however against the DOJ having the power to listen in to anyones communications including mine or your without obtaining a probable cause court order first. No I do not trust the DOJ.
Obtaining such does not mean the suspect must be notified. I think I'll file this thread away and see how quick the supporters of this change their minds if say Hillary wins? Does anyone want a DOJ ran by the likes of her with this type authority? I don't sure. The DEM's have better than a 50% chance of a two house and white house majority. Think people think. It's not about a Bush victory it is about surrendering our own rights.
I'm thinking of a certain website (see tagline) where the server is going to melt with the publication of this news.
nothing would make me happier...
well... almost nothing...
Because in the process the methods and procedures get disclosed.
We would need it more than ever.
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