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Senator Slaps Down FISA Telecom Immunity 206

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the not-so-fast dept.
cleetus writes "Today Senator Chris Dodd decided to put a hold on the FISA bill, one of the provisions of which would have granted immunity to any telecom which, if found to have acted in good faith, violated U.S. laws in turning over customer data to the government. According to TPM Election Central, "By doing this, Dodd can effectively hold up the telecom immunity bill, because bills are supposed to have unanimous consent in the Senate before going forward. One Senator can make it very difficult to bring a bill to the floor by objecting to allowing it to go to a vote." This throws a fairly big roadblock in front of this bill, covered by Slashdot earlier today."
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Senator Slaps Down FISA Telecom Immunity

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  • Nice to know... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eric Smith (4379) * <eric@bro u h a h a . c om> on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:33PM (#21034325) Homepage Journal
    that out of 100 Senators, there is ONE that thinks that telecom carriers should not be above the law.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by LiquidCoooled (634315)
      Maybe he is the first politician who has realised he is under the microscope himself.

      • Re:Nice to know... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:50PM (#21034509)
        No, he just cares about the Constitution and the Rule of Law. He is running for President, but even if he does not make it, he still wants the Constitution and the Rule of Law to be front and center in the world of political discussion.

        Link [salon.com]

        • Re:Nice to know... (Score:5, Informative)

          by liquidpele (663430) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @08:34PM (#21034921) Journal
          You can submit a thank you message to him here [chrisdodd.com] to let him know you support his hold on this bill...
          • Contribute $25 to his campaign. That's the language that politicians hear and understand. If Dodd's fundraising sees a boost from his actions here, perhaps the rest of the field of worthless, spineless Democrats will take notice and maybe we'll get some action.
        • by Heem (448667)
          you must not be from Connecticut...
    • Sometimes it takes one man to stand up, before others will support him. My hopes are that the rest of the senate will wake up and take this as an opportunity to take action and stand for what is right.
    • by Jackie_Chan_Fan (730745) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @08:15PM (#21034777)
      Well at least 1 democrat is actually doing something in the senate.

      Note to republicans: Dont get a boner over this comment, your band of idiots suck too.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jamstar7 (694492)
        Interesting that said Democratic senator is running for president in '08.

        He's got an interesting record. First votes for the Iraq War, then against it ever since. Voted against the Vitter Amendment [wikipedia.org] which, if I'm reading it right, says you cannot confiscate legally-owned firearms in a disaster area and leave the lawful inhabitants helpless. Wants marijuana decriminalised. Took lots of money from Enron, among others.

        Not the greatest candidate in the race, but by far not the worst either. I'm wondering

        • I'd rather elect Dennis Kucinich. He's genuine, he means what he says, and his wife has a tongue peircing. Nuff said. The man is down right fucking cool
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by jamstar7 (694492)
            I spent like 25 years living in Cleveland. We know 'Dennis the Menace'. He kept Cleveland electric bills a bit lower by NOT selling Muni Light out to CEI and rigging the deal to where CEI had to provide Muni Light with electricity at a discount. Fun guy, but constantly had run-ins with the head of the City Council, 'King George'.

            On the plus side, at least the Cuyahoga didn't catch fire and spark up his hair like it did to Ralph Pirk.

    • by shoptroll (544006)
      Makes me proud to be from CT originally.

      On an electoral point of view, what's Hilary stance on this this bill?
  • Tim Starks of Congressional Quarterly reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to bring the Senate's surveillance bill up for floor debate in mid-November. That's despite the hold that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) plans to place on the measure....

    See here [dailykos.com] for more information.

    We need to put a lot of pressure on Senator Reid to do the right thing here.....

  • by Zeinfeld (263942) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:34PM (#21034343) Homepage
    The hold is quite likely to stick because Dodd is also backed by Arlen Specter and Leahey.

    Talk of the 'Senate' caving is somewhat overstated. Only the intelligence committee has cut a deal. Judiciary is still holding out for details of the crimes that the telcos are alleged to have committed.

    That said, it is probably nothing to get too excited about. I don't think that the Bush administration is going to giveup the information demanded, and I think the telcos will eventually get immunity but only after the information has been released under another administration.

    I expect some sort of truth and reconciliation commission in the end up.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Scudsucker (17617)
      The hold is quite likely to stick because Dodd is also backed by Arlen Specter and Leahey.

      Unfortunatly it it's not likely to stick because it doesn't look like he has Harry Reid. [tpmmuckraker.com]
    • by dkleinsc (563838)
      I wouldn't be surprised if he got Russ Feingold (Mr no-PATRIOT-Act) on board as well.
    • This will be very valuable when the next President is put into power. If they decide to start holding people accountable, we really don't want to find out that the telecoms were granted immunity. The next President will have the power to give up all the information the Bush admin has been currently keeping to themselves.

      This is a BIG "if", though..

  • It seems to me that if that were really the case, it would mean no bill would ever work unless it had 100% support.
    • If I understand correctly, any Senator can stop a bill from coming to a vote by informing his the leadership of his party. Although there is no legal reason why this would be the case, it is a curtesy. In return, senators use holds infrequently. I thought the holds were supposed to be confidental and used primarily for the benefit of large contributors.

    • by mr_mischief (456295) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:59PM (#21034629) Journal
      The Daily Kos [dailykos.com] link in TFS explains how it works. Bills generally get unanimous consent to be voted upon, even when people intend to vote against them. Dodd isn't giving his consent for this to come to vote. Since there's no unanimous consent to vote on the bill, someone needs to motion for a vote over it if they want to hold the vote.

      That motion to hold the vote then has to be debated and voted upon. A senator could filibuster [wikipedia.org] that debate, and it takes 60% of all current Senators (not just 60% of those present to vote) to break the filibuster (referred to as cloture [wikipedia.org]). Then the vote over the motion to vote on the bill can proceed if there's no filibuster or if the filibuster is broken. Only if a majority vote to hold the vote on the bill will the bill actually be voted upon.

      Once the bill itself is up for a vote, there's still the chance it could be defeated.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by VeteranNoob (1160115)

        Okay, haha! That was actually pretty funny.

        You almost had me for a second there.

        Oh ....... OH!

      • by Rich0 (548339) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @09:06PM (#21035219) Homepage
        For once I'd like to see a Filibuster threat actually called.

        Right now nobody actually opens a bill for debate if a filibuster is threatened and there isn't a sufficient majority to invoke cloture. I'd like to see the filibuster bluff actually called. Make the minority actually stand up and talk 24x7 straight for a few weeks until they're all carted off to the hospital, and then call for a vote. My understanding is that a sentor only gets one opportunity to speak in a debate, so while they can speak for as long as they'd like they can't take a break (other than adjournments, which the majority can in theory not grant - and the majority doesn't have to all be in the room at the same time). You'd see a lot fewer filibuster threats if people actually had to lose their voices to accomplish them.

        Personally I find the whole concept repugnant. Essentially we're watching a bunch of well-paid elected officials act like little children manipulating the rules to avoid the democratic process (ie the majority actually getting what it wants). I don't understand why limited debate wasn't put in place one hundred years ago in the Senate. Ditto for all the parliamentary games that get played with rules and committees. I'm not a big fan of direct democracy but at least it looks like democracy...
        • by Bottlemaster (449635) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @10:26PM (#21035983)

          Personally I find the whole concept repugnant. Essentially we're watching a bunch of well-paid elected officials act like little children manipulating the rules to avoid the democratic process (ie the majority actually getting what it wants).
          A democratic government is as dangerous as any other government, and the majority shouldn't always get what it wants. Filibustering is an important check on the not-always-righteous majority.
        • Essentially we're watching a bunch of well-paid elected officials act like little children manipulating the rules to avoid the democratic process (ie the majority actually getting what it wants).
          Huh? Since when is the senate supposed to be an embodiment of majority rule? And don't even try to say that the USA is "majority rule" democracy - I think that particular line has been debunked oh, a million times give or take, here on slashdot already.
          • by Rich0 (548339)
            Since when is the senate supposed to be an embodiment of majority rule?

            There's really nothing in the constitution that suggests that the Senate was ever intended to run any differently than the house (other than the state appointment of senators - which had a federal purpose which no longer is followed).

            The two different debate systems are purely the result of the evolution of two different sets of parliamentray procedure within the two bodies. There is nothing inherently right about unlimited debate. Cou
  • by Satanboy (253169) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:38PM (#21034389)
    In case anyone was interested, here's a good summary of his past voting record:

    http://www.ontheissues.org/Senate/Chris_Dodd.htm [ontheissues.org]
    • by MobyDisk (75490)
      Surprisingly, his voting record shows he is in support of the wiretapping in general, although this isn't quite enough information to go on.

      Rated 60% by the ACLU, indicating a mixed civil rights voting record. (Dec 2002)
      Voted YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping. (Oct 2001)
  • Proxy war... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nebaz (453974) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:46PM (#21034465)
    This whole thing seems to be a proxy war between the Legislative and Executive branches over the entire concept of FISA and illegality. It kind of puts the telco's in a bind. What do you do when first the Executive branch tells you to do something which is probably illegal, and which if you don't do you'll likely lose money (see QWEST), and if you do do you will face Congressional hearings, and possibly be punished for illegal activity. While I don't agree with what the telco's did, they are not the real law breakers here.
    • Re:Proxy war... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shawnmchorse (442605) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:59PM (#21034627) Homepage
      Well first you talk to your lawyer if you have one (I suspect the telcos do). And then you don't do it.
      • And if their lawyers tell them to go ahead, then what?

        I'm not saying they did or didn't. But I agree with the parent in that the Telco's are getting fucked sideways by our government. And remember, these are civilian corporate intuitions. It's not like this is a politically motivated game for them. They're trying to run a business to make a profit, not partake in legislature!
        • ...the Telco's are getting fucked sideways by our government.

          The phrase "fair's fair" comes to mind, given how they've been fucking the government sideways for a while regarding subsidies and extra charges allowed for new infrastructure that mysteriously never materialized. So I guess this is just a big orgy of sorts. Only somehow it's not one I really want to watch.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Belial6 (794905)
          Then you quit your job and get one that won't require you to commit a crime. This whole idea that just because these CEOs are stinking rich and making tons of money, they shouldn't have to obey the law is ridiculous.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by DreamingReal (216288)
          Bullshit. Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio was able to stop counting his money long enough to obey the law. Nacchio was the only one who was fucked sideways by our government when they had a shitfit over his refusal to allow illegal wiretapping and eliminated Qwest from the running for a bunch of government contracts. Oh yeah, then they prosecuted him for insider trading when he sold a bunch of stock figuring that the contracts would help Qwest's financial woes.

          The Telcos who assisted the government? Those moth
    • by evanbd (210358)

      they are not the only real law breakers here.

      There, fixed that for you. There's plenty of blame to go around on this one.

    • Re:Proxy war... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Dunbal (464142) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @08:43PM (#21034991)
      What do you do when first the Executive branch tells you to do something which is probably illegal, and which if you don't do you'll likely lose money (see QWEST), and if you do do you will face Congressional hearings, and possibly be punished for illegal activity.

            You're supposed to do what's RIGHT. That's what people voted you into office for. That's why "I was only following orders" wasn't a valid defense at Nuremburg, and it's not a valid defense today.
    • by jeff4747 (256583)

      What do you do when first the Executive branch tells you to do something which is probably illegal, and which if you don't do you'll likely lose money (see QWEST),

      Then you sue, and make even more money. Because blackmail is still illegal, even when done by the President.

    • Or at least, that's what the Nixon doctrine says.

      FROST: So what in a sense, you're saying is that there are certain situations, and the Huston Plan or that part of it was one of them, where the president can decide that it's in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.

      NIXON: Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.

      FROST: By definition.
  • by unamiccia (641291) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:47PM (#21034475) Homepage
    . . . consider sending some money [chrisdodd.com] Chris Dodd's way. I just did this afternoon (my first political contribution this election cycle) and it felt good. He's still not my first choice for the Democratic nomination, but the other candidates will be interested to see how bravery is rewarded. I would sure the hell like Chris Dodd's voice to be louder in the next days and weeks.
    • by vistic (556838)
      I gave to John Edwards awhile ago, since he's my first choice. However, he doesn't hold public office right now, so I'll just have to imagine he might have done something like what Dodd did here.
    • by Jtheletter (686279) on Friday October 19, 2007 @12:24AM (#21037041)

      consider sending some money Chris Dodd's way.
      Now I'm not knocking your right to support a candidate or vote with your wallet. But honestly, what you basically just suggested was that if we want a law to pass (or not) we should pay someone directly for it. That's what this country has come to. Just outright admitting that vote-buying and influence peddling are the only way for the rule of law to prevail. It's not enough that retroactive immunity is forbidden by the Constitution, no, we have to SEND SOMEONE MONEY to see that the founding tenant of the law is upheld.

      Where is the outrage?
      • by jez9999 (618189)
        Now I'm not knocking your right to support a candidate or vote with your wallet. But honestly, what you basically just suggested was that if we want a law to pass (or not) we should pay someone directly for it. That's what this country has come to.

        Sorry, but I don't see how you can have it both ways. I think you either have to, yes, knock people's right to 'vote with their wallets', or you will see bills being passed because they earn the most money. You should't allow democracy to be treated like a capit
    • by NaCh0 (6124)
      I would say that is exactly the wrong thing to do. First, you have to know that your little donation can't compare to Verizon, Qwest, ATT, etc. Second, in a few days Dodd will announce his concerns have been met. What concerns you may ask? Check for a large donation from the aforementioned telco companies or their proxies. This sort of "fundraising" happens almost every time. People just don't pay attention.
  • Relevent US CODE (Score:4, Informative)

    by phantomcircuit (938963) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:48PM (#21034485) Homepage

    1802. Electronic surveillance authorization without court order; certification by Attorney General;" (1) Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that--
    (A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at--
    (i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or
    (ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801
    (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;
    (B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party; and
    http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode50/usc_sec_50_00001802----000-.html#a_1 [cornell.edu]
    • The saddest thing here is that you seem to think it's perfectly OK to object to the US spying on its own people, but you have no problem with your government authorising completely open-ended spying on anyone else, for any purpose, regardless of whether they are political allies or otherwise friendly, etc.

      I wonder if we'll have another article this week about why letting US-based companies dominate Internet routing and administration is a bad idea.

      • The saddest thing here is that you seem to think it's perfectly OK to object to the US spying on its own people, but you have no problem with your government authorising completely open-ended spying on anyone else, for any purpose, regardless of whether they are political allies or otherwise friendly, etc.

        What world do you live in? We already spy on everyone (who aren't Americans), and (unsurprisingly) they all spy on us as well. This has been business as usual for the entire past century.

  • by zestyping (928433) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:49PM (#21034493) Homepage
    If you care about this issue, show Chris Dodd your thanks RIGHT NOW.

    Call him at (202) 224-2823, send him a note [chrisdodd.com], contribute to his campaign [wiredforchange.com], or comment on the blog post [chrisdodd.com]. Show him you mean it.

    To encourage politicians to stand up for the things we believe in, we have to send a message, loud and clear.

    (I do not work for the Dodd campaign. I just believe that if you want to have influence, you've really got to show some reaction when something goes right.)
    • by megaditto (982598)
      While I do not wish to help the Democrat party Senator, it is only fair to point out that slashdotting his switchboard (particularly by those outside his state) is not going to help him.

      If you are not his constituent, just send him some money if you really wish to help.
  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @07:54PM (#21034563) Homepage Journal
    It isn't just US citizens who are impacted by this - it's the whole world.
  • by Scudsucker (17617) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @08:00PM (#21034649) Homepage Journal
    According to this link [tpmmuckraker.com], the majority leader has promised to bring the bill up for a vote regardless of Dodd's hold. Which is pathetic on so many fronts - the Republicans even whisper about obstructing a bill, and the Democratic majority buckles like a belt. But when another Democrat tries to stop a bill, he is ignored. Makes you wonder if Reid made a deal for something, and exactly what that deal is.

    It is simply unfathomable to be why so many Democrats don't take a firm stand against NSA wiretapping, the Iraq war, etc. If they are principled, they would block it. If they only care about their political skins, they would still block Mr. 25% approval rating to make political points. Instead they buy shares in his messes by voting for them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dunbal (464142)
      It is simply unfathomable to be why so many Democrats don't take a firm stand against NSA wiretapping, the Iraq war, etc.

            Unfathomable? No it isn't. Simply put - they are too busy "looking after number one" to deal with petty things like the "United States".
    • by terrymr (316118)
      Problem is if you piss off a senator like that - he'll be more than happy to filibuster every one of your bills until the end of time.
    • The problem is:
      Dems fear they will Win.
      Republicans fear they will lose.

      Fear of losing is what made the Wehrmacht fight fiercely during 1944-45.

      Unless Dems act like the republicans instead of whining they might actually brow beat the republicans...

  • Better than your dad (Score:3, Informative)

    by Unlikely_Hero (900172) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @08:20PM (#21034805)
    Thank you Sen. Dodd, for starting to erase the black spot in my head over the name "Dodd" for your father's use of Nazi Gun laws to create our own.

    Seriously, thats not a jab at your dad or changing the subject, I like being able to have heroes instead of a pantheon of banal villains.

    Please don't get shot.
  • by crayz (1056) on Thursday October 18, 2007 @09:05PM (#21035203) Homepage
    Here's the EFF describing what the telcoms were doing [salon.com]:

    We have evidence of an NSA-controlled room in the Folsom Street AT&T facilities in San Francisco. We have evidence that AT&T diverted copies of everyone's Internet traffic into that room. And we know that there's very sophisticated equipment in that room that is capable of doing real-time analysis analysis of the Internet traffic that is getting routed into there.
    • Basket warrants aren't really warrants at all. They're just a blank check to scoop up lots of data without naming an individual like you normally need to.

      I'm not sure if so-called "basket" warrants made it into the Senate version or not. If so, they should go.
    • Say they ARE doing that. Ok.

      We know for sure, that a One Time Pad is unbreakable if the key is as long/longer than the data and that you never reuse the key. The key also must be complete random.

      We can apply that to something else completely: Spam. WTF?

      Out of speculation, say person A was a terrorist who needed to communicate with a congruent cell with terrorist B. We know that NSA (Eve) is listening in and we cant tell what or what not they hear. Fine. We can trade books. Textbooks, sci-fi, cooking books..
  • "He who has rediscovered his testicles."
  • My Senator (Klobuchar, MN) has been a dick on both the August FISA bill and voting for the MoveOn.org condemnation. I want to see her vote, not this good-old-boy "unanimous" stuff.
  • ....or when I hear about a politician actually doing something good and sensible the very first cynical thought I have is "what does he/she get out of it?"

    thats very depressing.
  • Normally I have a very disgusted response for all the loopholes and retarded practices in politics whose roll is to subvert the political process itself, such as filibustering, but in this one case it's a refreshing change of pace to see such tactics that actually result in an outcome that favors the People.

    If that senator were in my district, that one action alone would get him my vote.
  • I'm not a Dodd supporter. Would prefer Kucinich or Gravel to be in the white house, but showing support for anyone doing the right thing, financially or by volunteering or spreading the word etc is a good idea IMHO. Rewarding good behavior and all that.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the demigodic party. -- Dennis Ritchie

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