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Senate Delays Telecom Immunity Vote Until After July Recess 148

Posted by timothy
from the after-all-why-ruin-the-4th dept.
ivantheshifty writes with news of a delayed vote (failed filibuster attempt aside) on the updated FISA bill which has been discussed here recently, in particular because it would grant telecom companies immunity (under certain conditions) from suits for wiretapping conducted at government request. According to the Associated Press story carried by the Washington Post, "Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., and more than a dozen other senators who oppose telecom immunity threw up procedural delays that threatened to force the Senate into a midnight or weekend session. The prospect of further delays was enough to cause Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to postpone the vote until after the weeklong July 4 vacation."
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Senate Delays Telecom Immunity Vote Until After July Recess

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  • by dreamchaser (49529) on Friday June 27, 2008 @07:37AM (#23965673) Homepage Journal

    Not really opposing it? He supports [washingtonpost.com] it according to every [cbsnews.com] report that I have seen [cnn.com]. This is after saying he'd never support the bill if it had immunity for the telcos in it.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:34AM (#23966311) Homepage Journal

    People like to point at all the Congressional "recesses" as vacation time for lazy congressmembers. Some probably do fly on corporate jets to Scotland to play golf with strippers, but most of them spend the time flying back to their home district (or state, for senators) and meet with local people to work on their constituents' issues. Sure, those people are primarily local corporate types and other rich/powerful people who live, work or happen to pass through their home office neighborhood. But they're working, and that's the time they're listening to people outside Washington DC.

    This bill, with its evil FISA telco amnesty in it, is not a sure thing. It was supposed to sail through last year, and this delay marks the third time it's failed to get installed as law. There are many ways it can die in the Senate, which has many rules letting individual senators kill a bill. So this is an excellent time to call, fax, snail mail, and just physically visit a senator, especially if they're yours, to explain how the Fourth of July is a good time for them to decide to defend the Constitution. Almost all of them will be marching in a parade during the holiday as if they're some kind of patriot or something. You can stand along the route with a big sign saying "NO FISA TELCO AMNESTY!", or print out the bill [tinyurl.com], mingle in the parade and try to hand it to them saying "read it first, then vote against it when you see that FISA telco amnesty ruins the Constitution". Look at their website for their appearance schedule, and make it hard for them to pretend they love our country while they're busy screwing it over.

    Do it while you can, as secretly wiretapping you is only the first step in stealing the rest of your rights.

    You can use Obama's contact form [barackobama.com] to send a comment asking him to vote against FISA telco amnesty.

    Here's a list of some senators worth calling, because they're not totally in bed with Bush in every way, and so might not go along with this travesty. See if you can talk them, or their staffers, into doing the right thing, or at least not helping do the wrong thing. Remeber, the telcos will also get to hear you, and they should know they're not really getting away with it.

    Bayh (202) 224-5623
    Carper (202) 224-2441
    Obama (202) 224-2854
    Inouye (202) 224-3934
    Johnson (202) 224-5842
    Landrieu (202)224-5824
    McCaskill (202) 224-6154
    Mikulski (202) 224-4654
    Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274
    Clinton (202) 224-4451
    Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
    Pryor (202) 224-2353
    Salazar (202) 224-5852
    Specter (202) 224-4254
    Feinstein (202) 224-3841
    Webb (202) 224-4024
    Warner (202) 224-2023
    Snowe (202) 224-5344
    Collins (202) 224-2523
    Sununu (202) 224-2841
    Stevens (202) 224-3004
    Byrd (202) 224-3954
    Lincoln (202)224-4843
    Reid (202) 224-3542
    Coleman (202) 224-5641
    Durbin (202) 224-2152
    Smith (202) 224-
    Stabenow (202) 224-4822
    Kohl (202) 224-5653
    Leahy (202) 224-4242
    Schumer (202) 224-6542

  • by Rakeris (1114111) on Friday June 27, 2008 @08:51AM (#23966555)
    Not sure about all of you, but I called both my senators. Obama being one of them. To voice my opposition to the bill. Will it do any good? Don't know, but I can honestly say I tried. I hope you all will do the same.
  • by Suicide Drink (1125803) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:06AM (#23966745)
    Webb:

    Thank you for contacting my office regarding the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act of 2007 (S. 2248). I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns with me. As you know, the FISA Amendments Act would amend current law by expanding the intelligence community's authority to collect foreign intelligence through electronic means. Having served as U.S. Secretary of the Navy and as Assistant Secretary of Defense, I relied on decades of experience in dealing with national security matters and classified intelligence when I voted in favor of final passage of this bill on February 12, 2008. I also met with a wide variety of people who were both supportive of, and opposed to, these changes. During the Senate debate, I supported a number of amendments that were designed to improve the constitutional protections of our citizens. Further, Senators Russell Feingold, Jon Tester, and I introduced an amendment that would have added additional checks and balances with respect to assessing the appropriate use of surveillance. Unfortunately, this amendment was not passed by the full Senate. After passage of the Senate bill, I sent a letter urging Members who sit on the Senate-House Conference Committee to strike a more appropriate balance between protecting constitutional rights and providing the intelligence community with the tools needed to monitor terrorists. Regarding retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies that participated in the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program, I do not support full immunity for companies who aided Government surveillance. I prefer a middle-ground solution that would allow court cases to proceed under appropriate circumstances. For example, I supported an amendment offered by Senators Arlen Specter and Sheldon Whitehouse, which would have allowed the U.S. government to be substituted for telecommunication companies in certain civil actions. I also supported an amendment offered by Senator Dianne Feinstein, which would have allowed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to determine whether telecommunication companies acted in good faith when complying with government surveillance request. If the FISC determined a telecommunication company did not act in good faith, the company would not be immune from consumers' legal actions. As the U.S. Senate continues to debate matters pertaining to electronic surveillance, please be assured I will keep your views in mind.

    Warner:

    Thank you for writing to share your views on surveillance activities conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) and oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance CourtAct (FISA) court. I appreciate your thoughtful inquiry. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) provides a statutory framework for the federal government to engage in electronic surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence. Under current law, the FISA court, an eleven-member court created by Congress in 1978, reviews government requests to conduct certain domestic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes. If the court finds probable cause to believe that the target of the proposed surveillance is a foreign power or agent of a foreign power, the court may issue an order authorizing surveillance. As you know, citing his authority under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, the President authorized the NSA to collect signals intelligence from communications involving foreign persons who were reasonably believed to be al-Qaida members and who called into the United States or someone in the United States. The President's program was intended to fill a gap in intelligence collection for those calls that were not purely domestic and not purely foreign. On August 17, 2006, a federal district judge ruled court ruling in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union determined that the NSA surveillance program was unconstitutional and ordered that t

  • by sumdumass (711423) on Friday June 27, 2008 @09:59AM (#23967499) Journal

    The party wouldn't be pissed off if they actually paid attention.

    Under existing law at the time, the telecoms should have have immunity already. the so called lawsuites aren't really about damage, they are to find dirt on the administration because the telecoms would simply show the orders they received authorizing the taps and all. But there is a hitch, the administration has declared them all classified and remanded them as a state secrete which means that the telecoms can't give any of the information out.

    What this particular bill does isn't "provide immunity", that was already there. It provides a vehicle to where the telecoms can use a lawful defense that they already have available to them but can't because of the administration's actions. For some people, they seem to think that getting the administration is so important that we can effectively post facto remove rights under a law and abuse that in order to persecute an action of the government. This bill, in all it's luster, does not say that the telecoms can't be prosecuted. It says that if certain things are true and the telecoms should have had immunity or an affirmative defense already, that certain actions like the AG certifying whether they ordered a tap or not, so the laws in place at the time of the action could be exercised without disclosing "state secretes" and placing them in a violation of another law.

    It is a little disingenuous to make a claim that this bill give immunity. It actually gives access to rights under the law that existed when certain actions happened which equate to immunity. So it doesn't give immunity, it gives access to immunity that should have already been in place. Now this doesn't mean that if the telecoms did anything illegal, they will get off. It means that if they did what the government asked under the presumption of a lawful order, whether acting under color of law or not, they can finally realize the defense already available to them under the law which was removed when it was classified and deemed a state secrete.

    To all those that say they shouldn't of had the immunity in th first place, That's fine. But removing a law after the fact in order to go on a personal vendetta is one of the most heinous breaches of trust we can do. When a citizen or even a corporation looks to the law for guidance in an action, we shouldn't be changing the rules after that action happened. You wouldn't like life in prison for speeding because 2 months after you were caught speeding, they changed the speed limit on the stretch of road to 30 MPH lower making your penalty a newly found felony reckless op with no tolorance. I'm sure it would be even worse if you weren't allowed to make the claim that the speed limit was 30 or 50 MPH higher when you drove down the road meaning that you were only 5 MPG over the limit when that action occurred.

    Section D [cornell.edu] of the law 2520 says

    (d) Defense.-- A good faith reliance on--
    (1) a court warrant or order, a grand jury subpoena, a legislative authorization, or a statutory authorization;
    (2) a request of an investigative or law enforcement officer under section 2518 (7) of this title; or
    (3) a good faith determination that section 2511 (3) or 2511 (2)(i) of this title permitted the conduct complained of;
    is a complete defense against any civil or criminal action brought under this chapter or any other law.

    Number 2 mentions 2518(7) [cornell.edu] which says:

    (7) Notwithstanding any other provision of this chapter, any investigative or law enforcement officer, specially designated by the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Associate Attorney General, or by the principal prosecuting attorney of any State or subdivision thereof acting pursuant to a statute of that State, who reasonably determines th

  • Re:Deal with it! (Score:4, Informative)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Friday June 27, 2008 @10:12AM (#23967751) Journal

    Obama's ammunition is that his AG (if Obama is elected) would prosecute

    That actually won't happen. I suggest that you read the extent of the texts in the bill and existing laws. It provide a legal remedy to authenticate whether or not the telecoms where acting in accordance with the law at the time. When the AG takes a case out of a civil court the AG has to certify that it was at their direction and that they presented it as a lawful order. There are no real criminal punishment avenues available if it was. At best, they can go after the people who authorized the taps but not the telecoms who aided once it is demonstrated that they were working under the seemingly lawful orders of the government.

  • by shma (863063) on Friday June 27, 2008 @10:27AM (#23967981)
    Actually, I was trying to draw attention only to Clinton, McCain and Obama. Byrd has also been hospitalized recently (June 2nd), and may have missed the vote for medical reasons. Although I will note that Byrd was in the senate for a vote on June 12th. The others, though, have no excuse. They are out raising cash for their campaigns (or to pay off debts in Clinton's case) instead of doing their jobs.
  • by zippthorne (748122) on Friday June 27, 2008 @11:58AM (#23969559) Journal

    no "Ex post facto" laws means (and is intended to mean) that you can't make something illegal after-the-fact. Not that you can't absolve people of wrongdoing, or make something that was illegal legal.

    "Ex post facto" is not the appropriate grounds to object to the telecom bill.

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