Friday, June 20, 2008

Congress OK's telecomm immunity in wiretap cases, minimal court supervision required for harbor

The Washington Post this morning provides extensive coverage of a new wiretap bill, which passed the House yesterday. The story, by Dan Eggen, Paul Kane, and William Branigen, is titled “President Bush Urges Quick Passage of Wiretapping Bill,” on the front page of the June 20 paper, link here.

The bill is HR 6304, here on (Library of Congress site) Thomas. The visitor may have to rekey the search at Thomas. Curiously, I could not find it on govtrack. . Media sources like the Post report that the House and Senate have agreed on this bill now, and call this an unusual “legislative victory” for the president.

The bill would protect communications providers from liability for assisting the government with warrantless searches of subscriber Internet activity. Right now there are over forty cases against telecommunications providers in litigation. The new bill would harbor the telecomm company if it can show that a federal judge has reviewed the case and that the judge monitors the administration’s claim that the eavesdropping is of genuine necessity for national security.

The ACLU has a press release that “condemns FISA deal, declares surveillance bill unconstitutional,” here and a talking points list on the bill here.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a blog entry (“Republican Senators: It’s About Immunity”) by Hugh Dandrade on the legislation, here.

A related bill is HR 3773, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which is in conference, govtrack reference here.

I have never personally suspected any wiretapping against me. I know that protection of sources is also an issue for journalists and could be for bloggers (as I have covered before, especially on my "major issues" blog). In some cases, however, I believe it is necessary and legitimate (for journalists and especially bloggers) to report what sound like (non “spam”) credible tips or clues given the issues of the post 9/11 world.

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