Washington, D.C. – This morning the House of Representatives passed a compromise surveillance bill that does not include retroactive immunity for phone companies alleged to have assisted in the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program. The bill would allow lawsuits like the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s case against AT&T to proceed while providing specific security procedures allowing the telecom giants to defend themselves in court.
The House bill succeeded 213 to 197 despite the president’s threat to veto any bill that does not include immunity.
“We applaud the House for refusing to grant amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, and for passing a bill that would allow our lawsuit against AT&T to proceed fairly and securely,” said Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. “Amnesty proponents have been claiming on the Hill for months that phone companies like AT&T had a good faith belief that the NSA program was legal. Under this bill, the companies could do what they should have been able to do all along: tell that story to a judge.”
The Senate is expected to consider the House bill when it returns from recess on Monday, March 31. House and Senate staff are expected to spend much of the break negotiating over differences between the new House bill and a previous Senate bill that includes immunity provisions.
“This newly-passed House bill represents a true compromise on the amnesty issue: customers whose privacy was violated would get their day in court, while the companies would be allowed to defend themselves despite the Administration’s broad demands for secrecy,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “We look forward to assisting the Senate in its consideration of this compromise solution, which EFF believes is the only reasonable response to the White House’s attempt to evade court review of its illegal spying program and the phone companies’ collaboration in it.”
EFF represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the telecommunications company of violating their rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in widespread domestic surveillance. The Hepting case is the leading case aimed at holding telecoms responsible for knowingly violating federal privacy laws with warrantless wiretapping and the illegal transfer of vast amounts of personal data to the government.***
Hoyer, Conyers, Reyes Applaud House Passage of the FISA Amendments Act
After Downing Street
Mar 14, 2008WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD), House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes applauded today’s passage of the FISA Amendments Act, which passed the House 213-197.
“I am proud that the House passed thoughtful, appropriate legislation today that addresses the needs of the intelligence community without abandoning the ideals and principles upon which our nation was founded,” Hoyer said. “I look forward to continued discussions with the Senate and an expedient resolution on a final product. I hope our Republican colleagues will finally join us at the negotiating table, so we can complete work on this critical legislation.”
“I applaud my colleagues for supporting a bill that is sensible and responsible policy and strikes the appropriate balance between the government’s need to protect our citizens from foreign attack, and our citizens’ right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures,” Conyers said. “I look forward to sending a bill to the President’s desk that maintains this very important balance and I encourage the President to support our efforts.”
“The U.S. House today passed responsible legislation that arms our intelligence community with powerful new tools to keep us safe and restores essential constitutional protections for Americans that were sharply eroded when the President signed the Protect America Act into law last August,” said Reyes. “We have put the security of Americans first and foremost. We will continue to work to move this forward in a manner that provides for both our nation’s security and liberty.”
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