The FISA revision passes as expected.
Senate OK's New Wiretapping Law
(Andrew Tilghman, TPMMuckraker, 9 Jul 2008)
The Senate overwhelmingly approved a new federal wiretapping law this afternoon by a vote of 69-28.(via Talking Points Memo)
After last month's approval of a similar measure in the House, today's vote essentially clears the way for the bill to go to the White House for a final signature.
The bill approved includes sweeping and retroactive immunity for telecom companies that provided information about customers to government officials without a warrant as part of the Bush Administration's surveillance program imposed after September 11, 2001.
So what does that mean? It means that the nations largest telecom companies no longer have to worry about a batch of multi-million lawsuits filed by customers angered that the companies turned over their personal information to the government without a warrant.
It also means that if you are at home making an overseas phone call to a suspected terrorist, the government can monitor that call without a warrant.
And it's not clear how intel agents define who is a suspected terrorist.
It strikes me that the author of that post misses the big picture -- and real reason -- for immunity. It's not about protecting telcos from lawsuits in the least. It's about preventing the details of the program from coming out and having the law challenged in court.
This is a law that needs to be challenged. Unfortunately, I fear that with the current composition of the Court, we're as likely to have our privacy protections further eroded as we are to have the Court find that the law intrudes too far on the Fourth Amendment.
The TPM post just happened to be the first post I saw with confirmation of the vote, and it linked to the TPMMuckraker post that had more detail. But yes, they missed that big point.
As for the rest, EFF has already said they will try to challenge it. I'm sure others will too. But I share your fears.