Senators Propose Ending Telecom Spying Immunity

Friday, October 09, 2009
(photo: Whittaker,

Whether it constitutes a brave political charge, or merely a legislative decoy, the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act was introduced last week in the Senate to take away legal protections granted to telecommunications companies that participated in the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Despite the fact that a Democratically-led Congress granted immunity last year to the likes of AT&T and others, Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) are pushing their measure to right what they see was a wrong committed by their colleagues.

Dodd said that “by granting retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who may have participated in warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, the Congress violated the protection of our citizen’s privacy and due process right and we must not allow that to stand.”
Julian Sanchez, of CATO@Liberty, has an interesting take on the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act. Aside from saying the telecom immunity “was a bad idea,” Sanchez points out that the legislation mirrors a clause in a larger reform measure targeting the Patriot Act. If Democrats are serious about making substantive changes to the Patriot Act, it might be wise not to let the immunity repeal provision get in the way—and the best way to do this would be to introduce it as a separate bill, as Dodd and company have done.
Sanchez writes that “breaking it out could be a ‘we tried’ move designed to win plaudits from allies and draw fire from enemies without letting the measure be a poison pill in the broader reform bill, where the stuff that matters ends up. Time will tell, obviously.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Dodd Pens Telecom Immunity Repeal (by Eric Zimmermann, The Hill)
A Preliminary Assessment of PATRIOT Reform Bills (by Julian Sanchez, CATO @ Liberty)


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