House passes wiretap telcom immunity bill

House Democrats covered themselves in shame today, joining with Republicans to pass a bill granting amnesty to the cowardly telephone companies who helped the President's office with its illegal bulk-wiretapping campaign that spied on every American call and email without any judicial oversight. What's more, the bill also allows this to continue going on in the future. Who needs the fourth amendment?

The bill (.pdf) could be voted on as soon as Friday in the House, given its backing by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who in February organized a high-stakes showdown with the president over a substantially similar bill. The Senate would likely also quickly pass the bill, despite already vocal opposition from the ACLU, left-leaning bloggers, as well as Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Connecticut) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont)…

Additionally, the bill grants amnesty to the nation's telecoms that are being sued for allegedly breaking federal wiretapping laws by turning over billions of Americans' call records to government data-mining programs and giving the government access to internet and phone infrastructure inside the country. The bill strips the right of a federal district court to decide whether the companies violated federal laws prohibiting wiretapping without a court order.

Instead, the attorney general would need only certify to the court either that a sued company did not participate, or that the government provided some sort of written request to the companies that said that the president authorized the program and that his lawyers deemed it to be legal. That would be presented to federal district court Judge Vaughn Walker, who is overseeing the more than 40 consolidated cases against the telecoms. Walker's authority would be limited to judging whether the preponderance of the evidence is that the companies did get a written request, and if he finds that to be true — as the Senate Intelligence Committee has already publicly stated — he must dismiss the cases.


Update: Tim from EFF sez, "The Senate vote will probably be sometime next week, could be as early as Tuesday. Folks can contact their Senator here"