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January 25, 2008

Senate Moves Forward on Telcom Immunity Despite Dem Lectures

Boy, I just did not see this one coming. All the lectures on civil rights from Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama came to nothing yesterday when the Senate considered immunity for telecommunications companies which cooperated with the terrorist surveillance program. All the Republicans and 12 Democrats voted to reject an attempt to drop immunity from the bill. It's as if no one cares about the children anymore.

Expressing his anger, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the maneuver has put the fate of the entire bill in jeopardy. A temporary surveillance law, passed in August, is due to expire next Friday. The Bush administration and GOP leaders have opposed requests from Reid and other Democrats for an extension.


The issue has spilled over into the Democratic presidential race: Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) have said that they oppose legal immunity for the telecoms, but neither was present for yesterday's vote. In a series of e-mails to supporters yesterday, the liberal group MoveOn.org urged Clinton and Obama to help lead a filibuster to block the immunity legislation in the Senate.

Some members of Congress are trying to get the new FISA law done before the temporary surveillance law, passed in August, expires. That law came with scary "broad powers" to eavesdrop on terrorists and temporary immunity for telecom companies who acted in good faith to comply with government requests for assistance. If Congress doesn't pass a new law or an extension, the old rules kick in and the ACLU goes to the bank (not that I expect that to happen; too many Democrats have crossed over for Reid to filibuster).

Come to think of it, that temporary law marked the beginning of the congressional Democrats' losing streak. Reid has been "expressing his anger" for the past six months. I think it might be time for a different tactic.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:40 AM

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