November 15, 2007 | By Richard Esguerra

Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Surveillance Bill Without Telecom Amnesty

UPDATE: Another victory -- the House of Representatives just passed the RESTORE Act, which does not give the telecoms amnesty. Read EFF's Media Release here.

With your help, EFF scored a victory today, as the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a surveillance bill without giving legal amnesty to telecoms that participated in warrantless spying programs. Telecom amnesty is aimed at derailing dozens of lawsuits against the telecoms for participating in a massive warrantless domestic surveillance program -- including EFF's class-action suit against AT&T.

The committee's vote on surveillance legislation came amidst continuing public opposition to telecom amnesty. Last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California made a statement in support of telecom amnesty, prompting outcry from her constituents in California -- this week, both the Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle joined the chorus of editorials opposing telecom immunity.

We're heartened by this development and send big thanks to the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee that stood strong. But we're not out of the woods yet. Additional skirmishes over telecom amnesty are guaranteed when the surveillance bill reaches the Senate floor. Staunch allies of the administration are likely to continue pushing for amnesty, and others may be considering dangerous proposals that ultimately function as "trojan horses" for telecom amnesty.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is currently considering the RESTORE Act, the House surveillance bill similarly designed to update to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The RESTORE Act does not provide amnesty for telecoms and is supported by key leaders in the Democrat-controlled House.

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