Washington, D.C. - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced today that due to the contentious nature of proposals to provide amnesty for telecoms that participated in the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program, further debate on the surveillance bill in the Senate would be delayed until January 2008. Reid's announcement followed a series of speeches by Senators who spoke in strong opposition to telecom amnesty, led by Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

Senator Dodd's efforts included numerous citations to the evidence in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) case against AT&T from former AT&T technician and whistleblower Mark Klein, as well as to the initial decision by federal Judge Vaughn Walker that allowed the case to proceed.

In a statement delivered on the Senate floor at the end of the day, Senator Reid spoke against proposals to provide retroactive amnesty for telecoms, saying: "I believe that it is more than appropriate to ask the courts to examine the telephone companies actions and to evaluate whether or not they acted properly."

Senator Reid also warned his colleagues in the Senate about the dangerous precedent that could result should the telecoms receive amnesty from Congress: "Providing immunity without ever undertaking such an evaluation would send a dangerous signal that the requirements we enact prospectively may be ignored with impunity."

"We applaud Senator Reid for allowing the full Senate to take the time to carefully consider the dangers of granting amnesty to the phone companies who have blatantly violated their customers' privacy for over six years. Over the holiday break we hope that many Senators will listen to their constituents who want them to stand up for the Fourth Amendment," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "But the biggest hero today is Senator Dodd, who recognized the profound Constitutional issues at stake in taking this key issue away from the courts, and refused to let it be rammed through the Senate without a fight. "

EFF represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, one of dozens of class-action suits accusing the telecoms of violating customers' rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency with this dragnet domestic surveillance of ordinary Americans.

For more on Hepting v. AT&T and telecom immunity:


Kevin Bankston
Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Cindy Cohn
Legal Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation

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