Washington, D.C. - The latest Republican proposal to amend foreign intelligence surveillance law was announced yesterday by Senator Kit Bond , and included a purported "compromise" on the issue of whether telephone companies that illegally assisted in the government's warrantless wiretapping program should be granted immunity from lawsuits such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF's) lawsuit against AT&T.
"The purported immunity 'compromise' announced on Thursday by Senator Bond is a pure sham that's even worse than the original immunity provision passed by the Senate," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "The stacked-deck immunity determination to be made by the court apparently still doesn't include any meaningful review of the telecoms' conduct or the legality of their cooperation with the NSA, simply a review of whether the companies got a piece of paper saying that the president authorized the surveillance. And the deck would be stacked even more by the proposed transfer to the FISA court -- the most conservative and secretive federal court in the nation. Bottom line: it's still immunity, and this so-called compromise concedes nothing."
EFF represents the plaintiffs in Hepting v. AT&T, a class-action lawsuit brought by AT&T customers accusing the telecommunications company of violating their rights by illegally assisting the National Security Agency in widespread domestic surveillance. There are nearly 40 legal cases currently pending in the Northern District of California courts that have arisen from the warrantless surveillance.
For more on Senator Bond's proposal:
For more on Hepting v. AT&T:
Senior Staff Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation