Move Afoot to Strip Telecom Immunity From FISA

Posted June 24, 2008 at 3:48pm

When federal surveillance legislation comes to a vote this week, Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) plan to once again offer their amendment to strike the controversial telecommunications language from the bill.

Dodd is seeking to strip language that could provide retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies that participated in the federal government’s warrantless wiretapping program. Dodd has threatened to filibuster renewal of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act authority if the language is not removed.

“This is a deeply flawed bill, which does nothing more than offer retroactive immunity by another name. We strongly urge our colleagues to reject this so-called ‘compromise’ legislation and oppose any efforts to consider this bill in its current form,” the Democratic Senators wrote in a statement.

It is unlikely that the amendment will succeed. But appearing to bow to political pressures, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has agreed to allow a vote on the charged issue.

Even Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicted that Democrats would offer the amendment. However, he predicted that the amendment will fail again, calling it an unnecessary measure that would do harm to the federal program.

“It needs to be defeated,” McConnell told reporters following the GOP luncheon, referring to any Democratic amendment that would strike the immunity language. “Otherwise, there would be no need to pass this bill.”

Dodd and Feingold introduced an amendment in February when the Senate initially took up the FISA extension. That amendment failed, 31-67.