Senate Dems, ACLU Blast FISA Compromise in the House

Senate Democrats slammed the compromise reached by House Democratic leaders and the White House over an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The deal provides an opportunity for telecom companies who participated in Bush administration's domestic warrantless wiretapping program to earn immunity from lawsuits.

Here's Sen. Russ Feingold's (D-Wis.) statement:
The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the Presidents illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said they were unhappy with the immunity provisions, but they added that the bill is likely to pass the Senate.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also knocked the deal, calling it a "thinly-veiled giveaway to major campaign donors." It reserved special criticism for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who was key in negotiations with Republicans who were calling for telecom immunity.

"The Hoyer/Bush surveillance deal was clearly written with the telephone companies and internet providers at the table and for their benefit," said Caroline Frederickson, director ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. "They wanted immunity, and this bill gives it to them."

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