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Congress Is One Step Closer to Approving Warrantless Wiretaps

Senators still to decide whether to grant immunity to telecoms.
 
 
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It was a lot of sound and fury today on Capitol Hill as the Senate debated the best way for surveillance to be conducted on its constituents. Following its 60-36 vote this afternoon to reject the not-as-bad version of the FISA bill -- a Senate Judiciary Committee proposal that would have provided stronger safeguards for our privacy -- a scuffle broke out between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. When McConnell (R-KY) moved for a cloture vote in order to block amendments stripping immunity to telecom companies, Reid moved to postpone further discussion until Monday.

The Senate has grappled with the FISA bill twice in the past six weeks; in December, Connecticut Senator -- and then presidential candidate -- Chris Dodd threatened to filibuster, in opposition to the immunity provision. The vote was postponed until after the holidays.

Regardless of what happens next week, the 60-36 vote and the underlying bill, which is favored by the White House, is yet another example of Congress's willingness to do Bush's bidding. It has brought the country that much closer to codifying his illegal warrantless wiretapping into the law.

"It appears the Senate is buckling under pressure from the White House," Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office said in a press release today. "By rejecting the Senate Judiciary Committee’s language, the Senate has rejected the constitutionally superior bill… Six months after being hoodwinked into passing the Protect America Act, Americans are still waiting for Congress to grow a spine."

Liliana Segura is a writer and activist living in New York

 
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