From Bush to Obama, telecom immunity law defended

In a move that will upset a lot of voters, the Obama administration has asked a federal judge to uphold a telecommunications immunity law passed to cover companies that cooperated with the Bush administration's wiretapping program.

The law requires that judges dismiss suits by people claiming that the companies violated their privacy rights, so long as the attorney general certifies that the firms were helping an anti-terrorism program that the president authorized. 

The U.S. District Court in San Francisco has nearly 40 lawsuits by phone company customers who accuse the companies of illegally sharing phone and email messages and records with the National Security Agency. In 2005 the Bush administration acknowledged that it ordered the NSA to intercept messages between American citizens and suspected foreign terrorists without seeking the approval of either the court system or Congress.

A law passed last summer with the support of then Sen. Barack Obama authorized the wiretap program and was designed to dismiss lawsuits against companies that had cooperated. Bush argued that firms needed retroactive immunity from lawsuits to encourage them to participate in future intelligence gathering activities.

While President Obama's administration is not enthusiastic about the law, the Justice Department has to defend it so long as it can "reasonably do so," said a spokesperson.

For more:
- San Francisco Chronicle breaks the news. Article.

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