Senate, Bush agree on telco immunity

The biggest telecom story of this year continues to take surprising turns, as the U.S. Senate reportedly has reached agreement with the Bush administration on new terms for domestic surveillance legislation that include the highly controversial provision of retroactive immunity for major telcos allegedly involved in the program. Those telcos still need to demonstrate that in turning over call and e-mail records to the government, they "acted pursuant to a legal directive" (The Washington Post's words), but that demonstration can be made behind closed doors.

President Bush had said he would veto any legislation that didn't include telco immunity, but the new agreement is surprising because just this week, it was revealed that former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio alleged that Qwest was asked to provide private call data to the feds as early as February 2001, and suggested that Qwest's refusal to do so cost it important government contracts that later contributed to the company's poor financial performance. That revelation seemingly handed momentum to Democrats who had been pushing for new surveillance legislation that excluded telco immunity.

Instead, Bush got what he wanted, telcos got what they wanted and Democrats in Congress look kind of powerless at the moment.

For more:
-The Washington Post reports

Related articles:
- Joe Nacchio shook things up with new allegations