Something has to happen by Feb. 1, when current surveillance legislation expires. Before the holiday break, Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.)Â withdrew new legislationÂ that included telco immunity, citing the heated atmosphere and likely lack of support. Are immunity opponents more malleable to telco immunity after some holiday sweets and presents from Santa? Not likely. President Bush insists he will veto any legislation without telco immunity, but the administration also wants something passed ASAP in the name of national security.
A firm decision one way or the other seems unlikely. There may be no other way for this controversy to end than with some kind of compromise that allows new legislation to proceed and the telco immunity clause to be configured in such a way that the telcos are immunized from financial damages based on past surveillance actions. Some legislators have pointed out that one way to accomplish this would be to have the federal government stand in as the defendant in all pending surveillance lawsuits. I'm betting that will be the core of any compromise.