Well, it's all over but the clean up

FISA—essentially unchanged from the Bush Administration’s heavy-handed assault on personal privacy in the name of antiterrorism--looks like a done deal. The bill may be going to the House floor as early as today for a vote--it should hit the Senate floor by the middle of next week--and with it you can say goodbye to knowing your private phone calls are, well, private.

The battle over whether telcos should have immunity for their roles in warrantless wiretapping after the 9/11 attacks appears to have been won/lost (circle one, depending on your point of view). In any event it is, as one senator put it, a formality. Telcos get off the hook as soon as FISA passes. The circus has passed, only the clean up remains

But, in all honesty, as much as this broadening of some pretty tenuously defended extensions of governmental eavesdropping go, we’re not exactly looking at a 1984 scenario here, are we? And, bottom line, the telcos who are facing 40-plus civil suits for cooperating with the government because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, deserve to get a pass on this one. There’s no doubt the country was on a war footing immediately after the terrorist attacks, the telcos would likely have faced more flack for denying access (see Qwest if you have any doubts).

This bill gives the telcos a get-out-of-jail-free card. They deserve it. That it’s simply a note—really—from the Attorney General certifying that they’re cooperating at the request of the government is something that may create some issues later. Let’s not look down the road too far on that one. --Jim

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