The Senate today advanced a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill that grants telecom companies immunity for allegedly giving government intelligence officials illegal access to their customer's private records.
The margin was 76-10, with the Democrats, in The New York Times' words, "divided." Legal Times covered some of the telecoms' lobbying in October. In an effort to get off the hook for allegedly giving the National Security Agency illegal access to its customers' records, the companies pushed hard earlier this year and the Justice Department helped, lobbying Congress independently.
The game's not over yet, though: Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has introduced a rival FISA bill that doesn't include immunity. And whatever emerges from the Senate will have to be reconciled with an already-passed House bill that withholds immunity.
"I have seen six presidents six in the White House and I have never seen a contempt for the rule of law equal to this," Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said after the vote. But it's not just telecoms rejoicing over the vote.
Over at "The Shop Floor," The National Association of Manufacturers' blog, is rather scathing take on immunity resisters: Most of the hysterical, fear-mongering rhetoric we've seen in this debate comes from the foes of effective intelligence, anti-Bush partisans and privacy absolutists," Carter Wood writes.