Citizens vs. spies - Page 2

San Francisco is at the center of a national debate over government and corporate surveillance of US residents

The Senate voted Feb. 12 to reject an effort to strip the immunity provisions from the FISA Amendments Act, opting to protect the companies from legal scrutiny.

The House of Representatives has its own surveillance measure, which would loosen up some FISA restrictions but not include the immunity provision. That legislation, House Resolution 3773, was passed in November 2007 by a 227–189 vote. The bills now head to a Senate-House conference committee, which will work out the discrepancies, if that's possible. As Jeschke explained, "The two bills will become one law or no law."

Bush has repeatedly said he will veto any bill that does not include immunity, while hawks in Congress say national security will be compromised if the government has to gather information without corporate assistance. In a Feb. 15 press release, Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected this assertion: "[The president] knows our intelligence agencies will be able to do all the wiretapping they need to do to protect the nation.... [He] should now work in a cooperative way with Congress to pass a strong FISA modernization bill that protects our nation's security and the Constitution."

Pelosi spokesperson Drew Hammill told the Guardian, "Her position is that we have to make sure that this is consistent with the Constitution.... She is not in favor of immunity."

HR 3773 is "far from perfect," according to the EFF Web site, but it "provides far more congressional and judicial oversight of the Executive Branch's domestic spying than the FAA."

Klein, the former AT&T technician, whistle-blower, and key witness, also became an unpaid lobbyist for EFF when he traveled to Washington DC in November 2006. He described the experience as "very tiring, exhausting," and said that over the four days, "we were much more successful in media coverage, but in terms of Congress, it didn't do very much."

He concluded our interview with some foreboding words based on his experience. "This is more than about another bill," he said. "This is about fundamental constitutional issues, and many people are unaware."

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