Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Advocates battle US Senate over telecom immunity

United States-based nonprofit advocates of digital rights, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), has galvanized telecommunications subscribers in the US to reject the proposed telecom immunity currently before the Senate.

Part of the programme to mobilize telecom subscribers included encouraging them to put a telephone call through to their Senators and electronic mails where they cannot get through with the telephone lines.

Media Coordinator, at EFF, Ms Rebecca Jeschke, informed in a press statement made available to ITRealms Online that after the fourth of July holiday, at the weekend, the Senate is expected to return to the chambers to vote on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which establishes a legal regime for “foreign intelligence” surveillance separate from ordinary law enforcement surveillance.

According to EFF, the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), a bill that would betray the spirit of 1776 by radically expanding the president’s spying powers and granting immunity to the companies that colluded in his illegal programme.

ITRealms Online recalls that the US lower House has passed the FAA bill, the bulk now stops at the Senate, as the last front left in the battle against immunity, and every vote from cloture, to the amendments, to final passage, EFF said, counts.

Therefore, EFF urged all US patriots to celebrate the Fourth of July this year by demanding that their Senators uphold the rule of law and stand up for civil liberties, by voting against the FAA and for the amendments to the bill that would eliminate or weaken its telecom immunity provisions.

They also advised telecom consumers in that country to keep their calls to legislators’ offices short and polite.

“Whether or not they agree with you, what is important is that the staffers know you are a constituent, and that you want your legislator to hold lawbreaking telecoms accountable,” EFF said.

The activists further advised that participants in the campaign simply say: “I’m a constituent and I urge you to oppose telecom immunity and the FISA Amendments Act.

As a constituent, I am very troubled that during this patriotic holiday season, the Senate appears ready to toss civil liberties and the rule of law out the window, and so I urge you to oppose telecom immunity with every vote that you have when the FISA bill comes to the Senate floor on Tuesday, July 8th.”

Further, EFF enjoined them to request their Senators to vote “YES” on the Dodd-Feingold amendment, which would strip telecom immunity from the bill entirely.

Also, vote “YES” on the Bingaman amendment, which would delay implementation of telecom immunity until after Congress has received the Inspectors General report on the president’s warrant-less surveillance programme, EFF asked.

While encouraging “NO” vote on the cloture motion to end debate on the FAA, EFF said, finally, vote “NO” on the FISA Amendments Act.

This according to EFF is an unconstitutional and dangerous bill that would radically expand the president’s spying powers and immunize the companies that helped him break the law.

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