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New Surveillance Law Lacks Telecoms Safeguards - President George Bush signed a law yesterday updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), broadening the government's ability to wiretap communications, including e-mail and wireless phone services, of suspected terrorists
New Surveillance Law Lacks Telecoms Safeguards

 

NewswireToday - /newswire/ - Rockaway, NJ, United States, 2007/08/07 - President George Bush signed a law yesterday updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), broadening the government's ability to wiretap communications, including e-mail and wireless phone services, of suspected terrorists.

   
 
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The measure sought to legalize actions already taken by the government, under what has come to be known as its warrantless wiretapping program.

But it failed to include safeguards that telecommunications companies were pushing for, that protect them from lawsuits for cooperation in past surveillance programs.

Since the FBI expanded its wiretapping efforts as a reaction to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, telecom companies such as AT&T and Verizon Communications have been sued by civil-liberties groups for cooperating in spying on customers. A report in the The Wall Street Journal cited that these suits have caused some reluctance on the part of phone companies to cooperate with the FBI in recent months.

According to the Journal's report, the new law provides limited legal cover for telecoms by "compelling" companies to cooperate. Although it gives explicit protection for telecom companies' future cooperation with government surveillance programs, it does not provide "blanket liability" protection for companies that may have participated in the government's previous surveillance activities.

The Journal reported that: "Persons familiar with the matter said Verizon has felt a 'heightened sensitivity' about its potential liability for fulfilling government surveillance requests, compared with a few years ago."

The law was signed under criticism by many Democrats and will only be good for six months. It is expected to be debated and revamped later this fall.

 
 
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New Surveillance Law Lacks Telecoms Safeguards

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