The U.S. Senate on Tuesday voted 68-29 to give telcos retroactive immunity from prosecution for allegedly allowing the government to eavesdrop on subscribers phone calls.
The matter has been under debate for months. The measure now goes to the House, which has passed its own bill, one amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and that didnt include immunity.
While uncertainties remain, we believe Senate passage, combined with heavy pressure from the Bush administration, makes it more likely that the telcos will be granted some sort of immunity, sooner or later, wrote telecom analysts for investment bank Stifel Nicolaus on Wednesday.
AT&T Inc., Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. none of which have admitted to wrongdoing face a total of about 40 lawsuits from citizens alleging the carries violated civil rights and privacy laws, according to the Electronic Freedom Foundation. The Bush Administration is accused of warrantless wiretapping following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
AT&T Inc. www.att.com
Electronic Freedom Foundation www.eff.org
Stifel Nicolaus www.stifel.com
U.S. House www.house.gov
U.S. Senate www.senate.gov
Verizon Communications Inc. www.verizon.com