Bush wants to derail wiretapping lawsuit against AT&T

A bill would pull the plug on lawsuits alleging telephone companies illegally cooperated with the National Security Agency in its warrantless wiretap program.

MONTREAL -- President Bush is backing a proposed law that would pull the plug on lawsuits alleging telephone companies illegally cooperated with the National Security Agency in its warrantless wiretap program.

We've written about this before, such as when the House Judiciary committee approved the measure last year as part of a bill to rework the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

At the time, last September, one backer of the measure said it would effectively "eliminate the 60 or more lawsuits filed because companies complied with government orders," such as the one brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation against AT&T. Rep. Chris Cannon, the amendment's sponsor, said that without such protection in place, "an individual or company will be reluctant to cooperate with any government authorized surveillance program, which will severely undercut government's efforts (to prevent terrorist attacks)."

But it's worth noting again now for two main reasons. First, EFF's lawsuit is at a crucial stage right now before the 9th Circuit, as EFF attorney Lee Tien described at the 2007 Computers Freedom and Privacy conference here on Thursday afternoon. Second, the bill is back in play this year and now's the time to pay attention to it again.

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About the author

Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.

 

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