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Senate panel to weigh telecom eavesdropping immunity

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] is expected to decide this week if a bill to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive] will grant immunity from prosecution to telecommunications companies [JURIST report] that assisted in government eavesdropping between 2001 and 2007. The bill would replace the Protect America Act 2007 (PAA) [S 1927 materials], legislation passed [JURIST report] in August that temporarily gave the executive branch expanded surveillance authority while Congress worked on long-term legislation to "modernize" FISA. Kenneth Wainstein, an assistant attorney general with the US Department of Justice, called on the Senate two weeks ago to include a provision granting blanket immunity [JURIST report] to the companies and to eliminate a proposal to extend the jurisdiction of the court that administers FISA to cover surveillance of United States citizens located outside the country. The White House has promised to veto any bill that does not meet the immunity condition.

Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence Donald Kerr has meanwhile said that it is time Americans changed their definition of privacy. In a speech [PDF text] to the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation [advocacy website] in late October, Kerr said, "Privacy no longer can mean anonymity... in our interconnected and wireless world, anonymity–or the appearance of anonymity–is quickly becoming a thing of the past... Protecting anonymity isn't a fight that can be won." AP has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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