Congress extends surveillance act without telecom immunity

by Teresa von Fuchs, Wireless Week

Congress agreed to extend the expiring anti-terror surveillance act for another two weeks, without including any decisive immunity for telecoms. The Protect America Act, signed by the House and Senate last summer expanded the government's power to eavesdrop without a court order. The Bush administration has been pushing for that legislation to be extended and include retroactive immunity for telecoms that cooperated with the government's warrantless wiretapping programs.

Many lawsuits are currently pending that accuse the major telecoms of violating citizens' privacy rights by allowing the government to eavesdrop on communications without a court order.

The government forbade the telecoms from releasing any information about whether or not they participated in the programs.

The Protect America Act was set to expire Feb. 1, but will now be extended until Feb. 15, while Congress hashes out whether or not to include an immunity clause.

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