Senate approves new spying bill

Thank your Senators, a new wiretapping bill passed yesterday, 69 to 28. The new bill not only protects phone companies from having to admit or apologize about allowing the government to listen in on calls and net communications in the post September 11, war on terror, warrantless wiretapping program, but it also expanded the government’s surveillance abilities going forward.

At least the new bill, an update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, ‘clarifies’ surveillance protocols, depending on communications medium and where you are calling/e-mailing/texting/IMing/telegraphing from. While it ups the government’s access to foreign terrorism suspects’ communications, it requires the government get a warrant before listening in on any U.S. citizen, here or abroad.

One sticking point for the last 2 plus years has been the immunity portion, for phone companies and ISPs who may or may not have participated in the NSA’s early warrantless program. Verizon, Qwest, AT&T and others are facing multiple suits claiming they invaded customer’s privacy by allowing snoops access to their calls and e-correspondence. But now they may be off the hook.

One of the 69 votes in favor of the bill was Illinois Senator and Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama, who opposed the immunity clause in early versions of the bill. Republican Presidential nominee John McCain’s campaign pointed its finger at Obama saying he flip-flopped on “campaign commitments.” McCain was not present to vote.

See more details in the New York Times.