Debate Delayed For Telecom Companies Who Helped U.S. Eavesdrop

Thursday, November 8th 2007, 2:52 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Senate Judiciary Committee put off until next week deciding whether to grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on Americans without court orders.

President George Bush has promised to veto any surveillance bill that does not protect telecommunications companies from lawsuits for alleged violations of wiretapping and privacy laws.

Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat-Vermont, and the committee's senior Republican, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, are both reluctant to provide immunity, saying the lawsuits may be the only way Congress and the public will learn the extent of the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance inside the United States.

The Senate Intelligence Committee's version of the bill grants immunity. Differences in the two bills will have to be worked out in Congress before it goes to the floor for a vote.

The Judiciary Committee was scheduled Thursday to begin making changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 30-year old law that regulates electronic surveillance inside the United States.

However, committee Republicans demanded a delay to allow more time to examine the 26 proposed amendments.