MCLU Applauds Representatives Allen and Michaud for Rejecting Telecom Immunity

Affiliate: ACLU of Maine
March 14, 2008 12:00 am

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The MCLU praises the house vote, 221 to 188 in favor of a surveillance program that does not include retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that provided information to the National Security Agency, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). This vote allows the Maine Public Utilities Commission complaint case to move forward in the courts. Both Reps Tom Allen and Michael Michaud voted in favor of protecting Mainers’ privacy.

“The vote is an excellent step towards maintaining the rule of law,” said John Paterson, cooperating attorney at Bernstein Shur on the Maine case against Verizon. “Voting on a FISA bill that opposes telecom immunity allows the Maine case to go to court, which is precisely where a decision on the legality of the telecoms’ actions should be decided.”

FISA was enacted after the Watergate scandal to provide a court check on government surveillance. In May of 2006, 22 Maine Verizon customers filed a privacy complaint with the Maine Public Utilities Commission. The federal government sued to stop the investigation. That lawsuit is one of dozens of lawsuits against the telephone company that have been consolidated in a single proceeding before a Federal Court in California. Notably, the privacy complaint against Verizon does not contain any request for monetary damages. All of the lawsuits against the telephone companies request a permanent cessation of warrantless surveillance.

“We still have grave concerns about the safeguards for privacy in the House bill,” said Shenna Bellows, Executive Director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. “While I applaud Michaud and Allen for voting to eliminate immunity, any FISA legislation must contain provisions to protect Americans from warrantless wiretapping and other invasions of privacy.”

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