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A move to strip legal immunity for telephone companies that helped the government’s warrantless surveillance program today failed in the Senate. Democrats lost the fight, by a vote of 61-37, to amend a Senate bill that would revise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to The Associated Press and Politico. A temporary statute, passed last August, expires on Friday and the Senate is likely to pass the existing version, which shields telecoms from dozens of lawsuits filed against them. That measure would have to be reconciled with a House bill, which passed last fall without any legal immunity for the telecoms. In a separate move today, the Senate passed a voice expanding the authority of the FISA court to oversee the government’s compliance with rules that protect the privacy of innocent people snared in the eavesdropping. President George W. Bush has threatened to veto any legislation that does not include the legal protection for companies that are suspected of having helped the government eavesdrop in the U.S. without warrants since the 9/11 attacks.
Pedro Ruz Gutierrez can be contacted at [email protected]. This story originally appeared on The Blog of Legal Times.

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