MAR. 14, 2008 - TELECOM CHAIR HAILS HOUSE FISA BILL

Rep. Markey Reiterates Call to Reject Blanket Immunity Without Justification

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, today hailed the House bill reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as a good compromise which allows for intelligence gathering while protecting American’s privacy and rejecting calls for retroactive immunity on telecommunications carriers alleged to have participated under the President’s Warrantless Surveillance Program.

"Contrary to the arguments of Republicans and the president, we can provide for intelligence gathering against terrorist organizations while still protecting American's privacy, and this bill proves it. I continue to be concerned by the president's insistence that Congress grant telecommunications companies retroactive immunity from lawsuits for any participation in his warrantless wiretapping program without fully informing Congress as to the nature and extent of the secret program for which immunity is sought.  Until the Bush Administration is more forthcoming, I fully support the House bill's rejection of calls for blanket immunity," said Rep. Markey.

"By tying the issue of lawsuit immunity to questions of national security and FISA reform, the president has created false choice and a false sense of urgency.  While this administration continues to refuse to answer any of our serious questions and concerns about the past conduct of the president administration and of the telecommunication companies, Congress must resist legislating without full information."

The House FISA Reform bill, which will be voted on today, builds on the RESTORE Act, which the House passed in November, 2007. The House bill provides a way for telecommunications companies to defend themselves in pending and future lawsuits, notwithstanding the Bush Administration's assertion of the state secrets privilege. Courts would be able to protect secret information through well-established security procedures in FISA and companies would no longer be in the "catch-22" of being unable to proffer evidence that they believe establishes immunity under existing laws. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 14, 2008

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer, 202.225.2836