Senate OK’s New Wiretapping Law

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The Senate overwhelmingly approved a new federal wiretapping law this afternoon by a vote of 69-28.

After last month’s approval of a similar measure in the House, today’s vote essentially clears the way for the bill to go to the White House for a final signature.

The bill approved includes sweeping and retroactive immunity for telecom companies that provided information about customers to government officials without a warrant as part of the Bush Administration’s surveillance program imposed after September 11, 2001.

The vote was all but assured after the senators struck down three key amendments this morning that would have overhauled the spying laws without granting immunity to the telecom companies.

Sen Barack Obama (D-IL) voted for the bill.

Moments before the final vote, a handful of senators voted to filibuster the vote, including Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York, Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and Tom Harkin of Iowa.

So what does that mean? It means that the nations largest telecom companies no longer have to worry about a batch of multi-million lawsuits filed by customers angered that the companies turned over their personal information to the government without a warrant.

It also means that if you are at home making an overseas phone call to a suspected terrorist, the government can monitor that call without a warrant.

And it’s not clear how intel agents define who is a suspected terrorist.

Late Update: This post has been revised from its original version to correct the reporting of Hillary Clinton’s vote on the motion for cloture.