The Senate has passed the FISA reform bill by a 69-to-28 vote, providing the phone companies with immunity from the multibillion dollar lawsuits against them by the trial lawyers.
The Senate rightly rejected an amendment that would have denied the phone companies immunity unless they can prove that the antiterror surveillance they cooperated with was itself constitutional. That would have enshrined an unfair legal double standard under which government officials escape liability for constitutional violations under the doctrine of “qualified immunity,” while the phone companies that cooperated with the government with the best of intentions remain on the hook.
(Qualified immunity protects officials in cases where the law is murky or unclear. Government officials do not have to pay money damages for their constitutional violations unless the law was so clear that their position was plainly unreasonable).