As Orin noted below, one of the most significant changes to FISA is that ISPs and Telcos are now required to cooperate with the program. Yet according to today's WSJ (subscription only), the FISA reforms do not resolve questions about ISP and Telco liability for cooperation with the program in the past.
he measure lacks a provision sought by the White House and telecommunications companies: protection from lawsuits filed against phone companies by privacy groups and customers for past cooperation with government spy programs.
Under the expansion of surveillance authority since Sept. 11, 2001, some major phone companies have complained that their cooperation has left them vulnerable to legal liabilities. AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. have been sued by civil-liberties groups and state-utility regulators. Some phone companies have curtailed their cooperation with intelligence programs in recent months, according to people familiar with the matter. The new law instead provides a more limited element of legal cover by compelling phone companies to cooperate. . . .
Partly to tackle the companies' concerns, the new law includes language that compels telecommunications providers to cooperate with government intelligence surveillance orders. The compulsion order is critical, because it provides phone companies with a ready-made justification if sued. The law also explicitly gives telecom companies protection for future cooperation with government surveillance programs.
However, absent from the law is a blanket liability protection to absolve companies for any privacy violations that may have occurred during their cooperation with earlier surveillance activities. The White House pushed for such a measure and has promised to try to have it included when a long-term update to FISA is considered, probably later this year.
UPDATE: Jack Balkin notes liability protection remains high on the Administration's wish-list and offers some thoughts.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Are Telcos Still Liable for NSA Cooperation?
- My Take on the New FISA Amendment:
- More on What FISA and the Fourth Amendment Requre -- And What They Don't: