The House has a hearing today and the Senate holds one tomorrow ahead of discussions to renew provisions in the Patriot Act that expire Dec. 31. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., introduced legislation this month that would repeal immunity for telecommunication companies for spying on U.S. citizens without warrants.

The Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools in Counterterrorism Efforts (JUSTICE) Act would include additional provisions to offer better checks and balances on government surveillance.

The Computer & Communications Industry Association sent a letter to Durbin and Feingold Tuesday thanking them for the legislation and urging the senate to pass the amendment. CCIA has argued against retroactive immunity for telecommunication companies during the last renewal of the Patriot Act.

The following statement can be attributed to CCIA President & CEO Ed Black:

“Allowing the federal government to encourage companies to break the law with a promise of immunity later is never a good precedent. It’s not just a practice that’s a little awkward for companies, but one that is a real danger to a democracy.

“We worry about the chilling effect on speech when large amounts of lawful communication is searched automatically rather than just the electronic communication of suspects. The legislation introduced by Senators Durbin and Feingold would help protect the privacy of those who are not breaking the law, while still giving law enforcement the tools they need to go after terrorist suspects.

“We’ve seen spying and censorship of online communications escalate in other nations this year. It’s difficult for our diplomats to challenge these practices as human rights violations when we engage in similar activities here. Taking a stand to protect basic freedoms here will help U.S. companies and state department officials when trying to discourage censorship and spying in other nations.”