Thursday, February 28, 2008

Telecom immunity

The president insists that Congress pass his preferred version of the domestic spying bill, with telecomm immunity, saying "The companies were told by government leaders after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, “that their assistance was legal and vital to national security,” the president said. “Allowing these lawsuits to proceed would be unfair.”

Let me get this straight. Both sides of Congress passed a FISA extension bill, the difference being the House version doesn't have retroactive telecom immunity. Both would keep the ability of the NSA to conduct warrantless spying in America. Because Bush refuses any scenario but getting everything he wants, including telecom immunity, the extension expires and the NSA chief claims Americans are in danger because of it. But they then blame the expiration on those who correctly separate the extension from the immunity issue!? What twisted illogic is that? I can't understand why people buy this.

If telecom assistance was legal, as the president says, then the companies have nothing to fear from a lawsuit. Then why give them immunity? Senator Kennedy says the same thing, in an amazingly coherent argument:

And Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts said the president was using “the specter of terrorism” to push his own agenda.

“If the telecommunications companies didn’t break the law, they do not need immunity,” the senator said. “If they broke the law, the American people deserve to know the size and scope of their lawbreaking. Adhering to the rule of law would not ‘aid our enemies’ — it would uphold the very principles we are fighting for. The President’s position has nothing to do with protecting Americans and everything to do with sweeping under the rug illegal activity by his administration and his corporate partners.”

1 comment:

Steven said...

The Federal court hearing the case also agrees:

"AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal."

(Judge Walker, July 2006)

So either the Executive branch lied when it said the actions were legal, or the phone companies never did what people are alleging. It seems that retroactive immunity is just about the worst action to take in response to either possibility.