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As you know, we’ve been following the FISA and telecom immunity debate for some time. It’s a particularly hot topic in this political season and the House just passed a compromise (compromised?) version of the FISA reform bill that would give telecom companies immunity from prosecution for their complicity and cooperation with the Bush Administration with its efforts to bolster intelligence gathering and surveillance without going through the FISA courts as the law states that they should.
Senator Barack Obama has gotten in a lot of hot water recently from his own supporters when he decided to support the current version of the bill which includes telecom immunity — after he had said he would not support telecom immunity and *would* support a filibuster if immunity was included. And today, Nancy Soderberg, former deputy national security advisor and an ambassador to the United Nations in the Clinton administration, wrote an Op-Ed in the Los Angeles Times defending the FISA bill and telecom amnesty — calling it a “good-enough spy law.”
The odd thing about Soderberg’s piece is that she admits that the administration’s end-run around FISA WAS NOT LAWFUL. But she still thinks the telecom companies should be protected from law suits because they “are not the ones to blame for that abuse of presidential power.” Huh? I just don’t get this line of reasoning at all. Protecting these companies from litigation falls under one of the 14 points of fascism defined by Laurence Britt (“Corporate Power is Protected”). Is this what this country has become?
Glenn Greenwald, one of the best and most thorough journalists working today, has nailed this one in his Salon.com piece, “The political establishment and telecom immunity — why it matters”:
Contrary to what the Nancy Soderbergs of the world want people to believe, these laws enacted by the American people in order to prevent spying abuses weren’t only directed at the Government but specifically at the telecom industry as well. The whole point was to compel telecoms by force of law to refuse illegal Government “orders” to allow spying on their customers. That’s why Qwest and others refused to “comply”, but the telecoms that were hungry for extremely lucrative government contracts agreed to break the law. They did it because, motivated by profit, they chose to, not because they were compelled. Breaking the law on purpose and then profiting from the lawbreaking is classic criminal behavior. The conduct which those laws were designed to make illegal — and which they unambiguously outlawed — is exactly what the telecoms did here.
I urge everyone to contact your Senators and tell them to reject telecom immunity in HR6304 FISA Amendments Act of 2008 and to support the Dodd-Feingold-Leahy amendment (S.A.5064) to be voted on on Tuesday, July 8th that will strip out telecom immunity.
After the Senate, on Tuesday, February 12, 2008, passed a FISA reform bill that included immunity for telecom companies from being sued for participating in the unconstitutional NSA wiretapping program, the House of Representatives today passed a version of the FISA bill *without* telecom immunity! There is sure to be much negotiation and politicking from the administration as the two bills go to the [w: United States Congress Conference committee]. Stay tuned and be sure to contact your Congressional representatives and let them know that telecom immunity is NOT OK!
For those of you *trying* to follow the debate raging in D.C. about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the extension of the “Protect America Act of 2007”, please go on over to EmptyWheel and Crooks and Liars. Both have extensive coverage about it — with video! — and can help to wrap your heads around telco amnesty, basket warrants or reverse targeting, sequestration of illegally harvested evidence and other arcane but vitally important issues that can make or break the future of civil rights in the US.