April 18, 2024

Telecom Immunity a Fact of Life

PBS says:

The Senate approved a bill Wednesday overhauling the rules on government eavesdropping and granting immunity to telecom companies that assist with government-ordered communications monitoring. The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 69-28.

And the NY Times says that until now:

…more than 40 lawsuits continued churning through federal courts, charging AT&T, Verizon and other major carriers with breaking the law and violating their customers’ privacy by agreeing to the White House’s requests to conduct wiretaps without a valid court order.

The deal approved on Wednesday, which passed the House on June 20, effectively ends those lawsuits. It includes a narrow review by a district court to determine whether in fact the companies being sued received formal requests or directives from the administration to take part in the program. The administration has already acknowledged that those directives exist. Once such a finding is made, the lawsuits “shall be promptly dismissed,” the bill says.

This is just and right, despite the howls of protest that have been coming and will continue to come from out in left field.

While the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW II now seems like a national disgrace, should they have been allowed by Congress to sue the federal government for their incarceration? 

Of course not.  Neither should telecoms who aided the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11 be subject to sanctions because they acted in the national defense.

If those screaming for the heads – and dollars – of telecom companies seek to undo an injustice they should be pursuing the administration itself rather than the companies that cooperated with its strong-arm tactics (though even that description is over-generous given the climate of fear the terrorist attack created).

That will never happen, of  course, and the reason is quite simple:  Democrats in Congress who would be the ones to pursue the action against the Bush administration know full well that they would have done the same thing had they been in power in 2001.  Furthermore, they may well hold the Oval Office when the next strike by Islamic terrorists hits home here in the U.S.  Punishing President Bush as per their rhetoric would bind their hands in ways that future Democratic presidents would not appreciate.

A more appropriate response by Democrats would be a measured reduction in the reach and scope of the FISA act and its amendments.  But even this is unlikely to happen if Democrats ascend to the White House.  The danger, I think, is too real to allow a reduction in readiness, whether Constitutional or not.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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