As the Washington Post reports today:
The agreement extends the government's ability to eavesdrop on espionage and terrorism suspects while effectively providing a legal escape hatch for AT&T, Verizon Communications and other telecom firms. They face more than 40 lawsuits that allege they violated customers' privacy rights by helping the government conduct a warrantless spying program after the Sept. 11, 2001,attacks.
The breakthrough on the legislation came hours after the White House agreed to Democratic demands for domestic spending additions to an emergency war funding bill. Taken together, the bills--two of the last major pieces of legislation to be approved by Congress this year--suggest that Bush still wields considerable clout on national security issues but now must acquiesce to Democratic demands on favored domestic priorities to secure victory.
While it is important that Democrats look good on National Security and that they pass important legislation, like they have on FISA or yesterday's supplemental. Supporting telecommunications immunity is a bad idea. Why? Because the President should never have a blank check. I have two problems with the argument that companies such as At&t need the governments protection for doing what they believed was helping America.
Proponents of the surveillance program say it is in response to the attacks on 9/11 and necessary to combat terrorism. However, the Washington Post reported on Oct. 13, 2007 that former Qwest executive Joseph Nacchio said in court papers,"the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks." Qwest is the one telecommunications company who reportedly refused to cooperate with the NSA on the grounds they believed doing so would have been illegal.
Former presidential spokesman Scott McClellan on Friday said President Bush has lost the public's trust by failing to open up about his administration's mistakes and backtracking on a promise be up front about the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
Previously posted on poli-think