Sunday, June 22, 2008

News and Notes 6/20

News: FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillence Act) includes TeleCom immunity

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.

The first problem is that companies, and individuals are always asked to determine whats legal on their own. It can be awfully tempting to follow the lead of the President or the leader or anyone else, but as a consumer as a private citizen I need to know that unless the government has a warrant, a legitimate reason, that the government will not invade my life and that includes my telephone calls. It's not like these corporations were individuals who did not know better.
They employ some of the best attorneys in the land in their general counsels' offices and they should not be given immunity if they made the wrong choice. These companies chose to follow the President and circumvent laws and consumer agreements. They ought to be held to account for those decisions. If they have a legitimate reason for their actions then they ought not lose their case, but we have laws for a good reason.
My second problem is with the idea that these decisions ought to receive immunity because they were made in the best interests of the country, particularly in light of 9/11. As the Southern Maryland Online reports:
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.
So let's move away from this argument. The argument now shifts over to the Senate where TPM reports that Senators Leahy and Feingold have both said that they are strongly opposed to immunity while the Majority Leader said he is reviewing the Bill in full.
News: Scott McClellen testifies to the House Judiciary Committee. From the AP via Huffpost
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.
Notes: If you are not familiar with those accusations made by Scott McClellen in his book you ought to check the above link. I'm going to assume that those who are reading are familiar with McClellen's book (that probably sounds condescending). What is most worth noting is that House Democrats are investigating, they are not allowing important issues to pass by without the people's representatives being allowed. This work ought to be applauded. McClellen did say that Vice-President Cheney was cupible (to some degree) for the Valarie Plame relevations, and that Karl Rove should not be trusted if not under oath.
Quick hits: Al Franken has an interesting video out where he quotes Norm Coleman's continued support for the war. Hat Tip to MNPublius for the story.
Update from yesterday's post: A profile about Andrew Rice from brownsox on Kos. Worth a Read.

Robot finds ice on mars, also known as the white stuff.
Also 17 girls at one high school "make a pact" to get pregnant? Wtf? Seriously...
There won't be News and Notes over the weekend. For NN check back Monday afternoon.
Previously posted on poli-think

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