Our blatantly corrupt, secretive government

GRAPHIC: AT&T: Your world. Delivered. To the NSA.

There is an ongoing battle in Washington D.C. over whether or not money can shield you from law breaking. In essence, it’s a battle over whether or not we are a country that believes in the rule of law. That may seem like hyperbole, but I don’t think so.

Our illustrious Congress is debating giving retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies (like AT&T and Verizon) that helped the Bush administration spy on Americans without warrants since a few months before 9/11. This law would destroy ongoing court cases that could establish the legality of the actions of the telecommunications companies and the Bush administration. In my opinion, this is an issue that should be allowed to run its’ course through our judicial system. I’ve yet to encounter a logical argument for immunity.

The brazen bias and corruption involved in this battle is staggering. The Congressional proponents of retroactive immunity, like Democrat Jay Rockefeller, are recipients of large campaign contributions from telecommunications companies. AT&T and Verizon are, for all intents and purposes, buying their way out of our legal system.

If Americans allow this to happen, we will have destroyed the idea that there is one system of justice for all. Instead, while the little people battle our way through the courts, there will be free reign for friends of the President and those who can lavish Congressmen with millions.

Keep reading for a brief history of the subject of retroactive immunity:
Before 9/11, the Bush administration’s NSA approached major telecommunications companies about new surveillance partnerships. In return for large amounts of money, telecoms, like AT&T and Verizon, granted access to their data and voice networks to the government. This access was not subject to the oversight of the secret FISA court established in the wake of Nixon’s domestic spying excesses.

Fast forward to a few years later. The NSA program’s existence was leaked and lawsuits are promptly filed against the telecoms for violating FISA and customer privacy laws. Just as promptly, 9/11 and possible future terrorist attacks are invoked as reasons for protecting the telecoms and the Bush administration from the scrutiny of the law.

Fast forward again to the end of last year. The Bush administration and congressional allies (including Democrat’s Harry Reid and Jay Rockefeller) of the telecommunications companies fashion an update to our domestic surveillance laws that would grant immunity to telecoms like AT&T and Verizon from the ongoing lawsuits into their possibly illegal activity. With the ardent support of bloggers like Glenn Greenwald, Democrats Chris Dodd and Russ Feingold have been leading the charge against the immunity legislation.

Check this post from Glenn Greenwald for the latest (Jan. 26, 2007) on this issue.

Flickr photo from lawgeek

6 Comments

  1. Cameron

    Couldn’t it also be that these companies were put into a no-win situation? Imagine you’re the CEO of one and you get a call from the NSA saying they need you, yes you, to serve your country. Considering what happens to individuals who anger the federal government, of course you’d agree to it.

    I’m not saying that’s necessarily how it went down, but just the fact that they helped out with it doesn’t mean they’re guilty as sin.

  2. Chris

    Cameron,
    That argument has been brought up in defense of the telecoms as well. I’m receptive to the idea that corporations could act patriotically, and perhaps there should be some protection for those corporations in times of crisis. Also, I know the legality of these programs hasn’t been determined, so I can’t really say they are guilty of anything, even if I do think all the signs point to yes.

    However, granting immunity takes away the possibility that they might be guilty. And granting immunity because they acted patriotically, ignored a few important facts:

    a) QWEST refused to comply with the goverment’s program
    b) The telecoms are making large amounts of money from these programs
    c) The program wasn’t started in response to 9/11 nor did it last just a few days/weeks or months in response to a crisis. It’s gone on for years.

  3. Ian

    “If Americans allow this to happen, we will have destroyed the idea that there is one system of justice for all.”

    That statement comes off as incredibly naive. You think that this one event will have destroyed the idea? Not the hundreds before it? The idea still exists?

  4. Chris

    In the sense that this is a point of no-return, I think what I said is true.

  5. Ian

    OK, in recent memory: The Scooter Libby pardon, the illegal wiretaps, Alberto Gonzalez, Bill Clinton, etc etc. I mean, just look at the kind of prisons CEO’s get sent to and the kind that average Americans get sent to. The divide in the justice system and the notion that money and power can make it work for you has been around a lot longer than just recently.

  6. Chris

    Yeah, but at least there was outrage. Think of what took down Nixon. That stuff is child’s play compared to what is going on these days.

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] during the Nixon era, but I don’t think it’s hyperbole to make that case. As I said in my last post on this issue “Congressional proponents of retroactive immunity, like Democrat Jay Rockefeller, are […]

  2. […] (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) who aided the Bush administration in illegally spying on us. (Read my explanation of the telecom immunity issue here and/or check out this scathing NY Times […]

  3. […] that the Democrats will finally cave on granting immunity to telecoms that aided Bush in his illegal domestic spying program: Democrats are about to institutionalize a proposition that has been rejected since the Nuremberg […]

  4. […] At the center of the flap between Greenwald and Olbermann was Obama’s reversal of his hardline stance on FISA/Telecom immunity. […]