No Telecom Wiretap Immunity

Many of us have come to expect our government violate civil rights in secrecy.  When these issues are exposed, there’s rarely any intelligent response or explanation.  In the past, violations like this would have been major scandals.  But against the backdrop of our current war and the many other crimes committed by the Bush Administration, they seem to fade into the background.  Many companies have also participated with the government when they had the legal resources to fight against it.  Wiretapping is one such issue. 

Ars Technica reports on the Restore Act, which recently passed the House of Representatives without providing immunity to the telecom companies that assisted our government in violating civil liberties and privacy assurances. From the article titled House passes Restore Act with no telecom immunity provision:

Critics of the NSA’s wiretapping program argue that retroactive immunity grants would elevate the companies above the rule of law and block efforts to hold the telecoms and the government accountable for past misdeeds. Congress has opted not to compel the telecommunications companies to reveal the scope of their involvement with teh NSA program and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has declined requests from privacy groups to evaluate whether or not the telecommunications companies have violated the law by supplying data to the NSA. Many critics of the program believe that the court system is the only venue left where the details of the matter can be brought to light.

The Bush administration claims that permitting litigation against the companies would risk exposing too many details about the program. Bush has vowed to veto any surveillance reform bill that does not include immunity grants.

It seems unlikely to me that this legislation will ultimately go into effect as-is.  Republicans will do everything they can to protect telecom companies (and the lobbyists that fund their reelection), even at the expense of justice.  Still, it’s good to see at least some attempt at maintaining accountability.  Now if we could only do the same about falsified military intelligence, misleading the public, and advocating torture…


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