Senate Immunizes Warrantless Wiretapping

February 14, 2008 | | Comments Off on Senate Immunizes Warrantless Wiretapping

Jim Webb, John Warner, and a supermajority of the Senate (68-29), just sold you out. The Senate just passed a bill which would excuse the telecommunications companies for violating the rights that same Senate conferred upon you. Make no mistake, there hasn’t been the slightest suggestion that what they did was legal. Rather, those supporting retroactive immunity for the telcoms suggest that they are entitled to break the law when they do so for the sake of national security. Specifically, when the government asks them to provide your private communications without even trying to get a warrant from a secret court, or complying with the already expansive powers conferred upon it following 9/11.


But the whole national security angle is a farce — the President vowed to veto the very legislation very that would give him access to FISA warrants unless it contained retroactive immunity for his cronies. It is, sadly, understandable, since the power to act outside the law is more valuable than the authority to act within its constraints, but the fact that every Republican senator was willing to wager (See “Update III”) the ability to obtain legal FISA warrants against the prospect of obtaining retroactive immunity for those who broke FISA should be inexcusable in a country that believe it is governed by laws, not men.

Let’s just get this straight: Congress provides you with certain rights, the President asks various corporations to violate them, you seek to have them enforced, and Congress retroactively extinguishes them. I don’t think the message there is very subtle – “good, patriotic, corporate citizens” don’t concern themselves with the legal rights of their patrons.

I would have been more than happy to see the telcoms go to court and win, at least then I would know the laws Congress passes mean something, but to retroactively pick and choose the circumstances in which the law will apply, well, I just don’t know what to call that except:


(The ACS Blog is a nonpartisan educational organization and does not take policy positions)

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