This One Is Simple
One such plan is to be taken up again now that the US Senate is back in session. I'll let Kos) describe the plan and its consequences [emphasis mine]:
As a partisan, Kos paints this as a Republican plan, but the truth is, as Harper's Scott Horton (h/t Joerg Colberg) tells us, this stands to pass with "the full complicity of the Senate Democratic leadership":
Stuck in traffic on Sept. 11, smoke from the burning Pentagon wafting past, Royce C. Lamberth called the FBI to help get him to his office. As the top judge on the FISA court, Lamberth was in charge of approving government requests for NSA telephone surveillance. By the time the FBI arrived that day, he’d already approved five new wiretaps. “The courts can respond in times of national crisis, and I think the courts have to, and we did,” he explained.
National security agencies got everything they needed on Sept. 11, and on the critical days that followed.
It’s important to remember that fact this week, as Senate Republicans amp up the rhetoric in anticipation of their rekindled efforts to pass a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) amendment granting retroactive amnesty to telecommunication companies that violated federal law — by enabling spying on ordinary Americans’ phone calls — at the behest of the Bush administration.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto gave us an idea of the kind of hyperbole we can expect when he warned, “We’re exactly three weeks away from the date when terrorists can be free to make phone calls without fear of being surveilled by U.S. intelligence agencies.”
A terrific scare tactic, but dead wrong. No one thinks U.S. intelligence agencies should be denied surveillance capabilities.The sole issue is whether outlaw telecommunications companies should be given a pass on their illegal behavior. And since President Bush has threatened to veto any FISA legislation without telco amnesty, it’s clear that he’s more concerned about Verizon’s checkbook than he is about our nation’s security.
There’s no surprise that the White House is fully behind them. The surprise (though not to those who’ve kept a close tab on things) is that the Democratic leadership, which claims to be in opposition or at least neutral, is effectively in cahoots with the forces behind telecom immunity. Here’s what Harry Reid had to say:
[I]f people think they are going to talk this to death, we are going to be in here all night. This is not something we are going to have a silent filibuster on. If someone wants to filibuster this bill, they are going to do it in the openness of the Senate.
As Glenn Greenwald points out, Democrats have been pushing Reid to adopt just this defiant posture with respect to the filibustering Republicans for the past year. He has consistently refused to do so. Evidently his backbone only stiffens when it comes to a showdown over the telecoms and their right to facilitate criminal surveillance of millions of Americans without a warrant.
So, as is my habit, in response to this outrage I tried to imagine myself face-to-face with the distinguished senators in support of this immunity, and what I would say to express why this is a bad idea. Why the notion that the government should be able to grant the telecom companies who knowingly broke the law immunity just because there are terrorists out there the government wants to listen to is ill-conceived and un-American. Why the notion that the government should be able to spy on its own people is a path to totalitarianism. What would I say to these experts with more inside knowledge about the threats to our security that I'll every have? This one is simple.
We don't trust you! We do not trust you with that much information about our private conversations. We don't trust you won't somehow abuse this power. We don't even like you having this power because it will, like any power, corrupt those who have it. So throw your hands up in the air and wail away as much as you like about how the terrorists will surely kill us all if you can't listen in on Aunt May's gossip calls. We're not buying it. The laws are not there for times when it's easy to comply with them. The laws are there for the times when it's difficult to tell right from wrong. The telecom companies knowingly broke the law. They should not be granted immunity. They should have to answer for their crimes.
As the guy in the commercial says "I'm not one of those "call now" types, but...call now." Demand that your senators oppose this legislation and/or support the filibuster.