Thursday, March 6, 2008

Halting Illegal Spying on Americans

This is about as good an argument as you'll find as to why telecom immunity should NOT be granted to companies that participated in the governments illegal spying program, that our Constitution and rule of law should remain sacrosanct, and just how ludicrous the arguments by the administration have become.

It's a good thing this article makes such a great case too, as it was written by Bruce I. Afran and Carl J. Mayer, the two public interest attorneys that filed the first lawsuit against Verizon for illegally turning over customer records to the government.

The article is published on the website They write:

Always willing to go to the mat to defend helpless phone giants, President Bush neglected to mention that the original lawsuits were brought by public interest lawyers like us and the ACLU, not class-action lawyers. This is only one of a series of untruths told by the Bush Administration about the largest domestic spying program in American history. Not least, as reported in this paper in January, the Bush administration took steps to monitor the calls of American citizens before 9/11, not after, as the administration has repeatedly asserted.

The President’s suggestion that it would be “patently unfair” to hold the phone companies liable represents a new low in this administration’s disregard of the law. Congress has long made it a crime for phone carriers to share a subscriber’s phone records with the government without a warrant or subpoena. Both the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the Stored Communications Act provide for a minimum of $1,000 in damages for each violation of a phone subscriber’s privacy rights.


So far, Democratic leaders in the House have refused to join their Senate colleagues in pushing through the Protect America Act that would have expanded the administration’s domestic spying program and given unprecedented immunity to telephone companies. Had Democrats succumbed to White House pressure, dozens of lawsuits would have been dismissed and, along with them, any legal remedy for the one of the most widespread violations of civil liberties by any U.S. administration.

This is one of the most important civil liberties issues of this generation and House Democrats must stand firm. The President sounds increasingly like the fictional, deluded Dr. Strangelove, only instead of bemoaning a “Doomsday Gap” he incoherently warns of an “Intelligence Gap.” If ever there was an opening for Democrats to blockade an isolated and unpopular administration to protect a popular principle, this is it.

Unfortunately, its still very unclear what the House Democrats are going to do. Some have hinted they want to cut a deal, a bad one at that, while others seems to legitimately want to reject giving these companies immunity at all cost, and no matter how hard the fight. This is what the public must demand.

Tell your representative to stand firm and protect our privacy, the constitution, and the rule of law. Take Action here.

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