telecom immunity

The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to broadly expand the surveillance powers of the government. Most notably, the legislation will give retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that had cooperated with the administration, giving them access to the private communications of American citizens, without so much as a warrant. I’m proud to say that both of our Michigan Senators voted against the bill. It’s also worth noting that while Barack Obama voted to strip the provision concerning telecom immunity from the bill, both Hillary Clinton and John McCain conveniently missed the vote altogether. If you’d like to see how your elected representative voted, you can check here… And here’s a clip from an email I just received from Michigan Senator Carl Levin:

…Retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies is not fair. It is not wise. And it is not necessary.

That’s why yesterday I voted against the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act.

The Senate had a number of opportunities to amend the FISA law and ensure that American citizens who were harmed by unlawful collection of their personal information could have their day in court. Unfortunately, all of these amendments were rejected.

Make no mistake, I supported the bipartisan agreement that provided the Intelligence Community the authority it needs to collect intelligence information on suspected terrorists. The collection of that intelligence is important to our national security and merits congressional support.

However, I could not support the section of the FISA legislation that granted retroactive immunity for telecommunications providers who disclosed communications and other confidential information about their customers at the behest of government officials.

The telecommunications providers did this despite a law specifically making it illegal to do so. Additionally, retroactive immunity would require dismissal of lawsuits by anyone who was the victim of illegal interception and disclosure of their communications.

It is my hope that the Senate will have another opportunity to consider this legislation and eliminate unfair, unwise, unnecessary retroactive immunity provisions following conference with the House of Representatives…

So, here’s a question for you… How is it that with American voters overwhelmingly against this legislation, and a Democratic majority in the Senate, we allowed the Bush administration to claim this huge victory? You don’t suppose it might have something to do with money, do you?

How pathetic is it that we can muster these huge, brilliant public demonstrations against Scientology, but we can’t get up the gumption to surround the White House and show that we’ve had enough of getting fucked?

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  1. egpenet
    Posted February 13, 2008 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    The FISA Act is clear and can be used to do everything we need to do to gather necessary intelligence.

    Retroactive immunity for the telecoms, who provided private communications information to the government is wrong. It’s KGB stuff and should be civily prosecuted.

  2. mark
    Posted February 13, 2008 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Two of the links in this post were gotten from this guy. If you’ve got time, you should check out his article. It’s much better than mine.

    And, I know that the Scientology demonstration I linked to was in England. Other ones in the recent campaign have taken place here in the States, I just liked this English guy’s coverage better… And I think they’ve hit on the secret. You need to make these demonstrations fun. The Yippies were really on to something. Once some realizes that you can Rick Roll the White House we’ll see demonstrations grow.

  3. Lil Steven
    Posted February 14, 2008 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    So the bill wasn’t for Telcom Inpenetrability? Are there still no laws that make it illegal to fuck your telephones?

  4. BunkoBob
    Posted February 14, 2008 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    How powerful interest override public interest in politics:

    1) Opposition is marginalized.

    2) Those who can not be effectively marginalized are targeted for extortion for cases in which that is an option.

    3) Where extortion is not an effective option, bribes are devised and offered.

    4) When initial bribes aren’t accepted, pressure is added as additional incentives may be negotiated.

    5) To those who are not swayed by pressure and bribes, direct threats are made.

    6) In the rare occasion that there is still defiance in the face of these threats, an individual is chosen against which a threat is carried out. An example is made of the individual and this is used against others still in defiance, returning back to levels 4 and 5.

    7) Where opposition is formidable but inferior in strength, targeted strikes are carried out against key players. This is done with the goal of reducing the situation to one where levels 4 and 5 are fully sufficient.

    8) Where targeted strikes fail, backfire, or are too numerous to effectively execute, overt action is necessary. This could mean martial law or civil war if opposition is comparable in strength.
    9) In situations where opposition is superior in strength and/or position, a completely different set of tactics are used, which are of an insurgent nature.

    With regard to the telecom immunity vote yesterday, I’d say we never got past level 3 or 4. There might have been level 5 activity, but who knows. Your guess is as good as mine.

  5. Publius
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Why shouldn’t the telecom’s have immunity? The government tells them to do something and they did it. Should they be held liable for following the law? I’m also glad that the Democratic candidates voted against this bill. It will be easier to show the differences between them an the Republicans. The government isn’t listening to conversations between random citizens for their entertainment value. They are trying to prevent terroristic attacks.

  6. elviscostello
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Publius…If our safety is paramount with this act, why is the Bush Adminstration willing to veto a bill, if it doesn’t include Telecom Immunity? If people will die if it doesn’t pass, why demand Telecom Immunity? Looks to me like Bush is putting the Corporations above the safety of the public.

  7. Miss the Mark
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    Publius, I think you miss the point. The telcos broke the law. You seem to think, as the President does, that when the administration does something, that’s the law. It’s not. If an administration official came into your home and asked you to shoot your wife, it would still be illegal. That’s what happened here. The Telcos knew what they were doing was wrong, and against the law, and they did it anyway because it was expedient. (One telco did not. I think it may have been Quest.) And the government didn’t just listen in to the calls of suspected terrorists. It was much more broad than that.

  8. Meta
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    See also Olbermann’s broadcast last night:

  9. PuffBall
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 4:39 pm | Permalink


    Here are two simple questions I know you won’t answer:

    How many calls have been bugged?

    How many of these were terrorists?

  10. egpenet
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Publius … when the telecoms follow the current law under the FISA, they cannot be prosecuted. They ARE protected.

    What the new Bush variation covers is freedom from prosecution under “warrantless” surveillance. That’s a crime under current law, and should REMAIN a crime. Getting a FISA warrant beforee/after is no big deal.

  11. egpenet
    Posted February 15, 2008 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    By the way … Billary and McPain were absent, yet Obama found the time to vote against the immunity provision for the telecoms/telcos.

    Bush, giving up his trip to Africa to fight for this FISA amendment bill, is like someone from Warren Michigan giving up a picnic at Belle Isle to fry up his weiners at the polluted shores of Metropolitan Beach.

  12. Posted February 16, 2008 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    So, what confused me, in tring to figure out how my Senators voted, is the fact that there are two relevant votes here. One was on the proposed amendment to remove immunity from the proposed bill, which failed, and the other was on passage of the bill, which still included immunity.

    According to, Stabenow apparently voted against removing immunity, meaning that she voted for telco immunity, but then voted against the full bill. What’s up with that? Supporting the worst part of the bill, but then voting against the whole thing? Was she trying to poison pill the bill with the immunity provision, and then failed? Trying to play both sides by helping the telcos keep immunity, but then voting against the whole bill so that she could say she was against it? Is there a possible explanation that isn’t completely political?

  13. mark
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I think it’s just to confuse us, the voters, but maybe I’m too cynical.

    It’s also my understanding that Obama, while voting against phone company immunity, didn’t vote on the entire bill one way or the other. I still give him some credit for that, however. Hillary and McCain didn’t vote on either.

  14. mark
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Stabenow also voted for the Military Commission Act. That’s all I need to know come election time.

  15. egpenet
    Posted February 16, 2008 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    A close examination of the last decade of economics in Michigan … combined with our own misinformed ideas about taxes and term limits … should give us no wonder why we are in the mess we are in here in Michigan.

    Our best and brightest (Levins, Conyers, et. al.) have no real seniority power in Congress, and we are left at the mercy of the Stabenevers, Dangels, Billarys and McPains.

    Aside from his real lack of national experience, I would vote for a social-democrat like Obama. What I also don’t know what kind of a government (cabinet, administrative team) he would put together. If it includes the Rangels, OK … but if we take steps backward with the likes of the Rev. Dr. Jesse Jackson … I fear we’ll get nowhere.

    It’s time for a new generation. I’d like it if the city of Clinton Michigan and Chelsea Michigan would change their names to Southwest Ann Arbor and West Ann Arbor, respectively. I’d really like to be DONE with any references to Billary in Michigan.

  16. Posted February 18, 2008 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    Publius says: “Why shouldn’t the telecom’s have immunity? The government tells them to do something and they did it. Should they be held liable for following the law?”

    But they DIDN’T follow the law. The gov’t broke the law when it asked telecoms to eavesdrop on the govt’s behalf, and the telecoms broke the law by agreeing to. If we immunize co-conspirators merely because they are conspiring with governmental officials or law enforcement officers, then the law is meaningless.

    If a police officer asks me to launder drug money for him, is it legal since law enforcement is asking me to? Of course not. If a judge asks me for money to rule a certain way in a case, is it legal because an elected official is doing the requesting? Of course not.

    Any gov’t officials who requested that telecoms violate the law should be held accountable, just as the telecoms should be held accountable for failing to refuse. In reality, telecoms didn’t even need to refuse — all they needed to do was require that the law enforcement officer or gov’t official provide a warrant. They didn’t, and they shouldn’t be immunized for their own active participation in these crimes.

  17. Posted June 23, 2008 at 1:07 am | Permalink

    Repeal FISA is now a day old. We have seven bloggers with at least one more in the works and have been visited by 380 unique viewers. Other sites have placed us on their links and people are posting about us independently.

    Anyone who wants to is welcome to sign up and become a Poster. The purpose of the blog is to organize a drive to repeal the FISA laws and all laws that pardon or give immunity from prosecution anyone who has violated the Constitution during the Bush Administration.

    If you have not seen the site you please have a look. If you have and have not yet decided to become a fellow blogger, please do. If you have become a Poster please write something about FISA or something related as soon as possible. We need to generate more content so we will create some excitement and momentum to achieve the imperative goal of ridding our Nation of illegal and Unconstitutional laws.

    If you have a blog already and you become a poster we will link to your site.

    This site belongs to all of us. Say what you want and even better do what you want to see done.

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