Congress about to grant immunity to phone companies for no-warrant wiretaps


Sadly, I must report that after our initial success in getting the members of the House to not grant immunity to telcos who participated in the illegal warrentless wiretap program which we at the EFF are suing over, the attempt to join the Senate bill (which grants immunity) to the House bill has, by reports, resulted in a so-called compromise that effectively grants the immunity.

I have written earlier about this issue and asked you to contact your members of congress, particularly the House and the House leadership about this issue, so now I must do it one last time.

It disturbs me that house members got the issue the first time, but that conservative "blue dog" democrats are bolting and going to President Bush's side. The White House arguments make no sense -- if the programs were not illegal, no immunity is needed, and since the new bills make the programs legal, the companies will have no fear of complying with new orders under the new law. The only activity these lawsuits should chill would be illegal activity. It's like the White House is saying, "If they don't get immunity, they will be scared to break the law when we ask them to again."


The solution is simple. When the White House comes calling and asks you to break the law, once it's not an emergency, you should say, "Why don't we clear this up before a judge?" That's what EFF is doing now, 7 years later. Asking a judge to look it over, and see if it's legal. Should have been done long ago, but certainly shouldn't be stopped now.

Call your members of congress. Tell them you care about the rule of law and the constitution, and not to grant immunity, in particular this so-called compromise which still grants immunity as long as the White House promised it was all legal.

You can get the contact information for your member at the EFF Action Center

Update: Damn. Even Obama came out and endorsed the "compromise." The supposed "compromise" says that as long as the administration swears that they told the phone companies that it's legal, it's legal. Gee, what are the odds that's going to happen? How can Obama and the rest of the Democratic leadership side with the President like this? Where are their spines? Obama says he wants to fight in the Senate to remove the immunity, but it's sadly too late there, and he has to know that, unless he goes all out with his leadership power. He could have done much more earlier in the week by telling Democrats to not support immunity, but he didn't.


Thanks for all the hard work on this, Brad. You fought the good fight. Do we know what things look like in the Senate next week? Is Sen. Dodd still willing to filibuster?

But the fat lady has not finished her song yet.

The Fat Lady has Sung. Sticking your fingers in your ears and humming does not change that.

The best description of why Telecom immunity is a good idea I found on the Plumbbob site. You just cannot rationally argue that the administration failed to connect the dots, while fighting tooth and nail to prevent them from connecting the dots, without appearing to be a nut.

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