Thursday, October 18, 2007

Democrats cave on telecom immunity bill

This is just disgusting. From The Washington Post:

Senate Democrats and Republicans reached agreement with the Bush administration yesterday on the terms of new legislation to control the federal government's domestic surveillance program, which includes a highly controversial grant of legal immunity to telecommunications companies that have assisted the program, according to congressional sources.

Disclosure of the deal followed a decision by House Democratic leaders to pull a competing version of the measure from the floor because they lacked the votes to prevail over Republican opponents and GOP parliamentary maneuvers.

The collapse marked the first time since Democrats took control of the chamber that a major bill was withdrawn from consideration before a scheduled vote. It was a victory for President Bush, whose aides lobbied heavily against the Democrats' bill, and an embarrassment for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had pushed for the measure's passage.

The draft Senate bill has the support of the intelligence committee's chairman, John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), and Bush's director of national intelligence, Mike McConnell. It will include full immunity for those companies that can demonstrate to a court that they acted pursuant to a legal directive in helping the government with surveillance in the United States.

Such a demonstration, which the bill says could be made in secret, would wipe out a series of pending lawsuits alleging violations of privacy rights by telecommunications companies that provided telephone records, summaries of e-mail traffic and other information to the government after Sept. 11, 2001, without receiving court warrants. Bush had repeatedly threatened to veto any legislation that lacked this provision.

The real victory here for the Bush administration is that it wipes out the civil lawsuits against the telecom companies for providing the phone records to the government without warrants. The danger for the Bush White House is that had these lawsuits continued through the courts, the details regarding the telecom industry's cooperation with the illegal domestic spying program would have been publicly revealed. In other words, more of this Bush spying program would been revealed, which the Bush administration wants to keep secret. This immunity program is another CYA for the Bush administration to keep this illegal domestic spying operation secret from the American public.

And the Democrats caved in--AGAIN!

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