Congress Leaves Out Telco Immunity (For Now)
There may be hope yet for the idea that our government actually works for us. Two bills, one in the House, and one in the Senate Judiciary Committee, passed without giving blanket retroactive immunity to telephone companies that willingly aided the Bush Administration in illegally spying on the American people.
"For now," though, seems to be the phrase on which everything teeters. Amendments could be added on the Senate floor, and both could be vetoed by the President, who has promised to do so.
It hasn’t been all party-line, like one might imagine. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Cal.) voted in favor of immunity, while Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) argued the telephone companies "deserve our thanks" for spying on us and breaking the law.
Senator Alen Specter (R-PA) offered a "compromise" at one point that would substitute the government for the telecoms in court. But these actions to rob the American people of their ability to hold companies and their government accountable are rather moot.
Whether or not one agrees the wiretapping and intercepting of Internet traffic was justified (or even legal), the people should not be robbed of their right to sue and have this settled in court.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the organization heading up one of a dozen class action suits waiting to heard, cheered the representatives that held up the rights of the public.
"We are pleased that the House and a majority of the Judiciary Committee’s members have signaled that they want Americans to have their day in court," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston.
"The fight isn’t over yet, however. We look forward to working with Senators Leahy, Specter, and Feingold and other lawmakers in both chambers of Congress to make sure that the bill eventually sent to the president allows the people’s lawsuits to go forward."