The House passed a bill giving retroactive immunity to the telecommunication comanies (telcos) for helping Bush perpetrate the illegal spying on Americans. The Senate is taking up the measure these days. It's about the FISA law that gives the government quick access to any person who is deemed a threat to the US national security.
There's lots of talking points out there--most probably you've heard already--and many Americans don't understand what the issue is. Here it is:
The 4th Amendment to the US Constitution supposedly is in force; it hasn't been changed. If you look closely, this constitutional provision also creates a record of governmental activity, which is necessary for accountability!
The telcos cooperated with the Bush administration--and they knew they were breaking the law. What Bush & Co want to do is not necessarily protect the telcos from lawsuits (from customers whose rights have been violated), but when those cases end up in court, then they will reveal the extend of the illegality perpetrated by the current regime! That's why Congress should not give immunity to the telcos, and, by extension, to this criminal administration!
Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI):
"[Immunity] doesn't simply have the impact of potentially allowing telephone companies to break the law," Feingold said. "It may well prevent us from getting to the core issue, that I've challenged since December 2005, which is the president ran an illegal program I think that was essentially an impeachable offense."
The Senator went on to criticize the Democrats in the House and the Senate who caved in.
Update: Sen. Barack Obama supports this compromise FISA bill, and this is wrong!!! The argument that a future president Obama may criminally prosecute the telcos isn't a good one. We need to know what has happened so the next President can prosecute the law breakers. What was Obama thinking on this one???!!!
Here's a case where progressives argue and debate this issue: Olbermann v. Greenwald. I think it's very important not to keep quiet when a candidate we support makes a big mistake, like this one!
Update 7/1/08: mcjoan on DailyKos unearthed this gem, from former SCOTUS justice Louis Brandeis.
If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means 'to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal' would bring terrible retribution. What a thought, heh?!!