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US House Rejects Telecom Amnesty 614

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the some-no-votes-just-because-it-wasn't-firm-enough dept.
The US House has just approved a new bill that rejects the retroactive immunity to telecommunication businesses and denies most of the new powers for the US President to spy on citizens without a warrant. "As impressive as the House vote itself was, more impressive still was the floor debate which preceded it. I can't recall ever watching a debate on the floor of either House of Congress that I found even remotely impressive -- until today. One Democrat after the next -- of all stripes -- delivered impassioned, defiant speeches in defense of the rule of law, oversight on presidential eavesdropping, and safeguards on government spying. They swatted away the GOP's fear-mongering claims with the dismissive contempt such tactics deserve, rejecting the principle that has predominated political debate in this country since 9/11: that the threat of the Terrorists means we must live under the rule of an omnipotent President and a dismantled constitutional framework."
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US House Rejects Telecom Amnesty

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  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:32PM (#22755508) Homepage Journal
    That someone with a D after their name grows a package and stands up for something. If only it had happened several years prior as well...
    • by Sorthum (123064) on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:35PM (#22755536) Homepage
      Forget the Democratic slur-- it's about time ANYBODY in Washington stood up for something that doesn't involve systematically stripping our rights from us. Well played, House.
      • by Harmonious Botch (921977) * on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:38PM (#22755562) Homepage Journal
        This is separation of powers at work, just like the founding fathers intended. Even if they don't really believe the ideals of freedom of speech, rule of law, no unreasonable searches, etc, they are supporting them because they don't want the president to be stronger than they are.
        • by TubeSteak (669689) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:28PM (#22755976) Journal

          This is separation of powers at work, just like the founding fathers intended.
          Except the powers so far seem to be Democrat versus Republican, a duopoly which the founding fathers warned of and did not want.
          • by lazy_nihilist (1220868) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @01:04AM (#22757750)
            What is with the US obsession with "founding fathers"?
            I agree that they were bright thinkers of their time, but surely they can't have got EVERYTHING right. For starters, they didn't even let women and black people vote.
            So instead of saying founding father this and founding father that, why not think for yourselves what is right for THIS age and time.
            • by Hucko (998827) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @01:28AM (#22757836)
              Well, the Founding Fathers would have argued that just because something is old, it doesn't mean it is wrong. After all, the Founding Fathers were experts of their time at new stuff, but they implemented a lot of old stuff anyway.
            • by Moridineas (213502) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @02:08AM (#22757966) Journal

              So instead of saying founding father this and founding father that, why not think for yourselves what is right for THIS age and time.
              To think that Americans do otherwise is sheer ignorance. The founding fathers are remembered because they got so much right--they designed a system that has survived 200+ years with very few changes. Nobody--originalists included--act or think the way you seem to think they do. While designing the first modern political system from the ground up, the founders and great thinkers of the period had many debates, wrote much, spoke much, and thought much. It would be foolish in the extreme to toss away an ENTIRE body of knowledge and thinking because it does not fit the intellectual trends of a moment (nihilist eh? ;-) In a situation like this, the previous poster is pointing out a perfect example of a problem that Washington warned of. Nobody is suggesting that we should keep a static society from the late 18th century, rather we should remember the ideals upon which the entire American society was founded, and be mindful of the past.

              You know the old statement--those who forget history are doomed to repeat it?
            • by thanatos_x (1086171) on Saturday March 15, 2008 @09:53AM (#22759210)
              Not to put the founding fathers on a higher pedestal than they deserve, but you make a few illogical conclusions...

              The colonies back then lacked any strong form of government. The articles of confederation were quite horrible from the perspective that none of the states wanted to help out other states; they each viewed themselves are independent entities. I'm not an expert, but i suspect the states under the articles loosely resemble the EU, which works fine - except that it was built on top strong governments that already worked. Clearly something needed to change, or the US wouldn't exist.

              From this they made the constitution, and the current form of government. Perfect? Hardly. There were numerous compromises made, some of which the founding fathers hated. For example:

              "In 1784 the provision banning slavery was narrowly defeated. Had one representative (John Beatty of New Jersey), sick and confined to his lodging, been present, the vote would have been different. "Thus," Jefferson later reflected, "we see the fate of millions unborn hanging on the tongue of one man, and heaven was silent in that awful moment.""

              The problem was that they faced a deadline, and they knew there were differences between what they wanted and what the states would accept. They chose to abandon idealism as little as possible, but did abandon it for the sake of getting something that would work. Getting 80% of what they wanted was better than chaos and perhaps foreign rule. However the fact that the document has held up remarkably well for over 225 years is impressive. Judge them how you want, however the men did have vision. Whether they saw forward into a future where things completely unimaginable could happen, or they simply looked into human nature and governments and attempted to provide a framework to allow no man undue influence over the actions of another, I cannot fully say. They may have gotten lucky, and ourselves as well in the process.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Scrameustache (459504)

        Forget the Democratic slur
        The slur is on the R, we don't expect THEM to value freedom, but the Ds are supposed to human.
        They've been do-nothings lately though, so everyone sucks.
        • by Original Replica (908688) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:35PM (#22756028) Journal
          The slur is on the R, we don't expect THEM to value freedom

          Before the Neo-Cons, there was a time when the Republican party was actually conservative."Conservatism in the United States comprises a constellation of political ideologies including fiscal conservatism, free market or economic liberalism, social conservatism, libertarianism, bioconservatism and religious conservatism, as well as support for a strong military, small government, and states' rights." [wikipedia.org] About the only aspects they still have from that old ideology is their love of a strong military, and religious conservatism.
      • by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:11PM (#22755834) Journal
        It's about goddamned time that Congress started doing it's job. It's supposed to be a balance to the powers of the Executive, it's supposed to be an independent *legislative* branch of government, but for the last seven years have simply let the Executive do whatever it wanted, and acted as a rubber stamp to what amounted to a series of Presidential decrees.

        Of course, the sad part is that come November, there will probably be a Democrat president and a Democrat-dominated Congress, and we'll see the same partisan lineups which means the next President gets to rule by decree.

        Washington was right. Parties are bad things.
    • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:37PM (#22755556) Homepage Journal
      Being in the miority during those years might ahve ahd something to do with it, as well as trusting what the president had said about WMDs.

      At that time, it wasn't unreasonable to believe the president. Of course, now that we know he lied, he should be tossed out, perferable on the last day in office, so he still gets it noted in the history books, but Cheney has no time to do anything else.

      hmm, or maybe do it sooner, and then toss Cheney out for lying as well, preferably on the same day.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ArcherB (796902) *

        Being in the miority during those years might ahve ahd something to do with it, as well as trusting what our intelligence community had said about WMDs.

        At that time, it wasn't unreasonable to believe our intelligence data. Of course, now that we know they were wrong, they should given the resources to do a better job next time, preferably a better budget more power to operate without the ACLU breathing down their necks demanding to know every single operation that is ongoing.

        There, made it true for ya and removed the political rhetoric.

        • by Cassius Corodes (1084513) on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:58PM (#22755704)
          What is the problem that some Americans have with the ACLU? Its an organization dedicated to protecting the constitution... to me it would seem like hating it makes about as much sense as hating kittens.
          • by techno-vampire (666512) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:08PM (#22755804) Homepage
            That's what it started out as. Now, it's an organization dedicated to defending those parts of the Constitution it approves of and those interpretations that match its agenda. The ACLU has made it quite plain a number of times that it will not, under any circumstances defend the Second Amendment. As long as that's its position, I, among many others, want nothing to do with it.
            • by SoupGuru (723634) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:32PM (#22755992)
              I was under the impression that the ACLU stayed away from 2nd Amendment issues because there are many other organization that will step in should the situation arise. The NRA being one of them.
            • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:32PM (#22755996)

              That's what it started out as. Now, it's an organization dedicated to defending those parts of the Constitution it approves of and those interpretations that match its agenda. The ACLU has made it quite plain a number of times that it will not, under any circumstances defend the Second Amendment. As long as that's its position, I, among many others, want nothing to do with it.
              Time for you to start supporting the ACLU then. [nytimes.com]

              There is only so much money to go around and the NRA - which only cares about 2nd amendment issues - has an order of magnitude more funding than the ACLU does. Do you refuse to support the NRA because they won't take on other civil rights cases?
            • ACLU is biased? (Score:5, Insightful)

              by GeekZilla (398185) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:44PM (#22756110)

              I am not sure how you can claim being neutral on the Second Amendment constitutes the ACLU as being an "organization dedicated to defending those parts of the Constitution it approves of and those interpretations that match its agenda." They clearly state their position here (http://www.aclu.org/police/gen/14523res20020304.html). Their position statement follows:

              ACLU POLICY

              "The ACLU agrees with the Supreme Court's long-standing interpretation of the Second Amendment [as set forth in the 1939 case, U.S. v. Miller] that the individual's right to bear arms applies only to the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia. Except for lawful police and military purposes, the possession of weapons by individuals is not constitutionally protected. Therefore, there is no constitutional impediment to the regulation of firearms." -- Policy #47

              Now, not being an expert on Supreme Court rulings, I wonder if there are later cases where the opinion of the court was different. The case the ACLU references is from 1939.

              I have heard arguments that feel the definition of a "militia" is not specifically spelled out in the 2nd Amendment and is open to interpretation and that therefore what the founding fathers meant when writing about a "well regulated militia" might mean something more/different than what the ACLU interprets it to mean.

              "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, ..."

              "Keep and bear arms"-If they did mean specifically "citizens" or "individuals" do you think the founding fathers meant ALL types of arms? It was pretty limited back then...cannons, pistols, rifles, swords, so maybe at that time they did. If they meant all types of arms then, do you think that would be appropriate now? There are quite a few people I can think of that don't really need to be carrying around grenades or rockets. :) My ex-wife is one example.

              If they did mean individuals and arms in general and not specifically "small arms" and non-automatic weapons, then there is a constitutional right for individuals to actually own those types of weapons and where can I get mine?

              It all comes down to trying to figure out what people 225+ years ago meant when they said "militia" and "arms". I guess that's why they made the Supreme Court.

              Oops! Sorry. I included two different topics. I went from "The ACLU is not choosing to only promote it's own agenda" to a discussion on what the founding fathers meant by "militia" and "arms". My mind tends to wander as the caffeine wears off in the evening.

              • Re:ACLU is biased? (Score:5, Insightful)

                by AJWM (19027) on Friday March 14, 2008 @09:05PM (#22756628) Homepage
                US vs Miller was about the defendant having a sawed-off shotgun (on which the appropriate firearms tax had not been paid). The Supreme Court agreed with the US attorney (the defendants were not present or represented at the Supreme Court hearing) that a sawed-off shotgun is not a military weapon (they were wrong, but evidence to the contrary was not presented at trial or appeal), and so not covered by the 2nd Amendment.

                By this logic, bans or restrictions on assault rifles and machine guns clearly do violate the 2nd Amendment, as they are clearly intended for military (and hence militia) use. (The court agreed with the general definition of "militia" as "all able-bodied males", not members of regular forces.)

                US vs Miller is one of those bad decisions in which both sides can find something to back up their claims. The ACLU claiming that it settles the point is complete cop-out.

              • Re:ACLU is biased? (Score:4, Insightful)

                by HappyEngineer (888000) on Friday March 14, 2008 @10:19PM (#22757070) Homepage
                I broadly agree with what you're saying, but the following isn't right:

                If they meant all types of arms then, do you think that would be appropriate now?

                We shouldn't modify the meaning of the constitution based on what we think the founders would likely say about conditions today. If they meant all weapons then all weapons should be legal. If you don't want people carrying nukes around then the constitution should be modified to explicitly make exceptions for weapons that have extreme destructive power. I don't want individuals to have legal access to nukes, but we really should make an amendment to assert that desire.

                Surely it would not be hard to pass an anti-personal-nuke amendment. If the supreme court didn't go around making reasonable assumptions about what the founders would have wanted then the constitution would end up reflecting what the law actually is and we wouldn't have to pick presidents based on whether they'll pick supreme court justices that we agree with.

                Of course, we'd still have to pick presidents who would pick justices who treated the law with respect (which certainly hasn't happened during the last two presidential elections, so perhaps that's a pipe dream).
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by muridae (966931)
                Will you, at the least, quote the whole Second Amendment?

                A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

                Now, why are 'the People' of the Second Amendment any different from 'the People' anywhere else?

                Personally, I think it does mean all people and all weapons. I don't think the founding fathers expecting anything like nuclear weapons, but even those could be removed from citizens by an amendment instead of just

              • Re:ACLU is biased? (Score:5, Informative)

                by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday March 14, 2008 @11:56PM (#22757530) Homepage Journal
                I have heard arguments that feel the definition of a "militia" is not specifically spelled out in the 2nd Amendment and is open to interpretation and that therefore what the founding fathers meant when writing about a "well regulated militia" might mean something more/different than what the ACLU interprets it to mean.

                Fortunately, the Constitution comes with Cliff's Notes, the Federalist Papers. Here's what Madison had to say on the issue of the Federal military usurping power from the States (to the people of New York, specifically, in Federalist #46):

                Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country, be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government; still it would not be going too far to say, that the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country, does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five or thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence.

                I'm not sure Madison could have been more clear on what a 'militia' meant in 1789, nor what its purpose was.

                For the Supreme Court or the ACLU to ignore the relevant historical context is simply statist activism in disguise.

                "Keep and bear arms"-If they did mean specifically "citizens" or "individuals" do you think the founding fathers meant ALL types of arms? It was pretty limited back then...cannons, pistols, rifles, swords, so maybe at that time they did. If they meant all types of arms then, do you think that would be appropriate now? There are quite a few people I can think of that don't really need to be carrying around grenades or rockets. :) My ex-wife is one example.

                They meant the citizenry should be able to defend itself against an oppressive regime. Certainly small arms would be the most useful for this. WMD's probably not. Grenades, yeah, probably. The calculation is that it's beter for your ex-wife to have a grenade than for her to be put in a prison camp. Sorry, you may have to take one for the team. :)

                If they did mean individuals and arms in general and not specifically "small arms" and non-automatic weapons, then there is a constitutional right for individuals to actually own those types of weapons and where can I get mine?

                Ah, now you're beginning to see the lurch our forbearers have gotten us into!
            • by Ardeaem (625311) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:47PM (#22756136)

              That's what it started out as. Now, it's an organization dedicated to defending those parts of the Constitution it approves of and those interpretations that match its agenda. The ACLU has made it quite plain a number of times that it will not, under any circumstances defend the Second Amendment. As long as that's its position, I, among many others, want nothing to do with it.
              I love how everytime someone wants to disagree with a point of view, their opponent has an "agenda," while the people they agree with have "values." Feel free to disagree with the ACLU about the second amendment, but if you read the text of the Constitution, you understand that the second amendment is difficult to interpret. The courts in the US very rarely side with people who hold to the most pro-gun positions anyway; the ACLU is not the only one who does not interpret the second amendment in the same way that the NRA does.

              The ACLU does tons of good work with free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, Fourth amendment issues, etc, etc, etc. You want nothing to do with the ACLU because of its position on ONE confusingly-worded amendment? That seems extremely shortsighted to me. Strip away your free speech rights, and advocating second amendment rights becomes terrorism. Let's make sure we keep our free speech rights so we can be free to continue to debate what our second amendment rights should be. Support the ACLU, and that will remain possible.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by iamacat (583406)
              ACLU's position [aclu.org] is that private procession of some kinds of arms, such as bazookas, torpedoes, SCUD missiles and nuclear weapons is going to have to be regulated no matter when constitution says to prevent complete annihilation of our civilization. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine resisting a military force backed by corrupt federal government without some of these weapons. Therefore, it's unreasonable to oppose every gun control law.
        • Being in the miority during those years might ahve ahd something to do with it, as well as trusting what the Bush Administration had said about WMDs.

          At that time, it wasn't unreasonable to believe the Bush Administration. Of course, now that we know they were wrong, they should be tried and convicted of treason.

          There, made it true for ya and removed the political rhetoric.

          Fixed it for both of you. 935 [publicintegrity.org].

          • by ArcherB (796902) *

            At that time, it wasn't unreasonable to believe the Bush Administration. Of course, now that we know they were wrong, they should be tried and convicted of treason.
            Sorry, but being wrong is not an impeachable offense, much less treason.
            • Meant to change that to "lied." My bad. You didn't read the link, obviously.
            • by bckrispi (725257) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:42PM (#22756090)

              Sorry, but being wrong is not an impeachable offense, much less treason.
              Sorry, right back at you. A President may be impeached for any "High crime or Misdemeanor". An 18th century synonym of "Misdemeanor" is "an act of incompetence". If being wrong about something winds up costing half a trillion dollars and 4000 American lives isn't incompetence, I don't know what is.
            • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:05PM (#22756260)
              How about violation of his oath of office, to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States"? Or, as he put it, "a fucking piece of paper"?

              "Stop throwing the Constitution in my face; it's just a fucking piece of paper!"
              --Words of Treason from sitting U.S. President George W. Bush
        • by pitchpipe (708843) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:01PM (#22755738)
          How is this informative. If you don't like or disagree with what the person said, respond to their argument. Changing what they said and then saying made it true for ya seems rather childish. If you don't believe the president distorted the evidence provided by the intelligence community, let us know what makes you believe that.
      • by Scrameustache (459504) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:01PM (#22755740) Homepage Journal

        At that time, it wasn't unreasonable to believe the president.
        I'm sorry, but it was unreasonable.

        It wasn't trust based on rational thought, it was based on emotion. Fear, anger, panic.

        I didn't trust him then anymore than I do now, because I do not base the trustworthiness on a person on their position of authority nor their space-time proximity to an awe-inspiring event.
        • by blueg3 (192743) on Friday March 14, 2008 @08:20PM (#22756376)
          Indeed. A lot of people didn't trust him at the time, and a lot of people disagreed with going to war before we even did so. Now, when politicians start up with "if we knew then what we know now..." business, I can't help but think that apparently a lot of people are more well-informed than they.
    • by ArcherB (796902) * on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:37PM (#22755558) Journal

      That someone with a D after their name grows a package and stands up for something. If only it had happened several years prior as well...
      Sounds to me like they just gave a bunch of pretty speeches.

      I haven't read the bill that was passed, but it seems like it's a bunch of the same, minus the telecom immunity. Maybe I'm reading this wrong.. well, take a look. From HERE [myway.com]

      The surveillance law is intended to help the government pursue suspected terrorists by making it easier to eavesdrop on international phone calls and e-mails between foreigners abroad and Americans in the U.S, and remove barriers to collecting purely foreign communications that pass through the United States- for instance, foreign e-mails stored on a server.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KevinIsOwn (618900)
        As long as there is judicial oversight, making it easier to eavesdrop isn't necessarily bad. Remember that it's good to do new things to combat terrorism if they are within the scope of the constitution. I have not had a chance to see the exact changes that this bill proposes, so I will not give my judgment (I know, this is /. so I really should be yelling and screaming).
    • > That someone with a D after their name ... stands up for something

      The problem the Dems have is they rarely act as a team. I am pleased as punch that they chose to come together, on the side of the people, for this issue. The bill of rights has been beaten down time and time again, so this rare display of coherence and competence was very well-placed. Good job, o thee who've adopted the jackass as your symbol. May those who've adopted the jackass as their character be soundly defeated and roundly s
      • May those who've adopted the jackass as their character be soundly defeated and roundly slapped down.


        Can I presume, then, that you're planning on voting for McCain in November?

  • Bill Foster [wikipedia.org] hacked their speech generators!
  • OT (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ArcherB (796902) *

    One Democrat after the next -- of all stripes -- delivered impassioned, defiant speeches in defense of the rule of law, oversight on presidential eavesdropping, and safeguards on government spying.

    All that's well and good, but what does it have to do with telecom immunity? I'm not defending it either way, but when you are debating to decide whether or not to give immunity to telecoms, why bring up congressional oversite of the President? Shouldn't they be debating "oversite of the telecomes"? If your problem is with the Prez, wait until you are debating a bill that limits immunity of the President, not the telecoms. Sorry, but bringing your desire to reign in the Prez during a telecoms debate is

    • by geekoid (135745)
      Becasue the telcom immunity would have protected the office of then president as well. The office of the president has to abide by laws as well, regardless of what the president says.
      This whole thing stems from the current president trying to get more power.

      In other words: This allows for the president to act without oversight.

      Plus, it's politics.

      It is very clear that todays republican party is about being in control of your life.

      It's been going that way since Reagan. No surprise considering the same people
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ArcherB (796902) *

        Becasue the telcom immunity would have protected the office of then president as well.

        How is that?

        Plus, it's politics.

        DING DING DING... we have a winner!

        It is very clear that todays republican party is about being in control of your life.

        I disagree. It seems to me that the Republicans want to know what you doing. The Democrats want to tell you what to do. It's not Republicans telling what kind of car I should drive, what kind of food I can eat and if, when, and where I want to have a cigarette. It's not Republicans telling me what kind of health care I should have and it's not Republicans trying to take away my money to give it to someone else. It's not Republicans who are trying to use

        • Re:OT (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Wonko the Sane (25252) * on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:33PM (#22756004) Journal

          it's not Republicans trying to take away my money to give it to someone else
          That was true at one time. But this current president has expanded entitlements to more people than any other period in history. They just call it by different words. "Tax cut" sounds a lot better to conservatives than "welfare check".

          The "Earned Income Credit" allows for tax refunds in excess of the amount paid in taxes. Call it what you will, but I call a refund amount of >100% welfare.

          If the republicans wanted to run on a platform of "we're going to give cash handouts to millions of people and pay for it by borrowing from the future", then they should have just come out and said that.
        • Re:OT (Score:4, Insightful)

          by SEAL (88488) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:41PM (#22756086)

          It's not Republicans telling what kind of car I should drive, what kind of food I can eat and if, when, and where I want to have a cigarette. It's not Republicans telling me what kind of health care I should have and it's not Republicans trying to take away my money to give it to someone else. It's not Republicans who are trying to use taxes to affect my behavior (carbon and gas taxes) and it's not Republicans who want to put a remote control on my thermostat so they can turn my AC down if THEY think I'm using too much electricity.
          No, they just want to tell you that you can't have an abortion, tell you that you can't be taught the theory of evolution, tell you that you need a national ID card, tell you that your kids and their kids may be in Iraq well into the distant future, and tell you that Uncle Sam can be trusted to monitor your every move.

          You sound much more Libertarian than Republican. The Republican Party in its current format has strayed far, far away from the old model of states' rights and limited government.
        • Re:OT (Score:4, Insightful)

          by lenski (96498) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:48PM (#22756152)

          Becasue the telecom immunity would have protected the office of then president as well.
          How is that?

          The telecoms need only to provide documents showing legal justification for their actions, and they're basically off the hook.

          Guess who doesn't want any investigation of said legal justification?

          take away my money to give it to someone else
          Go live in your libertarian utopia and take your attitude with you. I suggest though that you work out a lot first, as the first person stronger than you will have plenty of fun with you. You will find that everyone eventually meets someone stronger or faster, and without the protection of civilized society, things get seriously uneven seriously quickly. The purpose of taxes and the occasional leg up for people down on their luck is an efficient way to restore their productivity, so they can make net contributions to the society.

          The point of helping people out is to get them productive: it's an investment, not a giveaway. There are times when the investment doesn't work out but by and large, people tend to want to produce.

    • Re:OT (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:44PM (#22755582)
      I disagree. The telecoms' defense amounts to "the president made me do it." If that's a valid defense, then essentially there is no rule of law, just the whim of the king. So which is higher, the president or the law? That's the real question at issue here.
      • by ArcherB (796902) *

        The telecoms' defense amounts to "the president made me do it."
        Then go after the president.
        • Re:OT (Score:5, Insightful)

          by whoever57 (658626) on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:58PM (#22755700) Journal

          The telecoms' defense amounts to "the president made me do it."
          Then go after the president.
          At the risk of invoking Godwin, didn't the Nuremburg trials show once and for all that "I was ordered to do it" is not a valid defense?
          • Re:OT (Score:5, Insightful)

            by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:21PM (#22755918)

            At the risk of invoking Godwin, didn't the Nuremburg trials show once and for all that "I was ordered to do it" is not a valid defense?


            They certainly showed that it wasn't when the orders came from the leadership on the losing side of a war, and the winning side is making the judgements.

    • Re:OT (Score:5, Informative)

      by jb68321 (1123905) on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:49PM (#22755604)
      Hm I suppose you MAY have missed the article that came out (from the Wall Street Journal no less) that talked about a huge NSA spying program, which includes -everyone- in the city of Detroit, everyone they talked to, among millions of other people whose emails, etc got flagged by some NSA program. I'd link but their site requires subscription. The NSA pulled bank, phone, credit card, etc records for millions of innocent individuals and shared them with many other government agencies.

      This type of government-funded, classified-budget project, plus all the other recent revelations about warrant-less wiretapping (demanded by the Bush administration officials on account of their terrorist-finding programs) amounts to a huge case against the Bush administration itself. If the administration had not demanded the info, which is illegal itself thanks to the Constitution, the ISPs would not have had to give up info... not that they had to, and doing so was also illegal IMHO. Anyways you can't possibly say it was only the ISP's fault without acknowledging the government was giving them hell in the meantime.

      http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/n/national_security_agency/index.html?inline=nyt-org [nytimes.com]
      • by ArcherB (796902) *

        This type of government-funded, classified-budget project, plus all the other recent revelations about warrant-less wiretapping (demanded by the Bush administration officials on account of their terrorist-finding programs) amounts to a huge case against the Bush administration itself. If the administration had not demanded the info, which is illegal itself thanks to the Constitution, the ISPs would not have had to give up info... not that they had to, and doing so was also illegal IMHO. Anyways you can't possibly say it was only the ISP's fault without acknowledging the government was giving them hell in the meantime.

        Right, then go after the President, not the ISPs or the telecoms. If the telecoms were "given hell" from the administration if they didn't cooperate, then they should gladly testify against the administration.

        By not giving immunity to the telecoms, you are going to have a bunch of people suing the shit out of them (which we all end up paying for) because they are mad at the president. If you mad at the Prez, go after the Prez!

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by NeutronCowboy (896098)
          If someone is suing the shit out of the telecoms, and the telecoms lose, doesn't that mean that the telecoms shouldn't have done what they did?

          Rule of law ALWAYS applies to everyone. People need to learn that even the president cannot make them perform illegal acts.
    • Re:OT (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DragonWriter (970822) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:07PM (#22755792)

      I'm not defending it either way, but when you are debating to decide whether or not to give immunity to telecoms, why bring up congressional oversite of the President?


      The kind of immunity for the telecoms sought by the Administration would have presented lawsuits against them which, because of governmental immunities, standing issues, and other problems, are pretty the most probable way, if not the only way, that any of the facts necessary to hold the executive accountable are likely to come out in practice.

      It also would encourage large companies to violate the law at the behest of the executive in future cases (and not only in this particular area), by setting the example that such violations would be the subject of retroactive immunity. By encouraging lawbreaking at the behest of the President, it would, therefore, have reduced the degree to which the law served as a practical constraint on executive action.

      So this law, that superficially concerning immunity for telecoms, had a serious impact on the practical accountability of the President to the law, something which Members of Congress unsurprisingly did not miss, and perhaps more surprisingly actually pointed out and acted upon.

  • Yay (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ShedPlant (1041034)
    I'm very pleased to hear this. I'm sure the Democratic congressmen know this will play well in the next election, however: wait and see if they're honest about civil liberties in two to four years time, if they get the White House too and can set the legislative agenda.

    Separation of powers is a good thing; the more conflict between the White House and Capitol Hill, the less the rights and incomes of the American citizenry will be eroded.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iknownuttin (1099999)
      ...the more conflict between the White House and Capitol Hill,...

      Yes!!

      I was talking to someone the other day about the coming elections and I just said that I vote third party but I really want a Republican in the Whitehouse as long as we have a Democrat controlled Congress. Because whenever one party controls the Executive and the Legislative branches of Government, regardless of which party, we get out of control spending, Civil Liberties are trumped upon, ... just horrible Government.

      This person said,

  • Bravo!
  • Maybe their is hope that we the people can defeat the few that benefit to the detriment of the many.

    It is all about awareness and unity.

    Spying and secracy does not really protect National Security.

    The actuality is this spying capability is a threat to national security in that it allows a few people in control to shut down any political opposition.

  • by Original Replica (908688) on Friday March 14, 2008 @06:38PM (#22755560) Journal
    That's great news, but it is somewhat diminished by the Democrats waiting two years to start to do what they where elected for in 2006. I'm glad that "but but the TERRORISTS!" doesn't have so much sway any more.
  • "Why do you hate Freedom?"

    • by twoallbeefpatties (615632) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:02PM (#22755752)

      Bush's reply has been something along the lines of, "There are men and women out there dying in Iraq. We need this bill to pass so that we can go back to making the world safe for our soldiers and our families. So please hurry up and make telephone companies immune from prosecution."

      The major disconnect here has been that Bush has had plenty of opportunity to just sign the bill and go back to listening in on phone conversations. The fact that he has hung the entire bill on the passage of retroactive immunity has made it clear that he's either just fucking around and seriously doesn't care about what the military agenda is, or he's clearly got something to hide involving those phone companies. Either way, I'ma go make a bag of popcorn and wait to see what happens next.

  • "I can't recall ever watching a debate on the floor of either House of Congress that I found even remotely impressive -- until today. One Democrat after the next -- of all stripes -- delivered impassioned, defiant speeches in defense of the rule of law, oversight on presidential eavesdropping, and safeguards on government spying."

    Really? Ever? Do you really think this is the first time that an executive branch was impassionately challenged by a House controlled by an opposing party. This is nothing new nor
  • I reviewed the Declaration of Independence today, and wrote this. I feel it is somewhat relevant. Though there still exists the problem of pushing the bill through the Senate, and then overriding the inevitable veto if this bill were to go through (neither of which is likely), the fact that the House did not just roll over to provide retroactive immunity shows that there is some sense of reason within at least a few of our elected leaders.

    Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established s

  • by MichaelCrawford (610140) on Friday March 14, 2008 @07:06PM (#22755784) Homepage Journal
    This bill has only been passed by the House of Representatives. The Senate has already passed a bill that gives Bush everything he wants. What happens now is that the two bills will be "reconciled" by a conference committee, that will then yield the bill that actually gets passed - or not.

    What You Need To Do Now:

    If you are a US citizen, visit Congress.org [congress.org] and enter your zip code in the Search box to find out who your Representative and Senators are. Then write them a letter urging them to uphold the House's version of the bill in the conference committee.

    Don't bother with email; if you can't write a letter, call them on the phone.

    Emphasize the importance of the Constitution and the rule of law.

    Urge them not to compromise, if the President does veto the final bill. It would be much better not to pass a bill at all than to allow this travesty of justice to continue.

    My letter is going to point out that all the telcos knew they were breaking the law when they committed their crimes. Such criminal acts should be treated as such. IMHO, there shouldn't need to be civil lawsuits filed by those who were spied upon; all of the telco employees involved, as well as all the government officials involved, should be put in prison for a good long time.

    You can't prosecute a sitting president, but what you can do is impeach him, and that's what should happen to Bush.

  • Why are we so concerned about the telcos and their responsibility? How about the people who had them do the eavesdropping in the first place?

    I think we're going after the red cape and not the matador here. We're being distracted away from the actual guilty parties.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ppanon (16583)
      The Bush administration controls the Justice Department and they are blocking prosecution to protect their cronies in the CIA, NSA, and FBI who broke the law. The Democrats are trying to keep the Bush administration from completely shutting the door on prosecutions if the Republicans lose power in 2009. If an honest Justice Department can prosecute the Telcos in 2009, then they can use plea bargains to obtain evidence for prosecutions against the government-employed instigators of the crimes. If not, all t
  • by PPH (736903)

    I read the summary describing "impassioned, defiant speeches" (I didn't read TFA. I don't need another 'free' account).

    Wasn't this session sopposed to be closed [slashdot.org]?

  • I'll try to keep that in mind while I listen to them talk about raising my taxes and taking away my guns.
  • OMG (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DarkProphet (114727) <chadwick_nofx@3. ... ail.com minus pi> on Saturday March 15, 2008 @05:03AM (#22758456)
    Too little, too late. Seven years ago would have been an opportune time to put the administration in its place. We've already allowed them to alienate our inalienable rights, and we've paid them nearly a half a trillion dollars for the privilege. I'm sorry, but 2 blown up buildings, three lost airliners, and ~4000 dead civilians aren't worth the price of my essential liberty or yours. If our loss was tenfold it still would not and could not justify disregard for our civil liberties. And that is to say nothing about the skyrocketing oil prices and the fact that nearly the whole rest of the world hates us. For what? Safety? Security? Its an illusion, and always has been. Remember that, the next time they make you take off your shoes at the airport. Its nothing cabin door locks and a few air marshalls couldn't fix. There is no safety guarantee in life. We all run the risk of something bad happening to us every time we leave our homes for the day. Any day could be the day you don't come home. More Americans die every year of self-induced injuries (alcohol abuse, drug use, smoking, and obesity to name a few), but I don't see a half a trillion dollar initiative to solve THOSE problems. Its a sorry state of affairs when the land of the free is fleeced due to a glorified snipe hunt, and sorrier yet that the whole scheme has been perpetrated by those sworn to faithfully uphold the ideals and best interests of the American people. And sorriest of all is that you and I have done it to ourselves by allowing these criminals to frighten us and rob is of our rights, dignity, and tax dollars in the name of protection against a bogeyman that simply doesn't exist. I am certain that our founding fathers would have some stern worlds on the subject -- oh, well they did, its called the Constitution, but fuck it, we threw that out the window seven years ago. We will get exactly what we deserve. But hey, as long as we have Blu-Ray, American Idol, and Ipods, its all good right?

    In the timeless words of Charlie Brown: Good grief!

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