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House Republicans Renew Push for Telecom Immunity 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the wiretapping-a-dead-horse dept.
CNet is running an update to the controversy over giving telecommunications giants such as AT&T immunity from lawsuits involving the assistance they gave the NSA for illegal wiretaps. Republican leaders are circulating a petition which would force a vote on the bill passed by the Senate but not by the House. Democrats are holding out for a version of the FISA bill which opens the telecoms to prosecution. President Bush still intends to veto any such document. "At a wide-ranging House hearing on Wednesday, FBI Director Robert Mueller again urged passage of a bill that includes immunity for phone companies, arguing that 'uncertainty' among the carriers 'affects our ability to get info as fast and as quickly as we would want.' He admitted, however, that he was not aware of any wiretap requests being denied because of Congress' inaction."
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House Republicans Renew Push for Telecom Immunity

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  • After they enumerate every last thing Bushco did. Sort of like how the prosecutor normally gets something of value for case A in exchange for not pursuing case B, generally as a stepping stone to indictment for a worse offense in case A?

    I don't know what sickens me more, the extent to which Bushco has defiled the rule of law in this country or that they'll most likely succeed in avoiding prosecution by running out the clock.
    • Are our legislators going to let these felons walk away from the Statutory Penalties for their CHOICE to commit Unlawful Surveillance?

      I think *we all* could use that check for $150,000.00.

      And this brings up another question...

      Why are these Republicans so SOFT ON CRIME???
      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @07:02AM (#23180650)

        Why are these Republicans so SOFT ON CRIME???
        Because illicit gains from those crimes make them hard.
        • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I thought it was because they hate our Freedoms.
        • Funny yes, but an important point. If you befriend more corporations and corrupt executives than those who truly care for this country, it won't be long before you adopt their "bend the law to just under the point where they litigate" mindset.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ArcherB (796902)

        I think *we all* could use that check for $150,000.00.
        Just curious. Where do you think all that money would come from? Even if it's not the 150k/person that you want, where do you think the money from any fines would come from?

        I'll even give you a hint... where do TelCo's get their money?
        • by Murrquan (1161441)
          This wouldn't be an issue, except that most of us can't seem to choose who our phone company is. I imagine this is also going to complicate the Net Neutrality issue.
          • This wouldn't be an issue, except that most of us can't seem to choose who our phone company is.

            Most? Voice has plenty of competition, certainly more than high-speed Internet. I can think of six different phone companies that serve a town of 200,000 in the eastern Midwest:

            • Verizon (incumbent local exchange company and mobile phone company)
            • Comcast Digital Voice (cable company)
            • Vonage over Comcast High-Speed Internet (cable company)
            • AT&T (mobile phone company)
            • T-Mobile (mobile phone company)
            • Sprint (mobile phone company)
            • by hedwards (940851)
              That would be an excellent suggestion, if not for the fact that those are also telecoms, and several of them also operate long distance telephone service. And I'm pretty sure that at least a few of those outfits were involved in the whole business in the first place.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Tell you what -- the officers of the company dictated that illegal policy, and considering the phone company's history and how long those guys have been around, they knew damned well what they were doing.

          Take ALL their assets. Bankrupt them, distribute the proceeds, THEN jail the sonzabitches.
          • by ArcherB (796902)

            Tell you what -- the officers of the company dictated that illegal policy, and considering the phone company's history and how long those guys have been around, they knew damned well what they were doing.

            Take ALL their assets. Bankrupt them, distribute the proceeds, THEN jail the sonzabitches.

            First, you can't jail someone in civil court. Next, you can't sue the officers of a incorporated company unless they perform some sort of fraud. That's why companies get incorporated. It makes the company it's own entity.

            Finally, yeah, they knew what they were doing. First, FISA allows for wire taps to happen without a warrant. Next, it is not the job of the telephone company to uphold the Constitution or protect your rights. Their job is to provide you with a dial tone. If you want to go after some

            • First, you can't jail someone in civil court. Next, you can't sue the officers of a incorporated company unless they perform some sort of fraud. That's why companies get incorporated. It makes the company it's own entity.
              What made you leap to the conclusion that I was discussing mere civil penalties? They conspired to violate the 4th amendment. That's a criminal matter, just as if I had helped the police search my neighbor's house by breaking and entering.
              • by ArcherB (796902)

                First, you can't jail someone in civil court. Next, you can't sue the officers of a incorporated company unless they perform some sort of fraud. That's why companies get incorporated. It makes the company it's own entity.

                What made you leap to the conclusion that I was discussing mere civil penalties? They conspired to violate the 4th amendment. That's a criminal matter, just as if I had helped the police search my neighbor's house by breaking and entering.

                That's all fine and good, but that is not what is being debated by Congress here. The immunity is from civil cases, not prosecutorial ones. Besides, it would take Bush's Justice Dept to file the case and I don't see that happening.

                Your beef is with the executive branch, not the telco's.

                • by mikelieman (35628)
                  Actually the beef is with the Crazy Religious Fundamentalists unlawfully hired to RUN the Department of Justice.

                  They're busy spying on all your bank transactions looking for whore-mongers, while violent-felons committing torture and companies unlawfully spying IN VIOLATION OF FISA seem to get a pass.

              • "They conspired to violate the 4th amendment."

                Nope, not true. Unless directed to action by the government, a private entity CANNOT violate the 4th amendment. My understanding is that the telcos already had the information they turned over, so they did not violate the 4th. Now, if it turns out that the telcos were acting at the behest of the government in obtaining without warrant the information they eventually turned over, that would be a violation of the 4th, and none of that evidence could be used in

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Pendersempai (625351)

          I'll even give you a hint... where do TelCo's get their money?

          In this case? Shareholders, ultimately. Telecoms' prices are already set at the profit-maximizing point. If they could make more money by raising prices, they would already have done so.

          The benefit of liability would be that next time a shareholder chose which telecom company to invest in, he'd pick one that made the most credible promises not to spy on its customers, and crime would be deterred.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ArcherB (796902)

            I'll even give you a hint... where do TelCo's get their money?

            In this case? Shareholders, ultimately. Telecoms' prices are already set at the profit-maximizing point. If they could make more money by raising prices, they would already have done so.

            The benefit of liability would be that next time a shareholder chose which telecom company to invest in, he'd pick one that made the most credible promises not to spy on its customers, and crime would be deterred.

            You can't sue the owners of an incorporated company as they are shielded. That's why companies incorporate. You have to sue the company itself as it is its own entity.

            Now, if you can find a telco that allowed wire taps and is a sole proprietorship, then have at it! Good luck in finding one of those.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Pendersempai (625351)

              You can't sue the owners of an incorporated company as they are shielded.

              Yes, I know that. I'm a few steps ahead of you. You sue the corporation; the settlement (and it always settles) comes out of the corporation's treasury, which means the corporation owns fewer assets, which means the stock is less valuable, which means the share price drops, which means people who own the shares just cumulatively lost an amount of money exactly equal to the price of the settlement. In other words, as I said, the shareholders bear the loss.

              The only time shareholders' limited liability mak

        • by mikelieman (35628)
          "Just curious. Where do you think all that money would come from? Even if it's not the 150k/person that you want, where do you think the money from any fines would come from?"

          Since the total fines exceed AT&T's value -- I expect the money would come from the Bankruptcy Auction of their remaining assets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Narpak (961733)
      Maybe if all the people that complained about the indications that the Bush administration has been greedy and unethical actually went out and actively tried to get them indicted. Perhaps then a serious investigation could take place to uncover exactly what has been done by whom; and prosecute any wrong doing.

      However, just venting a bit now and again on forums or to friends or co-workers; is just as bad as ignoring the problem or pretending it doesn't exists. As long as people continue to stick their head
      • by HTH NE1 (675604)

        Maybe if all the people that complained about the indications that the Bush administration has been greedy and unethical actually went out and actively tried to get them indicted.

        You can't indict while he's still in office. The equivalent for a sitting President is impeachment, and Pelosi is the gatekeeper blocking any impeachment attempt [wikipedia.org].

        We need to find the keymaster.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by ArcherB (796902)

      After they enumerate every last thing Bushco did. Sort of like how the prosecutor normally gets something of value for case A in exchange for not pursuing case B, generally as a stepping stone to indictment for a worse offense in case A?

      I don't know what sickens me more, the extent to which Bushco has defiled the rule of law in this country or that they'll most likely succeed in avoiding prosecution by running out the clock.

      The fact that you call the President of the United States "Bushco" tells me that you are too blinded by your own hatred and bigotry to form an honest, open minded opinion. That negates anything you have to say and prevents those who still have the ability to hear and consider both sides of an argument honestly and fairly (aka NOT hate filled bigots) from taking your seriously.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Murrquan (1161441)
        I'd like to tell you you're wrong, but it was the hatred and vitriol I saw on the part of the anti-Bush crowd that kept me from listening to them for a long time.

        Nowadays, I agree with them that he is a criminal, that his behavior is unethical, that he is running the country into the ground and that his war is being waged on behalf of corporate interests. But I try not to badmouth and insult him, because I don't think it's right. And I don't want to turn anyone else away.

        It's hard enough getting people to
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by immcintosh (1089551)

          Nowadays, I agree with them that he is a criminal, that his behavior is unethical, that he is running the country into the ground and that his war is being waged on behalf of corporate interests. But I try not to badmouth and insult him, because I don't think it's right. And I don't want to turn anyone else away.

          He's an unethical criminal who is destroying our country on the behalf of corporate interests... but it's not okay to badmouth him? What kind of twisted world do you live in? If you don't "badmo

          • by Murrquan (1161441)
            Badmouth [wiktionary.org], v.: 1. (informal) To criticize or malign, especially unfairly or spitefully.

            Criticize [wiktionary.org], v.: 1. to evaluate (something), and judge its merits and faults
            2. to find fault (with something)

            When I say I don't think that it's right to badmouth him, I mean that I don't think one ought to insult or deride him. Point out why we should be against his agenda, yes, but not attack his person or spew hatred and vitriol.

            It's that kind of thing that made me equate any criticism of President Bush with "Huh huh,
            • Well, here's another definition:

              Slang. to speak critically and often disloyally of; disparage
              -dictionary.com

              So if we're to split hairs, then I'll claim this definition as a perfectly valid reason to say "badmouthing" him is a-okay. This is actually the definition I've always understood the word as, for that matter.

              That aside, I think "Huh huh, look how he messes up words so much," is a perfectly valid criticism for somebody in Bush's position. He can, at times, be a HORRIBLY incompetent speaker who ha

        • by mOdQuArK! (87332)
          There are good reasons why there are so much hatred & vitriol on the part of anti-Bush folks. What he & his cronies have been doing to the country is much worse in terms of scale of corruption than anything that has been seen in our country in the past. (I can't say worse in magnitude, since parts of the country have certainly been ridiculously corrupt in the past, but the nationwide scale is new.) People who have good self-images about their country tend to react strongly once they realize what's h
          • by Murrquan (1161441)

            It's unfortunate that people like yourself chose to focus on the expressions of outrage as what was wrong with the pissed-off people, rather than actually trying to determine whether there was any real reasons for those expressions of outrage.

            It's unfortunate that their uncivil behavior turned me off to their message.

            If you had allowed yourself to get pissed-off as well, Bush & Co. might have been ousted from office before they had a chance to do much real damage.

            I didn't have the time to get mad at President Bush, because I was too busy being mad at the people who insulted him.

            Not the people who said anything worthwhile. Not the people who contributed to the discussion. Not the people who pointed out his and Cheney's corporate ties, secret plans, and agenda for world dominance. The people who thought that because he was president, it was okay to make fun of anything and everything about

            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by mOdQuArK! (87332)
              So you allowed your emotional reaction to people whose behavior you disliked to override your rational judgement about an important subject. It sounds like you share equal blame for being shortsighted with the people whose behavior was irritating you.
      • "Bushco" refers to the entire bunch of them, and altho "Cheneyco" would probably be more accurate, it doesn't roll off the tongue as easily, and besides, Bush wanted the fancy title, let him have the fancy title.
        • by HTH NE1 (675604)

          altho "Cheneyco" would probably be more accurate, it doesn't roll off the tongue as easily
          That's why it's ChenInc.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by immcintosh (1089551)

        Thank you for an absolutely classic example of the ad hominem fallacy. Clearly there is something wrong with you, therefore there must be something wrong with your argument. Please, attach the argument or position, or remain quiet--attacking the person accomplishes nothing.

        That said, Bush has done much to deserve the vitriol that is so squarely aimed at him, at least in the eyes of many, and on top of that I think you own prejudices have caused you to apparently read WAY too much into something as simpl

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jthill (303417)

        too blinded ... to form an honest, open-minded opinion

        Prejudice is the mother of all traps, sure. Here's the one I fell into:

        In an essay by Ron Suskind [nytimes.com], one of the President's advisors is quoted referring to

        the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence

        as a political advantage for the President.

        I know I'm not alone: when I saw the way he walks and the way he points, every poser alarm in my system started screaming bloody fool.

        As you say, right or wrong, snap judgments convinc

    • by cgenman (325138)
      Perhaps the telcos would be more trusting of your wiretap requests if you didn't have a history of making illegal ones?

      One of many reasons why overreaction to security incidents ultimately reduces our overall security.

  • Actually I kinda like the guy just not his crowd.

    What this sort of vote does is say to the nation, WE ARE COMPLETE SLIME AND ONLY IN IT FOR THE MONEY. This is nothing but a fund raiser vote for the 2012 election.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 24, 2008 @04:08AM (#23180120)
    On Wednesday, a number of Republican leaders, including Lamar Smith (R-Texas), Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.), began circulating what's known as a "discharge" petition

    Lamar Smith -- $679,583 from Communic/Electronics industry [opensecrets.org]
    Peter Hoekstra -- $42,685 from Communic/Electronics industry [opensecrets.org]
    Peter King -- $140,072 from Communic/Electronics industry [opensecrets.org]

    "More than 66 days have passed since House Democrats allowed a key piece of terrorist surveillance legislation to expire--not because they had concerns with the bill, but because they were seemingly more concerned that not enough trial lawyers would be able to file enough expensive and frivolous lawsuits against U.S. telecom firms," Republican whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in a statement.

    Roy Blunt -- $846,327 from Communic/Electronics industry [opensecrets.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      42k is chump change for an election warchest. 650+k on the other hand, is a nice chunk of cash...

      Of course if you want to throw out Hoekstra youre going to have to do what he did to get elected: win the primary, which is where most money is spent in MI2.

      Michigan's 2nd Congressional District includes a large amount of Conservative Christians (Calvinists), and Hoekstra's conservative base in Ottawa county is quite safe for him. It is the reddest county in the nation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Nimey (114278)

      Roy Blunt -- $846,327 from Communic/Electronics industry
      Good to know the price of my "representative", thanks.
    • by cromar (1103585)
      Dammit, Blunt. 'Round where I live we have a lot of bumper-stickered vehicles: "Blunt Trauma" is a very common motto.
    • by timeOday (582209)

      Roy Blunt -- $846,327 from Communic/Electronics industry
      Yeah, but I'm seriously considering writing him a letter! In longhand! Take that, telcos!
  • Most claim to be highly religious, yet they take these actions which seem to be purely unethically motivated. I often wonder how they imagine themselves squaring accepting money from lobbyists, etc with God. "it was a lot of money" seems like a terrible excuse.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Ihlosi (895663)
      I often wonder how they imagine themselves squaring accepting money from lobbyists, etc with God. "it was a lot of money" seems like a terrible excuse.



      Not to mention that Jesus himself supposedly said that you can only serve one lord - money, or God. But then again, they probably read the Bible like they read a novel - read the first couple
      of chapters with great interest, and then skip to the last to see how the story ends.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Nursie (632944)
        Lol.

        The bible is a terrible source of morals/ethics. It's misogynist, spiteful and in some places just plain *weird*.

        OTOH, you're right, it's pretty clear on the money issue.

        But my first point there was really to illustrate that no sane individual derives morals from the bible.
        • by Murrquan (1161441)

          But my first point there was really to illustrate that no sane individual derives morals from the bible.
          You mean, from your interpretation of the Bible.
          • You mean, from your interpretation of the Bible.
            What, you leave out the revenge and killings and rapes? What's the fun of that?
          • by Nursie (632944)
            No, I mean from it's literal interpretation.

            If people dismiss some parts of it as out of date or allegorical (Hmm, Lot and his daughters) then that's just more evidence that they're drawing a moral code from somewhere else.
    • Most claim to be highly religious, yet they take these actions which seem to be purely unethically motivated. I often wonder how they imagine themselves squaring accepting money from lobbyists, etc with God. "it was a lot of money" seems like a terrible excuse.
      Maybe they're planning on slipping St. Pete a sawbuck.
    • by 91degrees (207121)
      What's so unethical about spying on terrorists?

      No, I don't agree that this is what they were actually doing, but I think that most of these politicians do.
      • by Murrquan (1161441)
        I'm not actually sure all of them think that. Maybe it's more of a case of they'll think whatever you want them to, so long as you pay them enough.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)
        I don't think that anybody is going to argue against wiretapping criminals, and those that are likely to be criminals.

        The issue here is no oversight, no idea who's being tapped and a bunch of telcos that were raking in the cash for illegal favors trying to avoid being held accountable by the people. Basically as it stands now it is almost completely unknown as to who was being tapped, for what reasons and why. The fact that they weren't even bothering to use FISA which is set up with notoriously lax standar
      • I'd love to see someone ask the Republicans who are pushing for immunity one question, on the record (even better if it's on live TV): "If Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama win the upcoming Presidential election, what _exactly_ do you think is going to prevent them from wiretapping your home, office, and cell phones and listening to every word you say, including anything you say to other members of the Republican party? The telecoms will have no reason to refuse, as they're immune to prosecution. Anything
    • by pfleming (683342)

      Most claim to be highly religious, yet they take these actions which seem to be purely unethically motivated. I often wonder how they imagine themselves squaring accepting money from lobbyists, etc with God. "it was a lot of money" seems like a terrible excuse.

      So... maybe it's that they realize the truth: there is no spoo.. er god. All we have is who we are now, not some threat of retribution or vague reward later. Otherwise, why would they do things that they know "god will see"?
      One person hearing a voice in his head is crazy.
      One million people hearing voices in their head is a religion.

    • If they would study the Bible they claim to follow, they would know that the love of money is the root of many evils.
    • Religion correlates with lower ethics (studies show the correlation between religion and crimes of all varieties). It is because 1 you can get forgiveness for anything, 2 you have god there to justify whatever you may do since the bible is so vague.
  • by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @04:48AM (#23180240) Homepage Journal
    The success and the payback the Democrats experienced in overturning this train-wreck of a bill experienced, they aren't in the mood to roll over any more. Even the telcos prefer the Democratic version which grants the companies the ability to present evidence in their own defence.

    And that is what scares the Bush administration most: transparency. They know that they are in a world of trouble, and the GOP is now looking at a sea-change as strong as when Roosevelt succeeded Hoover. It will be a long time before Republicans can overcome the legacy of Lee Atwater/ Karl Rove politics...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by AltGrendel (175092)
      No one ever went broke underestimating the stupidity of the American public.

      I forget who made that quote, but it's still valid.

      • It was Henry Mencken
        • To add, it's worth knowing who you are quoting...

          He also wrote "The Jews could be put down very plausibly as the most unpleasant race ever heard of. As commonly encountered, they lack many of the qualities that mark the civilized man: courage, dignity, incorruptibility, ease, confidence. They have vanity without pride, voluptuousness without taste, and learning without wisdom"
      • by Murrquan (1161441)

        No one ever went broke underestimating the ignorance of people who get their opinions from the mainstream media.
        Fixed.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They know that they are in a world of trouble, and the GOP is now looking at a sea-change as strong as when Roosevelt succeeded Hoover. It will be a long time before Republicans can overcome the legacy of Lee Atwater/ Karl Rove politics...

      No, they're not. The Democratic Party has gone out of their way to self-destruct - again - and is incapable of putting up a unified front. The continued primary season guarantees that we'll be seeing McCain in office next year, since the Democrats have managed to completely split the party into people who'll vote for Obama but not Clinton and Clinton but not Obama. So whoever ultimately wins, the Democrats lose.

      To rework a phrase someone has already said, never underestimate the ability of the Democratic P

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tbannist (230135)
        That's assuming that the winner of the Obama-Clinton race can't swallow his or her pride and offer their opponent shotgun.

        An Obama-Clinton or Clinton-Obama ticket should motivate the Democratic voters for both front runners. Additionally, as long as the coverage focuses on the race between Clinton and Obama, the less it's focusing on that other guy who happens to be running for President and that's not good for him with undecided voters.
        • by R2.0 (532027)
          "That's assuming that the winner of the Obama-Clinton race can't swallow his or her pride and offer their opponent shotgun."

          Assuming that could occur, why would the offer be accepted by either candidate? Being the VP is pretty much a dead-end job politically - you won't be elected President, because you can't claim the administration's success but you will get saddled with its liabilities (ref Al Gore).

          Obama is at the beginning of his political career - why would he bother cutting it short? He gets anothe
        • by rsborg (111459) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @12:59PM (#23185538) Homepage

          That's assuming that the winner of the Obama-Clinton race can't swallow his or her pride and offer their opponent shotgun.
          Saying this means you know little of the real schism between Obama and Clinton campaigns. This is a battle for the soul of the Democratic party, and it looks like the old guard (Clinton's folks) are fighting tooth and nail for the top seat, but losing. Look in the history books about previous such change... it's painful and doesn't happen overnight.
        • by nuzak (959558)
          There's a faint possibility that Clinton would bring Obama on as a running mate.

          I think there's a snowball's chance in hell Obama would do the same for Clinton. The sheer apoplexy of the GOP whenever Clinton's name is mentioned would energize the right like nothing else, because damn sure McCain doesn't fire them up.

          My guess is Obama gets the nomination and picks an old white guy as his running mate.
          • by tbannist (230135)
            I'd be surprised if the GOP has any different reaction to Clinton than any running mate that Obama could pick. It's pretty much their full time job to be outraged by the mere existence of the Democrats.
    • by R2.0 (532027)
      "They know that they are in a world of trouble, and the GOP is now looking at a sea-change as strong as when Roosevelt succeeded Hoover. It will be a long time before Republicans can overcome the legacy of Lee Atwater/ Karl Rove politics..."

      Riiiight. What color is the sky in the US that you live in?

      Aside from the fact that the Democrats have adopted "Lee Atwater/ Karl Rove politics" with the fervor of alcoholics attending a free kegger, there's the fact that the Democrats don't HAVE another Roosevelt, nor
      • You might have noticed that I was referring to the House Democrats growing a spine. After all, they are faring much better than their Republican counterparts in fundraising (Congressional re-election committees, not national party coffers, mind). It used to be that the Dems would cave to any attempt to smear them as unpatriotic due to the stigma of the Sixties.

        But a funny thing happened: since they started standing tough on the PAA bill, they've seen their polls actually improve, and all of a sudden "safe"
  • IMHO, it's probably hard to say "no" to the White House, no matter which form they take and no matter how many lawyers you employ. Given this, I feel the telcos deserve full immunity for past compliance with WH requests under FISA and much clearer terms for all future FISA actions.
    • by Svartalf (2997) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:26AM (#23181028) Homepage
      No, they don't deserve anything. They KNEW that what they were doing was against the law- that's why they're begging for immunity. If WE did something along the same lines, we'd be doing hard prison time.

      Sorry, companies need to be held accountable for their actions- period.

      It's not "okay" because the President asked them pretty please and gave 'em an offer they couldn't refuse. If a mobster did the same thing and you robbed a bank, stole a car, or killed someone- you'd do the time all the same or some lessened sentence and you'd be found guilty of the crime.

      No immunity. Present your evidence- roll the dice and see what comes of it.
      • by Thing 1 (178996) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @08:54AM (#23181242) Journal

        If a mobster did the same thing and you robbed a bank, stole a car, or killed someone- you'd do the time all the same or some lessened sentence and you'd be found guilty of the crime.

        And more: the mobster would do time as well. So, why isn't the president?

        • And more: the mobster would do time as well. So, why isn't the president?

          That's what I was just thinking.
        • by Svartalf (2997)
          Because Congress, as a whole (Senate and House, though not all members, obviously...) are as guilty as he- which would be problematic having the House proceed on Impeachment on him at this time. They're trying to cover up the whole mess so they and the President aren't shown to be guilty and the whole lot being placed in a worse situation than they already are.
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Qwest said "No".

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/12/AR2007101202485.html
    • by tbannist (230135) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @09:34AM (#23181768)
      Absolutely not, if they were coerced that needs to be shown in a court of law. I have no problem with not punishing them for breaking law in that case, but the evidence that they were coerced needs to be entered shown to the courts first.

      Immunity just allows the White House to hide the evidence of what they were doing when they knowingly broke the law by asking for information they could not legally ask for.
      • by Tuoqui (1091447)
        Unfortunately they cant do that since its all covered by National Security Letters :P
    • by Tuoqui (1091447)
      Its not hard to say no. All it takes is testicular fortitude on the board of directors. Which the big telecom companies lacked aside from Quest apparently.
  • OK, almost everyone here agrees that if the Prez would follow FISA laws, there would be no problem, right?

    OK, FISA rules state that the government can tap a phone line and get a warrant later. In other words, they DO NOT need a warrant at the time of the tapping.

    So, if the telco's should allow the government to tap a line without a warrant according to FISA rules, then what did they do wrong? It appears to me that they followed the law, specifically FISA to the letter.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Because the law which allows them to tap the phones without a warrant also requires that they then obtain said warrant with.... I believe it was 72 hours time. So even though there is an allowance in the law for them to tap a call in a case of a dire need, they still need to go to FISA to make that tapping legitimate.

      Bush couldn't even be bothered to do that much though. So that's why we are where we are.
      • by ArcherB (796902)

        Because the law which allows them to tap the phones without a warrant also requires that they then obtain said warrant with.... I believe it was 72 hours time. So even though there is an allowance in the law for them to tap a call in a case of a dire need, they still need to go to FISA to make that tapping legitimate.

        Bush couldn't even be bothered to do that much though. So that's why we are where we are.

        No, we are not talking about Bush. The topic is the Telco's. If you want congress to go after Bush, then that is a different discussion.

        My point is that it is not the Telco's job to defend the Constitution. Since they can allow wire taps without breaking the law, then they should be granted immunity from frivolous law suits.

        • No one said it is the Telco's job to defend the constitution.

          But, since it is not clear that the Telcos followed FISA to the letter, and it is not clear that the bush administration even applied for warrants, even after the fact (within the 72 hours), the law suits are not frivolous.

        • In an emergency (something life and death -- I've been shot and need to get to the hospital immediately, say) I can borrow someone else's car without getting their permission first -- as long as I come back later on and explain the emergency, I suspect many people would understand and retroactively grant that permission.

          But if I borrow someone else's car and don't come back to explain why, that's Grand Theft - Auto (and I don't mean the video game.)

          We're still waiting for an explanation from the adminis
    • by tbannist (230135) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @09:41AM (#23181852)
      Well, if they didn't break any laws, then there's no need to pass legislation that grants them immunity for breaking the law.

      It's obvious the Republicans think that they and the telecommunications companies did break the law, and in such a serious way that they are desperately fearful of the aftermath of their actions.
      • by ArcherB (796902)

        Well, if they didn't break any laws, then there's no need to pass legislation that grants them immunity for breaking the law.

        It's obvious the Republicans think that they and the telecommunications companies did break the law, and in such a serious way that they are desperately fearful of the aftermath of their actions.

        Immunity is not from prosecution. The immunity being debated is against someone like the ACLU taking the Telco's to CIVIL Court, seeking some sort of monetary judgment. BTW, who do you think will being paying those court costs, lawyer fees and any pending judgments? Where to businesses, like the Telco's, get money? So, take a look at your phone bills and imagine the hike in fees to pay for this crap.

        I'm in favor of immunity because I already spend over $150/month for telephone service (2 Cells and a la

        • by Alsee (515537)
          AGAIN, if they did nothing wrong then there is no need for all the shenanigans running congress and the senate in circles and for the president to declare he will veto legislation to AUTHORIZE wiretaps if it does not also grant telcos immunity that you claim it does not need.

          -
    • by Apocros (6119)
      but the law isn't that the can tap without a warrant, it's that they can get a warrant without providing the evidence/rationale behind asking for it (e.g. he seems like a bad guy...) until up to 3 days later. they didn't bother getting the warrant.
  • Link (Score:5, Informative)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @09:25AM (#23181680) Homepage
    The link for this statement:

    [FBI Director Robert Mueller] admitted, however, that he was not aware of any wiretap requests being denied because of Congress' inaction."
    is here: www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9886461-7.html [news.com]

    This is the relevant passage:

    ...FBI Director Robert Mueller continued that push on Wednesday, but he wouldn't go so far as to say those "private partners" would stop installing requested wiretaps unless certain legal protection is granted.

    To some extent, Mueller is stating the obvious: Federal law requires telephone and Internet companies to comply with lawful wiretap court orders or lawful certifications from the attorney general, with stiff penalties for noncompliance. But Mueller said in various ways that he was concerned that lack of retroactive liability protection would harm the government's "relationships" with telephone companies -- which seems to leave in doubt whether all of the administration's requests were legal.

    The seemingly reluctant admission came during pointed questioning by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Specter, the committee's ranking member, has proposed an amendment--which has so far been unsuccessful--to a controversial spy law update that would allow lawsuits alleging illegal spying by telephone companies to continue, except with government lawyers substituted in the companies' place.

    FBI Director Robert Mueller said he disagreed with that approach, arguing it would provide a "disincentive" for communications companies to team up with federal terrorism investigations.

    Then the following exchange ensued:

    Specter: A disincentive, OK, but do you think they would stop?
    Mueller: I think it is a disincentive...
    Specter: But do you think they would stop?
    Mueller: I think it would hamper our relationships, yes.... I do think it would hinder our relationships.
    Specter: Disincentive, hamper, hinder, but I don't hear you say it would stop....
    Mueller: I'm not going to say it's going to stop, but I do believe delay is detrimental to the safety of the country. Delay and lack of clarity, lack of simplicity guiding our relationships inhibits our ability to get the information we need on a daily basis.
    ...

  • by sirwired (27582) on Thursday April 24, 2008 @10:27AM (#23182460)
    I do have quite a bit of sympathy for the telcos here. Yes, they were in many cases paid to do the wiretapping, but I do not blame them in the least for assuming that the requests from the govt. agency were legal. It is not the telco's job to evaluate the constitutionality of requests from a government agency.

    OTOH, NOT granting them immunity is the only way we are ever going to get to the bottom of the wiretapping scandal, since suits against the govt. have been dismissed for lack of standing. (Lack of standing has been ruled, because the plaintiff's have not been allowed to collect or present evidence that the wiretapping took place at all. A stupid Catch-22.)

    SirWired
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      It is not the telco's job to evaluate the constitutionality of requests from a government agency.

      What?
      A. We're talking basic legality, not Constitutionality
      B. Anyone receiving a "request" has the obligation to say no if it conflicts with existing laws or other obligations.

      Remember when Google fought off that subpoena by the Justice Dept because the Feds wanted to get their hands on search results to bolster some child protection law? Google evaluated the legality of that "request" from the government, told them to take a flying leap, and was backed up by a Judge.

      There are so many other counter-example

      • by sirwired (27582)
        I NEVER said that the wiretap requests were NOT illegal. Nor did I say that all subpeonas, etc. were legal and not overly broad. I am saying that it is simply not the telco's job to evaluate the legality of the requests. Would it be nice if they had? Sure. But should they be liable for complying with a request (later turning out to be illegal) coming from an authority that is supposed to know what they are doing and not issue the illegal requests? No.

        The real folks that should be sued here are the fed
    • >It is not the telco's job to evaluate the constitutionality of requests from a government agency.

      It's pretty easy, really: "do you have a warrant?"

      Plus, it *is* the telco companies' job to not do illegal things, just like it is any individual's job to not do illegal things -- if you do, you get in trouble for it. That's your incentive to figure out whether something is legal or not.
    • by celle (906675)
      Yes, they are to blame, thats why they have a legal department which should have screamed bloody murder when it started. And yes, they were coerced, just ask the one telco that said no.(denied contracts for doing the right thing) Besides FISA by its very nature is illegal, kind of like the war powers acts, perceived necessary at the time, not necessary anymore. This shit has to be rolled back. The government as it stands is badly out of balance, with the constitution itself isn't far behind unfortunately.
    • by 77Punker (673758)
      It absolutely IS the responsibility of the telcos not to betray their customers. When you are a fucking giant like AT&T, you have the resources to see if a request is legal.

      It doesn't cost extra money; they've got a budget for lawyers.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      If they believed they were complying with a lawful order, then they aren't legally guilty of anything. The only reason they'd need immunity is if they are actually guilty but "somebody" thinks his orders are more important than the law.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by nuzak (959558)
        The only reason they'd need immunity is if they are actually guilty but "somebody" thinks his orders are more important than the law.

        Or more likely, the money. AT&T found its principles rather quickly, once Uncle Sam's check bounced. This is the sort of thing that could come out in discovery, and this is what the telcos want immunity from.
  • Worst case for the telcos, they have to refund some amount to each customer. Maybe rebate the "CALEA fee" for a year or two, plus pay the EFF's legal bills. It's not going to be a big dollar cost.

    No, it's embarrassment to the Bush Administration that the Bush Administration is worried about.

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