Tell Harry Reid to block granting telecoms immunity from the spy scandal

By Martin Bosworth

It’s heartening to see how Democrats and the American public alike are rallying behind the idea that the major telecom companies should not be immune from prosecution for their role in abetting the NSA’s illegal spying. The common wisdom is that Americans care less about esoteric issues like privacy than those that hit them in the loins or the pocketbook, but if that’s the case, then how do you explain Chris Dodd’s massive fundraising jump after his challenge to the new FISA bill?

Or what about Barack Obama agreeing to support a filibuster of any legislation that grants immunity after hearing the call from bloggers and activist groups alike? Or House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who initially agreed to the immunity compromise, suddenly giving a speech that contains comments like these?:
Simply stated, it would be grossly irresponsible for Congress to grant blanket immunity for companies without even knowing whether their conduct was legal or not. And, importantly, this view is shared by the Chairman and Ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Until we understand what legal authorities were used to justify the terrorist surveillance program, there does not appear to be any practicable way to include retroactive immunity in this bill.

What’s that? Is it a sound of a spine solidifying that I hear in the distance? Glory be!

There’s no point in trying to impress on any of the Republicans in Congress (except Ron Paul) that values like privacy, liberty, and law matter–they’re too far gone with their devotion to the cult of 9/11 and the War on Terra. As for the Democrats, it’s incredibly wasteful and time consuming to force Dems to vote the right way on issues they should be recognizing as important from the get-go, but it has to be done. The only way these people will shut out the droning of big money and cowardly consultants buzzing in their ears is if we shout loudly enough to be heard.

So with that in mind, take a look at the new petition site, Combining heavyweights in the progressive blogosphere with some of the strongest civil rights organizations around, this petition is going right to Harry Reid and asking him this question: “Where do you stand? Do you support granting immunity for companies who broke the law, or do you support the Constitution and the values it symbolizes?”

I’m proud to say that I signed the petition, and I urge you to read the letter and do the same. These values, these ideas, these beliefs–they matter. They are important. And we have to remind our leaders of why they lead–that they pledged to protect these values as a core duty of their public service.

6 replies »

  1. Martin,

    Thank you for the link. I’ve passed it on.

    From the heart of the red zone, I can verify that the issue of internet privacy gets a surprisingly unified response from all over the political spectrum – but I have to tell you: in many, MANY cases, I strongly suspect it’s not about the right to privacy, the Constitution, or holding big businesses to the same standards as individuals. I’ve had some late-night, (admittedly alcohol-fueled) debates about this, and when the inhibitions are down, most people don’t give a damn about their phone conversations or financial transactions being tracked by the government. It’s the Internet activity that they desperately want kept confidential…

    Because people like their porn private.

    It is a loin thing, sometimes.

    Checking in from the gutter,

  2. Ann – the way I see it, if it requires porn to get people to do the right thing, then I’m OK with that. I’d be much happier if people did the right thing because they were enlightened thinkers about privacy, but I’m too much of a realist to believe that’ll ever happen.

  3. Hey, whatever brings ’em to the dance, I say.

    It’s a pity that our culture finds porn so shameful that we have to use it as a justification for privacy rights, but whatever you want to fap to in the privacy of your office is your business, just like anything else.