Talking Points on Telecom Immunity

August 29, 2007
Don’t Let the Bells Off-The-Hook
For Violating Our Civil Liberties

The telecommunications industry is lobbying for legislation that would give companies that illegally provided confidential consumer telephone content and call information to the National Security Agency complete amnesty for all their illegal behavior over the last five years. They seek immunity for their conduct even before it is fully disclosed to the public, and before their customers learn what was done with their personal information. The immunity they seek is:

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  • Bad for Consumers. Americans have had their phone calls and records released to the government – and the companies that conspired with the government to turn over this confidential information to the NSA want get away with breaking the law with no consequences.  
  • Bad for Precedent. If Congress swoops in now to stop the telecoms from being held accountable for their actions, telecoms will have no reason to follow the law in the future.
  • Bad for Accountability. The administration has made it abundantly clear that it will not cooperate with congressional investigations, and will fight every court battle tooth and nail to make sure the facts never come to light. If Congress cannot leverage immunity on an individual basis, and in exchange for specific information, consumers will never learn what their phone companies did with consumer phone calls and records. The telecom industry will have no incentive to come clean if it has already gotten a free pass for its illegal activities.
  • Bad for States’ Rights. Consumers across the country have asserted their rights in court, before public utility commissions and through their attorney generals. This legislation would intercede in state actions, and kill the efforts of local officials to enforce their own privacy laws that in some cases are more protective than federal laws.
  • Bad for Everyone. To this date, we don’t know the extent of the illegal activities. Granting a congressional pardon before the facts are known is wrong.

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