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Phone Companies: Patriots, or Lawbreakers?

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February 26, 2008

We’re getting awfully tired of hearing Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell talk about how “patriotic” the phone companies are for assisting the government in spying on customers, violating their Fourth Amendment rights.

Well, over the weekend, that same kind of patriotism rhetoric reappeared when McConnell and Attorney General Michael Mukasey were furiously backpedaling on prior statements about dead wiretaps as a result of inaction on the FISA bill before the House. The L.A. Times reports:

[A]dministration officials told lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees that they had prevailed upon all of the telecommunications companies to continue cooperating with the government’s requests for information while negotiations with Congress continue.

“Prevailed upon?” Just a reminder to everyone, the telephone companies aren’t doing Americans or the U.S. government any favors: They’re being paid to execute these warrantless wiretaps, and when those bills aren’t paid, they pull the plug on the wiretaps.

And just to rub salt in the constitutional wound, it’s your tax dollars that are paying the phone companies to spy on you. So no, the phone companies don’t need to be “prevailed upon” to wiretap us. They just need to be paid.

Bush continues to speechify on behalf of the telecoms. Yesterday he said:

“Our government told them that their participation was necessary,” Bush said. “And it was, and it still is, and that what we had asked them to do was legal. And now they’re getting sued for billions of dollars. And it’s not fair.”

But is it fair, Mr. President, to force taxpayers to foot the bill for your illegal spy program? That’s right, illegal. After all, if it weren’t illegal, the companies wouldn’t need immunity from lawsuits, now would it?