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Unsung Hits of the FISA Debate: The Cost of Immunity for Telecoms

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January 23, 2008

The last of our five-part series on the Unsung Hits of the FISA Debate on DailyKos deals with the cost of immunity for the telecoms. It’s about $23,500, if the new FISA bill grants immunity.

Back in October, Wired‘s Ryan Singel reported campaign donations to Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) from Verizon and AT&T execs skyrocketed around the same time that those same telephone companies were lobbying Congress for immunity from lawsuits for their participation in the NSA’s spy program. Rockefeller is the chair of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, one of the committees that has jurisdiction over telecom immunity. It’s not hard to see how much this stinks:

Congress has to bite the hand that feeds it. Allowing telecom immunity to pass the Senate would be a huge mistake – and would smell of corruption. Everyone knows that the telecoms broke the law – we just don’t yet know the extent of their, and the Bush administration’s, wronging. But if telecom immunity becomes law we will never find out.

Verizon has already admitted that it cooperated with the NSA spy program, and testimony from former AT&T technician Mark Klein in the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s lawsuit against AT&T has clearly implicated that phone company’s participation in the wiretapping program as well.

Today the ACLU’s Caroline Fredrickson was quoted in The New York Times about Democrats’ apparent willingness to capitulate to the administration with the new FISA bill:

“If Senator Reid wanted to win, he would have put the judiciary vote on the floor first,” Caroline Frederickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said. “It seems as if he wants to lose.”

A recent poll found that 57 percent of Americans oppose amnesty for telecoms. If you agree, there’s still time to sign our FISA petition, which we’ll deliver to Senator Harry Reid tomorrow.