NO IMMUNITY FOR LAWBREAKING COMPANIES-- ARE YOU LISTENING, HARRY?
Last night in Iowa, far from the bright lights of the major media centers, Rudy's mask came off. He embraced the Bush Regime's torture policies. Although waterboarding was first invented by the Spanish Inquisition specifically as a form of torture, Giuliani, when asked if a president could order it even if it violates national and international laws-- which it does-- says he "isn't sure" if waterboarding could be even considered torture. A Giuliani presidency would clearly be just more Bush and, like the rest of the pathetic pygmies™ vying for the GOP presidential nomination, he lusts to embody a third George Bush term; not exactly what more than three quarters of Americans are looking for.
Right now what Americans are looking for are clear and bold repudiations of Bushism-- of the failures, lies, incompetence, greed, bigotry, dismal failures that have become the hallmarks of the worst presidency in shared memory. Democratic political leadership has too often not lived up to manifesting that clear message of repudiation. As the Bush Regime gets ready to evaporate and its members return to private life to live off their ill-gotten gains, there is a mad dash for retroactive immunity for their rampant criminality. The first of those battles is being fought out on Capitol Hill now.
Bribe-besotted senators-- shamefully, from both parties-- have conspired with the Bush Regime to grant retroactive immunity to a gaggle of wealthy telecom executives who have worked closely, albeit unconstitutionally, with the Bush Regime to eavesdrop, wiretap and spy on American citizens. Chris Dodd said he will filibuster this repulsive legislation and Joe Biden, not exactly the Senate's #1 civil libertarian, has said he will back him up, as has Russ Feingold. Yesterday, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama agreed to join a filibuster if the retroactive immunity is not removed from the bill.
Today DWT joins several other bloggers, as well as the ACLU, MoveOn, Color of Change, Working Assets and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in urging Harry Reid to honor the hold Senator Dodd put on this bill which polls find Americans overwhelmingly oppose. Here's the letter we sent Senator Reid today:
Dear Senator Reid,
Senator Chris Dodd recently announced his intention to place a 'hold' on any bill coming before the Senate that includes provisions for so-called 'amnesty' for large companies involved in illegally spying on Americans, and to filibuster any such bill if necessary. We are writing to ask you use your position as Majority Leader to honor this hold and join Sen. Dodd's leadership efforts to stop legislation that would allow these companies to escape liability.
For decades, it has been against the law in the United States for companies to give data about their customers, or access to their customers' conversations, to the Government without a warrant. But it now appears that for the last five years-at least-AT&T, Verizon, and numerous other politically connected corporations have repeatedly broken the law, turning over to the Bush administration unfettered access to the telephone calls, Internet activities, and calling records of millions and millions of Americans.
As a result of this lawbreaking, their customers, along with privacy groups, have sued them in federal court, and they are making progress. One federal judge, an appointee of the first President Bush, emphatically rejected the excuse put forward by the corporate lawyers that the companies mistakenly thought that what they were doing was legal. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker wrote:
AT&T's alleged actions here violate the constitutional rights clearly established [by the U.S. Supreme Court]... AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal.
These companies have now asked Congress to pass a special law asking for 'amnesty.' The law would prohibit courts from ruling on whether these companies broke the law and force the dismissal of all court proceedings against them. We know of at least one company, Qwest, that refused these illegal government requests, a factor that adds weight when considering whether these companies were 'just doing' what the government requested. The companies seeking immunity clearly chose to break the law.
Providing amnesty to lawbreaking corporations is a complete assault on the rule of law and on the basic fairness of our political system. When ordinary American citizens are accused of breaking the law, they are forced to go to court and, if the accusations are proven, they suffer the consequences. If the telecoms really did nothing wrong, they should prove that in court, like all Americans must do.
Congress has faced up to this before. In 1965, some of our nation's largest banks were found by courts to have broken our anti-trust laws and also wanted amnesty from Congress for what they did. Senator Robert F. Kennedy spoke out forcefully against this. As the New York Times reported:
He objected to the basic philosophy of retroactive immunization which, he said, might logically be applied to 'murder or any other crime.'
The rule of law is the basic guarantee in our society that all Americans are treated equally. Amnesty for big business is an assault on that principle. To grant retroactive amnesty would be to announce that our wealthiest corporations are free to break the laws we pass, and amnesty would be yet another huge step in eroding our core political principles.
When signing this letter I hope I was acting on behalf of, and in the interests of, all the regular readers at DWT. The other bloggers lending their names to this effort are Jane and Christy at FDL, John Amato at C&L, Digby, Taylor Marsh, Glenn Greenwald at Salon, Markos and McJoan at DailyKos, Matt Stoller, Mike Lux, and Chris Bowers at OpenLeft, Duncan Black at Atrios and John Aravosis at AmericaBlog. Please consider co-signing the letter yourself (as Jason just did, eloquently, at The Seminal).
If you want to go further than just co-signing, here are the phone numbers and fax numbers of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please be polite. DO NOT, for example, call Feinstein a whore for her work on behalf of the KKK yesterday in getting Leslie Southwick confirmed-- and it would probably be a bad idea to mention what she and Thad Cochran (R-MS) may or may not have been doing in bed long ago when they were lovers.
Arlen Specter (R-PA)- (202) 224-4254 Fax (202) 228-1229
Joe Biden (D-DE)- (202) 224-5042 Fax: 202-224-0139
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)- (202) 224-5251 Fax (202) 224-6331
Patrick Leahy (Chairman) (D-VT)- (202) 224-4242 Fax (202) 224-3479
Charles Grassley (R-IA)- (202) 224-3744 Fax (515) 288-5097
Edward M. Kennedy (R-MA)- (202) 224-4543 Fax (202) 224-2417
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)- (202) 224-4521 Fax (202) 224-2207
Herbert Kohl (D-WI)- (202) 224-5653 Fax (202) 224-9787
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)- (202) 224-4124 Fax (202) 224-3149
Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)- (202) 224-3841 Fax (202) 228-3954
Lindsey Graham (R-SC)- (202) 224-5972 Fax (864) 250-4322
Russell Feingold (D-WI)- (202) 224-5323 Fax (202) 224-2725
John Cornyn (R-TX)- (202) 224-2934 Fax (972) 239-2110
Charles Schumer (D-NY)- (202) 224-6542 Fax (202) 228-3027
Sam Brownback (R-KS)- (202) 224-6521 Fax (202) 228-1265
Richard Durbin (D-IL)- (202) 224-2152 Fax (202) 228-0400
Tom Coburn (R-OK)- (202) 224-5754 Fax (202) 224-6008
Benjamin Cardin (D-MD)- (202) 224-4524 Fax (202) 224-1651
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)- (202) 224-2921 Fax (202) 228-6362