Saturday, February 02, 2008

Rights and Telecom Immunity...

Recently, the President and even the Vice President have been stumping for a bill that would provide retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies who assisted the NSA Domestic Surveillance Program. To be clear, this portion of the proposed FISA amendment substitutes the federal government for a telecommunications company in civil law suits brought by plaintiffs for the telecommunications company's participation in the Warrantless Surveillance program. However, the proposed amendment also permits the application of any and all defenses, privileges, and immunities available to the federal government. The net result of substituting the Federal Government for telecommunications companies is to permit the Federal Government to utilize the "state's secrets" privilege to bar further litigation of cases that would restrict otherwise unconstitutional action by the executive branch via organizations like the FBI, CIA, and NSA.

There are other beneficial consequences to these proposed amendments, they effectively insulate the present leaders of the executive branch from future prosecution for violations of civil liberties and war crimes by preventing evidence of their wrong doing from coming to life. The fact of the matter remains that the leaders of our country are concerned with covering their own behinds. Keith Olbermann's special comment elaborates on this point. The special comment, though, doesn't really get at the meat of the issue. FISA exists, and has existed since the Nixon administration. The purpose of FISA was to put a limitation on the Executive's ability to spy on individuals outside of the United States. The 2003 amendments to FISA undercut this purpose by unconstitutionally permitting the FISA courts to hear petitions by the Federal Government to tap American Citizens on American soil, something regularly left to a neutral magistrate under the Fourth Amendment. Congress has already rendered FISA useless in pursuing its original purpose.

What is most important about this situation is the realization that telecommunications immunity amendment to FISA only serves to further insulate the brazenly unconstitutional actions of the President and his minions. Pragmatically, this bill would rubber stamp the domestic surveillance program under the law, making it legal for the government to disregard the Constitution. This will further progress the Fascist shift currently occurring in the United States.

If this law passes, we can be sure that Big Brother will be listening, regardless if you have a right for them not to be.

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