December 18, 2007

Thank you, Senator Dodd

Senator Chris Dodd spoke eight hours today about why he supported the Constitution and would not support blanket immunity for the telecom companies for their enabling the government to spy on Americans since February 2001. (Interesting how 9/11 which changed everything was yet seven months in the future. And do note how well the spying helped the Bush administration prevent 9/11.)

It seems that both our government and the telecom companies believe it is okay to betray the Constitution and to break the law. And it seems that too many Democratic Senators are confused about the oaths they made to protect and defend the Constitution. But fortunately, Mr. Dodd went to Washington today. Because of Senator Dodd's courage, Majority Leader Harry Reid had to pull the legislation that would have given Bush and the telecom companies a get-out-of-jail free card. Reid pulled it because there would not be enough time to pass the bill over Dodd's promised filibuster.

Amid deep and growing divisions among Senate Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) last night abruptly withdrew legislation that would have changed surveillance law and granted the nation's telecommunications companies retroactive immunity from lawsuits charging they had violated privacy rights.

Democratic leaders had hoped to complete an overhaul of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act before recessing for the year, since the current law governing the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program is set to expire in early February. But in the face of more than a dozen amendments to the bill and guerrilla tactics from its opponents, Reid surprised his colleagues when he announced there would not be enough time to finish the job.

"Everyone feels it would be in the best interest of the Senate if we take a look at this when we come back," Reid said, acknowledging the time crunch he faces in the "last hours" of this congressional session and the hefty number of agenda items remaining.

When the Senate gets back from the holidays, they will have two weeks to try to pass this bill. That gives us a few more weeks to shame the Democratic Senators into doing the right thing. We will not make it easy for them to betray our Constitution just because they have gotten heavily lobbied by the telecom industry.

It is important to remember that not one of those telecom company executives was tortured or forced to break the law. And they sure got paid extremely well for going along.

Nevertheless, it is clear our government was more culpable than the companies. As Scott Horton notes, the one QWest CEO who said no got prosecuted by the Feds for insider trading after he said no to the government's request.

Now let’s tack on one further extremely disturbing fact. One telecom company said “no.” It was Qwest. The Qwest response to overtures was simple: “We’d love to work with you on this. But you do need to change the law so we can do it legally.” Apparently as soon as that happened, Qwest lost a series of important government contracts. And the next thing you know, the Justice Department was feverishly working on a criminal investigation looking at Qwest’s CEO on insider trading allegations—amidst very strange dealings between the Justice Department and the federal judge hearing the case. Of course, this is all the purest coincidence. Or maybe not. What kind of society does this sound like?

I know what kind of society it sounds like to me. Yet, it doesn't excuse those that went along. If all of them had said no, the government could not have done what they did. And our Senators should know that. Their job is to protect the Constitution. And to let the courts sort this out. The real criminals in this case, the members of the Bush administration, must be held accountable for their crimes against the American citizens and the the Constitution. And the telecoms should have to give back the ill-begotten wealth they made from going along with this criminal conspiracy.

It is rare to see political courage like Chris Dodd's today. It is so much easier to go along with your friends and colleagues in Washington. Please do let him know you value his courage and thank him for doing what was right. From the bottom of my patriotic heart, I thank you, Senator Dodd.

Posted by Mary at December 18, 2007 12:56 AM | Civil Liberties | Technorati links |

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