FISA Amendments, Delayed But Needed

By December 18, 2007Briefly Legal, Communications

Another story on Sen. Reid’s decision to pull S. 2248, the FISA Amendments, from floor consideration in 2008, “Reid holds off on spy bill after immunity survives.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s news release applauds the delay, which suggests they thought they were on the losing side of the debate.

Here’s Sen. John Cornyn’s floor statement, with a relevant excerpt:

Why in the world would we want to discourage private citizens — whether individuals or corporate citizens — from cooperating in the security interests of our country?

This is like a police officer who knocks on your window and says “I need your car to go capture a dangerous criminal before they do harm to somebody else.” if an individual were worried they would be sued as a result of their being a good volunteer and a good member of the community and allowing a law enforcement officer the use of their car to capture a dangerous criminal, do you think they would be more inclined or less inclined to cooperate with the lawful authorities? I think it’s pretty clear they would be far less inclined. If we don’t do everything in our power — and it is within our power — to encourage individual and corporate citizens to cooperate in the security interests of our country, then shame on us.

To tell them that you’re going to have to endure ruinous litigation costs, that you’re not even going to be able to defend yourself because some of the evidence is the subject of a state secrets privilege. You’re not even going to be able to explain what you did while at the same time suffering the reputation damage that they could very well suffer if their participation was known in other parts of the world. It’s just not fair. It’s not fair to them. Even more importantly, it’s not fair to us. To fail to give them the immunity for their cooperation with the lawful requests of the President of the United States after the Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States has said, this is a lawful request, to fail to give them immunity and protection against the litigation and damage to the reputation is, I think, less than responsible.

UPDATE (8:50 a.m.) CQ story is good, including examination of non-immunity issues. And another edifying quote from Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT): “For the last six years, our largest telecommunications companies have been spying on their own American customers . . . That decision betrayed millions of customers’ trust.” The slurs come so readily.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Phil Mocek says:

    re: Cornyn’s floor statement: A better analogy would be a police officer knocking on your window and saying, “I need you sneak into each of your neighbors’ homes, look through all their belongings, photograph all their personal correspondence with this camera I will lend to you, and leave behind this miniature radio transmitter so we can listen to everything your neighbors say. We need to do this to find dangerous criminals.”

  • Me says:

    If the White House actions were legal why would the telecoms need immunity?

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