Friday, January 25, 2008

This issue of government surveillance and immunity for the telecoms singularly presents the problem with corporate lobbying dollars at work. It's highly doubtful, or at least very hard to believe, that any fair-minded politician who truly cared about privacy rights and Constitutional guarantees would ever support immunity for the telecom companies if not for big donor monies buying their vote.

And we move one step closer to making Orwell's 1984 a reality.

With regards to Dem senator Jay Rockefeller supporting the immunity, Glenn Greenwald writes:
Can someone please tell Jay Rockefeller that we don't actually live in a country where the President has the definitively dictatorial power to "compel" and "require" private actors to break the law by "ordering" them to do so? Like all other lawbreakers, telecoms broke the law because they chose to, and profited greatly as a result. That telecoms had an option is too obvious to require proof, but conclusive proof can be found in the fact that some telecoms did refuse to comply on the grounds that doing so was against the law.

There is a branch of Government that does have the power to compel and require behavior by private actors. It's called "the American people," acting through their Congress, who democratically enact laws regulating that behavior. And the American people enacted multiple laws making it illegal (.pdf) for telecoms, in the absence of a warrant, to enable Government spying on their customers and to turn over private data. Rockefeller's claimed belief that we live in a country where private companies are "compelled" to obey orders to break the law is either indescribably authoritarian or disgustingly dishonest -- probably both.
Rockefeller's claims also entail the core dishonesty among amnesty advocates. He implies that the real party that engaged in wrongdoing was the President, not telecoms, yet his bill does nothing to enable plaintiffs to overcome the numerous obstacles the administration has used to block themselves from being held accountable. If Rockefeller were being truthful about his belief that it's the administration that should be held accountable here, then his bill would at least provide mechanisms for ensuring that can happen. It doesn't, and thus results in nothing other than total protection for all lawbreakers -- including administration officials -- who committed felonies by spying on Americans for years without warrants.
Last time I checked we live in a representative democracy, not a totalitarian state. Granted, over the last few years it's become increasingly difficult to recognize whether this observation is true or not.

No comments: