Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 6304 The FISA Amendments Act of 2008. This is a not the compromise that proponents of the bill would like you to think, but one thing is that it provides immunity for the Telecom companies that allowed the U.S. Government to perform warrant-less wiretaps.
For quite some time, the U.S. Government has been doing wiretaps without warrants, and the telecom companies have aided it in this process. Of course, it is illegal to aid anyone in the furtherance of a crime and an important part of the checks and balances of our system is that people must be held accountable for their actions. The government is largely immune to investigation into the matter because it would take someone whose rights had been violated to bring suit and only the government and the telecoms know who these are and the names are a matter of national security and cannot be released. But this is not the case for suits against the telecoms. The courts have already ruled that it is not impossible to prosecute the cases against them without violating national security, because the names and reasons for the wiretaps are not at issue. These lawsuits may be the only way to find out the true extent of the constitutional violations made by this administration.
The FISA Amendments ACT basically says that the telecom companies are immune to prosecution if they were obeying the orders of the government. See? If the government says it is okay, then you can violate the Constitution with impunity. That’s the Nuremberg defense, plain and simple.
Now, I understand that when approached by the government, one needs to think long and hard about violating its orders. But do we really want to start the precedent that you are absolved from responsibility if you do what it says? The accountability provided by the responsibility everyone has for his or her actions is an important part of the checks and balances that allow our system to work. Any government that can expect its citizens to obey its orders without question is by definition a totalitarian one; much worse that its citizens submit willingly.
So, I urge you to call your senators and tell them to vote no on this bill. It comes before the Senate on Friday, so call today.