Early last week the Senate passed an update/extension to the Protect America Act that included retroactive immunity for the telecoms that aided in–call it what you want, terrorist surveillance or domestic spying, after Sept 11th. There’s the rub: The immunity is only for activities after September 11, 2001. AFTER SEPTEMBER 11, 2001.
From Raw Story, Senate Passes FISA Update w/immunity by Nick Juliano:
The Senate actions would shield from lawsuits telecommunications companies that helped the government eavesdrop on their customers without court permission after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
From Bush Administration’s draft immunity law (pdf):
[N]o action shall lie or be maintained in any court, and no penalty, sanction, or other form of remedy or relief shall be imposed by any court or any other body, against any person for the alleged provision to an element of the intelligence community of any information (including records or other information pertaining to a customer), facilities, or any other form of assistance, during the period of time beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on the date that is the effective date of this Act, in connection with any alleged classified communications intelligence activity that the Attorney General or a designee of the Attorney General certifies, in a manner consistent with the protection of State secrets, is, was, would be, or would have been intended to protect the United States from a terrorist attack.
I seem to recall a CEO of a telecom (Qwest), Joseph Nacchio, who is currently in jail for not playing ball with the Bushies on terrorist surveillance/domestic spying. I seem to recall he claimed the Bushies came to him prior to September the 11th, 2001 with their demands for access to American citizens’ phone activity, then–maybe–retaliated against him because he said no to their illegal spying program.
Startling statements from former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio’s defense documents alleging the National Security Agency began building a massive call records database seven months before 9/11 aren’t the only accusations that the controversial program predated the attacks of 9/11.
According to court documents unveiled this week, former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio clearly wanted to argue in court that the NSA retaliated against his company after he turned down a NSA request on February 27, 2001 that he thought was illegal. Nacchio’s attorney issued a carefully worded statement in 2006, saying that Nacchio had turned down the NSA’s repeated requests for customer call records. The statement says that Nacchio was asked for the records in the fall of 2001, but doesn’t say he was “first asked” then.
And in May 2006, a lawsuit filed against Verizon for allegedly turning over call records to the NSA alleged that AT&T began building a spying facility for the NSA just days after President Bush was inaugurated. That lawsuit is one of 50 that were consolidated and moved to a San Francisco federal district court, where the suits sit in limbo waiting for the 9th Circuit Appeals court to decide whether the suits can proceed without endangering national security.
From Tinker, Tailor, Miner, Spy by (Slate):
A former telecom executive told us that efforts to obtain call details go back to early 2001, predating the 9/11 attacks and the president’s now celebrated secret executive order. The source, who asked not to be identified so as not to out his former company, reports that the NSA approached U.S. carriers and asked for their cooperation in a “data-mining” operation, which might eventually cull “millions” of individual calls and e-mails.
From my admittedly naive perspective, this information could make retroactive immunity for telecom actions after 9/11/01 a mute point. As long as the language is very specific, and the immunity for actions after 9/11/01, all Congress would need to do is put any and all whistle-blowers (a Mark Klein-type) and telecom execs under oath and have them spill about pre-9/11 domestic spying, I mean terrorist surveillance. And if the coots, codgers and curmudgeons on capitol hill go after the telecom guys and gals with the enthusiasm they had in the baseball steriod hearings, things could get pretty interesting this summer regarding Impeachment hearings for Bush, Cheney and their underlings.