House Says No To Retroactive Immunity
from the about-time dept
Throughout this whole process, the one thing that has never been explained clearly is why it would possibly make sense to give the telcos immunity for breaking the law. There are perfectly legal means for the government to go out and request the information they wanted. To not go through those legal means makes very little sense, unless the government knew that it would not get approval. To anyone who claims that the government "needed" to do this, can you explain why they would "need" to do this without following the legally prescribed paths to do so? The US government is not free to do whatever it wants without oversight. That's why we set up a government with three separate branches to have oversight of each other. Otherwise, the system can and will be abused. What's happening here is that there appears to be quite a bit of evidence that the system was abused, and the White House (and the members of Congress who agree with the White House) are saying that we should ignore that. That seems problematic.
Luckily, (and, to be honest, surprisingly), it appears that some in Congress recognize this point, and are stating it quite explicitly. The EFF highlights the comments of Nancy Pelosi:
"Why would the Administration oppose a judicial determination of whether the companies already have immunity? There are at least three explanations:Of course, this is not nearly over yet. The Senate still needs to vote on legislation and the President would still need to approve it -- and he's made it clear that he'll veto any bill that doesn't include immunity. For all his complaints that not having a bill approved would make the US less safe, it would appear that it's his demand for retroactive immunity that is actually holding up the bill's passage. There is nothing in the current bill that makes the country any less safe. The only thing holding it up is a desire to brush aside questions about whether or not earlier activities broke the law.
First, the President knows that it was the Administration's incompetence in failing to follow the procedures in statute that prevented immunity from being conveyed -- that's one possibility. They simply didn't do it right.
Second, the Administration's legal argument that the surveillance requests were lawfully authorized was wrong; or [third,] public reports that the surveillance activities undertaken by the companies went far beyond anything about which any Member of Congress was notified, as is required by the law.
None of these alternatives is attractive but they clearly demonstrate why the Administration's insistence that Congress provide retroactive immunity has never been about national security or about concerns for the companies; it has always been about protecting the Administration."