According to a Washington Post news item of May 4, 2007, it appears that President Bush’s Justice Department is writing legislation to immunize the phone companies from lawsuits stemming from post-9/11 surveillance.
‘The proposal states that “no action shall lie . . . in any court, and no penalty . . . shall be imposed . . . against any person” for giving the government information, including customer records, in connection with alleged intelligence activity the attorney general certifies “is, was, would be or would have been” intended to protect the United States from terrorist attack. The measure, which has not yet been filed, is contained in a proposed amendment to the fiscal 2008 intelligence authorization bill.’ read the full story…
Surely this must be another form of Corporate Welfare. If phone companies broke the law, and cooperated with a portion of the government illegally, then shouldn’t they be held both financially and criminally liable? The Executive Branch doesn’t play legislative interference when a person has shoplifted by declaring there should be no penalty for having done so; by similar logic, why should telephone corporations be granted special legal exemption from laws they were supposed to follow?
On January 17, 2007, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wrote a letter stating that, in the future, all intelligence gathering of targeted communications will be conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (PDF link via Wikipedia). Unfortunately, the story detailed by the Washington Post news item referenced above, if true, shows that the Executive Branch wishes to excuse the past illegalities of its co-conspirators.
Why is it constitutional for the Justice Department, which is under the Executive Branch, to write legislation, when Article 1 of the Constitution grants legislative authority to the Legislative Branch, otherwise known as Congress?
It appears that phone companies that may have illegally complied with past Executive Branch requests for intelligence on phone conversations have left the companies with a rather large legal liability. In turn, the Executive Branch appears to be attempting to mitigate these liabilities by legislating retroactively. If it was illegal then, then why declare that no penalties or punishments can be assigned for those acts?
This appears to me to be ultimately all about money, and the ability of certain wealthy entities to be above law in effect at the time. In order to achieve this the Executive Branch simply attempts to change the law for the benefit of very few. Shouldn’t there be a penalty for breaking the law?
As usual, citizens lose when the government doesn’t advocate for them, but instead for a few wealthy entities that have interests that oppose the Constitution and the law. Congress needs to severely limit the power of the Executive Branch to legislate.
A good first step would be to impeach the current occupants of the White House.