Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball report on the coordination between the telcos and the administration on amnesty.
The Bush administration is refusing to disclose internal e-mails, letters and notes showing contacts with major telecommunications companies over how to persuade Congress to back a controversial surveillance bill, according to recently disclosed court documents.
The existence of these documents surfaced only in recent days as a result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by a privacy group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The foundation (alerted to the issue in part by a NEWSWEEK story last fall) is seeking information about communications among administration officials, Congress and a battery of politically well-connected lawyers and lobbyists hired by such big telecom carriers as AT&T and Verizon. Court papers recently filed by government lawyers in the case confirm for the first time that since last fall unnamed representatives of the telecoms phoned and e-mailed administration officials to talk about ways to block more than 40 civil suits accusing the companies of privacy violations because of their participation in a secret post-9/11 surveillance program ordered by the White House....
The recent responses in the Electronic Frontier Foundation lawsuit provide no new information about the administration's controversial post-9/11 electronic surveillance program itself, but they do shed some light on the degree of anxiety within the telecom industry over the litigation generated by the carriers' participation in the secret spying. One court declaration, for example, confirms the existence of notes showing that a telecom representative called an Office of Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) lawyer last fall to talk about "various options" to block the lawsuits, including "such options as court orders and legislation." Another declaration refers to a letter and "four fax cover sheets" exchanged between the telecoms and ODNI over the surveillance matter. Yet another discloses e-mails in which lawyers for the telecoms and the Justice Department "seek or discuss recommendations on legislative strategy."...
So how does the telcos' panic over these potential cases square with the adminstration talking point that the companies did nothing wrong and therefore shouldn't even be threatened with suits? (A specious argument anyway--if they did nothing wrong, they should be happy to have that cleared up in a court of law.) Obviously it doesn't. The telcos that participated knew at the time that they were breaking the law--that's why Qwest didn't participate, and why AT&T and Verizon and the others shouldn't have either. They knew it then and they particularly know it now. Thus their effort to pull all the levers possible to continuing covering up their actions--and the administrations'.
If one thing in the whole amnesty debate wasn't already clear, this information absolutely crystallizes it. This fight has nothing to do with national security. It has everything to do with megacorporations breaking the law and doing everything in their power to get away with it--including getting advice from the Department of Justice about how to do so!
So, Jello Jay, how does it feel to not only be a puppet of the worst administration in the history of the nation, but also of one of the worst industries in the country? How does it feel to be AT&T's stenographer? Because it's now abundantly apparent that they were the ones writing your bill.
As if that wasn't outrageous enough, the article ends with this:
The debate over a new surveillance authorization is likely to be complicated by figures showing sharp increases in the government's electronic eavesdropping on U.S. citizens. One report filed with the office of the administrator of the U.S. Courts shows that standard wiretaps approved by federal and state courts jumped 20 percent last year, from 1,839 in 2006 to 2,208 in 2007. Later this week another report is expected to also show increases in secret wiretaps and break-ins approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in terror and espionage cases. But even these secret wiretaps and break-ins—estimated to be about 2,300—tell only part of the story. They don't include other secret methods the government uses to collect personal information on U.S. citizens.
Obviously, the government doesn't need any expanded surveillance powers, they're doing a bang-up job spying within the law. There is no possible justification for a FISA rewrite in the remaining months of Bush's term.