Four Democratic senators have introduced a bill that would, if passed, repeal the legal immunity afforded the telecommunications industry for their participation in President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.
Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) announced the measure Monday. In a release, they said the bill “eliminates retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that allegedly participated in President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program.”
The four senators, all liberal Democrats, emphasized that they believed granting the industry immunity violated the law and due process.
“I believe we best defend America when we also defend its founding principles,” Dodd said in the release. “We make our nation safer when we eliminate the false choice between liberty and security. But by granting retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies who may have participated in warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, the Congress violated the protection of our citizen’s privacy and due process right and we must not allow that to stand.”
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) hailed the measure as a return to the rule of law.
“Last year, I opposed legislation that stripped Americans of their right to seek accountability for the Bush administration’s decision to illegally wiretap American citizens without a warrant,” Leahy said. “Today, I am pleased to join Senator Dodd to introduce the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act. We can strengthen national security while protecting Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. Restoring Americans’ access to the courts is the first step toward bringing some measure of accountability for the Bush-Cheney administration’s decision to conduct warrantless surveillance in violation of our laws.”
Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold asserted that the telecom immunity provision, contained in a revision to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Act (FISA), short-circuited the US legal system.
“Granting retroactive immunity to companies that went along with the illegal warrantless wiretapping program was unjustified and undermined the rule of law,” Feingold said in a statement. “Congress should not have short-circuited the courts’ constitutional role in assessing the legality of the program. This bill is about ensuring that the law is followed and providing accountability for the American people.”
“During the previous administration, telecommunications companies were granted retroactive immunity for violating the rights and privacy of millions of Americans,” Merkley, the fourth and newest Democratic senator in the group, said. “I am proud to join Senator Dodd and co-sponsor the Retroactive Immunity Repeal Act to help restore accountability and increase oversight to protect the privacy rights that have been central to our nation since its inception.”
The bill will face an uphill battle in the Senate. An amendment by Dodd and Feingold to strip telecom immunity from an earlier bill was defeated 67-31 in 2008.
New evidence shows Trump—who says he knew Covid-19 was ‘going to be horrible’—allowed exports of crucial supplies to continue
While countries in Europe and Asia spent the first several weeks of the year preparing their healthcare systems and populations for the coronavirus outbreak by stockpiling crucial medical supplies, the Trump administration spent that same time sending dozens of medical shipments overseas as President Donald Trump denied the coronavirus would have much of an impact on the United States.
As The Intercept reported Wednesday, while the new coronavirus ravaged countries including China, Italy, and Iran in February and early March, U.S. manufacturers were sending large shipments of respirators, ventilators, and protective medical equipment to Germany, Belgium, and Japan.
Trump ignored White House economists’ warning of devastating impact of pandemic months ago: report
A study by the Council of Economic Advisers ordered by the National Security Council predicted that a pandemic similar to the 1918 Spanish flu or the 2009 swine flu could lead to a half-million deaths and cost the economy as much as $3.8 trillion.
Rural communities with few coronavirus cases will get rapid-test kits over larger areas — White House decides: report
Large cities are exploding with coronavirus cases, but the White House has decided that the rapid testing machines should be sent somewhere else.
According to the Washington Post, "some White House officials want to ship many of the tests, which were approved Friday and can deliver results in five to 13 minutes, to areas where there are fewer cases, such as rural states and parts of the South."
But officials in hard-hit and more populated states need help now and are quickly running out of resources.