Why Telecoms Will Get Their Immunity

Wiretap Compromise in Works
FISA Update May Hinge On Two Separate Votes

By Ellen Nakashima and Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 4, 2008; A03
House and Senate Democratic leaders are headed into talks today that they say could lead to a breakthrough on legislation to revamp domestic surveillance powers and grant phone companies some form of immunity for their role in the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A senior House Democratic aide said a bill could be sent to President Bush as early as next week. But significant issues remain, including those surrounding immunity, said Wyndee R. Parker, general counsel of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Parker, who said she hopes the House can take up the compromise legislation as early as this week, said a resolution has been delayed partly by the need for all members of the House Judiciary Committee to gain access to the letters and other relevant documents sent to the phone companies by the administration requesting their assistance.
There are certain portions of American infrastructure that simply cannot be let fall, and the telecoms, ratty and underserving, conniving and arrogant as they are–are just such a structure.
They have served America in grand or treasonous activity, depending upon point of view and respect for that careworn constitutional document we have all but abandoned. No surprise there, given that they are capitalist organizations, dependent upon the whim of a government whose attention prefers to be elsewhere.
Government has been obligingly incognizant for such a long time that, should telecoms fail to make it under the comfort and cover of immunity, the whole carpet will roll up and we’ll face major failures–a coming apart of the communication industry that is anything but virtual.
Actual failure looms.
A case can be made for the plus-side of massive telecom failure, but not much of one. The lessons of constitutional avoidance would be writ large. Telecoms, added to airlines, added to housing, credit-cards, hedge-funds and the very mechanisms of American style capitalism would be that prescient straw on the laboring camel’s back of the Milton Friedman, Harvard Business School model.
Collapse wouldn’t be much fun, but just how long do we suppose we can keep pasting band-aids on a critically bleeding system? Uncontrollable debt (both personal and national), all guns and no butter, all profit and no investment, all me, me, me–hasn’t turned out to be very equitable (or sustainable).
Equity didn’t come in the last century in this country until after 1929 and, even then, it came at a terrible price across all socio-economic structures. This administration is trying desperately to keep whistling past the graveyard until after November.
Whether they make it or not is anyone’s guess.

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