Sigh. I’m not a conspiracy nut by any stretch, but when are Americans going to wake up and realize that their government doesn’t always have their interests at heart? Today, the Senate passed a bill that gives telecom companies immunity from lawsuits based on warrant-free government eavesdropping after September 11:
Senators voted 67 to 31 to shelve the amendment offered by Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Russell Feingold (D-Wis.). A filibuster-proof 60 votes had been needed for the amendment to move forward.
The vote represented a victory for the Bush administration and a number of telecommunications companies—including AT&T and Sprint Nextel—that face dozens of lawsuits from customers seeking billions of dollars in damages.
Approval of the amendment would have exposed the companies to privacy lawsuits for helping the administration monitor the calls of suspected terrorists without warrants from a special court following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The amendment was one of a series the Senate is considering today to modify legislation that would extend the government’s authority to carry out electronic surveillance against targets outside the United States. (link)
I’ve quoted him often, but Benjamin Franklin perfectly captures my feelings about such actions:
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. (link)
Even more troubling are the companies willing to bow to government pressure to invade the privacy of their customers. Now that the telecoms potentially face no consequences (the House’s bill doesn’t carry the immunity measure), what’s to keep them from engaging in similar future behavior? What do companies hope to gain by aiding and abetting such behavior?
Using Fear to Explain Actions
I’m not anti-national security; rather, I question what my government hopes to gain by listening to private conversations without verifiable cause. I’ve heard the arguments that warrants take time to get, law enforcement will miss out on opportunities, yada, yada, yada. But what’s it worth if the thing supposedly being defended is destroyed by such efforts?
Don’t let the words fool you. Question actions defended by fear and fear alone. Infringements on freedom demand a clear explanation that doesn’t resort to making you cower under your bed. If you’re sacrificing freedom, you should know why you’re doing so. After that, it’s up to you to weigh if the little liberty you give up for a little security gains you anything of value. I have my doubts about the parity of such exchanges
Update: The House of Representatives voted against extending the act that gives telecoms immunity. Here’s hoping some politicians show some backbone. (link)