Bush Says Americans Must Thank Telecoms for Spying on Them, It's "Patriotic Service"

Today, all three networks carried President Bush’s address to the American public bashing the House’s compromise wiretapping legislation. During the speech, Bush once again criticized the American public for failing to fully appreciate the patriotic sacrifices of the nation’s telecoms:
Companies that may have helped us save lives should be thanked for their patriotic service, not subjected to billion-dollar lawsuits that would make them less willing to help in the future.
The House bill may be good for class action trial lawyers, but it would be terrible for the United States.

Claiming that telecoms are patriotic corporations that should be thanked by the American public is Bush’s latest talking point in his push for retroactive immunity, but hardly his only one. A look at Bush’s claims:

1. The House bill “would require the disclosure of state secrets.” The House’s compromise legislation specifically addresses this issue by allowing “defendants in civil lawsuits would have the right to present classified evidence to the judge in such cases, without the plaintiffs being present.” [Link]

2. Without granting telecoms immunity, Americans won’t be “safe from terrorist attack.” Telecoms have continued to cooperate with the administration’s wiretapping since the expiration of the Protect America Act. Intelligence officials now simply need to get a warrant to carry out surveillance; warrants can even be obtained after the surveillance has begun. [Link; Link]

3. The House bill is “good for class action trial lawyers.” In reality, the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in these cases work in “small” nonprofits with “tiny” budgets. If anyone’s looking for a “financial gravy train,” it’s conservatives, who are “griping” that their efforts to protect telecoms haven’t yielded more contributions from the industry. [Link; Link]

4. Telecoms should be “thanked for their patriotic service.” These corporations chose to break the law and profited greatly from doing so. At least one company refused to comply with the Bush administration’s request because it knew the actions were illegal. [Link]

Maybe Americans should tell the telecoms they’re doing a heckuva job.


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