"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Uncle Sam on the Line

November 5th, 2007 by mopns · No Comments

By JOHN ASHCROFT

For almost two years, the country has debated whether the Bush administration acted properly and lawfully in undertaking emergency surveillance operations of suspected foreign terrorists on presidential authorization in the wake of 9/11. For several months, we have been debating bills that seek to modernize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court statute.

There are many complex and difficult issues associated with these debates, but whether to terminate the huge lawsuits that have been filed against the nation’s major telecommunications carriers accused of cooperating with classified counterterrorism programs is not one of them. Whatever one feels about the underlying intelligence activities or the legal basis on which they were initially established, it would be unfair and contrary to the interests of the United States to allow litigation that tries to hold private telecommunications companies liable for them.

At the outset, it is critical to understand what the immunity provisions the administration and Congress have negotiated actually do. This is not “blanket immunity,” as it is sometimes caricatured by its opponents. The Senate bill would confer immunity in only two limited circumstances: if the carrier did not do what the plaintiffs claim; or if the carrier did do what the plaintiffs claim but based on explicit assurances from the highest levels of the government that the activities in question were authorized by the president and determined to be lawful.

Longstanding principles of law hold that an American corporation is entitled to rely on assurances of legality from officials responsible for government activities. The public officials in question might be right or wrong about the advisability or legality of what they are doing, but it is their responsibility, not the company’s, to deal with the consequences if they are wrong. Read more…

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Tags: Hon. John Ashcroft · Iraq War

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