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Senate Lets Telecoms Off the Hook

Posted on Feb 12, 2008

This might be a moment when Democratic supporters wonder what all the “changing of the guard” fuss was about when Dems took control of Congress in 2006: On Tuesday, the Senate effectively voted in favor of granting telecommunication companies retroactive immunity for their cooperation in the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program.

Talking Points Memo’s Muckraker has a breakdown of how senators voted on the proposed Dodd/Feingold amendment, designed to challenge the Bush administration’s creative reinterpretations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act—in particular, the so-called Protect America Act of 2007. And for all you Campaign ‘08 enthusiasts out there, Sen. John McCain voted against the Dodd/Feingold amendment, Sen. Barack Obama voted for it, and Sen. Hillary Clinton was not present for the vote.


Let there be no doubt: a majority of senators, and a large number of Democrats, think the telecoms should not suffer the hazard of accountability for cooperating with the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) took to the floor last night to give a speech asking, “This is our defining question, the question that confronts every generation: The rule of law, or the rule of men?” The resounding answer: the rule of men.

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By Maani, February 13, 2008 at 2:21 pm Link to this comment


Okay.  Let’s get ALL the FACTS straight.

Senator Dodd, who is himself the leader of the anti-immunity brigade, permitted the bill to be voted on and passed back to the House because he felt that the immunity provision was far more likely to be removed and voted down by the House.  This is the kind of political move that SEEMS to be “giving in,” but is actually the kind of smart decision that a savvy politico like Dodd understands sometimes needs to be made in order to get what one wants.

The “amendment” that Michael Shaw refers to (actually two amendments) did NOT have to do with the immunity provision, but dealt with other aspects of shielding the telecom from lawsuits, while providing some judicial oversight of the program as a whole.  Obama voted on both of these amendments, but Hillary had already left DC for Texas by the time the votes came up.  Neither Obama nor Hillary voted on the actual bill itself.  Note, however, that Obama remains steadfastly against immunity, and Hillary has stated her opposition to immunity on at least two occasions, most recently in late 2007.

All that said, there is still a good chance that Dodd et al will get what they - and we - want: either no immunity for telecoms or far more limited immunity, plus increased judicial and/or congressional oversight of the program as a whole.  Remember: a bill is not a bill, and is certainly not law, until it reaches the president’s desk and he signs it.  We are still not nearly at that point.

The fight is not over yet!  The bill is still very much in play, and is now in the hands of the House, which has a much larger anti-immunity crowd.

I hope this helps to clear up at least some of the confusion and unwarranted (no pun intended) accusations flying around here.


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By Aegrus, February 13, 2008 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment

Alrighty. Thank you for clearing that information for me. Been spending a little too much time focusing on campaign nonsense. This is indeed bad news.

I’m very adamant we need to elect new people to both house and senate. That’s the only way we can really have a chance at change.

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By LibertyWatch, February 13, 2008 at 10:47 am Link to this comment

I was sicken to see my Senators name on the list of corporate puppets that stepped all over my Constitutional rights to privacy and the pursuit of happiness!

Numerous times I have written both my Senator and Congresswoman to ask them to protect the Constitution over political dances of voting. Return our nation to a country that believes in and upholds the Writ of Habeas Corpus and to no avail. I get more meaningful communications talking with my dogs! At least they acknowledge I exist.

Oh well I just turned 60, hopefully I will be able to die a natural death without a politician expediting my departure. They are sure in the fast lane to destroying America for corporate greed and special interest hubris.

PEACE by popular demand!

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By don knutsen, February 13, 2008 at 10:04 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The biggest reason this administration was so adamate in giving cover to the Telecom companies is because, should our justice system ever pull its head outa the partisan muck its still buried in, that its this administration, who coerced these companies into cooperating that should be held liable for their illegal actions against the american people.And that by setting the precident of allowing the telecoms to break the law they will be insulated from accountabilty as well.But expecting our so-called justice system, which has become nothing more then an extension of the republican machinery to return to the basic principles of impartial justice for all is I suppose about as long a shot as waiting for the democratic majority to sprout a spine. As long as H. Ried and N. Pelosi are the respective leaders of the senate and house the republicans apparently can count on continuing as they have been giving the criminals in this white house pretty much whatever they want. They behave like old dogs that have been kicked too many times, too timid to bark back, too afraid to stand up for our rights given us by our own constitution. They need to be forced to step down. Around 70% of the people of this country are not being represented by this congress…and that is not a democracy any longer.

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By rangertommy, February 13, 2008 at 9:43 am Link to this comment

Un-freaking-believable.  Democrats continue to hand this farce of a president what he wants.  Un-freaking-believable.  Why even continue to pretend that Washington (White House and Congresss, Republicans and Democrats) care about the Constitution, law in general, and public service in particular?  What an absolute farce.

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By Maani, February 13, 2008 at 9:30 am Link to this comment


“Didn’t the house vote against this legislation? Isn’t there going to be a conference committee now?”

Actually, the House passed their version of the bill some time ago, pretty handily.  They were waiting for the Senate’s version.  After this, the two versions are reconciled and the final bill goes to Bush for signing.


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By Aegrus, February 13, 2008 at 7:06 am Link to this comment

Didn’t the house vote against this legislation? Isn’t there going to be a conference committee now?

I swear, we can’t stop with Barack as the next president. We need to re-elect many democratic seats in both houses of congress before any real change is going to happen. Don’t believe the DLC and Bluedog crap. These people have no political courage, understanding or competence.

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By Thomas Billis, February 13, 2008 at 3:50 am Link to this comment

The Government breaks the law and coerces corporations to play along and no one gets punished.What a perfectly corrupt system.You get immunity from laws that you claim you did not break.What is refreshing to some of us is to find out that the Democrats are as complicit as the Republicans in the decimation of the constitution.I guess what the Democrats mean by change is that they get to break the law with immunity.Let us see if the Republicans will take impeachment off the table.

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By Maani, February 12, 2008 at 10:10 pm Link to this comment


First, Obama did NOT vote on the final bill; he voted ONLY on the cloture motion before it.  Obama and Hillary were BOTH absent for the final vote.  This is confirmed on the roll call for the votes.

However, if you think giving the telecom a pass is bad, scary news, you MUST read the following.  The first is just a brief, but important, primer.  The second is a longer article on the program.

This is a SERIOUSLY dangerous and outrageous step.


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By Maani, February 12, 2008 at 9:28 pm Link to this comment


Actually, Hillary DID have something to say about it.  Here is her response when the bill was first put forward:

“I am troubled by the concerns that have been raised by the recent legislation reported out of the Intelligence Committee. I haven’t seen it so I can’t express an opinion about it. But I don’t trust the Bush Administration with our civil rights and liberties. So I’m going to study it very hard. As matters stand now, I could not support it and I would support a filibuster absent additional information coming forward that would convince me differently.”

Thus, the only thing she DID say about it was that she would not support it.  That she was not present for the vote could have been caused by any number of things (just as Obama’s numerous “NV” votes could have been the result of any number of things).


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By purplewolf, February 12, 2008 at 6:14 pm Link to this comment

The title tells it. You will never get another vote from me Debbie Stabenow. You should know better. To continue to give this current administration a go ahead to break the rules, along with all the other with all the companies who provide this ill begotten and illegal information is not what you were elected for, by the people of Michigan. To be a part of the law breaking administration makes you no better than the lying sitting president and his minions. You are no longer fit to serve as a representative of the American people. Your service(disservice) is no longer required or needed. What ever happened to standing up and doing the right thing?

And naturally, Hillary didn’t vote again, as usual. By not voting, or saying nothing speaks volumes also. If those who are send forth to represent us fail to do as, as so often has happened in this 7+ years mess, we don’t need them and should refuse to vote for them in future.

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By DennisD, February 12, 2008 at 5:23 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“Democratic supporters wonder what all the “changing of the guard” fuss was about when Dems took control of Congress in ‘06”

It didn’t take Nostradamus to see this one coming. Be prepared for more future disappointments. Who really believes that a government that operates totally outside the “law” would follow any.

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By PatrickHenry, February 12, 2008 at 5:02 pm Link to this comment

Qwest took the high road in this affair and should have preference in government contracts as a reward, the violating telecoms fined and their government contracts reduced.

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