If there was one word that summed up the political tenor of the Bush II presidency, it definitely wouldn’t be accountability. On Friday, this was once again made clear as the House of Representatives passed a bill granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that allowed their networks to be used by the government to eavesdrop on Americans following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“This bipartisan bill balances the needs of our intelligence community with Americans’ civil liberties, and provides critical new oversight and accountability requirements,” House majority leader Steny Hoyer, the senior Democratic negotiator, said in a statement.
“It is the result of compromise, and like any compromise is not perfect, but I believe it strikes a sound balance.”
The new wiretapping deal would allow federal judges to excuse private companies from more than 40 lawsuits accusing them of violating privacy laws and enabling spying without a warrant.
Judges would be required to cancel the lawsuits as long as the US attorney general, Michael Mukasey, certified that the telecom firms were given legal assurances in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
“Providing this liability protection is crucial to the nation’s security,” Mukasey and director of national intelligence Mike McConnell wrote in a letter last night announcing their support for the bill.