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Cheney Pushes For Telecom Immunity: ‘We Haven’t Violated Anybody’s Civil Liberties’

By Faiz Shakir  

"Cheney Pushes For Telecom Immunity: ‘We Haven’t Violated Anybody’s Civil Liberties’"

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Yesterday, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared as a guest on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and used the opportunity to stump for retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies that illegally spied on American citizens:

CHENEY: People who don’t want to — I guess want to leave open the possibility that the trial lawyers can go after a big company that may have helped. Those companies helped specifically at our request, and they’ve done yeoman duty for the country, and this is the so-called terrorist surveillance program, one of the things it was called earlier. It’s just absolutely essential to know who in the United States is talking to Al-Qaeda. It’s a program that’s been very well managed. We haven’t violated anybody’s civil liberties. It’s in fact a good piece of legislation.

Listen to it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/01/cheneylim4.320.40.flv]

In Cheney’s mind, breaking the law and engaging in illegal conduct apparently aren’t violations of civil liberties.

Telecoms should not be let off the hook because Dick Cheney says they did “yeoman duty for the country.” They 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.) As Glenn Greenwald explains, the proper course is to permit these companies to present to a court whatever evidence they relied on to justify their activities and let a judge decide:

If telecoms were really these poor, “helpless” victims unable to defend themselves, the solution isn’t to bar anyone from suing them even when they break the law. The solution, if that were really the concern, is simply to add a provision to FISA enabling them to submit that evidence in secret, the way classified evidence is submitted to federal courts all the time.

Matt Renner reports that Third Way, a non-profit “progressive” think tank, is taking Cheney’s side and working to pass retroactive immunity for the telecom companies.

Digg It!

UPDATE: Marcy Wheeler tracks Dick Cheney’s evolving language on FISA.

Transcript:

RUSH: I see here today an AP story that the House of Representatives has voted to delay the demise of the wiretap law by two weeks. So we’ve got a two-week extension on FISA. You know, we’re in the middle of a presidential election year, and a lot of people’s attention is focused on that, not on FISA and the efforts that you and the people in the administration are doing to continue to detect potential attacks. What’s the status, what’s the big deal about two weeks?

CHENEY: Well, the legislation is absolutely essential, of course. They passed a six-month extension last August, which expires on Friday, with the idea that they would finish up the legislation by Friday. They’ve had six months to work on it. One of the main things we need in there, for example, is retroactive liability protection for the companies that have worked with us and helped us prevent further attacks against the United States —

RUSH: Like the phone companies?

CHENEY: — the most controversial part. Right. And so far they haven’t been able to get it done. So what has been agreed to is to give them 15 more days to wrap it up and finish it up here. The president’s been holding their feet to the fire. They claim they can get it done in 15 more days, and the battle right now is focused on the Senate. The House has already passed a version of it, but we do badly need this legislation. It’s been essential in terms of protecting the country against further attacks, vital, one of the most vital things the president’s done since 9/11, and it would be a tragedy if this authority weren’t extended.

RUSH: The opposition in the Senate is primarily from Democrats, correct?

CHENEY: Correct. People who don’t want to — I guess want to leave open the possibility that the trial lawyers can go after a big company that may have helped. Those companies helped specifically at our request, and they’ve done yeoman duty for the country, and this is the so-called terrorist surveillance program, one of the things it was called earlier. It’s just absolutely essential to know who in the United States is talking to Al-Qaeda. It’s a program that’s been very well managed. We haven’t violated anybody’s civil liberties. It’s in fact a good piece of legislation.

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