Politics

Bush: Americans ‘Ought To Say Thank You’ To Telecoms For ‘Performing A Patriotic Service’

The Bush administration has launched an aggressive campaign to pressure the House into passing retroactive immunity for telecoms that participated in the government’s warrantless wiretapping program.

Because they complied in illegally wiretapping their customers, telecoms currently face around 40 lawsuits. Yesterday in a speech to the National Association of Attorneys General, Bush sharply criticized Americans who are suing the telecoms:

Now the question is, should these lawsuits be allowed to proceed, or should any company that may have helped save American lives be thanked for performing a patriotic service; should those who stepped forward to say we’re going to help defend America have to go to the courthouse to defend themselves, or should the Congress and the President say thank you for doing your patriotic duty? I believe we ought to say thank you.

Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2008/03/bushthankfi.320.240.flv]

Bush is implying that Americans who oppose telecom immunity are unpatriotic. But the American people don’t owe the telecoms any gratitude. 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.)

Last week in a letter to Congress, the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA) — which represents groups such as Google and Microsoft — said that it “strongly” opposes retroactive immunity: “To imply that our industry would refuse assistance under established law is an affront to the civic integrity of businesses that have consistently cooperated unquestioningly with legal requests for information.”

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Transcript:

And I thank you for wading in. There’s a lot of legal complexities on the FISA renewal debate, but the real issue comes down to this: To defend the country, we need to be able to monitor communications of terrorists quickly and be able to do it effectively.

And we can’t do it without the cooperation of private companies. Unfortunately, some of the private companies have been sued for billions of dollars because they are believed to have helped defend America after the attacks on 9/11. Now the question is, should these lawsuits be allowed to proceed, or should any company that may have helped save American lives be thanked for performing a patriotic service; should those who stepped forward to say we’re going to help defend America have to go to the courthouse to defend themselves, or should the Congress and the President say thank you for doing your patriotic duty? I believe we ought to say thank you.