Last week, as Wired Magazine reported, Chuck Fish, a lawyer for Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) campaign, suggested that the senator would support immunity for telecoms that aided the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program only if the companies offered “heartfelt repentance” for illegally spying on Americans:
As president, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain would not support immunity for the telecoms that aided the Bush administration’s warrantless spying program, unless there were revealing Congressional hearings and heartfelt repentance from those telephone and internet companies, a campaign surrogate said Wednesday.
McCain’s campaign is now backtracking from the apology requirement. In a response to the Wired interview, the McCain campaign said McCain has “shown a commitment to winning the battle against Islamic fundamentalists,” arguing that the lawyer “incorrectly represented” McCain’s position:
John McCain believes that as part of this battle, companies who assist the government in good faith should not be punished, but he also believes that Congress must put forth clear guidelines for requesting the participation of private companies, provide proper Congressional oversight of any such participation and protect all Americans privacy. After careful and deliberate consideration, fact-finding, and exploration of options, John McCain has continued to support renewal of the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act. The granting of retroactive immunity supports the continuing efforts of participating companies yet should be done with explicit statements that this is not a blessing for future activities.
McCain has already voted for telecom immunity. In February he said it was “disgraceful” that Congress had not approved a bill expanding the Bush administration’s surveillance powers and granting immunity.
Making the same mistake as Vice President Cheney, the McCain campaign’s statement incorrectly suggests that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is set to expire. As Wired points out, “The Protect America Act, passed last August after much fear mongering, did expire in February, but the orders under that authority remain in effect for a year after they were approved by a judge.”
McJoan notes: “How exactly does rewarding [telecoms] for breaking the law help us ‘win the battle against Islamic fundamentalists’? Can we win it retroactively? Because, if we didn’t win that battle back when the telcos were spying on us illegally, how does granting them retroactive amnesty exactly help now?”