Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has consistently spoken out and voted against granting retroactive immunity for telecoms that participated with the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. This stance was part of the reason he won the support of Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), a leader on civil liberties issues.
One of Obama’s advisers on intelligence and foreign policy advisers, however, is someone who “strongly” supports telecomm immunity. John Brennan is a former CIA official and the current chairman of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. In a new National Journal interview, Brennan makes it clear that he agrees with the Bush administration on the issue of immunity:
There is this great debate over whether or not the telecom companies should in fact be given immunity for their agreement to provide support and cooperate with the government after 9/11. I do believe strongly that they should be granted that immunity, because they were told to do so by the appropriate authorities that were operating in a legal context, and so I think that’s important. And I know people are concerned about that, but I do believe that’s the right thing to do. I do believe the Senate version of the FISA bill addresses the issues appropriately.
These corporations may not have been acting within law, which is why many of them are now pushing for immunity. 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.)
Because they complied in illegally wiretapping their customers, telecoms currently face around 40 lawsuits. Telecomms have nothing to fear from going to court, as long as they can prove that what they did is lawful.
Brennan also warned the next president from making any partisan “knee-jerk” decisions on intelligence when he or she takes office.