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The Debate Over Telco Immunity

In the legislative debate over the RESTORE Act, the administration is focusing much of its attention on immunity for telecommunications companies that

In the legislative debate over the RESTORE Act, the administration is focusing much of its attention on immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in Bush's legally dubious schemes. Responding to an argument from Time's Joe Klein, Glenn explains how misguided this really is.

To Klein, telecoms did not act illegally. Not at all. They were simply victims of "the Bush Administration['s] refus[al] to update the law" to make the law consistent with what the telecoms were doing. That would be tantamount to a criminal defendant charged with embezzlement going into court and saying: "Your Honor, I didn't do anything wrong. Why should I be punished just because the Bush administration refused to update the law to make my criminal behavior legal?"

Such an "argument" would trigger judicial laughing fits and probably sanctions. But our Beltway elite is so desperate to defend telcoms (and, more importantly, to close off the sole remaining mechanism for investigating the administration's illegal warrantless eavesdropping and obtaining a judicial ruling as to its illegality) that they will twist themselves into the most inane positions in order to defend something as extraordinary as granting retroactive amnesty for lawbreaking telecoms....

[E]ven more unfathomable is the idea that the Congress would pass a law that has no purpose other than to protect from all legal consequences the largest and most powerful corporations in the event that they are found to have broken our nation's surveillance and privacy laws. What possible justification is there for any of that?

Christy has been working hard on this all week, and has more.

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