Obama will defend telco spy immunity

Over at Wired's Threat Level blog, reports that the incoming Obama administration will defend congressional legislation that protected American telecommunication companies from lawsuits over participation in the Bush administration's domestic surveillance program. Snip:
That was the assessment Thursday by Eric Holder, President-elect Barack Obama's choice for attorney general, who made the statement during his confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee. A court challenge questioning the legality of the legislation is pending in U.S. District Court in San Francisco -- where the judge in the case wanted to know what the Obama administration's position was.

"The duty of the Justice Department is to defend statutes that have been passed by Congress," Holder told Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah), who asked whether the Obama administration would continue the legal fight to uphold the legislation that the Electronic Frontier Foundation is seeking to overturn.

"Unless there are compelling reasons, I don't think we would reverse course," Holder added.

Obama to Defend Telco Spy Immunity

* EFF sues Cheney, Bush, and the NSA to stop illegal wiretapping
* EFF sues to overturn telcom immunity
* House passes wiretap telcom immunity bill
* New Obama poster: Illegal Wiretaps We Can Believe In
* Obama's support for the FISA "compromise"
* Senate votes to immunize telecoms over domestic spying


  1. Meh. I was always a nonbeliever. I’d love to be proven wrong, but cynicism is such a terribly safe bet.

    Well, the term is yet young. There’s still plenty of time to take in whatever happens.

  2. It’s a shame that more people didn’t see it, or didn’t want to, but Obama doesn’t exactly have a stellar record with supporting individual rights to privacy.

    Well, actually, his record kinda sucks in that arena.

    I do have high hopes for what might be a new step forward in equality that he may represent, but none for him in particular. In some ways, I wish McCain had won- the people for whom personal freedom, humane behavior, and responsibility would have been a lot more motivated to truly fix things because then they would have been pissed off and frustrated. Now I feel that they will instead have the wind taken out of their sails, and merely accept whatever is handed on down the line.

  3. that game is over until the system changes.
    in the meantime, embrace “change” and hang on for the ride. it cannot be worse than the alternative.

  4. don’t. The bastards wanted your hope dead and did everything they could to kill it and make you a good little servant. It may actually only BE an illusion, but if you haven’t got it you will lose the ability to spit in the face of evil. (Right Cheney, you little pimp? HAWWWKK PTUAUGH!) If Obama’s going to fail, he still deserves his chance.(not like you, Dick, you corrupt sack of guano, PHTTTWAARK!) … I’ve got an idea; let every human on the plant that can still see straight mail Cheney a baggie of their esteem. You could pack it in a old shoe.

  5. Well if you look at it from a realistic standpoint, it is not in the executive’s interest to partake of activities that decrease it’s powear or reach. From that perspective, it will always want the ready cooperation of corporations. People should know as much already from all the corporate schmoozing that has taken place on behalf of the democratic party. I hope things will change, I really do.

  6. remain vigilant: every one look under their bed and look for them “comunists”, then straight to the fallout shelter.

    but seriously, xeni, why today this post. you trying to killjoy history?

    you could’ve waited a couple of days . . .

  7. you all need to cheer up! How about if they use all those FEMA concentration camps to hold all the TSA and Border thugs that made you miserable for the past eight years? A little payback? There must be literally millions of collaborators from the Cheney Occupation.

  8. This guy will be nothing more than another four years of the Clinton administration.

    We’ve all had our expectations lowered so much by Bush that that sounds pretty damn good.

    But he ain’t the guy we’ve all imagined him to be.

  9. ahhhhhhhh ….. almost

    i prefer the older, emphysemic mutley.

    but that’s right Obama is being inaugurated.
    and your phone calls and internet posts are being monitored.

  10. “Unless there are compelling reasons, I don’t think we would reverse course,” Holder added.

    Well… it was illegal… which is why they’re getting amnesty for their crimes. Reinstating the whole “rule of law and not of men” thing seemed compelling to me.

  11. Wow.

    It’s amazing to me that anyone has seen anything in Obama but an intelligent, pragmatic centrist. A true centrist, maybe (as opposed to a Clintonian, DLC psuedo-centrist)(and don’t hold your breath), but a realpolitik, dirty, career politician centrist nonetheless.

    Really, if you expect revolutionary (read: substantial) change from a centrist in US politics you have deluded yourself.

    However, I do believe in revolutionary reform, the idea of incremental, system-based steps leading to the systemic change we need to move the world towards justice and peace and stop our slow-motion species suicide. I see areas where Obama and his long-compromised party might steward legislation that could create possibilities for that fundamental change to eventually occur.

    That’s something to hope for.

    And I bet it’s gonna be a good speech.

  12. Yawn. I don’t know why anyone is actually expecting drastic change from Obama, it’s just not going to happen. He’s all about the money just as much as every other Democrat and Republican.

  13. #27
    thank you (for slanting it slightly back toward relevant to the thread)

    Yawn. So kill yourself now or wait for the revolution, when you can be yawn again?

    so who’s for telco spy immunity?

    we can haz change.
    if we don’t get it, we go again.

    every voice counts

  14. Waiting for change to come from politicians is not sensible. Realpolitik is generated by the conditions on the ground. We have to *generate* those conditions.

    Change comes from below. Radical change comes from us cooperating to generate the need for political concessions. This is the history of emancipatory politics (civil rights/ feminism etc)

    Waiting for the revolution is nonsensical since the revolution comes from our activity. Waiting for politicians to implement change is non-sensical since they simply will act in ways that satisfy the most powerful interests. If we want them to act a certain way, we have to *take* the power.

    Here is to an end to Telco immunity and single-payer health care. Two things Obama has no intention of doing unless we make him.

  15. Thanks for posting, we must hold their feet to the fire, as soon as possible and every time. This is just further proof that there is no liberal left in U.S. politics. Bush and Co. were extreme right, almost fascist. Obama is not even a centrist, but will wear that cloak as needed. Let’s just hope he doesn’t back track on the biggest issues, closing Gitmo and leaving Iraq. Most Americans don’t appreciate the illegal wiretap issue, so there is not going to be much blow back; besides he voted for it in the past. Did we really expect him to suddenly change course and start off fighting congress?

  16. What this says to me is that maybe telco immunity is a good idea if even the most progressive of presidents sees a good reason for it.

  17. Man now I wish I would have voted for McCain who would have ended telecom immunity, the PATRIOT act, torturing detainees, and the Iraq war. Oh wait.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t grill Obama for this – we absolutely should. But it’s stupid to say that he wasn’t the right choice for this. Even though it looks like he’s in the telco’s pockets now, there is still a much greater chance of getting him to change his mind than there would have been for any of the other candidates.

  18. Actually, what the future AG said is pretty simple: if it’s a law passed by congress, then the government will defend it in the lawsuit. This is in keeping with Obama’s message of getting the executive branch out of the business of second-guessing the legislative. Mr. Holder neatly sidestepped the question of whether it was a good idea or not.

    It’s exactly the answer I would have expected in a congressional hearing, to be honest. It points out that responsibility for the law lies with congress, and at the same time promises to respect congress’ legislation. This is in direct contrast to the previous AG’s who thumbed their noses at congress whenever they disagreed.

  19. (as opposed to a Clintonian, DLC psuedo-centrist)(and don’t hold your breath)

    i.e. the radical center.

    single-payer health care

    Which is code for “universal healthcare” / “socialized medicine“.

    The question isn’t how to make government pay for expensive healthcare, but why healthcare is so expensive to begin with. (To understand what to do about the situation as it is, we must first understand how it came to be this way.) The solution requires (regardless of who’s paying) making healthcare affordable (i.e. out-of-pocket).

    we must hold their feet to the fire, as soon as possible and every time.


    Actually, what the future AG said is pretty simple: if it’s a law passed by congress, then the government will defend it in the lawsuit.

    Shielding the telecoms in sovereign immunity then?

  20. I’m not against immunity for the telco’s. I am firmly against a no questions asked blanket imunity.

    I am decidedly FOR immunity if the telco’s own up to exactly what they did, and carry on with appropriate oversight.

    It’s inauguration day – i doubt it will be decided today.

  21. I think this is more a start of getting the executive branch out of congressional issues than anything else. Let’s get congress to change this, instead of wishing for the magic presidential wand to fix everything.
    After all, when the magic presidential wand was waved over the last eight years we were usually upset at its appearance.

  22. “As for our common defence, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

    Ray of hope?

  23. Why the surprise? Obama voted for the bill and defended it at the time. The question here isn’t even whether Obama or his Attorney General think it’s a good law, it’s only whether they think it’s constitutional.

  24. Well, there’s also the question of how vigorously the AG’s office will defend the law from the EFF’s lawsuit.

  25. Weedy liberal voice here: is there another expression instead of “hold their feet to the fire”? How about, make them keep their word? Hold them to their word? Argue the case so persuasively they do the right thing? “HTFTTF” sounds somehow Guantanamo.

  26. @24
    See there you go. They didn’t say they won’t change it flat out. They said if they don’t see any reason to they won’t.

    That is how you make the reasons. Nobody is going to say they will never remove the Telecom immunity. They will say they are unlikely too. Make it a big deal and say to the parties that you will do something about it and then they will listen.

    The whole point of democratic nations is that the people are given some power. Around here when you yell and throw a fit loud enough with enough people you get a change. In dictatorships you yell and throw a fit and you disappear.

    It’s only a matter of time until we can organize a community that meets online and enacts change. Right now we’re agitating and annoying. If enough educated people can organize then we can actually have power as well. Don’t think that we don’t need to do this either. Just look at all the corporations. Telecom’s get immunity because somebody asked for it. Corps get what they want with money, we the people get it for our vote and our voice.

  27. Prunk, you got it right:

    “Around here when you yell and throw a fit loud enough with enough people you get a change.”

    The trouble is, I can’t help but keep thinking that educated people in positions of power might one day do the right thing without having to be forced into it by public outcry. Never happens, of course, but bless-the-non-existent-lord I wish it would.

  28. Patrick,

    You have to be picky I guess in what one should define educated as being. Educated as to how to make change? Or educated as to what change needs to be made, and on what basis?
    What we need are people educated as to why the removal of liberties is a bad thing.

    The simple solution to that is something I would hope is most inherit but possibly tricky to put in practice. It’s the difference of positive and negative freedoms. Positive being that you are free to do the right thing. Negative being you are restricted from doing the wrong thing. And anyone who has studied child psychology will recognize that argument as being the same as an authoritative vs. authoritarian parenting. Authoritative being seen as a positive freedom. Also authoritative is far more beneficial to the child/citizen. They grow up with a respect of authority and are forced to think about their actions. Something that everyone needs to do a lot more often.

  29. “There’s the revolution you came for, and the one you’re eventually going to get. And there’s a road that starts right here…” –mt. goats

  30. It’s hilarious to see so many people rationalizing this here. You people need to set the bar now or else you’re going to keep rationalizing the next 4 years of mediocre nothingness. You’re the same people who cheered for “CHANGE” and now change is “obviously” too much to ask for.

    I’d like to see some real answers to Hanson’s bar setting challenge (http://www.overcomingbias.com/2009/01/set-obamas-bar.html) from Obama supporters. Not endless excuses.

    1. FYI – use of the phrase “you people” is not a good way to win friends and influence people. I’m just sayin.

  31. Obama voted for the immunity last year. Privacy and the Constitution rank really low on his list of priorities. This is only a surprise to the most hardcore Hope/Change/Obamaphemera addicts.

    The antidote to Hope and Change is reality. And maybe anger. And then action. Demand that the EFF and the ACLU and IJ and all the other civil rights organizations press Obama hard and not give him a honeymoon.

    Troops out of Iraq, close the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, stop the spying, prosecute the criminals. Demand it early, demand it often.

  32. I am not American but I believe one poster previously got it right when he/she said that in the first instance Obama should respect the law of Congress even if passed by another moore right wing administration. Once this is settled, then he can manoevre in his own way.

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