Democrats cave on telecom immunity

Bowing to pressure by the chattering political class, U.S. House democrats reversed their earlier position to avoid appearing soft on terrorism, reports our Washington Independent colleague Mike Lillis:

In February, as the law authorizing the Bush administration’s controversial warrantless wiretapping program was set to lapse, House Democrats brushed aside GOP threats and let the clock run out. Politically, the move was a gamble: White House officials had claimed the law — including retroactive legal immunity for the phone companies that participated — was necessary to protect the country from terrorist attacks. The administration pushed its message relentlessly.

To the delight of privacy and civil-liberties groups, however, the Democrats stood their ground.

"We must not fall prey to fear-mongers who claim that our intelligence community could ‘go dark,’" House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said on the chamber floor at the time. "That is simply not true."

Four months later, a very different scenario is playing out on Capitol Hill, where congressional leaders on Thursday unveiled a new agreement to expand the administration’s domestic wiretapping capabilities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The bill would effectively lead to the dismissal of the roughly 40 civil suits currently pending against the telecom companies for allegedly violating the civil liberties of their customers.

The full story is here.

As we reported months ago in Telecom Money Shifts to Democrats in Net Neutrality Fight and Democrats, Telecoms Sidle Closer Together,  perhaps that old-fashioned notion of protecting the Constitution simply gave way to lining election year pockets as expediently as possible.

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