It’s that time again, where we dial for spines in Congress. Why, you might ask? There’s yet another rumor that a FISA compromise may be in the works, spearheaded by those kings of
telecom lobby cronyism bi-partisan jocularity Steny Hoyer, Kit Bond, and Jay Rockefeller. Except this time, it looks as though they have brought Sylvester Reyes along for the joy ride.
The folks at EFF, the ACLU and other civil liberties groups are pushing back, but they need our help. And they need it today.
Jeebus, how many times do I have to ask this question: Do you trust the word of George Bush and Dick Cheney? Because I know my answer. And given how much they have been hiding from all of us, and from Congress, and how many times they have lied — repeatedly — to all of us? I know what their answer ought to be as well. And yet, how is the system working for the little guy versus the big money corporations who may have aided and abetted lawbreaking on the part of the Bush Administration? Well, things are going quite well for the telecoms:
The telecoms who are being sued for their cooperation in the government’s illegal warrantless surveillance program have received billions in government contracts. According to Washington Technology magazine, Verizon received $1.3 billion, Sprint $839 million and AT&T $505 million in federal prime contract revenue for fiscal 2007, for a total of $2.6 billion. While the companies have been government contractors for a long time, it still represents a significant increase in revenue.
Telecom apologists like to suggest that the communications companies’ motivation was not financial. As Judge Walker noted [PDF] when examining EFF’s allegations of dragnet surveillance: "AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal." Yet, the prospect of $2.6 billion per year can go a long way to explaining why an industry might cooperate with a program far outside the limitations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), despite the difficulty of believing it was legal.
Note that the numbers represent publicly available information for prime contracting only and do not include subcontracting revenue. Any monies paid for the secret NSA surveillance program would be in addition to the public contracting numbers. (emphasis mine)
By the numbers, from 2003 to 2008, revenues for AT&T, Verizon and Sprint increased by $2,092,855,000. Cozy cronyism, when you can get it, eh?
I smell a rat. In the form of a big "keep your mouth shut" payoff from the Bush Administration that’s being recycled into lobbying "street money" to dispense to members of Congress. How much taxpayer money is going out the door in black program contracts, too, to cover Dick Cheney’s ass? How much CYA is coming out of my pocket — and yours? That’s an awful lot of "buy yourself some Congressional time" spending money to be throwing around, isn’t it? (The next GOP mouthpiece who spouts off about "plaintiff’s lawyers looking to make a buck" on the EFF/ACLU suit needs to have these contract numbers thrown right back in their face. On camera.)
It is time to ratchet up the pressure on members of Congress — especially the leadership. But every member of Congress — House and Senate — needs a call today. McJoan suggests phoning "Pelosi (202-225-4965, Fax: 202-225-8259) and Hoyer (202-225-4131, Fax: 202-225-4300) and tell them the Bond bill is unacceptable. Tell them that, if any action is necessary, it would be better to vote to extend the PAA for a year than to give up everything they gained in the bill they passed in February." dday says that Sen. Obama (Phone (202) 224-2854, FAX (202) 228-4260) ought to stand up on this issue. I couldn’t agree more.
If ever there were a time to demand that your representatives stand up for the rule of law, for the Fourth Amendment, and against telecom immunity, it would be right now. Ryan Single at Wired lines out all the issues with the proposed compromise, as does the ACLU (here and here). Glenn hits McCain’s disregard for the rule of law, as does Slashdot.
The public deserves to know the truth — about what happened, and about why their tax dollars are being used to lubricate the wheels of legislation on this so-called FISA Compromise, which is nothing more than capitulation to Dick Cheney’s demands for crony cover and a wholesale sell-out of the rule of law. Let’s hit the phones…