Good News/Bad News On FISA

October 23rd, 2007at 07:14am Posted by Eli

The good news is, Jay Rockefeller is totally incorruptible:

Executives at the two biggest phone companies contributed more than $42,000 in political donations to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV this year while seeking his support for legal immunity for businesses participating in National Security Agency eavesdropping.

The surge in contributions came from a Who’s Who of executives at the companies, AT&T and Verizon, starting with the chief executives and including at least 50 executives and lawyers at the two utilities, according to campaign finance reports.

The money came primarily from a fund-raiser that Verizon held for Mr. Rockefeller in March in New York and another that AT&T sponsored for him in May in San Antonio.

Mr. Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, emerged last week as the most important supporter of immunity in devising a compromise plan with Senate Republicans and the Bush administration.


Mr. Rockefeller’s office said Monday that the sharp increases in contributions from the telecommunications executives had no influence on his support for the immunity provision.

“Any suggestion that Senator Rockefeller would make policy decisions based on campaign contributions is patently false,” Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for him, said. “He made his decision to support limited immunity based on the Intelligence Committee’s careful review of the situation and our national security interests.”

Well, that’s a relief! He’s not corrupt, it’s just that one of his core beliefs is that large companies should not be subject to the same laws as everyone else, because that would be a threat to national security. Awesome!

The bad news is, the immunity may extend beyond telecoms:

A few decades ago, the FBI regularly conducted “black-bag jobs” that involved sneaking into homes, hotel rooms and offices with the cooperation of the building’s owner or even a neighbor with a spare key. Locks were picked otherwise.

Because no judge had authorized the FBI’s black-bag job, they were incredibly illegal. In the mid-1970s, the Church Committee famously disclosed the bureau’s clandestine operations.


The FISA Amendments Act, approved by a Senate committee last week, seems to immunize people who cooperated with the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency–and other even more shadowy agencies–that conduct black-bag jobs.

Although most of the attention has focused on how the Senate bill might offer telecommunications service providers retroactive immunity (and derail the lawsuits against AT&T), the actual language appears to cover physical intrusions too:

ASSISTANCE–The term ‘assistance’ means the provision of, or the provision of access to, information… facilities, or another form of assistance

PERSON–The term ‘person’ means…a landlord, custodian, or other person who may be authorized and required to furnish assistance…

IN GENERAL–Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no civil action may lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be promptly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the court that…any assistance by that person was provided pursuant to a directive under sections 102(a)(4), 105B(e)…

Let’s translate that. A hotel manager who lets FBI agents into a guest’s room to copy a laptop’s hard drive in secret would not be liable. An apartment manager who gives Homeland Security the key to a tenant’s unit to place a key logger in a PC would not be liable. A private security firm that divulges a customer’s alarm code would not be liable. A university that agrees to forward a student’s e-mail messages to the Defense Department would not be liable. An antivirus company that helps the NSA implant spyware in an unsuspecting customer’s computer would not be liable.

No court order is required. And if an eventual lawsuit accuses the hotel manager or antivirus firm of unlawful activities, it’ll be thrown out of court as long as the attorney general or the director of national intelligence can provide a “certification.” The “certification” is, of course, secret–all a judge may say publicly is that the rules were followed, and then dismiss the case.

Excellent. The less privacy I have, the safer I feel. Thanks for looking out for me, Senator Rockefeller!

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Corruption/Cronyism,Democrats,Politics,Terrorism,Wankers

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