Posted by Brian at 6:31 PM
People take this guy seriously?
I mean, this is reasoning that wouldn't get a C in my freshman comp class.
From the start, I've argued that the NSA's data-mining program is essential and easily made legal by updating the FISA law. The Bush Administration cynically refused to make it legal, hoping to use Democratic opposition as a political bludgeon...
(And I have no problem with telecommunications companies being protected from lawsuits brought by those who may or may not have been illegally targeted simply because the Bush Administration refused to update the law.)
What Klein here is saying is that even though the telecoms broke the law, they should be immune from lawsuits because they were breaking a law that needed to be updated. Forget Comp 1--Klein needs to go back to high school Civics class, because he's obviously forgotten that neither people nor corporations nor the President of the United States get to change laws on their own, nor do they get to interpret the laws that currently exist. Congress gets to do the former, the courts the latter.
So it's really irrelevant whether Bush was being cynical when he didn't go to Congress for the update. Because he didn't, the law stayed the same, and he authorized illegal activity. And it doesn't matter whether or not the telecoms felt they were doing their patriotic duty when they agreed to the Bush request, or if the law needed updating--when they agreed, the law hadn't been updated, and so they were breaking it.
This isn't Hegel we're dealing with here. This is basic reasoning--our governmental system says that the courts decide what's constitutional, not the President. And the Congress gets to write the laws, not the President. And if Congress decides not to update laws in a particular arena, then the old law stays in effect, and people and companies who break that law are subject to penalties, both criminal and civil as they apply. Fortunately, Klein is neither God nor the Congress--he doesn't get to decide whether or not the telecoms will be made immune from lawsuits stemming from this program--Congress will, and I hope they say no.
For a fuller discussion of all these issues, read Hilzoy.