Telecom, Take Two: 2008 is the New 1984

Like something out of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ or Stephen King’s ‘The Running Man,’ the Senate has voted to broaden the government’s spying powers and bestow immunity on telephone companies that cooperate with President George W. Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program. After rejecting a string of amendments that would have restricted the government’s surveillance powers and destroyed the telephone companies’ immunity, the Senate voted 69 to 29 to end the debate and take the issue to a final vote. That vote ended 68 to 29.
If the House votes yes on warrantless wiretapping, this bill will pretty much annihilate any U.S. citizen’s right to privacy. Telecom companies will eavesdrop on your phone conversations and share your personal information with the government without getting so much as a slap on the hand. If anything, they’ll be rewarded. Horseshit. Orwell’s disturbing description of the future is coming into bloom, and this bill is just another unfurled petal.
Incidentally, the bill will save the phone companies from some 40 pending lawsuits for sharing their customers’ personal information with the government. The phone companies claimed that they were following what they believed was a legally binding order from Bush himself. However, the House has already rejected the idea of immunity, while the Democrats reacted angrily to the Senate vote. Congressional officials did say, though, that the House will have to accept some form of legal protection for the phone companies during the negotiations.
Now wait just one goddamned minute. You have corporations not only violating a plethora of laws and amendments, not only reneging on their promise of service to their customers, but also violating thousands of people’s privacy and trust. They broke the law. They should be sued. That’s how this country’s justice system works.
It’s funny how the rules change when the government’s interests are at stake. Suddenly, legal loopholes magically appear everywhere. And when that’s not the case, the government simply sidesteps the law with its head held high in the name of patriotism. However, patriotism is more than protecting your country; it’s upholding the laws that serve as its foundation. The Bush administration is undermining the credibility of the country in the interests of ‘protecting’ it.
Supporters say that the phone carriers were acting patriotically in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. So it pretty much comes down to compromising every U.S. citizen’s privacy in order to monitor phone calls for terrorist activities. While I am all for preserving our nation and catching any misguided religious zealots who want to discombobulate themselves so they can have a massive orgy in heaven, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. In the words of Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, who filibustered for over 20 hours on the Senate floor in an unsuccessful effort to delay the bill, this vote will be remembered as a test of whether the country heeds the ‘rule of law or the rule of men.’
If it’s OK to tap phones in order to catch terrorists, what next? Our purchases? Our homes? Our clothes? Will the government tap groups it pegs as radical idealists? The potentialities are endless and terrifying. The most disgruntling thing of all, though, is that this maneuver may actually help catch terrorists. God knows there are enough terrorists in this country when you already have Americans who hate the United States, not to mention the brainwashed idealistic families who support the current Iranian regime raising their children on prejudiced and dangerously radical values. A bill like this could effectively prevent a second 9/11 and intercept terrorist activity in the United States.
Personally, I’m torn between the two but leaning toward protection for privacy. I don’t like the idea of the government having more power over our personal lives, but I also want that son-of-a-bitch bin Laden hunted down. You can’t reasonably expect the government to install the wiretaps temporarily