DMI Blog

Kia Franklin

Bill to Codify Corporate Privilege—I mean, “Retroactive Immunity Bill”

Remember in the news there was talk about big hefty political donations from telecom execs to Senator John D. Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who emerged last week as the most important supporter of retroactive immunity for telecom co's that spied on people? Well, organizations and individuals who believe in Americans' right not to be spied upon, and who believe that when we are illegally spied upon we should be able to take our snoopers to court, are not standing for it. All over the blogosphere you can see a growing movement against the retroactive immunity bill and what it stands for in terms of corporate privilege/accountability.

So if all these groups have something insightful to say about this, why should TortDeform add it's two cents? Good point--but here are the pennies anyway:

This issue is particularly important from a civil justice perspective, particularly when you think of the implications of giving a company legal immunity simply because it can:
a) say "the government told us to do it,"
b) say "we didn't know it was illegal," and/or
c) pay the decisionmakers enough to actually listen to arguments a) and b) and then actually grant them immunity for breaking the law and violating people's Constitutional rights.

The timing--amidst legal actions that are making promising ground for the privacy rights of American citizens--is a classic case of corporate privilege. Also classic is this quote by U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker defending access to the courts over this issue. He wrote:

"AT&T's alleged actions here violate the constitutional rights clearly established [by the U.S. Supreme Court]... AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal." (Quote provided by NoRetroactiveImmunity)

This retroactive immunity bill nonsense demonstrates why we can't prioritize business interests (in this case, an interest in not being forced to pay for breaking the law) over people. You would think that if their actions truly weren't illegal, their "we didn't know, the government made us do it" argument would hold up in court. But to go to their Congressional cronies and ask for "amnesty" is a disgracefully perfect example of why we need a strong civil justice system that is equally accessible to individual citizens and doesn't just work well for big corporations who can buy their way out of any wrondgoing. Or, as the No Retroactive Immunity group aptly puts it:

The rule of law is the basic guarantee in our society that all Americans are treated equally. Amnesty for big business is an assault on that principle. To grant retroactive amnesty would be to announce that our wealthiest corporations are free to break the laws we pass, and amnesty would be yet another huge step in eroding our core political principles.

I encourage readers to check out the other blogs and news stories on this issue. See, for example:

Please Sign a Petition to Harry Reid on Telecom Immunity(Firedoglake)
We Write Letters (Eschaton)
Tell Harry Reid: No Retroactive Immunity! (The Seminal)
No retroactive immunity(Greg Prince's Blog)
Onward to Harry Reid on FISA (OpenLeft)
Sign The Petition | Tell Harry Reid No Immunity (Out of the Mountains)

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 3:34 PM, Oct 25, 2007 in Civil Justice
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