This report is based on an article by Glenn Greenwald that can be found at: www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2008/02/12/amnesty_day/index.html
Our U.S. Senate -- led by Jay Rockefeller, enabled by Harry Reid, and with the active support of at least 12 Democrats, in conjunction with an as-always lockstep GOP caucus -- voted to legalize warrantless spying on the telephone calls and emails of Americans. It also provided full retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, thus forever putting an end to any efforts to investigate and obtain a judicial ruling regarding the Bush administration's years-long illegal spying programs aimed at Americans. The long, hard efforts by AT&T, Verizon and their all-star, bipartisan cast of lobbyists to grease the wheels of the Senate -- led by former Bush 41 Attorney General William Barr and former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick -- will pay huge dividends, as such efforts invariably do within our current political-economic establishment.
It's worth taking a step back and recalling that all of this is the result of the December, 2005 story by the New York Times which first reported that the Bush administration had been illegally spying on Americans for years without warrants of any kind. All sorts of "controversy" erupted from that story. Democrats everywhere expressed dramatic, unbridled outrage, vowing that this would not stand. James Risen and Eric Lichtblau were awarded Pulitzer Prizes for exposing this serious lawbreaking. All sorts of Committees were formed, papers written, speeches given, conferences convened, and editorials published to denounce this extreme abuse of presidential power. This was illegality and corruption at the highest level of government, on the grandest scale, and of the most transparent strain.
And what was the outcome of all of that sturm und drang? What were the consequences for the President for having broken the law so deliberately and transparently? Absolutely nothing. To the contrary, the Senate enacted a bill which has two simple purposes:
(1) to render retroactively legal the President's illegal spying program, by legalizing its crux: warrantless eavesdropping on Americans, and
(2) to stifle forever the sole remaining avenue for finding out what the Government did and obtain a judicial ruling as to its legality, i.e. our Senate stifled the lawsuits brought against the co-conspiring telecoms so as to cover up the crimes of the Bush Administration.
In other words, the only steps taken by our political class (upon exposure by the NYT of this profound lawbreaking) was to essentially endorse it and then suppress any and all efforts to investigate it and subject it to the rule of law.
The most extraordinary aspect of all of this isn't merely that the Democratic Senate failed to investigate or bring about accountability for the clearest and more brazen acts of lawbreaking in the Bush administration, although that is true. Far beyond that, they are eagerly and aggressively taking affirmative steps -- extraordinary steps -- to protect Bush officials who have clearly broken the law! While still knowing little or nothing about the extent to which Bushco might have broken the law, our Senate has legalized Bush's illegal spying programs and put an end to all pending investigations and efforts to uncover what happened.
How far we've fallen from the days of the Church Committee, which aggressively uncovered surveillance abuses and then drafted legislation to outlaw them and prevent them from ever occurring again. And it is, of course, precisely those post-Watergate laws which the Bush administration and their telecom conspirators purposely violated, and for which they are about to receive permanent, lawless protection.
What Harry Reid's Senate did is tantamount to the Church Committee (after discovering the decades of abuses of eavesdropping powers by various administrations) proceeding in response to write legislation to legalize unchecked surveillance, bar any subjects of the illegal eavesdropping from obtaining remedies in court, and then passing a bill with no purpose other than to provide retroactive immunity for the surveillance lawbreakers! That is precisely what Harry Reid's Senate -- in response to the NYT's 2005 revelations of clear surveillance lawbreaking by the administration -- has done.