Saturday, September 01, 2007

Codifiying criminality is bad politics

By Libby

I wonder if I'm the only one who sees a connection between these two stories? It seems to me one of the biggest problems the White House is facing these days to how to protect the non-government players they've employed who can't simply be covered under the national security/state's secrets umbrella, for breaking the rule of law while aiding and abetting the White House's ongoing criminal circumvention of the same. So on its face, this request would seem to be what GOP loyalists would paint as a simple measure to protect private entities that assisted in the "war on terror."

The Bush administration wants the power to grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies that are slapped with privacy suits for cooperating with the White House’s controversial warrantless eavesdropping program.

The authority would effectively shut down dozens of lawsuits filed against telecommunications companies accused of helping set up the program.

The vaguely worded proposal would shield any person who allegedly provided information, infrastructure or “any other form of assistance” to the intelligence agencies after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. It covers any classified communications activity intended to protect the country from terrorism.

Because the administration does not want to identify which companies participated in the operations, it is asking Congress to let the attorney general intervene on behalf of any person or company accused of participating in the surveillance work, whether or not they actually did, two senior Justice Department officials said.

I read that to mean that this would absolve the administration from having to name the participants in their illegal schemes or having to provide uncomfortable evidence which would prove their own culpability. It's just another version of "Trust us. We didn't do anything wrong but we can't tell you why because it's a state secret." But here's the key point.
Democrats say McConnell’s first draft of the immunity proposal is far too murky. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., an intelligence committee member, fears the language would go far beyond protecting private companies and their employees, also giving cover to any government officials who may have broken the law.

That's probably true but the Democrats shouldn't lose their focus on the notion of absolving private companies on the president's say-so and consider this development in the ongoing email purge scandal.

The White House will not identify a private company which appears to be involved in the disappearance of millions of White House e-mails.

The company was responsible for reviewing and archiving White House e-mails, a White House official told congressional staff in May, according to a letter yesterday from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Congressional investigators asked then for the name of the company and "have repeatedly requested" the information since then, according to Waxman.

They are still waiting for an answer, the chairman wrote to White House counsel Fred Fielding. Waxman asked the White House to come up with the company's name by Sept. 10. White House spokesman Scott Stanzel declined to tell the Blotter on the company's name or explain why the White House would not provide it to Congress.

"We are reviewing Rep. Waxman's letter and will respond expeditiously," Stanzel said in an e-mailed statement.

Could it be they're waiting for the legal immunity provision on telcos to be codified so Bush could then excuse any of their private co-conspirators for breaking the law? I don't find it much a stretch and I would caution the Democrats against caving in on this issue lest they find all their investigations forever cloaked by such blanket immunity.

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