Not surprisingly, the Democratic-controlled Congress has once again capitulated to the president, this time agreeing to a “compromise” bill that grants immunity to telecom companies that knowingly and intentionally broke the law that prohibited them from sharing confidential information about their customers with the government.
Outraged customers sued the companies for damages, and the president has now prevailed on Congress to immunize the companies from those lawsuits, just as the president secured immunity from criminal prosecution for torture and murder committed by CIA officials. Even worse, the Democrats, no doubt fearful of once again being called soft on terrorism, even agreed to expand the president’s wiretapping powers.
This episode, occurring on the eve of the presidential election, brings to mind when Congress, fearful of being accused of being soft on Saddam Hussein, unconstitutionally and cowardly delegated its power to declare war on Iraq to the president on the eve of the 2002 congressional elections.
The grant of immunity and the expanded wiretap powers once again confirm that there is no way to achieve a free society in the context of a pro-empire, interventionist foreign policy. The interventionist policy (i.e., sanctions, invasions, occupations, foreign aid, etc.) produce the ever-constant threat of terrorist blowback, which U.S. officials then (1) use as an excuse to engage in more interventionism, which then produces more threats of terrorist blowback, and (2) use as an excuse to suspend civil liberties to encounter the ever-growing threats from terrorist blowback.
For months, civil liberties groups have been opposing the enactment of the telecom immunity bill with articles, essays, lobbying, and publicity campaigns, just as they have been opposing for years the torture and sex abuse, kidnapping and rendition, Gitmo, military tribunals, cancellation of habeas corpus, etc. that have come with the “war on terrorism.”
As important as those efforts to preserve what remain of our civil liberties, they are clearly insufficient. As long as the federal government is able to continue killing, maiming, kidnapping, torturing, and sexually abusing people overseas, there is going to be the constant threat of terrorist blowback, which then gives the government the excuse to take away people’s freedom, “temporarily” of course. (The telecom/immunity law is scheduled to expire in 2012,) Moreover, let’s not forget the “enemy combatant” doctrine, justified as part of the government’s “war on terrorism,” which enables military officials to take anyone in the world, including Americans on American soil, into custody as an “enemy combatant” and treat him as a “terrorist.”
The immunity/wiretapping bill, agreed to by both the Democrats and Republicans, demonstrates once again that the American people are facing a very important choice: (1) Either continue going down the road to empire and intervention, which will bring more chaos, loss of liberty, fear, currency debasement, hardship, and isolation; or (2) Restore a limited-government, constitutional republic and a foreign policy of nonintervention to our land, which would help restore a normal, free, peaceful, harmonious, and prosperous society.