If the attorney general of the United States says that an intelligence-gathering operation has been determined to be lawful, a company should be able to rely on that determination. Indeed, contrary to the assertion of Senator Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, no company can realistically be expected to contradict such judgments by the attorney general, as they will simply not have the facts at hand to do so.We have seen first during Watergate and more recently with unprecedented illegal activities of the Bush administration that no administration can be trusted to uphold the constitution and the law. When it comes to defending the rights of the American people are afforded under the constitution it is right and necessary for "companies to adopt an attitude of extreme wariness." They must understand the the impact on their bottom line may be as severe if not more severe if they blindly cooperate with any administration. We saw what happened to Quest when they refused. Mr Ashcroft inadvertently makes the case for not granting his clients immunity.
Even more important than the inherent unfairness of requiring companies to second-guess executive-branch legal judgments are the acute dangers to which it would expose the country. One of our nation’s most important comparative advantages over our adversaries is the creativity and robustness of the private sector. To cut ourselves off from that advantage would amount to a form of unilateral disarmament.
Yet if we allow the litigation to continue, that is precisely what we will do. The message that will be sent to American companies is that they can be exposed to crippling lawsuits for helping the government with national security activities that they are explicitly assured are legal. The only rational response would be for companies to adopt an attitude of extreme wariness, even in the most urgent or clear-cut situations. To put the matter plainly, this puts American lives at risk.
Monday, November 05, 2007
The telecom lobbyist speaks!
John Ashcroft, the former AG turned telecom lobbyist, has an OP-ED in the New York Times defending immunity for the telecoms in the illegal wire tapping conducted by the Bush/Cheney cabal before and after 911. Not much that you wouldn't expect but this stands out: