February 26, 2008 | By Kurt Opsahl

White House Wants Immunity Against State Investigations Too

The Bush Administration appears to have forgotten that of the dozens of lawsuits over warrantless surveillance, six of them seek to stop "state officials in Missouri, Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont from investigating various telecommunication carriers concerning their alleged disclosure of customer telephone records to the National Security Agency (NSA)."

In its fight against accountability for illegal spying, the Bush Administration has fallen back on a classic logical fallacy, attacking the lawsuits against telecommunications companies by casting aspersions on those arguing the lawsuits. The Administration would like to draw attention away from the telecom lawbreaking, and asks the public to instead focus on "class action trial lawyers," and the possibility that they might get attorneys' fees upon winning (most likely meaning upon a ruling by the Supreme Court that the warrantless surveillance program is illegal and unconstitutional).

The rhetoric is problematic as it is, but utterly fails to account for the State lawsuits. The immunity bill does not merely attempt to immunize telecommunications carriers from class action lawsuits, it also is designed to stop investigations by attorneys general and State public utility commissions.

The sovereign States that form our Union have the right, indeed the duty, to protect their citizens from illegal surveillance. When USA Today revealed that telecommunications companies were providing the telephone records of millions of ordinary customers (yes, people like you) to the federal government, the several States exercised that right by beginning investigations. These investigations are not seeking damages. Rather, the "state cases arise out of attempts by state officials to compel various telecommunication carriers to release information concerning their alleged disclosure of customer telephone records to" the NSA.

Don't let the Administration and the telecoms avoid accountability. Call your Representative today.

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