It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over

by digby

Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in ...

Telecom companies have presented congressional Democrats with a set of proposals on how to provide immunity to the businesses that participated in a controversial government electronic surveillance program, a House Democratic aide said Wednesday.

Congress has been wrestling for months with an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, with the immunity issue the primary sticking point.

Many Democrats want the companies held accountable for participating in the program, which was initiated in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The White House, however, has insisted that the participation of the telecoms is crucial to monitoring conversations between potential terrorists. President Bush has vowed to veto any bill that does not contain immunity.

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Wednesday a FISA deal is “still in flux” but he described the latest developments as “promising” and said he hoped to have a solution soon.

House officials declined to discuss the specifics of the proposed immunity language by the telecoms.

This is an piece of legislation which we can feel proud to have battled back since last August. But Bush wants this one very, very badly for some reason and he's going to push it right up until the day he leaves office. It's a zombie. And it's not just about money. These are huge corporations that can easily afford to litigate these claims and since it is unlikely that any of the plaintiffs suffered huge damages they don't face outrageous financial liability. They don't even face much bad PR: if they lose, they just say they were trying to help the government fight terrorists and there won't be a whole lot of customers who will switch to other carriers when they find out they violated the fourth amendment. This is about the Bush administration and keeping civil liberties lawyers from having access to discovery documents.