They should have to prove they acted legally and in good faith, or face the consequences.
Erik Larkin, PC World
Friday, May 23, 2008 10:00 PM PDT
AT&T and other telecommunications companies are being sued for allegedly allowing federal authorities to tap phone lines for years without a warrant. President George W. Bush wants Congress to grant the companies retroactive immunity, and the Senate has agreed. But I think such a grant of blanket immunity would be a big mistake.
To be sure, this is a thorny issue that pits concerns over civil liberties and privacy against national security and government secrecy. Available information says the government wanted the wiretaps to catch communications with overseas terrorists shortly after 9/11. And certainly it was a frantic, desperate time. But the whole point of laws is to ensure that we--and more important, our government--act with regard for both safety and essential freedoms at just such periods. So you should care about how these cases are settled.
Here's the main issue: Class-action lawsuits claim the companies broke the law by allowing the government to implement wiretaps without a warrant or special certification. The companies say they acted in "good faith"--and there's no denying that they acted in response to requests from the highest levels of government.
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