Phone Company Patriots: The Bottom Line

By Wendy Kaminer

        Telecomunications companies that exposed their customers to warrantless surveillance, in what they claim was service to the nation, have discovered the limits to their patriotism:  “Telephone companies have cut off FBI wiretaps used to eavesdrop on suspected criminals because of the bureau's repeated failures to pay phone bills on time,” according to the AP.  “In at least one case, a wiretap used in a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act investigation " 'was halted due to untimely payment…’ "  

        In other words, as Daily Kos notes, while the Bush Administration has characterized warrantless wiretaps as crucial to the national security, and excoriated Democrats for resisting their legalization, it hasn’t bothered to pay the cost of maintaining them.  Of course, this Administration can credibly plead incompetence, instead of acknowledging that warrantless wiretaps may not be so essential after all.  But Senate Democrats should at least re-evaluate the patriotism defense offered by phone companies allegedly guilty of illegal wiretapping in considering their plea for amnesty.

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