May 25 • 11:21 PM
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Is it fair to let big companies off the hook for breaking law?

Dear Editor,

Is it okay to break some laws while obeying others? What do you think?

What if you're rich and powerful? Should there be a different standard for those with money and lobbyists—should they be able to get away with things that regular folks would be thrown in jail for?

What if you've committed a crime and you're worried that your high-priced lawyers won't be enough to protect you? Should you be able to go to the U.S. Congress and ask them to pass a special law making your crime legal retroactively?

Believe it or not, our U.S. Senators—Democrats Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow—and our U.S. Representative (Republican Candice Miller) think this is perfectly fine.

Beginning shortly after September 11 (though Joseph Nacchio, the former CEO of Qwest says before,) most of the major telecommunications companies in the United States began helping the U.S. government collect and listen to your emails and phone calls without a warrant. I say 'your' because nearly everyone was included in this program—300 million Americans. All your favorite phone companies joined in—Verizon, AT&T, Bell South, etc. However, this was illegal—not just unconstitutional, but expressly forbidden by law (it's a felony). The Bush Administration might have tried to change the law, and later on they did, but for years the program was allowed to run illegally.

Now these corporations are facing lawsuits from citizens' groups in federal courts, and rather than defending themselves with high-priced lawyers (apparently they don't think that's enough), they've spent tens of millions of dollars lobbying Congress over the past year. They're asking for retroactive immunity, which would end the court cases and the legal threat against them. The retroactive immunity provision has been added as an amendment to the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act), and sadly this has now passed both chambers. Thanks to the support of innumerable Republicans and Democrats in both chambers, retroactive immunity is likely to be signed into law by President Bush. The phone companies will go free and no one will be punished for reading your email or listening in while you had private conversations with your friends and loved ones.

If this upsets you as it upsets me, why don't you let them know? You can ask them what other laws they think it's okay to break—should auto theft be okay now? What about assault and battery? Maybe arson, or how about kidnapping? Because if it's okay to break the law, and if they're personally willing to immunize those who broke the law retroactively, I'm wondering when they're going to start opening the prisons and telling us anything goes.

You might also ask them what they think of the Constitution and our right to privacy. I wonder whether they'd agree to let us—the American people—monitor all their emails and phone calls since they think it's okay to monitor ours. Seems only fair, doesn't it?

The last thing I'm wondering is, if our politicians think law-breaking is good and the U.S. Constitution is bad, why are we supposed to vote for them again?

Ryan Bodanyi, Attica
July 02, 2008

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