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Fixing the surveillance law
Verizon told congressional Democrats it gave federal authorities customer phone records hundreds of times, fueling debate over post-9/11 wiretapping. "It's time Congress found the gumption to stand up for civil liberties," said The Denver Post.
W
hat happened
Verizon told congressional Democrats investigation the Bush administration’s post-9/11 surveillance program that it had given federal authorities customers’ phone records hundreds of times since 2005, The Washington Post reported Tuesday. President Bush wants Congress to grant retroactive and future immunity from lawsuits to companies that monitor conversations and examine phone records. Democrats have resisted.

What the commentators said
“The argument for immunity is laughable,” said the Philadelphia Daily News in an editorial. The administration says it makes sense because phone companies would only be complying with the law, but Qwest mustered the courage to refuse cooperation—to protect its customers’ civil liberties. All the phone companies have to do is respect the Constitution, and they’ll have nothing to worry about.

“It's time Congress found the gumption to stand up for civil liberties” too, said The Denver Post in an editorial. Democrats will have to “push aside suggestions that their concerns mean they are ‘soft on terror.’” The companies are facing multi-million-dollar lawsuits for handing over information to the administration, but it serves them right. “Enough capitulation already,” it’s time for Congress to pass a law to ensure that the government doesn’t abuse its authority.

Democrats are undermining our national security by fighting Bush on this issue, said National Review Online in an editorial. Bush “embarrassed” them into approving a temporary fix for a domestic surveillance law that dates to the Cold War, but that expires in February. The U.S. needs an updated wiretapping law that recognizes “evolving technologies make our enemies more efficient and deadly.”

With so much “fire-breathing rhetoric,” said Benjamin Wittes in The New Republic Online, you’d think the Democratic proposal the House is considering to repair the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is miles apart from what Bush wants. It isn’t. “But don't tell anyone. It would spoil all the fun.”

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