Senator Barbara Boxer spoke this morning on the amendment to H.R. 6304 by Christopher Dodd that would strip immunity for telecommunications corporations that broke the law and violated millions of Americans’ privacy by sharing their most intimate conversations with the Bush administration. The following are excerpts from her remarks:
At this point in time to give retroactive immunity kind of makes a mockery of the fact that we’re supposed to be a government of laws, not people. We are a government of laws. Do we then come back and say, “Oh, by the way, there’s three laws over here that we don’t really like, so we’re just going to say to the people that broke them it’s OK? ‘Cause we’ve looked at it and we think it’s OK?” This is America. We are a country of laws.
We cannot place the interests of the companies — and frankly of this administration that doesn’t want the truth to come out — ahead of the constitutional rights of our citizens who seek justice in our courts. This administration is so desperate to have this immunity because they have no interest in the American people finding out…. They want to keep secret an illegal program, and I don’t think we should be complicit, I don’t think we should enable them to avoid the constitutional scrutiny of our federal courts. We can’t sacrifice the truth for convenient expediency. It’s not America.
We have a system of government that is built not only on our Constitution, but on the notion of checks and balances, and the federal courts are doing their job by checking the administration’s broad exercise of executive power…. Now last week Chief Judge Walker of the northern district of California issued an opinion rejecting this administration’s claim to “have inherent authority to eavesdrop on Americans outside of statutory law.”
Well, what does this Senate want to do? A lot of the leaders that you hear speaking on this, they want to make it possible to give retroactively to this administration the authority to eavesdrop on Americans outside of law…. Here we are, rolling over, rolling over with bravado to say to this administration, “oh you are the absolute ruler, you are the King!”
…Why are we attempting to tie the capable hands of our federal courts and deny citizens their day in court? Covering up the truth is not the way to gain or regain the trust of the American people. The truth is the basis of the America ideal. I always marveled as a little girl and then a young woman, watching as the truth came out about America, and I remember my dad who loved America so much said to me, “Honey, you just watch this country. We’re not afraid to admit a mistake! We’re not fearful of giving people rights. We will stand up and tell the truth, even when we make the biggest mistakes.” Covering up the truth is not the way to gain the trust of the American people.
Last week we celebrated the day we adopted the Declaration of Independence, Independence Day, July 4th. In that historic document is the following phrase: “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The consent of the governed. That means the law has to be behind you when you undertake to do something like this administration did. They didn’t care about the consent of the governed. They didn’t care about the law that was in place.
Truth is the centerpiece of justice, and I don’t see how we ever get to the truth if we grant this immunity. I really don’t… We need to get to the truth, and we all know how that happens in this country. The immunity provision in this bill sweeps the warrantless program under the carpet. It hides the truth. The people deserve better from us.
I’ll close with a quote from former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor:
“It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our nation’s commitment to due process is severely tested. It is in those times we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad.”
Not like that’s going to happen. Nope. The U.S. Senate is prepared to flip over, shoo truth off to the side, and sacrifice constitutional review… all for… for what?