President Bush plunged directly into the campaign to save his warrantless wiretapping program, arguing Wednesday that telecommunications firms that cooperated with spy agencies should be granted retroactive immunity from possible prosecution.
Bush also urged Congress to pass a permanent revision of legislation that gave the program a six-month lifespan.
His comments came as he toured the national Threat Operations Center at the ultra-secret National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Md.
"The need for action is clear," Bush said. "Unless the reforms in the act are made permanent, our national security professionals will lose critical tools they need to protect our country."
Bush argued that telecommunications companies that provided data to the government under the program should be granted immunity from prosecution in the event that their actions are determined to have been illegal.
Rights advocates have filed dozens of lawsuits against telecommunications companies for assisting the government.
"It's particularly important for Congress to provide meaningful liability protection to those companies now facing multibillion-dollar lawsuits only because they are believed to have assisted in efforts to defend our nation following the 9/11 attacks," Bush said.
It is not clear how much personal information the companies may have provided the government under the warrantless surveillance program, or how many Americans may have been affected.... (more)
Not only does Bush want to make warrantless wiretapping powers permanent -- like, forever, in peacetime and war -- he also wants telecom companies who are gathering information to be immune from future prosecution if the procedures are deemed illegal. The Los Angeles Times reports:
at 6:01 PM