osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,
osewalrus
osewalrus

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The Old Issue . . . .

Today at Committee mark-up for FISA, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) introduced an amendment that would give the telephone companies retroactive immunity for their cooperation with the federal government in domestic spying. A lawsuit is currently pending against the telcos that they violated specific provisions of the Communications Act that prohibit Bells from disclosing customer premise network information (CPNI) without a warrant or consent from the subscriber.

As an aside, I am curious what libertarians think of this law. While it pevents the Telcos from turning this information over to the government (usually regarded as a plus), it is primarily designed to prohibit the Bells from usng the info for marketing purposes or selling the info on the free market (usually regarded as bad and a restriction of the corporate First Amendment right, which in a strict constructionist view should trump the incohate and entirely unmentioned in the Constitution right of privacy. And besides, no one forces you to subscribe to a phone service). And, in fact, the Bells have raised this First Amendment argument in their court case.

In any event, the amendment was defeated on a 20-14 party line vote, with a threat of a Bush veto if the revised FISA does not include retroactive immunity for the Bells (I suppose I would admire his loyalty were it not designed to shield his friends from deserved liability for knowingly violating the rights of their subscribers). I was particularly struck by this quote from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex) as reported in Communications Daily:
It's common sense to provide liability protection to communications providers that helped the U.S. government in good faith. These companies deserve our thanks. They don't deserve a flurry of lawsuits.

I, of course, was under the impression that the reason we had laws like this was precisely so that large companies with monopoly control over the means of communication could not work cozily with the government to circumvent our civil rights. Silly me.

In any event, I could not help but keeping humming Leslie Fish's tune for Kippling's poem "The Old Issue." I reproduce it below the cut. It is frighteningly prophetic.

All we have of freedom, all we use or know -—
This our fathers bought for us long and long ago.

Ancient Right unnoticed as the breath we draw -—
Leave to live by no man’s leave, underneath the Law.

Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King.

Till our fathers 'stablished, after bloody years,
How our King is one with us, first among his peers.

So they bought us freedom —- not at little cost
Wherefore must we watch the King, lest our gain be lost,

Over all things certain, this is sure indeed,
Suffer not the old King: for we know the breed.

Give no ear to bondsmen bidding us endure.
Whining "He is weak and far"; crying "Time shall cure.",

(Time himself is witness, till the battle joins,
Deeper strikes the rottenness in the people’s loins.)

Give no heed to bondsmen masking war with peace.
Suffer not the old King here or overseas.

They that beg us barter —- wait his yielding mood -—
Pledge the years we hold in trust -— pawn our brother's blood -—

Howso' great their clamour, whatsoe'er their claim,
Suffer not the old King under any name!

Here is naught unproven —- here is naught to learn.
It is written what shall fall if the King return.

He shall mark our goings, question whence we came,
Set his guards about us, as in Freedom's name.

He shall take a tribute, toll of all our ware;
He shall change our gold for arms —- arms we may not bear.

He shall break his judges if they cross his word;
He shall rule above the Law calling on the Lord.

He shall peep and mutter; and the night shall bring
Watchers 'neath our window, lest we mock the King -—

Hate and all division; hosts of hurrying spies;
Money poured in secret, carrion breeding flies.

Strangers of his counsel, hirelings of his pay,
These shall deal our Justice: sell -— deny -— delay.

We shall drink dishonour, we shall eat abuse
For the Land we look to —- for the Tongue we use.

We shall take our station, dirt beneath his feet,
While his hired captains jeer us in the street.

Cruel in the shadow, crafty in the sun,
Far beyond his borders shall his teachings run.

Sloven, sullen, savage, secret, uncontrolled,
Laying on a new land evil of the old -—

Long-forgotten bondage, dwarfing heart and brain -—
All our fathers died to loose he shall bind again.

Here is naught at venture, random nor untrue -—
Swings the wheel full-circle, brims the cup anew.

Here is naught unproven, here is nothing hid:
Step for step and word for word —- so the old Kings did!

Step by step, and word by word: who is ruled may read.
Suffer not the old Kings: for we know the breed -—

All the right they promise -— all the wrong they bring.
Stewards of the Judgment, suffer not this King!

-- Rudyard Kipling
http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/1414.html
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