Monday, March 17, 2008

[Hering] But for that one key fact...


Democrats in the U.S. House evidently want to punish phone companies that complied with federal requests to check phone records in the investigation and prevention of terror attacks. That will be remembered in any further investigation of this sort: If you cooperate with the feds, you might get in legal trouble later.

I don't know what you read, but here's what I saw: A Republican National Committee press release reprinted with his name on it. That's pathetic.

Hering omits the fact that the issue is really about granting retroactive immunity to telecom companies for anything they did in the wake of 9/11. That's the difference between the Senate and House bills on the issue - the House bill allows for the possibility that telecom companies should be punished for breaking the law. (They could have said 'no' to whatever it was the Feds asked them to do. Seriously. It was an option that other companies, such as Google, took.) The only potential punishment at stake here is what will happen when the actions of U.S. phone companies come to light and the law discovers what they did, and frankly, that seems eminently fair in this situation.

I don't know about you, but I always thought Hering was a law-and-order kind of guy. There's an internet saying that seems to fit here: IOKIYAR (It's Okay If You're A Republican). Apparently that extends to completely subverting the rule of law.

Yet here we have Hering:

But all the companies did was cooperate with efforts, albeit flawed ones, to keep the United States safe.

I'm not even going to mention the gross oversimplification and distortion there. Let's skip back in time and make the same argument circa, say, 1946:

"But all the companies did was cooperate with efforts, albeit flawed ones, to keep Deutschland safe."

The structure of the argument is the same: That if someone believed that what they were doing was for the greater good, then it's justified.

I hope the analogy makes clear how bankrupt a defense that is. By that definition, many - even most - of the atrocities committed during war would be acceptable, as would, say, Ted Kazynski's bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Heck, let's go for the Godwin's law two-fer. The Nuremberg Defense, from Wikipedia:

"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

Even if the U.S. Government had ordered telecom companies to do what they've allegedly done, under this condition, that does not count as a defense.

Why is Hering defending them? Why is he suggesting that not giving blanket immunity without understanding what happened is a bad thing?

Good to know partisan politics trumps facts, the truth, the strength of an argument and even the law on the editorial page of the Democrat-Herald.


Immediate Update: A commenter on the DH website gets at one of the core issues:

It is rather unfortunate that it did not get them in a whole lot of problems later- when someone asks for my phone records, the proper response is: where's your warrant?

Unless, Hasso, you want to repeal the fourth amendment...


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