There isn't any good reason to grant the telecoms immunity. It's being done because they've bought it for themselves. Oh, maybe a few of the Democrats who are going to let them have it are doing it for calculated but strategically stupid political reasons---they don't want to let Bush claim to have been forced by the Democrats into vetoing a measure vital to our national security---but mostly the Senators and Congressmen voting for it have been paid to do it in one way or another.
The system's broken. It corrupts everyone who becomes part of it to one degree or another. Those who aren't bought off themselves do things to help out their friends and colleagues who are bought off.
But granting the telecoms immunity they don't need unless they knowingly broke the law expands the circle of corruption.
The executives at Qwest and everybody else who refused to play along with the Bush League's plan to spy on all of us have now been played for chumps.
What's the point of being honest? What's the point of having principles and acting upon them? What's the point of standing up and doing what's right?
If the dishonest, the unprincipled, and the craven aren't going to pay any price for being dishonest, unprincipled, and craven, if they are in fact going to make out like bandits even though they were dishonest, unprincipled, and craven, then all honest, principled, and courageous businessmen and women are undermining their own companies' interests by being honest, principled, and courageous.
They must either allow themselves to become corrupted or their companies will have to fire them and replace them with the dishonest, the unprincipled, the craven, and the corruptible, people who can be counted on to play along, in order to survive.
Remember these are "conservative" Republicans and "conservative" Democrats who are doing this. This has become the defining value of contemporary "conservativism," how far you can expand the circle of corruption beyond the Beltway.
Heartening update, at least for now: From Question Girl at Blue Herald comes the news from the Washington Post that "Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) last night abruptly withdrew legislation that would have changed surveillance law and granted the nation’s telecommunications companies retroactive immunity from lawsuits charging they had violated privacy rights."
Disheartening bit from the heartening news: My Senator, Chump Schumer, talks tough...if your idea of tough is a self-pitying whine.
"Those like myself, who are against immunity, really don't want to punish the phone companies as much as we want to hold the government accountable," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). "But it's very difficult to do that."
I love that opening noun phrase, "Those like myself." Think he talked like that when he was in grade school? "Those like myself, who do not enjoy a game of dodgeball..." "Those like myself, who did their homework..." "Those like myself, who are not amused by having signs that say KICK ME scotch taped to our backs..."