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The Lobbyist-In-Chief Invites His Friends Over

I criticize Mikey Isikoff a lot, but I’m very grateful for this story, via Laura Rozen. Isikoff and Hoseball reveal that the telecom industry is launching a full court press to get Congress to give telecoms immunity for having broken the law in helping Bush spy on Americans.

The nation’s biggest telecommunications companies, working closely withthe White House, have mounted a secretive lobbying campaign to getCongress to quickly approve a measure wiping out all private lawsuitsagainst them for assisting the U.S. intelligence community’swarrantless surveillance programs.

Though Isikoff and Hosenball don’t mention that our government has become a wholly-owned subsidiary of AT&T, they do provide a list of some of the people who are participating in this campaign.

Among those coordinating the industry’s effort are two well-connectedcapital players who both worked for President George H.W. Bush: Verizongeneral counsel William Barr, who served as attorney general under 41,and AT&T senior executive vice president James Cicconi, who was theelder Bush’s deputy chief of staff.

[snip]

Working with them are a battery of major D.C. lobbyists and lawyers whoare providing "strategic advice" to the companies on the issue,according to sources familiar with the campaign who asked not to beidentified talking about it. Among the players, these sources said:powerhouse Republican lobbyists Charlie Black and Wayne Berman (whorepresent AT&T and Verizon, respectively), former GOP senator andU.S. ambassador to Germany Dan Coats (a lawyer at King & Spauldingwho is representing Sprint), former Democratic Party strategist andone-time assistant secretary of State Tom Donilon (who representsVerizon), former deputy attorney general Jamie Gorelick (whose law firmalso represents Verizon) and Brad Berenson, a former assistant WhiteHouse counsel under President George W. Bush who now representsAT&T.

Let me add to the list. Inside the oval office, we have former top lobbyist for AT&T, Ed Gillespie. In DOJ, we now have AT&T lawyer, Peter Keisler. At Director of National Intelligence, we’ve got former Director of Defense Programs at Booz Allen. The telecoms and other contractors have almost as much representation in this Administration as the oil companies do.

Isikoff and Hosenball reveal one more detail that I think might explain the real reason for the panic, assuming bmaz’ arguments are correct.

Wainstein also said that a telecom company’s overseas assets could bethreatened if its collaboration in U.S. espionage efforts wereconfirmed in a court case.

I’m going to try to look for Wainstein’s comments–but it makes sense. In the 1990s, as the world was moving from analog to digital, the United States conveniently rewired backbones to go through the United States. Which, from the perspective of every other country in the world, is a tremendous security risk–it basically just gives the US direct access to the communications of that country (not that we weren’t taking it anyway, but this makes things a lot comfier for US’ snoops, who can sit in the spy room in San Francisco with a Peet’s Coffee while they read email in French). I’m sure every other country is aware of this, now (and probably was before). But publicity about the exposure of other countries to US government snoops is going to make it a lot harder for US telecoms to do business in other countries.

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