Mark Klein, who exposed AT&T's illegal cooperation with Bush's warrantless domestic spying, calls the impending telecom immunity bill (HR 6304, also known as "The FISA Amendments Act of 2008") "a Congressional coup against the Constitution:"
The surveillance system now approved by Congress provides the physical apparatus for the government to collect and store a huge database on virtually the entire population, available for data mining whenever the government wants to target its political opponents at any given moment--all in the hands of an unrestrained executive power. It is the infrastructure for a police state.
Section 802 of the bill, "Procedures for Implementing Statutory Defenses," is the odious portion that would grant retroactive immunity. Short of reading the entire 114-page bill, Patrick Keefe's "Five Myths about the New Wiretapping Law" piece at Slate is a great debunking of the pro-administration spin about the bill:
...the bill effectively pardons the telecom giants that assisted the Bush administration in the warrantless wiretapping program. They will now be shielded from dozens of civil lawsuits brought against them after their involvement was exposed. [...] For the suits against them to be "promptly dismissed," they must demonstrate to the judge not that what they did was legal but only that the White House told them to do it.
If you don't agree that the telecoms should receive retroactive immunity for their warrantless wiretaps, then tell your Senators to oppose HR 6304 in the spirit of the regularly-celebrated-but-infrequently-read Declaration of Independence. Their contact information is here, and the EFF suggests some language to use:
I'm a constituent and I urge you to oppose telecom immunity.
Vote "no" on the FISA Amendments Act, which contains blanket immunity for telecoms that cooperated in warrantless government spying. It is very important to me that Americans have their day in court against lawbreaking telecoms.
Supporters of telecom immunity will tell you the bill is a compromise but it's not. The changes have been purely cosmetic, and your constituents can see right through it. False compromises that grant the telephone companies immunity for participating in warrantless wiretapping are unacceptable.
Do it today! This vote means more to the future of freedom in America than all the festivities and fireworks which will occupy our weekend. Do we care about the substance of freedom, or only about its trappings?
Note: While researching this issue, I found the excellent OpenCongress website, which includes both the status and the text of the bill. (It's also a one-stop shop for all your Congressional information: the status of pending legislation, vote breakdowns by party, Congresscritters' voting history, campaign donations by industry, etc. I highly recommend it as a resource for keeping an eye on Congress, as it's far more user-friendly than any of the official government websites.)