For more on the nature of the debate, see this editorial from the New York Times. And to see the vital importance of this issue, see this post by Glenn Greenwald.
The cooperation between the various military/intelligence branches of the Federal Government -- particularly the Pentagon and the NSA -- and the private telecommunications corporations is extraordinary and endless. They really are, in every respect, virtually indistinguishable. The Federal Government has its hands dug deeply into the entire ostensibly "private" telecommunications infrastructure and, in return, the nation's telecoms are recipients of enormous amounts of revenues by virtue of turning themselves into branches of the Federal Government.Amnesty would mean the sanction of this undemocratic activity in which not even Congress has any kind of idea of the extent to which illegal activity is taking place behind closed doors. And the fact that the government is using tax payer money to enrich the lawbreakers should push your moral outrage buttons, in and of itself.
There simply is no separation between these corporations and the military and intelligence agencies of the Federal Government. They meet and plan and agree so frequently, and at such high levels, that they practically form a consortium. Just in Nacchio's limited and redacted disclosures, there are descriptions of numerous pre-9/11 meetings between the largest telecoms and multiple Bush national security officials, including Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleezza Rice, NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden and counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke.
The top telecom officials are devoting substantial amounts of their energy to working on highly classified telecom projects with the Bush administration, including projects to develop whole new joint networks and ensure unfettered governmental access to those networks. Before joining the administration as its Director of National Intelligence, Mike McConnell spearheaded the efforts on behalf of telecoms to massively increase the cooperation between the Federal Government and the telecom industry.
The private/public distinction here has eroded almost completely. There is no governmental oversight or regulation of these companies. Quite the contrary, they work in secret and in tandem -- as one consortium -- with no oversight at all.