Early in his rule, President Bush requested that major telecommunications providers collect data for his intelligence services to make use of. Both the presidency and the telecoms companies involved were aware that this request significantly exceeded the presidency's authority, and that it would be illegal for them to comply with it.
Qwest reacted to the knowledge that the request was illegal by refusing to comply; in retaliation, the government did not offer Qwest bids for classified contracts, and the CEO was later arrested under charges that he was improperly aware that his company might fail to meet revenue expectations at the time he sold his stock.
AT&T, Verizon, and Bellsouth cooperated with the plan. AT&T, at least, went as far as to start constructing an entire duplicate network operations center for intelligence use upon request, permitting intelligence agencies to monitor all call information and network traffic on AT&T's network.
While government-aligned sources claim that their surveillance program was made necessary by the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, both Qwest's rejection and AT&T's commencement of the surveillance projects took place in FEBRUARY 2001.
Realizing that the program was illegal and the companies who cooperated with it were subject to legal liability, the Presidency called for Congress to grant full immunity from prosecution to any telecommunications provider who was acting on the President's request at the time they engaged in or assisted in illegal surveillance. Further, since disclosure of the scope of the surveillance weakens its effectiveness, the government is permitted to request the quiet dismissal of any lawsuit whose outcome could reveal the scope of the monitoring program in place.
Both Barack Obama and John McCain, presented with the request for immunity, voted in favor of it, asserting that they considered it necessary for national security. Obama went on to assure the general populace that, if he was elected, he would not misuse the surveillance network.
Both Barack Obama and John McCain believe that it is acceptable for EVERY phone call made in America to be monitored by government agents. Both Obama and McCain believe that the executive branch's requests can and should trump laws that limit spying on the American citizenry, and that those who assist in such requests should be immune to prosecution.
Do you trust McCain and Obama not to misuse the surveillance network? Do you trust Palin and Biden not to misuse it? What about their successors? What about foreign powers who may gain access to the network? The Skype client distributed in China was recently discovered to be helping the Chinese government monitor dissident activity; can we be certain that no outside spies will find their way into our networks?
I, for one, will be voting for Nader in this election. At least he shows signs of respecting the right to privacy. I urge others to do the same.