The Times has a good article on the telecom amnesty bill:
“Congress shouldn’t grant amnesty to companies that broke the law by conspiring to illegally spy on Americans” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington.
What perplexes me is that Ronald Reagan fought the Communists, a much bigger foe than any today, without breaking the law.
We do need to help those in the intelligence community that are honest and competent, not the ones ordered
to produce fake reports.
However, it doesn't look like this stuff has anything to do with fighting terrorism:
In a separate program, N.S.A. officials met with the Qwest executives in February 2001 and asked for more access to their phone system for surveillance operations, according to people familiar with the episode. The company declined, expressing concerns that the request was illegal without a court order.
Other N.S.A. initiatives have stirred concerns among phone company workers. A lawsuit was filed in federal court in New Jersey challenging the agency’s wiretapping operations. It claims that in February 2001, just days before agency officials met with Qwest officials, the N.S.A. met with AT&T officials to discuss replicating a network center in Bedminster, N.J., to give the agency access to all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through it.
That is, the illegal stuff started before 9/11, in a period where White House spokesman confirmed that they were not concerned with terrorism. See "Plan of Attack" by Bob Woodward, and "Against All Enemies" by Richard Clarke.