Longstanding principles of law hold that an American corporation is entitled to rely on assurances of legality from officials responsible for government activities. The public officials in question might be right or wrong about the advisability or legality of what they are doing, but it is their responsibility, not the company’s, to deal with the consequences if they are wrong.
The lawsuits also risk the disclosure of national security secrets that must be kept from public view if our intelligence agencies are to be able to protect us effectively. When critics of immunity are being honest, they will admit that the main reason they want the litigation to continue is the hope that it will force disclosure of information about the underlying programs — information they hope will advance their own political or ideological disputes with the administration. But that is a bad consequence, not a good one.He engages in a lot of folderole to make the authoritarian "Daddy knows best" argument, which has the problem that US citizens and the Court system are not three year-olds sticking their tongues in light sockets. If the government takes illegal actions that does not absolve others engaging in that action, Nuremberg made a farce of the "just following orders" defense. If John Ashcroft had a particle of the competence required to be AG he would recognize that. It is a matter of Constitutional Law that the Executive branch is constrained by the Judicial and Legislative branches and finally by the citizenry - the First and Second Amendments provide for the citizenry's resistance. The case has been made that the 9/11 hijackers could have been resisted and in one case were, this is another hijacking, no less palatable or sustainable due to the lack of Arabic surnames.
One telecom, Qwest, did resist, the others just folded, whether due to the legal assurances of the DOJ & Executive or the political advantages available is a moot point. Under law they had no requirement to comply with the government's requests nor any shield for doing so. They walked off the edge of a cliff with no push and now want a parachute. As a private citizen you'd get hung for it.
There is no fear, what so ever, that classified details of techniques will dribble out, court cases have been carried through before without such problems - despite the recent Supreme Court ruling concerning rendition. Ashcroft brings forward a strawman argument based on Americans' terrorism fears. I am personally sick of the garbage brought forward predicated on some possible future terrorist act. That makes the government complicit in the terrorism and to a large extent the most active player. We have kept this country the nation it has been through adherence to law and the basic law of the land is the Constitution and Amendments. If the criminal conspirators in the Executive branch and their enablers in the Legislature and Judiciary don't like the laws they are free to propose Amendments, until that time they are simply criminals and deserve exactly that much consideration.
Make noise, stand up for yourselves and your nation, John Ashcroft may have access to the pages of the NYT, but there are a heck of a lot more of us.