In the LA Times today, A Good-Enough Spy Law says,
No, it started a few weeks after Bush took office -- a time when the Bush administration was ignoring the terrorist threat. So it was about something else, and was a high enough priority to plan out during the transition. (Can you say "political spying?")
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, the White House directed telecommunications carriers to cooperate with its efforts to bolster intelligence gathering and surveillance -- the administration's effort to do a better job of "connecting the dots" to prevent terrorist attacks.
One telecom company, Qwest, refused because it was flat-out illegal. The Bush administration punished them, blocked federal contracts, and in an early indicator of what was to come from the politicized Bush Justice Department, they prosecuted Qwest's CEO on trumped-up charges.
The combination of the telecoms letting Bush illegally spy on us BEFORE September 11, and the politicized Bush Justice Department punishing the company that refused -- refused because it was illegal -- is the reason so many of us are so adamant that Democrats should not be passing a law giving these companies immunity. The president can't spy on people without warrants, and the telecoms knew that. They knew it was illegal to spy on us without warrants but they went along with it. Why? Why didn't they ask the Bush administration to just get warrants? And why would Democrats vote to let them off the hook?
Don't forget that Watergate was about Republicans illegally wiretapping Democrats. Don 't think they don't do it.
[note- NY Times link added after posting]