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Specter: Sue the Government, Not the Telecoms

January 24, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Arlen Specter (R-PA) also has an amendment related to the immunity provision (referred to as “Title II” of the bill if you are watching C-SPAN2) that he is hopeful 60+ members of the Senate can all agree on. Essentially, it would replace the government as the defendants in the 40 or so lawsuits currently pending against warrantless-wiretap-assisting telecommunications companies.

>Specter and several Democratic allies on the Judiciary panel plan to push an alternative that they hope might clear the 60-vote hurdle: an amendment that would have the government replace the carriers as the defendant. The attorney general or the director of national intelligence would have to certify that the carrier got an authorized request from the government, and the FISA court would then rule whether that request was lawful or reasonable. The government would not be allowed to invoke certain defenses — such as the “state secrets” doctrine — unavailable to private parties.

The Hill has more on Specter’s amendment here.

Specter hasn’t posted his own outline of his proposal (like Feinstein and Leahy did for their amendments), but on the Senate floor this morning he explained the reasoning behind his amendment. “No doubt that the telephone companies have been good citizens in whatever they have done,” Specter said. “Whatever it is they have done, the indicators are they have been good citizens.”

And on a related note, the White House has chimed in on the immunity debate via their Twitter account.

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