Specter Substitution is Immunity by Another Name

December 13, 2007 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to reject a bill offered by ranking member Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA). Senator Specter’s bill, the FISA Intelligence Surveillance Substitution Act of 2007, would remove the telecommunications companies and insert the federal government as the defendant in cases currently pending over domestic spying. The bill is scheduled to be marked up by the full Senate Judiciary Committee today.

The following can be attributed to Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

“Allowing the administration to step in as the defendant is not an acceptable alternative to immunity. The administration has three strong cards up its sleeve when it comes to national security cases. First it will play the state secrets card, arguing that a court cannot hear the cases because they include classified national security matters. If that is rebuffed, then it’s on to executive privilege, an argument that the president has authority over certain matters into which the courts cannot intervene. If a court challenges this specious claim of executive privilege, the administration can bring its A-bomb – sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is a term that means the government cannot be sued without consent. So, unless the administration agrees that it would love to be sued, sovereign immunity is likely to kill any case in its tracks. The end result is that substitution is immunity in two moves instead of just one.

“This substitution proposal does not put up a roadblock to immunity – it just lengthens the journey. Since the domestic spying program was revealed in 2005, the American people have been waiting for an answer as to why the government and the telecoms violated our privacy. We’ve waited too long. We deserve our day in court.”

For more information about FISA and telecom immunity, go to:

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