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Immunity for Telecoms May Set Bad Precedent, Legal Scholars Say
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Washington Post

Washington Post, October 22, 2007
Posted: October 26th, 2007

When previous Republican administrations were accused of illegality in the FBI and CIA spying abuses of the 1970s or the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s, Democrats in Congress launched investigations or pushed for legislative reforms. But last week, faced with admissions by several telecommunication companies that they assisted the Bush administration in warrantless spying on Americans, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee took a much different tack -- proposing legislation that would grant those companies retroactive immunity from prosecution or lawsuits. The proposal marks the second time in recent years that Congress has moved toward providing legal immunity for past actions that may have been illegal. The Military Commissions Act, passed by a GOP-led Congress in September 2006, provided retroactive immunity for CIA interrogators who could have been accused of war crimes for mistreating detainees. Legal experts say the granting of such retroactive immunity by Congress is unusual, particularly in a case involving private companies. "It's particularly unusual in the case of the telecoms because you don't really know what you're immunizing," said Louis Fisher, a specialist in constitutional law with the Law Library of the Library of Congress. Civil liberties groups and many academics argue that Congress is allowing the government to cover up possible wrongdoing and is inappropriately interfering in disputes that the courts should decide. The American Civil Liberties Union [said] in a news release Friday that "the administration is trying to cover its tracks."

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