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Telecoms have indemnification agreements: why not worried about immunity.

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seasat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-03-08 09:00 AM
Original message
Telecoms have indemnification agreements: why not worried about immunity.
Edited on Mon Mar-03-08 09:15 AM by seasat
I was reading Kevin Drum's blog at Washington Monthly and he had this post based on an e-mail from a lawyer that handles wire tapping cases. The post states that it is standard practice in wire tapping of any sort for the telecoms to get an indemnification agreement from the government. This agreement means that the US government will cover awards from any law suits over wire tapping. The telecoms do not have a financial liability in these cases and that is why they're not throwing huge support behind the immunity portion of the wire tap bill. These agreements are probably classified. The reason (as everyone on this board knows) Shrub Inc is for immunity because it keeps the scope of his wire tapping secret. It's not about protecting the telecoms. They are already protected.

Here's the post detailing this:

As we all know, the Bush adminstration is hellbent on passing a law granting telecom companies retroactive immunity for any surveillance laws they may have broken in the aftermath of 9/11. But there's an odd aspect to this whole thing: the telecom companies themselves don't really seem to be fighting all that hard on behalf of this legislation. Why?

A couple of days ago I got an email from commenter/blogger bmaz proposing an explanation for this. To be honest, I sort of blew him off at first without reading his argument carefully, which I now think was a mistake. There's some guesswork in what he says, but he's an attorney with considerable experience dealing with wiretapping cases and he suggests that the reason the telcos don't care all that much about the lawsuits being pursued against them is because they almost certainly signed indemnification agreements with the feds back in 2001. Such agreements would force the federal government to pay any legal judgments awarded in suits against the telcos:

It is my contention that the telcos have just such indemnification agreements with the Administration/government, that we do not know about because they are classified and hidden, that so protect them for any liability and losses resulting from the litigation they are faced with; thus they do not need immunity to protect them from potential liability verdicts, they are already covered....As someone that has had dealings with such entities regarding bad/illegal wiretaps, I can attest that they always protect themselves vis a vis the governmental entity they are working for and are not shy about the use of indemnity provisions.

In email, bmaz put it to me even more strongly: "The general counsels and legal departments of telcos are extremely accomplished and always protect their company's interests meticulously. They have been dealing with wiretapping and surveillance agreements with the government and law enforcement for over seven decades, this was not a matter of first impression to them; and in difficult and unique cases, I have never seen them not insist on indemnification. Never."
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RUMMYisFROSTED Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-03-08 09:04 AM
Response to Original message
1. I think that is reasonable speculation.
It doesn't take the TelCo's off the hook, though. An illegal operation is still an illegal operation, no matter the issuing authority.
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seasat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-03-08 09:10 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. I agree but there's very likely no punishment for the telecoms.
The fact that it is illegal would expose Shrub Inc. The telecoms will just claim that they did it following government orders. They may still be found guilty but there won't be any financial repercussions. I'd love for an investigative journalist (a rare critter in these times) or Democratic legislator to try and find evidence of these agreements. It would blow a hole in Shrub's argument about retroactive immunity.
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TwilightGardener Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-03-08 09:10 AM
Response to Original message
2. The whole purpose of immunity is to keep the matter, and all related evidence, out
of the courts to protect the Chimp administration. That's it, end of story. Otherwise, we might find out that the wiretapping started BEFORE Sept. 11, and didn't relate to terrorism, and then it's katie-bar-the-door outrage and pitchforks from the public. OK, that last part, was just wishful thinking on my part.
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librechik Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-03-08 09:29 AM
Response to Original message
4. it's always been obvious to me that BushCo is protecting themselves, not the telecoms
Edited on Mon Mar-03-08 09:32 AM by librechik
what crimes have they committed under the cover of our flag? They seem DESPERATE to keep them secret. Are their own lives at stake?

That has always seemed the only explanation to me for their bizarre behavior. This latest statement from Mulkasey ties a ribbon on the whole package. He insists that of course the American people are not involved in any of the wiretapping. This said in a cloud of other statements, by himself and others, most of them lies and half lies. All contradicting that we know for a fact they ARE tapping American phones--they've admitted it!--just presumably to hear a foreigner on the other end.

I'm not a lawyer or a gambler. but i would bet my grandchild's left little finger that they had/have a tap on important enemies like Kennedy and Leahy and Daschle, and that is how they are protecting the American people.

see you in gitmo--hope they don't make me watch them remove the finger...
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PRETZEL Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Mar-03-08 11:20 AM
Response to Original message
5. I agree with this that indemnification is a major issue with the teleco's
but I don't think it's the totality of it. I personally think that they want the immunity because it will allow them to maintain their status. Imagine the outcry for stricter regulations and smaller telecom companies that would naturally come out of any suits where the conglomerate telecom companies were found to be guilty of illegal domestic spying.

They may be confident that they are protected financially, but are they more worried about possibly losing their deregulated status?
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