Specter: Telecom Immunity Remains a “Festering Wound”

November 19, 2008 | Last updated: July 31, 2020

Who said “telecom immunity?”

With the economy in the tank and Washington distracted by gazillion-dollar industry bailouts, it seems like forever since that buzz-phrase — ubiquitous earlier in the year — was uttered in this town.

You recall the issue: The White House wanted not only expanded powers to spy on Americans without court oversight, but also demanded across-the-board immunity for the telecom companies that had broken the law by cooperating under the program. After a few months standing up to the administration’s wishes, Democrats caved on the issue. Then it virtually went away.

With the arrival of news that Eric Holder has been picked to be attorney general under the Obama administration, however, the topic has resurfaced. In an interview with MSNBC this afternoon, GOP Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), a vocal critic of the warrantless spying program, said he hopes Holder will “re-professionalize” the Justice Dept. in the wake of the Bush administration. That means taking a closer look at the legality of the wiretapping program, he said.

“You have to have law enforcement with adequate tools,” Specter said. “But this business of warrantless wiretapping is not really in accordance with constitutional rights. And where you have the immunity granted to the telephone companies, that is still a festering wound.”

President-elect Barack Obama, of course, angered the left by reversing course to vote in favor of the wiretapping legislation. He’s forgiven Sen. Joe Lieberman. Will his hand of lenience extend to the powerful telecom industry? Time to tell…