Discussing proposed immunity, Angle omitted judge's finding that no "reasonable entity" could think actions urged by Bush admin. were legal

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

In describing the Senate debate over granting retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that allegedly cooperated with the government's program of warrantless domestic eavesdropping, Fox News' Jim Angle stated that the debate "is over whether or not to give immunity to the telecom companies who were told by the administration that they were acting lawfully and asked their cooperation, and they gave it." But Angle did not mention that, in a case challenging the legality of AT&T's alleged cooperation with the wiretapping program, a judge found that AT&T "cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed" that it would be lawful for the company to cooperate with the government.

On the December 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report, chief Washington correspondent Jim Angle left out key information in describing the Senate debate over granting retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies that allegedly cooperated with the government's program of warrantless domestic eavesdropping. Discussing the issue with Washington managing editor Brit Hume, Angle stated that the debate "is over whether or not to give immunity to the telecom companies who were told by the administration that they were acting lawfully and asked their cooperation, and they gave it." But Angle did not mention that, in one of the cases challenging the legality of a company's alleged cooperation with the wiretapping program, Hepting v. AT&T, Vaughn Walker, the federal district judge hearing the case, found, as part of his rejection of AT&T's claims of immunity, that, "based on the facts as alleged in [the] plaintiffs' complaint," AT&T "cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed" that it would be lawful for the company to cooperate with the government.

As Media Matters for America previously noted, Walker denied AT&T's motion to dismiss, which claimed, among other things, "qualified immunity with respect to plaintiffs' constitutional claim," ruling in part that, if, as the lawsuit alleges, AT&T "provide[d] the government with direct and indiscriminate access to the domestic communications of AT&T customers," then the company "violate[d] the constitutional rights clearly established [by the Supreme Court] in Keith [i.e., United States v. United States District Court (1972)]." Walker's ruling continued: "Moreover, because 'the very action in question has previously been held unlawful,' AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal." Walker's decision has been appealed and is now pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which heard arguments on the appeal on August 15.

From the December 17 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

HUME: And one other thing, Jim, what about this long-running fight about intelligence surveillance, terrorist surveillance, and the phone companies that's been going on? What's happening there?

ANGLE: It went on all day long in the Senate. It is over whether or not to give immunity to the telecom companies who were told by the administration that they were acting lawfully and asked their cooperation, and they gave it.

HUME: This is for listening in on phone calls from outside of the country to inside the country, suspected terrorists --

ANGLE: Correct.

HUME: -- calling into this country?

ANGLE: And emails and any other kind of communication.

HUME: Right.

ANGLE: It absolutely requires the cooperation of the telecommunications companies. Senator Chris Dodd [D-CT] has been on the floor on and off all day. They had allowed a certain number of hours for this. He has used up as many of those hours as possible. It is now believed there won't be enough time to deal with the amendments, so there are some who believe this is dead for this year. It means it won't be taken up until the middle of January and the old bill expires on February 1st. So once again, they will be working on one of the most important issues in the country on a deadline clock, trying to figure it out at the very last minute.

HUME: All right, Jim, thank you.

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