It's really quite a simple question and one reporter or another keeps asking because they don't receive satisfactory answers: "Why do the telecommunications companies need immunity if no laws have been broken?" If there were no legal grounds to the claims filed by some 40 individuals, they wouldn't sweat it would they?
Have a look at how this SAO tries to worm her/his way out of a legit answer:
Q But did they act under law? They knew they were acting under the law?Good question. What do you mean Minimized:
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, the Attorney General --
Q Why give them immunity if they were legal?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Because to show that somebody was acting under the law, under the allegations and the numerous lawsuits that were filed, first they would have to show what exactly was done, they would have to show whether or not they engaged in the activity --
Q All they have to do is get from the White House -- say we gave them permission under the law.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, if the Senate committee reports suffice, which says that the President authorized this, and the legality was -- assurances of legality were provided to them, I wish that were sufficient to make the lawsuits go away. But that's not sufficient.
Q -- go along with that they were legal when you say they're legal, when the government says they are legal, acting under the law?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we've seen there are, what, 40-some suits out there right now, and we've seen --
Q So they think they must have something. They think they're valid, don't they? Their lawyers obviously do.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I'm not going to speak to what the lawyers of the other parties think. But bottom line is that some of these cases have gotten some traction. But we have been resisting on a number of different grounds. The problem is, is that aside what effort it puts us to, the providers are being sued. And they are in a position where they can't really defend themselves, because this is all classified, confidential information. Their reputations are in some danger, they go through the expense and the disruption of a litigation process, all because they really stepped forward and were good citizens after 9/11. And it's just --
Q Well, you can't just show the judge the classified information and let them make a decision?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, what we've done is we've shown this to members of Congress, and to the Judiciary Committees and the Intelligence Committees, shown the documents -- the documents that contain the assurances that were given from the administration to the providers at the time when they were asked to assist. And those -- the Senate intelligence report, as [my colleague] said, found those were good faith -- those were assurances that the program was legal and that it was directed by the President, and that the providers had a good-faith basis for going ahead and stepping up and assisting the government and protecting the country against another attack.
Q I just have one more question. I know I'm being -- don't mean to monopolize -- but can you honestly say that no American has been wiretapped without a warrant in this country -- has not been wiretapped -- has been wiretapped, yes, who has been wiretapped without a warrant -- warrantless wiretapping in this country.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The reason I hesitate is because, as [my colleague] said, we will target surveillance against somebody overseas, and that person might -- 90 percent of the time that person is probably talking to people overseas, but sometimes that person is talking to somebody in the United States, and we intercept that communication. And as we've always done, we review that communication, and if it's irrelevant, we minimize it.
Q What do you mean, minimize?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, this is what [my colleague] was talking about. If it's an American -- United States person -- let's say we're targeting somebody, a terrorist suspect in the Middle East. That person calls over to an American phone number and gets a United States person. There are minimization rules in place that the intelligence community has been following for decades, for whenever they do target surveillance overseas they follow these rules. And if that communication is captured -- and [I], United States person, am on that phone call, there are rules that limit the dissemination of information about [me,] because I'm a U.S. person. My name can't be disseminated in intelligence reports in this kind of thing.Okay, so the reason the W, Rove and Co is concerned about the legal jeopardy that these companies may be in is that they could very well have illegally wiretapped a US Citizen in this country.
So there are protections in place to protect the privacy of Americans, but still allow us to target surveillance against targets overseas, where we really need to find out about threats.
Q Without a warrant?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Without a warrant, yes.
This leaves me with some remaining questions: Even if those warrantless wiretaps were executed accidentally but were "minimized," are they against the Constitution and thus against the law? Whoops, I violated your rights, so sorry? That's not what government is supposed to be about, no? Are they not supposed to be protecting our rights, not violating them?