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MSNBC "Interview"-Transcript

Interview

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MSNBC "Interview"-Transcript

MS. NOVOTNY: Since the September 11th attacks, Americans have been urged to be on our guards. If we see something suspicious, we should report it immediately. But doing so has carried the risk of being taken to court by whomever you accuse -- until now, that is. Lawmakers have agreed to include a measure providing immunity to tipsters in the newest homeland security bill. Republican Congressman from New York Peter King drafted the legislation. He joins us now.

Congressman, thank your for your time, sir.

REP. KING: Thank you, Monica.

MS. NOVOTNY: So, some Democrats were against this, saying that it might open the door to racial or even religious profiling. What was the key, then, to getting it through and easing those concerns?

REP. KING: Basically we asked them to read the language. There was no basis to what they were saying at all. I think this was a -- you know, the extreme liberal base of the Democratic Party trying to, you know, pull their party in that direction.

The fact is, it's essential that people, if they see something, say something; if they see suspicious activity, to report it. And it was not all Democrats who were against it. Certainly Joe Lieberman was a real warrior on this. He stood very strong with me. And in the end we just showed them that if you truthfully report something and you do it in good faith, then you have immunity.

Obviously, if you say something that's intentionally wrong or if you have a devious purpose, you can be sued. But in this case it was clear, the statute makes it clear that if you truthfully report it and you act in good faith, then you're immune. You should not be sued.

We need the eyes and ears of tens and millions -- tens of millions of Americans, good Americans, to report any suspicious activity they see, such as the person over in New Jersey reported the Fort Dix incident.

MS. NOVOTNY: But sir, politics aside, aren't there concerns that someone might target an innocent person intentionally, given the promised anonymity? I know you say that it's got to be done in good faith, but sometimes that's a hard line to parse.

REP. KING: Well, I would rather put the burden on someone who's trying to prove bad faith. I mean, to me -- I have faith in the American people. The overwhelming majority of the American people who come forward are going to be acting in good faith. And if someone wants to sue them, you know, they should have the burden of showing bad faith or show that what they said was clearly untrue.

In the world we live in today, where if a person does not report something, that could result in the deaths of thousands of Americans, I think we have to, you know, give the benefit of the doubt to those who make the report.

MS. NOVOTNY: Does the measure strip anyone who is wrongfully accused of any legal recourse, or can they still come forward and say, as you've said, this was not in good faith?

REP. KING: Oh, no, if a person can show that there was bad faith, if they can show that the report was not truthful, then certainly they -- you know, they have recourse in court. But again, this protects those who make reports in good faith and do so truthfully. And if they go to court and they win, then they're entitled to their attorneys fees and their costs.

MS. NOVOTNY: Congressman Peter King of New York, thank you for your time, sir.

REP. KING: Thank you, Monica.


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