Fact, Fiction and Flat-Out FISA Falsehoods

By February 16, 2008Briefly Legal, Communications

The White House posted an excellent, point-by-point rebuttal to the falsehoods being shopped by those whose want to sue telecommunications companies as a way to attack the Administration’s national security policies. Here’s entry one of five:

MYTH: The future security of our country does not depend on whether Congress provides liability protection for companies being sued for billions of dollars only because they are believed to have assisted the Government in defending America after the 9/11 attacks.

FACT: Without the retroactive liability protection provided in the bipartisan Senate bill, we may not be able to secure the private sector’s cooperation with current and future intelligence efforts critical to our national security.
FACT: Senior intelligence leaders have repeatedly testified that providing retroactive liability protection is critical to carrying out their mission of protecting our homeland.

Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell: “Lack of liability protection would make it much more difficult to obtain the future cooperation of the private-sector partners whose help is so vital to our success.” (Select Committee On Intelligence, Hearing, U.S. Senate, 2/5/08)

FBI Director Robert Mueller: “[I]n protecting the homeland … it’s absolutely essential we have the support, willing support of communication carriers. … My concern is that if we do not have this immunity, we will not have that willing support of the communication carriers.” (Select Committee On Intelligence, Hearing, U.S. Senate, 2/5/08)

CIA Director Michael Hayden: “These are very fragile relationships. We lost industrial cooperation, at CIA, with partners on the mere revelation of the SWIFT program in public discourse.” (Select Committee On Intelligence, U.S. Senate, Hearing, 2/5/08)

FACT: According to the Director of National Intelligence, “we are experiencing significant difficulties in working with the private sector today because of the continued failure to address this issue.” (Mike McConnell, Op-Ed, “A Key Gap In Fighting Terrorism,” The Washington Post, 2/15/08)

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • markus says:

    That’s hilarious ‘a few for-profit lawyers…’.

    Look, the issue here is that it should not be illegal for our government to tap international phone calls. The US constitution does not apply to non-citizens. It definitely does not apply to terrorists and their supporters. I can understand why you’re suspicious of big government, but you have to get a little perspective. After all, we are at war. It is outrageous that FISA has not been re-authorized and the Dems are only opening the door for many more lawsuits for their buddies. And yes, the trial lawyers are clearly the buddies of the Democrats.

  • Dissent says:

    So someone located a few for-profit lawyers among the plaintiffs’ lawyers? Out of 40 lawsuits? Big deal. Sure, some folks will pile on. They always do, but to suggest that lawyer’s fees are the real issue here is absurd.

    While trial lawyers do contribute more heavily to political campaigns than telecoms (and to Dems more than Reps), the telecoms’ contributions were nothing to sneeze at. AT&T, one of the defendants in the lawsuits, is the single biggest contributor among the telecoms contributors. Why don’t you mention that and suggest that people were influenced to vote for immunity because of telecoms’ contributions?

    Why aren’t you yelling that Rockefeller, a Democrat who got about $240k in telecom communications supported immunity? A bunch of sites pointed out that he received funds from them. I didn’t make any deal out of that on my blog because I don’t believe that he was influenced by the funds.

    By the way, McCain has also received a significant contribution from trial lawyers in his campaign. More than he got from the telecoms. By your analysis, he should vote against immunity.

    The totality of the data do not support this attack campaign that you are part of, Carter. I know it’s difficult, but try to take a higher road.

  • Carter says:

    And other self-sacrificing sorts as Mikal Watts. Or big-time campaign contributor and asbestos lawyer Matthew Bergman. Such generous souls.

    Amanda Carpenter’s article on campaign contributions and the plaintiff’s lawyers is revealing.


    I just wish some of you folks would bother to find out the facts before just repeating the mudsling.

  • Dissent says:

    markus: the “trial lawyers” involved in these lawsuits against the telecoms are the highly overworked and underpaid lawyers at non-profit organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Constitutional Rights. This notion of the Democrats trying to help highly paid “trial lawyers” is so lame when you know who the lead lawyers are in these cases.

    I just wish some of you folks would bother to find out the facts before just repeating the mudslinging. Thumbs up to EFF and CCR and every lawyer who gave up a life of big bucks from the private sector to protect our constitutional rights. Even if the telecoms were to pay out, these lawyers do not profit.

  • markus says:

    The fact is that the Democrats want to give their rich buddies the trial lawyers (you know, the guys with the expensive haircuts) an opportunity to get richer at the expense of the safety of ordinary American citizens by allowing them to sue the telecoms for listening in on the phone conversations of known terrorists. We know who is really dishonest and it is those that prefer to play politics while truly evil people threaten our safety and our ‘rights’.

  • kxeaa says:

    QWEST lawyers said the wiretapping requests were illegal and they said give us a legal authorization and we will.


  • Paige says:

    Disgusted by the shameless way you are promoting everything the Administration shoves at you. Bravo ‘Dissent.’
    These quotes you have written up mean nothing alongside the long and extensive commentary by the same individuals, assuring us that there really will be no security problems brought about by PROTECTING OUR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS. I have no desire to slip into fascism, and it shames me to see other people so willing to walk along with this administration any longer.

  • Dissent says:

    Their “facts” are flat-out falsehoods. First, if telecoms are given warrants, they really do not have the option to refuse to comply. If they do refuse, the government can ask a court to compel compliance, so any notion that the telecoms can say “no” is just false.

    The President’s so-called “facts” are merely spin and fear-mongering techniques. Second, going forward, any certification would immunize the telecoms for their participation. So there is no issue going forward on immunity once a law is passed. The issue of retroactive immunity has really nothing to do what the telecoms must or will do in the future, govt. falsehoods notwithstanding.

    Ben Powell, general counsel for the director of national intelligence’s office, gives the lie to the threatening quotes in your post — he admitted that not ONE telecom has threatened to halt operations.

    But let’s remember that the telecoms DID halt operations — not for the reasons the government gives to scare us, though. They halted operations when their bills didn’t get paid on time.

    If this administration was honest — which they decidedly are NOT — they would just say, “If you don’t let these companies off the hook, they may not cooperate with us in the future when we ask them to violate laws Congress passed to protect your rights.” And that’s just fine with me. The telecoms should comply with lawful warrants or certifications. They should NOT comply with illegal requests as they did in the past. And if you think those requests were legal, then let’s let a court determine that.

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