The Examiner’s Quin Hillyer reads the anti-surveillance class action lawsuit, Hepting v. AT&T, and finds the arguments thin, the claims outlandish:
It reads like the account of a vast fishing expedition in which the plaintiffs claim that any small minnow they catch is a veritable Moby Dick of a privacy invasion.
It claims the surveillance program “intercepts and analyzes the communications of millions of Americans” in an “illegal domestic spying program.” Never mind, of course, that the only way “millions” of Americans could be said to be affected is if they are said to have been subject to unlawful “search and seizure” just by having their phone numbers show up as tiny data bits among “4,000 terabytes (million megabytes)” on the same network that is monitored for the targeted foreign calls. This is hardly a real privacy violation.
Moreover, the suit defines the class of aggrieved citizens as “all individuals” who were customers of the phone company “at any time after September 2001” that the program was in effect. In this one suit, that class is identified as consisting of 24.6 million people. How all 24.6 million Americans could possibly be harmed by this program aimed at suspected foreign terrorists is a question perhaps best answered in the Twilight Zone.
The suit gets wilder still. Not only does it ask for at least $1,000 for each class member for each of two alleged types of violation, but on each of two other counts it asks the companies for at least $100 per alleged victim per day of violation — plus punitive damages and attorney’s expenses.
Do the math: The total potential payout by AT&T for the first two categories of alleged violations is $49.2 billion. Meanwhile, at $100 per day for each day of the four years at issue after 9/11, the total potential liability for each of the two latter counts is $3 trillion, 591 billion.
Defending against this kind of lawsuit abuse is time-consuming and expensive, but that’s the point. The activists want to undermine the legitimate surveillance of foreign communications through litigation, getting to the Administration through legal assaults on private companies.
Do read the lawsuit, by the way. It’s fevered and far-fetched.