So who’s behind these 40 some civil suits against the telecommunications companies for responding to the federal government’s request to assist in the monitoring of post-9/11 foreign electronic communications. Sure, you have the privacy absolutists at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU, but you also have the usual suspects among the litigation shakedown set, the trial lawyers.
Consider Eric Isaacson, the former Milberg Weiss attorney who joined now convicted felon William Lerach at the California law firm, Coughlin Stoia. Isaacson and Lerach are lead plaintiffs in one of the high-profile lawsuits against the telecom companies, Hepting v. AT&T. Top Milberg Weiss attorneys have also been convicted or indicted for a kickback scheme to gin up class-action shareholder lawsuits.
Quin Hillyer looks at Isaacson’s involvement and motives in an Examiner column today, “Telecoms face double risk on FISA.”
[Isaacson] comes from exactly the sort of cutthroat milieu that makes telecoms balk (absent immunity) when asked for an emergency foreign-intelligence wiretap.
Just imagine how Coughlin Stoia could take information gleaned from “discovery” motions in the wiretap suit and use it to try to nail the phone company in a subsequent investors’ suit that is the firm’s stock in trade.
Remember the modus operandi of Milberg Weiss, tactics that Isaacson specializes in defending on appeal. As former partners described in their guilty pleas, the firm would troll for clients with stock in big corporations and then file suit almost any time the share-price dropped, without specific evidence of wrongdoing but based merely on what Lerach called his internal “X-ray vision.”
This X-ray vision amounted to plaintiff’s lawyers abusing the discovery process to dredge up anything that could be twisted into appearances of wrongdoing. Juries would deliver huge verdicts. Hillyer comments:
Without immunity from such shakedowns, the companies surely would be forced to decline even the most urgent of future government requests. Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte has sworn under oath that the end result “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States.”
Shakedowns or security? Too many members of Congress are choosing the former.
P.S. EFF does have a fine page of documents on the FISA issues. It’s http://www.eff.org/issues/nsa-spying.
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