FISA: No Immunity from Trial Lawyers

By March 11, 2008Briefly Legal, Communications

In Politico, a letter to the editor from Darren McKinney, director of communications, American Tort Reform Association:

Politico’s coverage of the immunity-for-telecoms-versus-no-immunity-for-telecoms debate that’s stalling vitally important reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [“Republicans Unwilling to Budge on FISA Update,” March 5] continues to ignore the obvious.

Though some members of Congress opposing immunity may be genuinely and primarily motivated by their desire to protect civil liberties, many other “more liberal” lawmakers also are plainly motivated by their political allegiance to and dependence on the wealthy personal injury bar, which desperately wishes to maintain some 40 potentially lucrative telecom lawsuits with designs on more to come.

If the National Rifle Association pressed its Hill allies to hold out against a gun control regulation contained in legislation supported by most security experts and majorities in both bodies, Politico readers would rightly get details about how much NRA money had found its way into the campaign coffers of those holdouts. But when it comes to telecom litigation, a special interest that gives more money to political campaigns than any other is exercising comparable influence, and it goes unmentioned.

The Heritage Foundation’s blog, The Foundry, reports that a new House FISA bill tries to finesse the issue of immunity for telecom companies by passing off the question to the courts. TPMMuckraker, a liberal blog, provides more details here.

Eliciting support from and protecting companies that assist in preventing America’s enemies from killing us is a policy question: Should the private sector be encouraged to provide effective assistance in surveillance of foreign terrorists? Policy questions should be decided by the policymaking branch of government, the Legislature, not pawned off to the interpretation of federal courts. This new House provision is an attempt to escape responsibility.

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  • Paul Dirks says:

    Policy questions should be decided by the policymaking branch of government, the Legislature.

    I couldn’t agree more. If the legislature had been allowed to participate in the process back when the NSA program was being put it place, it would be utterly unnecessary to provide retoactive amnesty for the clear violation of then existing law.

    And none of the misdirection or outright lying involved, blaming the “wealthy personal injury bar” for the Congressmen who are indeed standing on principles against “unitary executive” theories that are threatening to tear our entire Constitutional balance asunder would be necessary.

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