Politics

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
congress, immunity, telcos, wiretapping



As Expected, Republicans Push To Get Telcos Off The Hook For Illegal Activities

from the who-woulda-thunk-it dept

Back in February, we broke the story that some Republican Congressional Representatives were looking to circulate a discharge petition to force a vote on the FISA bill that would grant telcos retroactive immunity for any illegal activity having to do with wiretap activities. And, in fact, that's exactly what happened. Earlier this week, a group of Republicans started circulating just such a petition. This is an extremely rare move. A discharge petition hasn't been used successfully since 2002. However, the reasoning behind the supporters of this discharge petition is highly suspect and deserves to be examined. Rep. Roy Blunt stated:
"More than 66 days have passed since House Democrats allowed a key piece of terrorist surveillance legislation to expire--not because they had concerns with the bill, but because they were seemingly more concerned that not enough trial lawyers would be able to file enough expensive and frivolous lawsuits against U.S. telecom firms."
That's both incorrect and misleading at the same time. First of all, there were concerns with the bill: the concerns about giving telcos immunity for potentially illegal activities. As we've pointed out, there are really only three potential reasons for wanting immunity, and they certainly have nothing to do with filing frivolous lawsuits. If this was about frivolous lawsuits, immunity wouldn't be needed -- because the cases would get thrown out. The only real reason to push for immunity is because it's known that the telcos and/or the administration acted illegally. In such a case, immunity obviously shouldn't be allowed. No one has yet given a decent reason for immunity, and the statement here to back up the discharge petition is incredibly disingenuous. Hopefully, a majority of Congressional representatives will realize that and reject the petition.

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  1. identicon
    Ron Goodwyne, 25 Apr 2008 @ 10:36am

    Telco Immunity

    You're view doesn't appear realistic to me. The notion that the telcos have nothing to fear from frivolous lawsuits because they'll be thrown out simply is not supported by reality. Corporations spend millions defending against frivolous lawsuits every year. The situation is made worse for telcos when the government orders them to hand over information. You want to place them in a no win situation. If they don't comply with the government's demands, they risk prosecution. If they do comply, they face lawsuits. I don't see any way to deal with this short of immunity from lawsuits when the government has asked for information.

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