Bush Moves To Protect Telecoms From Being Litigated To Death

That is what the headline should say, anyhow (Washington Post)

President Bush said last week that telecommunications companies that helped government wiretapping efforts need protection from “class-action plaintiff attorneys” who see a “financial gravy train” ahead. Democrats and privacy groups responded by accusing the Bush administration of trying to shut down the lawsuits to hide evidence of illegal acts.

But in the bitter Washington dispute over whether to give the companies legal immunity, there is one thing on which both sides agree: If the lawsuits go forward, sensitive details about the scope and methods of the Bush administration’s surveillance efforts could be divulged for the first time.

No, there is something else to it, too, but, I’ll get into that a bit later.

Nearly 40 lawsuits, consolidated into five groups, are pending before a San Francisco judge. The various plaintiffs, a mix of nonprofit civil liberties advocates and private attorneys, are seeking to prove that the Bush administration engaged in illegal massive surveillance of Americans’ e-mails and phone calls after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and to show that major phone companies illegally aided the surveillance, including the disclosure of customers’ call records.

Guess which Ciruit the judge sits on? You got it, the 9th Circuit, the most liberal in the country. When liberals cannot get their legislation agenda passed, they look to sue.

Perhaps most important, disclosures in the lawsuits could clarify the scope of the government’s surveillance and establish whether, as the plaintiffs allege, it involved the massive interception of purely domestic communications with the help of the nation’s largest providers: AT&T, Cingular Wireless, BellSouth, Sprint and MCI/Verizon. (Verizon Communications bought MCI in 2006.)

The interesting question is, do any of the plaintiffs have standing? Can any of them show they were harmed?

A prime goal in the litigation is to find out who the decision makers were, said Don Migliori, a partner with Motley Rice in Providence, R.I., a plaintiffs’ attorney who is working on the lawsuit against Verizon.

Doubtful. The prime goals of groups like the ACLU are to bash Bush and weaken our foreign intelligence programs. For the lawyers, the prime goal is to make $$$$$$$$. Lots of it. Shitloads.

Too many people are using the “if the telecoms did nothing wrong, then they have nothing to worry about argument,” which is just as incorrect as the “if you did nothing wrong, then it is no big deal if the government listened to your phone calls” argument.

Remember Dow Corning? They made silicone gel breast implants. They were sued non-stop, and, despite every single bit of real scientific evidence showing that the implants were not causing the women’s troubles, they ended up paying out $7 billion dollars. $7,000,000,000. Sympathetic juries said “eh, why not? They are a big company, they can afford it.” And the lawyers, in a feeding frenzy, were raking in huge returns for their litigation. It got so bad that some high end judges had to put a stop to it, as the lawsuits gave the appearence of impropriety, ie, the lawyers were acting like gold diggers. It was modern day piracy.

So, if all the telecoms are innocent, what happens if it goes to trial? Besides the release of secret national intelligence material, which will end up public and let the enemies of the USA know what we are doing to stop them, juries could say “eh, they can afford it.” And the same people who are whining about the telecoms now will be the first ones complaining later when people are being laid off in all sectors, when service of all types is degraded, when stores close, when the tech upgrades cannot happen because their is no money, when the towers cannot be fixed, when prices go up, and when coverage cannot be extended.

Evening update: Michael Goldbarb at The Weekly Standard discuss the coming telecom immunity, and how it has Glenn Greenwald despondent.

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