Congressional Leaders Strike Deal on Telecom Surveillance

Congressional leaders have apparently struck a deal that “would strengthen the ability of intelligence officials to eavesdrop on foreign targets.”  Such eavesdropping to fight terrorism has attracted a lot of controversy, even though it is far more limited that what occurs in other Western countries.  For example, Sweden just enacted a law that will allow “Sweden’s National Defense Radio Establishment to monitor citizens’ phone calls, text messages, e-mails, and Internet use without a court order.” “Though the bill only applies to communications over the border, apparently almost everything (even phone calls) in Sweden passes outside the country before coming back in.” 

The deal also gives phone companies some protection against lawsuits.  In the U.S., telecom companies have been sued for tens of billions of dollars by trial lawyers and left-wing special-interest groups for cooperating with far more limited federal antiterror surveillance programs.  I have earlier explained why the telecom companies deserve protection from those lawsuits, and how they have been victims of a legal double-standard

Opposition by liberal Congressmen and activists to granting such protections owes more to ideology and the role of trial lawyers in bankrolling liberal political candidates than it does to genuine concern about privacy.  That is illustrated by the deafening silence by liberal activists and self-proclaimed civil-libertarians about pointless attacks on privacy by their political allies in Congress, like the sweepingly-broad fingerprinting provisions of the mortgage bailout bill pushed by Senator Chris Dodd, who has long been an apologist for left-wing Latin American dictators.   Those left-wing activists don’t object to fingerprinting law-abiding citizens who work in banks or the mortgage industry, even as they loudly complain about taking jail inmates’ DNA samples, even when it helps investigators exonerate innocent people accused of crimes committed by those inmates.  

Senator Dodd received special favors from the CEO of an ailing subprime mortgage lender (Angelo Mozilo), and now is using a mortgage bailout bill loaded with left-wing pork to buy up its defaulting loans, at taxpayer expense, even though the American people oppose mortgage bailouts, which are bad for the economy