Immunity for Telecom Companies

In today’s New York Times, former attorney general John Ashcroft explains why it would be harmful and risky to allow lawsuits to continue against telecommunications companies for cooperating with federal antiterrorism surveillance programs after 9/11.

Similar arguments were made earlier by other former attorneys general, such as Benjamin Civiletti, who served in the Carter Administration, and Dick Thornburgh. They note that there has been “a flood of class-action lawsuits seeking to impose massive liability on phone companies for allegedly answering the government’s call for help” in the aftermath of 9/11. Phone companies are confronted by demands for billions of dollars in damages in numerous lawsuits filed by trial lawyers.

Earlier, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) explained in the Washington Post why immunity for telecommunications companies makes sense. As Senator Rockefeller noted, since “the operational details of the program remain highly classified, the companies are prevented from defending themselves in court.”

Discussing that editorial, this blog explained another benefit of legislation providing the telecom companies with immunity: it would eliminate a discriminatory double standard in the law.