February 25, 2008 | By Kurt Opsahl

Myth/Facts about Retroactive Immunity and Attorneys

Bush Administration Press Secretary Dana Perino stooped to a new low at today's White House press briefing, presenting numerous myths about trial attorneys as part of the Administration's desperate plea to get retroactive immunity for its telecommunications partners.

MS. PERINO: [Telecommunications companies] have the technology, they have the means, and they want to cooperate, but they have been burdened with over 40 lawsuits, class-action lawsuits that would -- that, one, already are costing them lots of money to deal with. And if the suits were to go forward, it could cost them possibly billions. And that cost is going to be borne by the consumers of those businesses, the customers of those businesses.

...

Q Dana, critics would say that if those companies lose those suits, it's because they broke the law -- even if you give them prospective coverage, that there's no need to give retroactive coverage.

MS. PERINO: As we said, the program was lawful, they were asked to help their country. And look, the President's most solemn obligation is to protect the American people. And in some ways it seems that the House Democrats' most solemn obligation is to help protect the trial lawyers -- they are the ones who have brought all these lawsuits. And they are huge class-action lawsuits in which all of us consumers of telecommunications companies would be named. And if at the end of the day, say that these trial lawyers won these lawsuits -- you and I would get a dollar or two back, and they would get 46 percent of the
award.

MYTH: "class-action lawsuits that would -- that, one, already are costing them lots of money to deal with..."

FACT: Since last August, there have been almost no litigation costs. The cases are at a stand-still. There certainly have been no litigation costs since the Protect America Act expired on February 16.

MYTH: "it could cost them possibly billions. And that cost is going to be borne by the consumers of those businesses, the customers of those businesses."

FACT: To the extent that the telecoms pay damages, the consumers of those business are the ones who will be getting the money, not paying for it.

MYTH: "As we said, the program was lawful..."

FACT: After AT&T moved to dismiss the Hepting v AT&T lawsuit, Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that "AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal."

MYTH: "the House Democrats' most solemn obligation is to help protect the trial lawyers -- they are the ones who have brought all these lawsuits."

FACT: The dozens of lawsuits filed in connection with NSA spying have been brought by a broad and diverse range of organizations. These include civil liberties groups like EFF and ACLU, state government officials in charge of corporate oversight (including Public Utility Commissioners and a state attorney-general,) several ordinary American citizens, and — yes — some trial lawyers.

MYTH: "say that these trial lawyers won these lawsuits -- you and I would get a dollar or two back ..."

FACT: The White House needs to get its story straight. If the damages are a "dollar or two" per person, then the damages are not "billions." If the telecoms broke the law, and the court found the damages were in the billions, then you the consumer would get a substantial amount of money back.

If EFF and others won these lawsuits, you and I would get our civil liberties back, and have a court case holding that companies and the President are required to follow the law.


Deeplinks Topics

Stay in Touch

NSA Spying

EFF is leading the fight against the NSA's illegal mass surveillance program. Learn more about what the program is, how it works, and what you can do.

Follow EFF

Celebrate the 4th by giving to EFF! We're fighting to stop mass surveillance in the US and worldwide. https://eff.org/EFF25

Jul 4 @ 5:36pm

A deep dive into XKEYSCORE, one of the NSA's creepiest spying tools: https://eff.org/r.c6hp

Jul 3 @ 3:12pm

Come to EFF HQ on July 8 for a book talk with author of "Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Tech" https://eff.org/r.i3fv

Jul 2 @ 4:57pm
JavaScript license information