March 3, 2008 | By Kurt Opsahl

Top Ten Questions for Journalists to Ask the White House

Too often the White House spokespeople are able to dodge and weave their way through questions about the President's demand for immunity against warrantless surveillance lawsuits. To help the press corps try to get to the heart of the matter, here are the top ten questions we'd like to see Dana Perino or Tony Fratto faced with at their next press conference:

  • #10: How can the lawsuits cause liability for "billions" of dollars unless the telcoms violated the rights of millions of ordinary Americans? If the surveillance is limited to communications involving suspected terrorists, wouldn't the number of people surveilled be very low?
  • #9: You said that if the telecommunications surveillance lawsuits "are allowed to proceed, [they] would serve only to line the pockets of class- action trial lawyers." How would it "line their pockets" unless the plaintiffs win and a court find that the telecoms' surveillance was illegal?
  • #8: If, as you say, the surveillance was legal, how would allowing the cases to proceed "line the pockets" of the plaintiffs attorneys? Wouldn't it instead be a big waste of their time?
  • #7: When you refer to "the trial lawyers" as "the ones who have brought all these lawsuits," does this mean that you consider the non-profit legal services organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation or the American Civil Liberties Union and the attorneys representing the states of Missouri, Maine, New Jersey, Connecticut and Vermont to be "trial lawyers"?
  • #6: Has the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) been updated since 1978? How about since 2001?
  • #5:Under FISA, can the Attorney General approve surveillance in minutes? Isn't it true that surveillance begins immediately and approval of the FISA Court can be obtained retroactively within three days?
  • #4: Under FISA, don't the phone companies have strong legal protection if they insist on an order from the FISA court rather than just doing surveillance when the President asks?
  • #3: Under FISA and the other privacy laws, the phone companies are already immune if they follow the law, right? They only need immunity if they broke the law, right?
  • #2: Can you honestly say that the government has not received the call detail records of any American without legal process?
  • And, the number one question: You keep saying that a recent FISA court order prevents you from listening in on foreign-to-foreign communications. But that ruling did not affect your longstanding ability to listen in on foreign to foreign calls from overseas listening places, did it? Why can't you listen into those foreign-to-foreign calls from the many overseas surveillance facilities that the NSA has long used instead of installing new listening posts inside the U.S.?

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