On Friday, the San Jose Mercury News published an op-ed written by a plaintiff in the ACLU of Northern California’s lawsuit against AT&T. Robert Jacobson is in a unique position as a plaintiff in our case because he’s the author of California’s 1985 Telephone Privacy Act, which prohibited phone companies from turning over customers’ call records to a third party without a warrant. Robert writes:
Now the telecoms want retroactive immunity from nearly 40 lawsuits like mine that have been filed nationwide. Their defenders …say that without it companies in the future won’t cooperate with the government to keep our country safe. That’s the wrong principle. Corporate handouts reward bad behavior and encourage companies to ignore environmental, safety or privacy laws. And with their armies of Washington lobbyists and high-priced lawyers, these are hardly wild-eyed patriots.
…When the government asked for records, they could have done what one major telecom executive did: ask for a warrant. They could have used their Washington influence to promote a wiretapping program that followed the constitutional prohibition against warrantless searches.
Robert makes an excellent point: it’s not the “trial lawyers” who are raking in wads of cash from these lawsuits, as the President has so disingenuously said. It’s the telecommunications industry lobbyists who are profiting from the Bush administration’s attempt at to cover up its illegal activities by pushing for immunity.