Robert Novak explains how torts trumpet terrorism for Democrats in Congress.
(House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi could have exercised leadership prerogatives and called up the FISA bill to pass with unanimous Republican support. Instead, she refused to bring to the floor a bill approved overwhelmingly by the Senate. House Democratic opposition included left-wing members typified by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, but they were only a small faction of those opposed. The true reason for blocking the bill was Senate-passed retroactive immunity to protect from lawsuits private telecommunications firms asked to eavesdrop by the government. The nation's torts bar, vigorously pursuing such suits, has spent months lobbying hard against immunity.
The recess by House Democrats amounts to a judgment that losing the generous support of trial lawyers, the Democratic Party's most important financial base, would be more dangerous than losing the anti-terrorist issue to Republicans. Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the phone companies for giving individuals' personal information to intelligence agencies without a warrant. Mike McConnell, the nonpartisan director of national intelligence, says delay in congressional action deters cooperation in detecting terrorism.
Humorously, Christy Hardin Smith tries to argue that the fight over FISA was waged by low-paid do-gooders at the ACLU (*scoff*) and that this wasn't about the massive amount of money and power wielded by trial lawyers in the Democratic Party. You really do have to be a Kool-Aid drinker to believe this stuff, but it is Firedoglake, after all.
The truth is, trial lawyers gave to 24 of the 29 Democratic lawmakers who voted against the FISA bill. And trial lawyers have the money and clout to sway Democrats to keep the money flowing their way. That's why being able to sue the telecoms was more important than national security.