January 29, 2008
Sebok on Telecom Immunity
In his latest Findlaw column, Tony Sebok analyzes the constitutionality of providing civil immunity to telephone companies that allegedly violated customers' privacy rights by providing information about phone and Internet communications to the federal government. Sebok points out that the suits filed against AT&T and other companies sound in tort law: the original Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act includes a civil suit provision, and "[t]he causes of action that were triggered by the violation of FISA concerned privacy, a tort interest recognized by almost every state's common law, and possibly protected by an implied right of action under the First and Fourteenth Amendments as well." Sebok argues that before Congress can eliminate a plaintiff's statutory tort claim, it must provide compensation under the Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause, and that different treatment based on the statutory nature of these claims is unjustified.
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