Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Law Suit of the Day

Progressives and populists often complain that free trade "outsources" American jobs abroad. I've disputed the connection and demonstrated that the advantages of free trade outweigh any downside. That hasn't slowed free trade opponents--even President Obama appears luke-warm on free trade.

Leave it to lawyers to try clever ways of wooden-staking trade. A month ago, Bank of America and others were sued in an effort to halt the use of offshore call centers. The suit claims that:
the electronic transfer of customers’ financial records that occurs when calls are transferred to overseas call centers allows the U.S. government to intercept and seize these records without violating the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (prohibiting illegal searches and seizures) or any other U.S. laws that would otherwise have prohibited these government actions had such calls been transferred to call centers located in the U.S. This transfer is allegedly conducted without the knowledge or prior authorization of customers, which the plaintiffs allege violates the federal Right to Financial Privacy Act.
That law prohibits release of financial records except when authorized by the customer or subject to a valid subpoena or search warrant.

In addition to its trade implications, the suit strikes me as a backdoor attack on warrantless wiretapping. That policy, so controversial under President Bush, largely has been preserved by President Obama. It's true that most financial data isn't foreign national security related. But recall that part of the fuss began when the New York Times revealed that the Bush Administration was intercepting terrorists' financial transactions.

Call it a liberal "two-for"--trying to change national security and trade policies via Federal courts, rather than the ballot box.

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