Via America’s Lawyer: Mike Papantonio is joined by RT Correspondent, Brigida Santos, to talk about a lawsuit brought forth by Twitter against the FBI and DOJ that has concluded that the federal government is free to demand consumer data from the social media giant and others via National Security Letters. Plus, American businesses want the Chinese government held liable for intentionally misleading the global scientific community about the dangers of Coronavirus, leading to a sweeping recession. Mollye Barrows joins Mike Papantonio to discuss more.


*This transcript was generated by a third-party transcription software company, so please excuse any typos.

Mike Papantonio: A judge has rejected a Twitter lawsuit against the US government that sought to inform the public about federal surveillance requests. RT’s Brigida Santos joins me now to talk about this story. Brigida, I’ve been pulling, you know, I’ve really been pulling for these folks. I’m not a huge, I never, I don’t even tweet. I’m not a Twitter person. I think might be because, you know, Donald ran me off from even being interested. But what can you tell me about the lawsuit? What happened here?

Brigida Santos: Look, this was first filed by Twitter in 2014 against the Obama era government, but it has since been amended to challenge the government under president Donald Trump. The social media giant sued because it had wanted to include information about the number of surveillance requests it receives from the federal government every year as part of its public transparency reports. The requests which are known as national security letters, however, are designed to be withheld from the public. So a federal judge in California after six years has now dismissed the case handing a victory to the federal government.

Mike Papantonio: No surprises here. You know, I’d like to know more about the appointment of the judge and what their pedigree is, but I probably could guess. What does this mean for the public? Are they going to ever learn about the government spying? I mean, they at least have a right to know. Yeah, you’ve been spying on me and at least let us know that that happened. That’s, that’s probably not going to happen though, is it?

Brigida Santos: No, it’s probably not. And the federal government can now continue to completely ban companies, not only from saying anything about government surveillance requests, but even that they have been doing them in the first place. National security letters are law enforcement tools that are similar to subpoenas and they’re most commonly issued by the FBI. However, other agencies can also issue them. NSL’s force companies to turn over information about certain customers for national security related investigations.

But there’s no way for companies to even know whether the government is legally doing this or whether they’re violating the law with these requests. So these companies are now forbidden from disclosing how many requests they’ve received or that they’ve received any in the first place. All we know is that the federal government has issued over 300,000 NSL’s in the past 10 years. We don’t know where they were issued or what they were issued for.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. We try to call balls and strikes on this show as much as possible and, you know, people get mad at us because we’re not tribal and we don’t have one position. So the balls and strikes in this, in this situation is the other side of the story is when we compare how we have been able to suppress terrorist activity United States because of this type of spying. It’s nothing less than spying. That’s what it is. That that when we compare ourselves to Europe and Asia and other parts of the world, we have done far, far superior. And when you build in this, this is the, the argument is this is part of the reason.

But the empirical data is we have done far, far better than the rest of the world and so we hear that argument. Whether it’s accurate or not, I don’t know. But the argument is certainly out there. If you compare apples to apples, yes, we’re doing far better. As far as the first amendment goes, is this a violation of the first amendment? I don’t know how it could not be, but tell me what your opinion is.

Brigida Santos: Yeah, I think that it is. But unfortunately, by citing national security concerns, the government can always find a loophole for warrantless extra judicial surveillance and in this case, Twitter says the government was infringing on its rights to free speech by preventing it from publicly posting information and forcing it to engage in speech that’s been preapproved by the government. But this goes deeper because the government often passes that from these social media companies then down to consumers and users by basically forcing us to squash our own speech. And when we talk about social media, they’re also collecting massive amounts of data on people.

So they’re also doing their own form of corporate spying. And while the government can’t legally squash free speech, of course, unless it’s given it this loophole of national security, private companies can squash that free speech. They are free to do that and the government, as I said, often does pressure social media companies to do that. You know, silencing certain stories or voices and that often happens. And of course this is a bipartisan policy, one of America’s policies where both parties seem to agree. It spans multiple administrations. Mass surveillance, this is just the next chapter.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, well the companies, you know, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or whoever, you know, they’d benefit from it. They get, they get a lot of benefit from the federal government and breaks that the federal government gives them and the federal government has always has that hammer over their head. If you don’t do this, then we’re going to do this and so that’s always there. It’s a reality. They’re terrified that they’re going to lose a dollar. So, I really loved seeing Twitter take this position, but it’s no surprise to see a federal judge shoot it down because truthfully, he probably, they probably were on good grounds. When it comes down to the first amendment argument versus police power of federal government, health, safety and welfare. Health, safety and welfare is going to Trump something like the first amendment most of the time. Look, thank you for joining me. Okay. Stay safe out there in LA.

Brigida Santos: You too, Mike. Thanks.

Mike Papantonio: A federal lawsuit has been filed against the Chinese government, alleging that officials intentionally withheld critical information about the coronavirus, which eventually wrecked havoc on America’s small business. Mollye Barrows is here to talk to me about it. Obviously this was, this was filed by a very good friend of mine, a lawyer out in Nevada who’s an extraordinary trial lawyer.

Mollye Barrows: Robert Eglet.

Mike Papantonio: Robert Eglet, yes, and he’s the one that handled the Vegas shooting case that everybody thought was impossible and he recovered…

Mollye Barrows: Won $800 million from Mandalay Bay.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. So this, this is a real deal.

Mollye Barrows: This is fascinating.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah. First of all, what is the, is the lawsuit just about all businesses or has he narrowed his scope?

Mollye Barrows: Well, he’s narrowed it and it’s specifically representing five small businesses, flower shops, that sort of thing. But it actually is on behalf of some 32 million small businesses. He says it’s going to impact, what happens with these cases will impact small businesses across the country because they’ve all been impacted by what he says is negligence on the part of Chinese health officials as well as the Chinese government in covering up, not giving enough early warning, basically threatening doctors, threatening people who knew about this virus when it first sprung up, and if they had known they would have been allowed to be a part of the reaction. Perhaps send our own health officials over there and put a stop to it before it ever got out of the country.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah, there are plenty of precedent for this. As you know, I have sued Iran and the banks that washed money for terrorists and in order to do that, I had to bring Iran into the lawsuit. Iran has tons, has billions if not trillions worth of assets in the United States.

Mollye Barrows: Right.

Mike Papantonio: So I’m going to win that case.

Mollye Barrows: I believe that.

Mike Papantonio: I will win that case and same way with China. What I think is most interesting is that he is using the treaties that came out of this globalization. The NAFTA, CAFTA type treaties on trade and he’s saying they have a responsibility under trade under these treaties not to do what they’ve done. What is he saying they did?

Mollye Barrows: Well, basically, you know, if you go back even to some of the original doctors who were first responding, they wanted to put the word out on social media. They were tracked down. They were threatened. They were told not to tell anyone.

Mike Papantonio: They disappeared.

Mollye Barrows: They disappeared.

Mike Papantonio: Yeah.

Mollye Barrows: Yes. I mean, there is just a whole slew of basically heinous allegations that are coming out that are not unsurprising, if you will, considering the crackdown that the Chinese government has on their people in a variety of other areas as well. But he’s saying that they, there were cover-ups against journalists, against doctors, against the medical community, that essentially allowed this virus to escape the borders and in fact infect and impact the entire world. And so it’s costs small businesses trillions of dollars as a result and it’s something that they wouldn’t have had to have suffer otherwise. But it’s interesting that you talk about how he’s suing through that treaty loophole and, you know, so much of the world is changing because of the coronavirus and this is probably going to impact our global relationships as well, whether it’s the European union. How do you see that affecting that?

Mike Papantonio: I think globalization is, is dead in the water. Globalization to me and I, this is just my opinion. I mean, everybody has a different opinion on this, obviously. It was a wrong start to begin with. What it was was Bill Clinton was trying to embrace Wall Street.

Mollye Barrows: Right.

Mike Papantonio: So one of the asks by Wall Street was, can you let us push globalization? And what that meant to them is, will you let our corporations send jobs out of the country? Will you let our corporations be told what they can and can’t produce?

Mollye Barrows: But they sell it to the American people, like you’re going to get cheaper stuff.

Mike Papantonio: Like this is gonna be better for you.

Mollye Barrows: But it’s not.

Mike Papantonio: And it’s a lie.

Mollye Barrows: Just like their ability to sue. They can come in there and we have to pay?

Mike Papantonio: It’s worse than that, Mollye. It’s worse than that. They can come to the United States, a foreign company can come to the United States and say, we don’t like that the EPA has told us that we can’t dump our toxic chemicals into your river, therefore we’re going to sue you and get paid by the taxpayer.

Mollye Barrows: So we can poison you.

Mike Papantonio: So we can poison you. So that’s globalization. So Robert Eglet, he’s again, he’s a brilliant lawyer. He’s taken the other side of it. He said, okay, you can do that to us. We’re going to do this to you.

Mollye Barrows: Right.

Mike Papantonio: He’s going to win. This case is going to, this case has got, it’s going to be a year just going into the Hague just to get them served. But he’s going to win this case.

Mollye Barrows: Well, and it seems like there’s fairly broad jurisdiction and as much as if you do business in the United States, then there’s a good chance that we can sue you if you’re a foreign country. So it’s not unheard of. Like you said, Levin Papantonio handling their own litigation against Iran. Where do you see this going though? Other lawsuits being filed? Robert Eglet, I thought was interesting, commented on a couple of other lawsuits out of Florida, but he said they’re too wide and he felt like this one because of the trade angle would be.

Mike Papantonio: The Florida cases are way too broad. They’re trying to encompass too much. This is a narrow case. We can show that your conduct directly affected this business. It’s called legal causation. You have to be able to tie up the conduct with the event, and that’s what he’s doing.

Mollye Barrows: Interesting.

Mike Papantonio: Mollye Barrows, oh, this is an interesting case.

Mollye Barrows: We’ll follow up for sure.

Mike Papantonio: We’re going to be, we’ll be talking about this one a lot. Thanks for joining me. Okay.

Mollye Barrows: Thanks, Pap.

Mike Papantonio: Finally tonight, some good news. A federal judge last week ruled that the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline was wrongly issued and therefore the permit is not valid. This is a major win for the environment and for activists who’ve been fighting against the pipeline for years. In his ruling, judge Brian Morris said that the US Corps of Engineers failed to do a proper environmental review of the project, which is a violation of the law. The reason the environmental review was not properly conducted by the government is because it would show without a doubt that this pipeline is going to cause more harm than good. Proponents of the pipeline have argued for years that it’s necessary so that we can lower energy prices for Americans. But the truth is that this pipeline is going to stretch from Canada to the Gulf coast where the oil would be loaded onto oil tankers and shipped overseas, not for us, but for other people. The United States would assume all of the environmental risk while reaping zero benefit from the increased pollution. This pipeline is a bad deal for both the environment and for American consumers, and the sooner the whole thing is put to rest, the better.

That’s all for tonight. Find us on Twitter, at Facebook You can watch all RT America programs on Direct TV, Channel 321 and also stream them live on your YouTube and be sure, check out this new portable app that RT has put together where you can watch virtually anything that’s on the air. I’m Mike Papantonio, and this is America’s Lawyer, where every week we tell you the stories that corporate media is not, they’re ordered not to tell the story because of their political contacts or because of their advertisers. We’re going to tell those stories anyway. Have a great night.

Mike Papantonio is an American attorney and television and radio talk show host. He is past president of The National Trial Lawyers, the most prestigious trial lawyer association in America; and is one of the few living attorneys inducted into the Trial Lawyer Hall of Fame. He hosts the international television show "America's Lawyer"; and co-hosts Ring of Fire Radio, a nationally syndicated weekly radio program, with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Sam Seder.