New York Sun - The John Doe Moment
It is nice to see the names of both Senators Clinton and Schumer among those voting for passage of a law to block what is being called the "John Doe" lawsuits. The measure was triggered by a lawsuit, backed by the Council on American Islamic Relations, that included a complaint against U.S. Airways passengers who had alerted authorities of suspicious activities of a group of imams on a flight out of Minneapolis. The threat to go after the passengers in court was written about by Katherine Kersten of the Star Tribune and picked up and nursed as an issue by such Web logs as powerlineblog.com and michellemalkin.com. We've written about the case twice in these columns, and were probably the first newspaper to endorse the proposed law ["The John Doe Lawsuits," April 3, 2007]. The measure's stall in Congress need not stop those who support it from trying even harder.
In March of 2007, Rep. Peter King, a Republican of New York, was the first to pen an amendment aimed at protecting a "John Doe" informant from the civil liability for an in-good-faith alert to authorities. The amendment passed the House with strong bipartisan support. The matter is now under review by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, where it is being attacked by Democrats. Senator Collins, a Republican of Maine, tagged an education bill with a similar amendment, the bill of which Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Schumer voted in favor. Unfortunately, Mrs. Collins' amendment fell three votes short of the required 60 to pass.
Now, in a sort of last hope, Republicans are attempting to include "John Doe" protection in the House and Senate conference committee report that is responsible for executing the recommendations of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon The United States. Mr. King referred to the Democrats' battle against "John Doe" protection as a "slap in the face" of potential informants. If the protection is not included in the committee report, it is also a slap in the face of all American people who rely on their elected officials to enact quality legislation to protect them.
To those of us who live in a city in which subway riders are exhorted to say something if they see something, a city that was a target on September 11, this legislation is a watershed moment in the war. We noted before that it is hard to imagine this kind of lawsuit being admitted during the wars our country actually won. But the very nature of the current war a twilight struggle in which our enemy's strategy relies heavily on sleeper cells puts a premium on the common sense of ordinary Americans. This war is of a nature in which our civilian airlines, subways, trains, bridges, public works, large buildings, all are on the front. It would be a signal default if the Democrats leading the Congress leave our frontline citizens exposed to intimidation by tort law.