Yesterday, I had the arduous task of reporting on "Big Story" why the latest Homeland Security legislation currently does not have any protections for Americans who report suspicious activity. The answer is a very technical one, but at present, you should be worried about being sued if you "drop the dime" on someone like the "Flying Imams" who sued their "John Does." (That lawsuit is still ongoing.)
Sen. Joe Lieberman is the Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and it is his conference that met yesterday, failed to include the "John Doe" language in the bill, but concluded with the possibility that it MAY make it in the final product in the end.
When I called Leslie Phillips, Comm Dir for the Committee, and asked if the language was going to be included, she told me, "maybe, but it's too early to know... there's a lot of support for it."
However, Phillips also said that there is no plan at the moment for the Conference Committee to meet again. That simply may or may not come about (I suppose) by spontaneous combustion? I don't know and the people working on it have no answer either. Oddly, Leslie patiently explained to me that "you can't just go sticking things in bills," but technically, that's exactly what Lieberman is and can do with the status of the Conference Report that is yet to be written.
Confused yet? It gets better.
Leslie was quick to point out to me that Sen. Lieberman sponsored legislation back in May (co-sponsored by Sen. Susan Collins) that is "stand alone legislation" to address someone's immunity from Flying Imam lawsuits. The status of THAT bill according to Phillips is that it "has been referred to Judiciary."
The intention, I gathered, was to illustrate how pro-active Sen. Lieberman has been on this issue - however, when I asked if I could talk to the senator on camera or over the phone on this issue, I was quickly dismissed.
And even more confusing - last night, after my "Big Story" report, Sen. Collins took to the senate floor and brought up Flying Imams language to be added to an education bill - and it FAILED.
Bottom line: Americans are worried that they will be sued if they report suspicious activity. Congress says they think this is a very important issue and they want to do something about it. Yet, because of arcane parliamentary procedures, they aren't able to do anything about it at the moment... oh, and they don't want to talk to you about it either.
And you wonder why Congress has an abysmal "poor job" rating of 83%?