Tuesday, February 8, 2011

HR 495 Introduced – SAR Immunity

Almost two weeks ago Rep. King (R, NY) and 12 fellow Republicans introduced HR 495, the See Something, Say Something Act of 2011. This bill provides immunity from civil action for people that make good faith reports of “any suspicious transaction, activity, or occurrence indicating that an individual may be engaging, or preparing to engage, in a violation of law relating to an act of terrorism” {§809(d)(2)}. It also extends similar immunity to law enforcement personnel.

As a means of enforcement mechanism, the bill provides for the collection from the plaintiff “all reasonable costs and attorney fees” {§809(c)} if the court finds that the individual is immune from civil liability under the provisions of this legislation.

This bill is obviously designed to protect individuals supporting the Department’s expanding “See something, say something” program. This would seem to be an important legal protection to support that program. Without this protection, once the first civil suit against a person making a report made it to public notice, the effectiveness would be reduced because of concerns against facing such law suits.

This is particularly important for corporate reporting of suspicious activity. Since corporations are seen as having deep pockets, they are much more likely to face such civil suits. This bill addresses this issue by using the legal term ‘person’ which includes corporate entities.

In my opinion, the owners and employees of high-risk chemical facilities should actively support this bill and urge Chairman Smith (R, Tx) to bring this before the House Judiciary Committee for immediate consideration. They should also urge their congress critter to support this bill when it comes up for a vote, both in Committee and on the floor.

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