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Bush Demands Amnesty for Spying Telecoms

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the courtroom-battles-not-ended dept.

Privacy 420

The Bush administration and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are poised to square off in front of a San Francisco federal judge Tuesday to litigate the constitutionality of legislation immunizing the nation's telecoms from lawsuits accusing them of helping the government spy on Americans without warrants. "'The legislation is an attempt to give the president the authority to terminate claims that the president has violated the people's Fourth Amendment rights,' the EFF's [Cindy] Cohn says. 'You can't do that.'"

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If Bush wants it... (3, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954403)

...why doesn't he just issue a blanket pardon?

My guess: he doesn't want to take responsibility for getting the telcos off the hook.

Re:If Bush wants it... (1)

TheFlyingBuddha (1373717) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954433)

I don't know how that kind of stuff works, but I'm not sure you can pardon the target of a *civil* suit. It's hard enough getting civil cases against telcos over this, we'll never see anybody face criminal charges over this.

This isn't a criminal case. (5, Insightful)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954455)

... why doesn't [Bush] just issue a blanket pardon?

Perhaps because pardons apply to criminal cases (government vs. person-to-be-punished-for-wrongdoing) while these are civil cases (wronged people demanding damages be paid by those who wronged them). I think the pardon power only applies to the former.

Re:This isn't a criminal case. (-1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954813)

Plus, I don't think the president is able to pardon someone until after they have been convicted.

Re:This isn't a criminal case. (4, Informative)

HUADPE (903765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954861)

No, he can. Famously, Gerald Ford pardoned the (not yet convicted) Richard Nixon.

The fact that he did (5, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955115)

has nothing to do with whether he can -- legally.

And this is exactly that kind of case in point... this last Presidential administration -- and Congress, too -- have done quite a few things lately that they probably can't do... legally. The fact that they did do them has no bearing on the law.

Re:If Bush wants it... (2, Insightful)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954497)

...why doesn't he just issue a blanket pardon?

Maybe because a pardon could be seen as admitting something illegal happened. Bush has always seemed hellbent on elevating the executive branch. Early on I assumed it was because it meant more power for him, but even now he's just out to vindicate another terrible republican president who said "...when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

Re:If Bush wants it... (3, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954629)

He wants to get himself off the hook for later, but can't be the one to do it. You can't pardon yourself, but if you stop anyone who will end up pointing the finger at you getting in trouble - they won't point the finger now will they?

What could... (2, Insightful)

lordsid (629982) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954411)

What could possibly go wrong?

SF (0, Flamebait)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954413)

Couldn't pick a better jurisdiction....

Re:SF (0, Troll)

brain juice (924343) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954987)

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is the most overturned Federal jurisdiction. They might win at the district level and appellate levels but a case like this would definitely be granted cert to the Supreme Court.

You can't do that? (5, Insightful)

hedronist (233240) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954419)

Sure you can!

Just have Poppy buy you into office so that the people that have the strings attached to important parts of your body can pull what they want, when the want.

Seriously, we have just witnessed the greatest bald-faced rape of the Constitution since ... forever. The thing (or the most recent thing) that turns my stomach is that there is a very good chance they will get away with it.

Re:You can't do that? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954555)

THIS IS BULLSHIT!

Re:You can't do that? (1)

ThePeices (635180) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954615)

How?

Re:You can't do that? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954945)

Bullshit? This is not Bullshit!
THIS! IS! SPARTA!

Re:You can't do that? (5, Insightful)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954693)

Hoover and the Red scare?

What we did to the Japanese under Roosevelt after Perl Harbor?

Hell, what we did to the Germans during the first WW

This isn't the first time we (Americans) looked and saw the enemy in every corner and it won't be the last.

People that say Bush is the worst we ever had have no sense of history

Re:You can't do that? (5, Funny)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954761)

Perl Harbor

Only on Slashdot?

Re:You can't do that? (4, Funny)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954801)

No one can ever be allowed to forget the day Wapanese script kiddies defaced perl.org with anime porn.

Re:You can't do that? (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954829)

You know, I never get tired of that one clip they always show in History Channel documentaries where that battleship explodes into a huge burst of ampersands and dollar signs.

Re:You can't do that? (1)

ncgnu08 (1307339) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954975)

Hoover and the Red scare?

What we did to the Japanese under Roosevelt after Perl Harbor?

Hell, what we did to the Germans during the first WW

This isn't the first time we (Americans) looked and saw the enemy in every corner and it won't be the last.

People that say Bush is the worst we ever had have no sense of history

I believe this post is the definition of irony...

Re:You can't do that? (5, Insightful)

rlwhite (219604) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955193)

Actually, Bush has a strong case for worst ever based on the combination of his catastrophes.

Sure, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, and Nixon each had a hand in a mismanaged war. John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, and FDR each violated civil liberties to stop alleged enemies of the state. Many presidents have overseen the causes of recessions and other economic maladies. How many have been through all 3? (I can't think of any.) How many have polled approval ratings in the low 20s? (Nixon and Harding since polling began almost 90 years ago.) It's pretty easy to objectively put Bush in the bottom 3 presidents now, without judging the extent of the current economic troubles.

If the predictions that this is the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression are at all accurate (and macro-economic predictions are often self-fulfilling for psychological reasons), and the many ethical allegations against Bush prove true, Bush would have a strong case as the worst president ever, on relatively objective grounds as far as the matter goes.

That is to say nothing of how far he has departed from the philosophies and policies he and his party campaigned on.

Re:You can't do that? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25955215)

People that say Bush is the worst we ever had have no sense of history

That may be. But then who is the worst president in history?

Harding? What about all the crap that happened before/after him?

Buchanan? What about all the crap that happened before/after him?

Pierce? What about all the crap that happened before/after him?

I hope you're getting the picture. Presidential rankings are subjective and relative. Some will rank Bush at the bottom and some won't. No one wants to say "I voted for the worst president in history" so it could be many decades before Bush emerges on the bottom. I wouldn't discount it as a possibility.

Re:You can't do that? (2, Interesting)

Frosty Piss (770223) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954703)

Just have Poppy buy you into office...

"Poppy" seems to have stopped talking to "junior" some time ago. He may be regretting his decision to "buy" GWB into office...

Re:You can't do that? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954753)

Well, Dad did 'buy' his seat in the big house, though not with cash, with influence, which Dad has been buying, selling, and trading since the 50s or 60s. The guy is a 33rd degree Freemason and sharper than most brand new razor blades.

The son however, is not quite as sharp as most bowling balls, and thus promptly alienated Dad and refused to listen to any of Dad's brilliant instruction.

The tense is wrong... (4, Insightful)

GrpA (691294) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954429)

Actually he did that. You can't say that "You can't do that", because he did that. The Bush Administration is asking for retrospective immunity - that's a lot worse than asking for permission to do it.

The rest of the world is watching this one closely as well - it's not just the US that's interested in the outcome of this incident.

GrpA

Re:The tense is wrong... (1)

NiceGeek (126629) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954711)

retroactive

Re:The tense is wrong... (5, Insightful)

kilgortrout (674919) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955141)

If he did it, he didn't do it by himself. He did it with the aid of a Democratic Congress in passing the requested retroactive immunity legislation and IIRC our president-elect voted for that law as well. Democrat or Republican, big money from big telcos talks very loud. Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

Pardon Them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954431)

The president should just issue a blanket pardon for all the telcoms and people who administered the wiretaps. I has always confused me as to why the same people who are afraid of the govt infridging on their civil liberties are the same bunch who want to register my firearms and then outlaw them.

Silly gun nut (3, Insightful)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954575)

All these gun nuts say they need unlicensed firearms to protect there freedom.

You're full of shit. If you really were protecting freedom you'd have done something by now. Bush has violated more freedoms than any president before and you gun nuts have done absolutely nothing. I call your bluff!

Re:Silly gun nut (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954665)

There are four boxes to be used in defense of liberty: soap, ballot, jury, and ammo. Please use in that order. Ed Howdershelt

We are not as nutty as the anti-gun "nuts" like to label us.

So which box are you on? (0, Troll)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954901)

Seen lots of soap boxing at NRA conventions.

Seen no ballot boxing, jury boxing or ammo boxing by NRA types. How far do liberties have to be eroded before you kick into another gear? With the worst president in history - both popularity and in terms of liberty - you're still on the soap box, so to think you'd ever go as far as the ammo box is just the beer talking. Face it, you're never going to need that gun for the cause of liberty.

Again I call your bluff!

I see good reason for having a well armed, but well trained and regulated, body of gun owners - like the Swiss.

What is bullshit is a bunch of untrained, unregulated couch cowboys that claim to need their weapons for freedom but really do nothing apart from subscribing to Soldier of Fortune magazine and lube their dicks with cammo paint.

And yes, I have owned and used guns and been in the military.

Re:So which box are you on? (2, Informative)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954937)

"Seen no ballot boxing..."

Yeah, I mean, the NRA has NEVER endorsed or opposed a political candidate. And even if they did, it's not like their members would be swayed to vote for them. Nope, never happened. Not. Ever.

Oh wait, except always and forever. Other than "always" and "forever" it never happened.

Re:So which box are you on? (2, Insightful)

skam240 (789197) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955177)

I call bullshit. They only support candidates who are pro-gun. They aren't pushing forward any political agenda other then gun ownership. The NRA could give a rats ass about political freedoms outside of this. This should be apparent in their wide spread support for our current administration. If they were so liberty oriented then they would have been campaigning against Republicans quite some time ago.

Re:Silly gun nut (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954737)

A bit off topic, but you both have valid points.

So called "gun nuts" often couldn't care less about the erosion of many other freedoms including those involving free speech and unlawful search and seizure, and many actually think that the war on drugs is a good thing, etc.

On the flipside, the so called, "hippy liberals" want all the freedom in the world when it doesn't involve guns.

What needs to happen is both types of people need to get together(over a budweiser and some granola perhaps?) and realize that it's EVERYONE who is having their freedoms taken away.

A society works best when it's citizens have as many freedoms as possible, in my humble opinion of course. What we need is cooperation and education, not fear mongering from either side.

Re:Silly gun nut (1)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954947)

"unlawful search and seizure"

Pretty sure most "gun nuts" are all about private property. Also pretty sure most of them have that "Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be shot again" sign every 15 feet around their property.

Re:Silly gun nut (2, Insightful)

Sephollyon (831138) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954979)

Property as in your house and the things inside maybe. As far unlawful search and seizure of data, well I've too often been told by people that could be classified as "gun nuts" the old chestnut, "I don't have anything to hide..."

Re:Silly gun nut (4, Insightful)

tsotha (720379) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954803)

Bush has violated more freedoms than any president before and you gun nuts have done absolutely nothing. I call your bluff!

This is the most historically ignorant thing I've read in awhile. Bush is way, way down on that list. Wilson goes at the top. Above Bush we'd find FDR, Jackson, Nixon, LBJ... and probably a few others I don't know about.

Re:Silly gun nut (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954893)

No one is gonna like it but Lincoln was the worst of all, guy was a total asshole he seems to get a free pass historically because of the civil war.

Re:Silly gun nut (4, Informative)

HUADPE (903765) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954907)

The winner is FDR, with Japanese internment. Second is John Adams, with the alien and sedition acts. The president with the net record for granting most freedoms goes, strangely enough, to Andrew Johnson, under whom the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments came into effect (no slavery, and equal protection under law).

Re:Silly gun nut (1)

ncgnu08 (1307339) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955003)

Bush has violated more freedoms than any president before and you gun nuts have done absolutely nothing. I call your bluff!

This is the most historically ignorant thing I've read in awhile. Bush is way, way down on that list. Wilson goes at the top. Above Bush we'd find FDR, Jackson, Nixon, LBJ... and probably a few others I don't know about.

Or maybe this is the definition of irony.... Ever notice the ones calling others ignorant are usually just that?

One Flaw In The Argument... (1)

maz2331 (1104901) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955021)

The one issue that the parent missed here is that a huge majority of the "gun nuts" absolutely LOVE Bush. They'll just say that ter'ists have no constitutional rights anyway and excuse away any violations.

But try to restrict the guns or their religion, and they WILL kill.

Re:One Flaw In The Argument... (1)

TechWrite (1172477) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955207)

I'm a pretty big fan of the "ter'ists have no constitutional rights" thing too and how they completely miss the point of the issue at hand. Of course terrorists don't have the same constitutional rights as US citizens (provided they are indeed foreign and on foreign soil and all that), the point is that they are trampling the rights of US citizens. The government is trampling my rights, your rights, gun nut rights. Why they think this is about terrorists is just beyond me.

Re:Silly gun nut (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25955039)

actually, if we were going to do a revolutionary act it would have more likely been done under clinton. i don't think you know as much as you think you know.

Yay! America the freest country in the world! (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954439)

Of course, in the BSD sense, not in the GPL sense. In that the people are free to do whatever they want, even abuse the rights of others.

Let's Get Serious (4, Insightful)

fibrewire (1132953) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954475)

All slashdoting aside, how would we deal with this situation? I know we're mainly a bunch of nerds, but aren't we the most influential people on the planet in today's society? What could we seriously do to circumvent this policy? Any ideas? Come on people, we're the brains of the world!

Re:Let's Get Serious (5, Funny)

SpiffyMarc (590301) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954551)

I dunno, I mean I guess we can ... ahhh... fuck dude, I've got a raid tonight, can this wait?

Re:Let's Get Serious (3, Insightful)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954677)

Don't kid yourself. Nerds are good with technology, not politics. These people are as good at bending laws and manipulating courts as the average slashdotter is at recompiling his kernel. Just as the average politician's political expertise doesn't help them at all in the world of technology, our technological expertise doesn't help us at all in their world.

Re:Let's Get Serious (5, Interesting)

rtconner (544309) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954933)

I strongly disagree. Nerds are smart people who like to solve hard problems. I have every bit of confidence that is todays nerds were given the power to create a governmental system, it would be completely awesome. If open source and shared information in the technology world are any indication, transparency and security can surely both be achieved.

I agree with previous poster (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955181)

today's politicians were yesterday's Harvard Law, Business, and Poli-Sci students. You don't get much more nerdy than that.

But I still think we could take 'em.

Haven't we gone over this before? (3, Insightful)

boxless (35756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954477)

Doesn't someone need to be harmed in order to sue? And in order to prove you were harmed, you'd need to have access to state secrets, which can't happen in the new America. Therefore, no harm, no standing to sue, no case.

I don't think you can sue for a general affront to the Constitution.

Re:Haven't we gone over this before? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954549)

It's not a general affront to the constitution, they're suing on specific constitutional protections being violated, thus claiming harm.

Re:Haven't we gone over this before? (4, Interesting)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954805)

The courts could quite literally make a judgement ruling that violation of the 4th amendment itself is not a tort and there is no harm unless specific action is taken on information obtained without cause. The effect of such a ruling would be tremendous.

Re:Haven't we gone over this before? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954587)

Therefore, no *revealable* harm, no standing to sue, no case.

There, fixed it for you.

Re:Haven't we gone over this before? (1)

asifyoucare (302582) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954695)

This is not "suing". It is a challenge to the constitutionality of a law. You don't need to show harm to succeed in that. You just need to show that the proposed law is in conflict with the constitution, in which case the constitution wins.

Re:Haven't we gone over this before? (1)

MorePower (581188) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955183)

I wish that was true, but it isn't. Remember that atheist dad who went all the way to the Supreme Court over the "under God" part of the Pledge of Allegiance? When they found out he didn't have legal custody of the kid, they dropped the case since he had no standing to sue (since it wasn't "his" kid legally, he wasn't personally "harmed").

Interesting timing (1, Troll)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954493)

Interesting timing for this now that we've learned that the gunmen in Mumbai used Blackberries to communicate. I'm sure no one violated their rights by eavesdropping on their communications.

Re:Interesting timing (4, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954595)

So, does that mean that you are okay to effectively have anyone and everyone who wants to listening to your calls or reading your emails in case you are a terrorist waiting for the right moment?

Before you really answer, think about all the stuff that you write in email to close friends, or in sms to loved ones, or over the phone. All that embarrassing stuff that isn't meant for any audience outside you and the receiving end. All THAT stuff becomes open.

I might be naive in my thinking, but why spend billions on listening to everyone's conversations when you could spend the same money to make their lives good. Happy content people don't go blowing themselves up or shoot random (or not so random) people by the bucketful. Happy content people lead happy content and productive lives. Eavesdropping on everyone won't make everyone happy.

Re:Interesting timing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954741)

your logic fails, because you will never make everyone happy...

Re:Interesting timing (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954877)

If you want to be like that, then so does yours. You will never be able to eavesdrop on everyone.

Re:Interesting timing (4, Insightful)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954909)

(!happy) !=> suicidal killer
hopeless => suicidal killer

There are plenty unhappy people in America but no homegrown suicide bombers. What we don't have is a system that explicitly sets out to systematically oppress and render voiceless segments of the population - that is what's behind suicide bombers, because it takes away any value life has.

Then for the most part we get into a bullshit pissing contest of "your voice can't be heard because you're violent" and "we turn to violence because you won't let us be heard" to avoid anyone having to admit they're wrong.

Re:Interesting timing (2, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954817)

At the very least, it means there are two sides to the "eavesdropping" question. It's a question for thoughtful discussion, not the sloganeering and bumper-sticker Constitutional Law pronouncements everyone has heard a thousand times.

Eavesdropping on terrorists could save hundreds or thousands of lives. That's a benefit that has to be weighed against the costs. But most of the partisan discussions on this subject don't fairly acknowledge that benefit. Terrorism is real -- the terrorists have reminded us of that again.

The preventable damage caused by terrorism can be seen stacked in body bags on the news broadcasts (again). What was the damage caused by the eavesdropping? Are we all 100% sure the eavesdropping is so much worse that it could never even be considered, even with safeguards? I'm not.

Re:Interesting timing (2, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954955)

Eavesdropping on terrorists could save hundreds or thousands of lives.

But the problem is that we don't know who they are. You need to listen to millions of conversations to have a chance of getting down to what you are interested in.

And lets face it, it's not like they aren't going to be talking in coded messages to one another. I am sure that "Hey Terrorist friend, that bomb you asked for is running a day late, but we will still get it down there and blow shit up good" might sound like "Hi Bob, I will be picking up the milk on the way home, but I am running a little late."

As for the thought that there is some lowly paid government worker listening in on a conversation over the phone I have while away on business with my partner? Yeah, great. That just really works for me.

I hate to follow to logical conclusions, but correct me if I am wrong here:
1) Eaves dropping law gets passed.
2) Terrorist learn that they can be snooped on via phone.
3) Terrorists change communication method to avoid snooping.
4) Everyone else gets snooped on as the law is already enacted.

Did I miss something obvious?

Re:Interesting timing (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955099)

But the problem is that we don't know who they are.

What if we do? Or what if we know enough to listen to a few different conversations to find out which one might be the right one? The "domestic spying" question (or scandal, if you prefer) wasn't about randomly listening in to every conversation in the world. It was about listening on some specific phones of suspected terrorists.

In other words, you can't say "we should never consider doing it except in situations where we're 100% certain it will prevent a specific future event". Because no one can perfectly predict the future.

"Eavesdropping" (or Signals Intelligence) is a tool. It's either in your toolbox or it's not. If you prohibit it, then you won't be able to use it when you need it. The authorities in Mumbai might have used it to prevent part of the massacre.

Re:Interesting timing (2, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955137)

I don't have a problem with wiretapping or eavesdropping if the people wanting to do it go out and get a warrant. If you can prove to a judge that there is sufficient need to listen to a particular person's conversations without their knowing, that's fine. Before anyone goes down the "There isn't always time..." bollocks. If the need is there, then any paperwork can be rushed to the tune of insignificance.

What I do have a problem with is effectively taking off any and all controls about who does what and when. A blanket "telco's can't get into trouble" makes it much too easy for anyone to tune into anything they want.

Innocent until... eaves-dropped-on? (3, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954989)

Not to jump on the postback wagon, but isn't the whole concept of the American judicial system based on the fact that you are innocent until proven guilty? Doesn't listening in on anyone's conversations sort of take a 180 degree turn on that whole concept?

For the record, I am neither in America or American.

Re:Interesting timing (1)

TechWrite (1172477) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955053)

Ok, many things here:

1. Yes, eavesdropping can save lives if done correctly. No one is disputing this. What is at issue is compliance with the laws and traditions of this country - if you wish to do something against the current laws, you had best change them BEFORE you do that something. That's how democracy works; we all get to weigh the pros and cons of changing the laws, the government DOES NOT get to just tell us that the broke the laws for our own good.

2. There is a real cost to simply breaking the laws to suit whatever the government wants to do at the time. At the least, it is a gross breakdown of democratic principles and the rule of law. We, as citizens in a democracy, have a right to know the laws we are all held to account to. We also have the right to hold our own government to those same laws. There is no president/king exemption. This isn't a slippery slope, or it could be; the point is that if our government simply ignores laws it finds inconvenient, and is allowed to so, we don't know what the laws are and who is really compelled to follow them.

Further, the government is not a collection of pure hearted do-gooders. It is made up of individuals just like you and me. Can you honestly say that there isn't a Nixon at the NSA using data illegally obtained from domestic spying for political purposes? Or to blackmail a neighbor? Or to steal credit card numbers? Or who the hell knows? Without oversight, we just don't have any idea.

3. Illegal domestic spying is also a tremendous waste of resources, as the recent revelations of NSA employees listening in on US soldiers' phone sex conversations. While they were illegally getting off, they could have been doing real work in the war on terror. Instead, they were listening in on conversations that had nothing to do with terrorism made by people who were suspected of nothing. Good going NSA, keep up the good work.

One of the most important things about requiring warrants is that it enforces some level of discipline. Not only are we relatively confident that the people being spied upon have something to do to with a criminal or terrorist act, we can also be relatively confident that valuable intelligence resources are not being wasted. Without warrants, we have neither. Without warrants, we are neither safer from terrorists or from our own government.

Re:Interesting timing (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955175)

I'm not seeing where your analysis takes terrorism seriously.

And it's all predicated on the disputed point that the "domestic spying" (or Signals Intelligence) was "illegal" And so nothing else matters. We can't save lives. There are procedures to be followed instead.

I disagree that following procedures is more important than saving lives in a terrorist attack -- even if the law were clear and undisputed regarding the procedures.

Re:Interesting timing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25955007)

...to effectively have anyone and everyone who wants to listening to your calls or reading your emails...all the stuff that you write in email to close friends, or in sms to loved ones, or over the phone. All that embarrassing stuff that isn't meant for any audience outside you and the receiving end. All THAT stuff becomes open. ...listening to everyone's conversations...

Do you really think that the US government (or any organization, for that matter) has the resources to monitor everyone's communications? Our intelligence agencies operate with limited resources--in fact, one of the biggest problems facing them is the backlog of intercepted communications awaiting review. They don't have time to listen in on "all that embarrassing stuff." They barely have time to listen in on people who are actually talking about doing harm.

The way I see it, there are only two ways that you have even the slightest chance of being listened in on:

1: You make a call to or receive a call from a phone number associated with a known or suspected terrorist. Frankly, if you're making or receiving such calls, I want all sorts of people listening in on you. Hell, if I get a random phone call from such a number, I want it recorded, because odds are that a person calling me from such a number is calling to make threats.

2: You use words that trip the automatic filtering software they use to pre-screen this stuff. Like I said before, they don't have time to read every single line of text and listen to every single minute of conversation in the world. To help them out, they have computers look for phrases like "place the bombs," or "kill the hostages." Assuming that you use such a phrase in a non-terrorist planning context, the agent who reviews your conversation will quickly realize this and move on to more important things instead of wasting his time listening to your dirty-talk.

If you honestly think that your privacy has the slightest chance of being violated by government spying, you need to go straight to your doctor and request emergency ego-reduction surgery. The agents involved in these monitoring programs are working overtime trying to stay ahead of the bad guys, and none of them gives two shits about the pathetic details of your anemic sex life. Get over yourself and take off the tin-foil hat.

Re:Interesting timing (1)

excesspwr (218183) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955051)

Happy content people don't go blowing themselves up or shoot random (or not so random) people by the bucketful. Happy content people lead happy content and productive lives. Eavesdropping on everyone won't make everyone happy.

Some people are only happy or content when they are blowing themselves up or shooting random (or not so random) people by the bucketful.

You can't make everyone happy. You just can't. Ever. However, that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to make most of the people happy by ticking off the few. This time it ticked off more than a few. *shrug* Chalk it up to a bad social experiment or a learning experience of societal voting or some other nonsense that won't change anything and don't take me too serious.

Re:Interesting timing (1)

eltaco (1311561) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955129)

I might be naive in my thinking, but why spend billions on listening to everyone's conversations when you could spend the same money to make their lives good. Happy content people don't go blowing themselves up or shoot random (or not so random) people by the bucketful. Happy content people lead happy content and productive lives. Eavesdropping on everyone won't make everyone happy.

couldn't agree more, but, respectfully, it is naive thinking.
they won't ever do this, because they either want the money for themselves or the power to themselves. investing in fairness or equality means they become less powerful. the only thing more powerful than money is control. thus, steps like eavesdropping are taken.
if we had governments, that actually cared about the people and not just trade and money, then they'd be doing their actual job of uniting humanity, stopping wars, ending world hunger, all that good hippy shit.
the motives of politics and politicians is the actual problem here.

also, let's not forget the brainwashed fanatics. Mumbai, 9/11, London, Barcelona, etc didn't happen because of a lack in equality or wealth. Islam is a bloodthristy religion and (islamo) terrorism is a real threat (on that note, I do not condone the actions our goverments have taken, including this current article).

Re:Interesting timing (1)

sammy baby (14909) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954605)

Considering none of the attackers were American citizens or were on US soil, I think it's fair to say you're right: nobody infringed on their Constitutional rights. They had none.

But assuming for a minute that the attacks had taken place in the US, that the attackers had been American citizens, and that they were communicating with parties outside the country. Under FISA, their communications could still have been tapped just so long as the someone filed the paperwork for authorization sometime in the 72 hours following the tap.

In other words, if this had happened here, the wiretap could have happened then, authorization could be issued now, and it all would have been above board.

Anyway, sorry. Discussions that revolve upon spurious "wanh wanh cry me a river for terrorists' rights" arguments get me all het up.

Re:Interesting timing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954891)

Considering none of the attackers were American citizens or were on US soil, I think it's fair to say you're right: nobody infringed on their Constitutional rights. They had none.

Thank god they don't have e-mail and cell phones over in that "3rd world" I keep hearing about on Fox News...

Anyway, sorry. Discussions that revolve upon spurious "wanh wanh cry me a river for terrorists' rights" arguments get me all het up.

"wanh wanh cry me a river for my strawman arguments" that anonymous cowards point out are false dilemmas.

Re:Interesting timing (4, Insightful)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954709)

The terrorists also used a tool of communication known as "spoken language" to transmit information to other terrorists.

Telescreens are now being installed in your house to make sure that you do not transmit terrorist information when using the aforementioned tool in your home.

Re:Interesting timing (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954775)

wait just one minute there.

using your logic lets go through a scenario.

Rape. I'm sure that no one has to say how terrible an experience that is. and it is almost always males attacking females.

we can stop rape completely. we just need to completely remove the genitalia of every single man. without the tools to commit the crime there will be no possibility of rape happening.
it will be completely stopped.

Is that worth it to you?

now i hear you saying, "that is completely different and barbaric". no it's not. you want to take away everyone's right to something just so that you can stop the >1% of the population that uses that same right for deviant behavior. it's asinine.

the right to privacy is no different.

if you want to give away your rights that fine.

Don't try to take away mine!

Warrants (2)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955127)

Interesting timing for this now that we've learned that the gunmen in Mumbai used Blackberries to communicate. I'm sure no one violated their rights by eavesdropping on their communications.

I believe this is where a warrant comes into play. You indicate there is a case for eaves dropping and if there is the judge gives you a warrant. Basically what a warrant gives you a sanctioned action for a specific circumstance, so that you aren't using your powers for things that otherwise affect the freedoms of your populous.

Re:Interesting timing (3, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955167)

I'm sure no one violated their rights by eavesdropping on their communications.

That's such an ignorant argument. They could have just as easily used walkie-talkies available at almost any department store, or spent some money and got some military grade communications for the cost of a few hand grenades. Or cell phones. Or satellite phones. Or wi-fi. Or broadband internet. You going to scan every frequency? Monitor every mode of communication? And it's not like they were sending detailed plans back and forth on their Blackberrys, it was tactical comm.

The type of wholesale spying the Bush administration is trying to promote and you seem to be trying to protect not only undermines the Constitution, it doesn't work. All the monitoring we have in place around the world didn't stop these yo-yo's. And it won't stop the next group. So what are you going to do then? Your philosophy is a failure. It's a false sense of security that provides no value in protection.

Combating terrorism by spying on Americans. Brilliant.

They even hacked Obama! (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954513)

The telecoms involved should be seriously fried for their eager collaboration with unconstitutional, Orwellian no-probable-cause surveillance. I am pleased to know that they overstepped themselves to the point of hacking Obama's old flip-phone account.

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2335143,00.asp

They deserve to have an incoming President on their hands who knows how untrustworthy they can be.

Vote with your dollars: go over to Credo.

Re:They even hacked Obama! (1)

TechWrite (1172477) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954763)

He knows it so well that he voted for their immunity? Yeah, good thing Obama's coming into office, I'm just sure he's going to do something!

Re:They even hacked Obama! (2, Informative)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954923)

I would say "must be a troll," but Poe's Law says otherwise.

You do know it was a few dipshits working for Verizon who have now been fired, right?

What would John McClane do? (5, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954639)

He'd catch the terrorists first, worry about paperwork and suspensions afterwards.

I think that's a lesson for all you Fourth Amendment Nazis.

Re:What would John McClane do? (1, Insightful)

Lost Penguin (636359) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954735)

"He'd catch the terrorists first, worry about paperwork and suspensions afterwards."

Yet, his childhood "pal" Osama Bin Laden is still free.
How long has Bush been "Pal'n around" with terrorists?

Since the Republicans want to blame Obama for Ayers misdeeds, this is a legitimate question now.

Re:What would John McClane do? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954953)

Yet, his childhood "pal" Osama Bin Laden is still free.

John McClane is not a pal of some Iraqi terrorist asshole.

Re:What would John McClane do? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25955093)

Woosh.... - Sound of a joke going over your head. John McClane not John McCain. "Yippee ki-yay, motherfucker"

Re:What would John McClane do? (2, Insightful)

Dragonslicer (991472) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954831)

He'd catch the terrorists first, worry about paperwork and suspensions afterwards.

And yet FISA already let the government do that.

Re:What would John McClane do? (5, Insightful)

TechWrite (1172477) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954833)

And as long as he filed his paperwork no later than 72 hours after starting surveillance, there would be no problem under FISA. This "we need every power imaginable with no oversight or you're a pot smoking terrorist loving liberal commie bastard" false dichotomy has just got to stop. FISA was more than enough as it was and this new legislation is a power grab, plain and simple.

Re:What would John McClane do? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954905)

But what would Brian Boitano?

Government Secrets...sure... (1)

ITEric (1392795) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954743)

From the full article...

The administration also says the immunity is warranted because the lawsuits threaten to expose government secrets.

So if the government wants to get away with (insert atrocity here), all that would be necessary is for them to say "shhhh, it's a secret!" I see they've been to the Cheney School of Government:P I thought in cases where secrets were involved the court just reviewed that evidence behind closed doors...maybe I'm wrong.

Not just Bush's fight (5, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954751)

Obama voted for it too you know.

If he were really against it as some of the more delusion supporters claim, then he would issue a statement at this time supporting making it unconstitutional. Expect no statement.

Re:Not just Bush's fight (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25955105)

Obama made it pretty clear he only voted for it as part of a larger bill, feeling that the benefits of having it pass outweighed the down side. He doesn't support this; however, it just isn't quite as much of an issue for him as many of us would like it to be.

Government secrets AKA covering their asses (5, Insightful)

LockeOnLogic (723968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954783)

The administration also says the immunity is warranted because the lawsuits threaten to expose government secrets.

This was why immunity should NOT be warranted! And before you start screaming national security, exactly what kind of information that could be brought out in a civil case which would damage national security? Methods? Competent terrorists aren't going to be caught by dragnet style filtering anyway unless its technical prowess is far beyond what most experts agree is currently possible.

This is either protecting corporate cronies, protecting themselves, or most likely both.

Re:Government secrets AKA covering their asses (1)

Running Fool (748498) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955107)

Competent terrorists aren't going to be caught by dragnet style filtering anyway unless its technical prowess is far beyond what most experts agree is currently possible.

I don't know about you, but I'd like to catch the incompetent terrorists too.

Time to talk to your local ACLU chapter (1)

$criptah (467422) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954863)

If you have not considered getting involved with ACLU, then now it is the perfect time. There is much more at stake here than just a law. From the article:

SAN FRANCISCO - The Bush administration on Tuesday will try to convince a federal judge to let stand a law granting retroactive legal immunity to the nation's telecoms, which are accused of transmitting Americans' private communications to the National Security Agency without warrants.

This is retoractive! First of all, it means that the companies cannot be sued for breaking the law. Secondly, this action opens the door for other retroactive cases. If we can grant immunity for something that has happened in the past we can sure as hell find a way to sue for something that has happned many years ago as well. What will this action mean for cases with expired statutes of limitations? Will the gov't be able to put you behind the bars just because you have done something long-long time ago? Given some of the recent cases, like the MySpace.com guilty verdict, stuff like this raises hair on my back. What strikes me the most is that most of the laws are pro-active. This means that if a prisoner is serving the time for an action that has recently became legal or has been downgraded (e.g. felony became a misdemeanor), it is not likely that the prisoner will be released out of jail without any serious judicial proceedings and yet companies get a get-out-of-jail card.

Before he gets away with it (1)

c4str4t0 (1415371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954871)

Bush should be tried in a similar manner as Saddam. Let the courts decide what to do with him and his god decide where to send him after they've ruled.

You have no constitutional right to privacy (2, Funny)

Saysys (976276) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954883)

No where in the constitution is there an express 'right to privacy', this is a fact, if you disagree try reading the document.

The 'right' to privacy is a right made by the USSC and though we have a long standing tradition of following laws made on the bench there is nothing that the court can do to enforce its own laws.

If we want to live in a society free of totalitarian style thought policing and information scanning then we need more than simple rulings against warrantless wiretaps. What we must have in order to protect us from unchecked power in the executive branch is both an independent judiciary and a legislative branch that values personal freedom.

Without a constitutional amendment to hold anyone who violates our rights to privacy like this again accountable for treason we are doing nothing less than tacitly consenting to such despicable acts whenever the executive branch finds it convenient.

Re:You have no constitutional right to privacy (2, Insightful)

c4str4t0 (1415371) | more than 5 years ago | (#25954925)

dude...read the 4th amendment.

9th Amendment Too (4, Informative)

maz2331 (1104901) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955121)

"The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

The 4th specifies the groundwork for it, and the Supreme Court has ruled that it exists.

Also, the wiretaps can be a violation of the 1st as well, because they could chill protected speech.

I'd say one good definition of "epic fail" (as they love to say on Digg) is to have an argument beaten, crunched, and steam-rollered by three Bill of Rights amendments.

Re:You have no constitutional right to privacy (1)

Running Fool (748498) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955201)

Without a constitutional amendment to hold anyone who violates our rights to privacy like this again accountable for treason we are doing nothing less than tacitly consenting to such despicable acts whenever the executive branch finds it convenient.

From Article III Section 3 of the Constitution: Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Sedition [wikipedia.org] perhaps, but I think it's a bit of a stretch for treason.

Re:You have no constitutional right to privacy (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#25955203)

No where in the constitution is there an express 'right to privacy', this is a fact, if you disagree try reading the document.

Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue; but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fifth Amendment:

No person shall .... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The 'right' to privacy is a right made by the USSC

...simply by interpreting knowledge of one's private affairs as property no less deserving of protection than papers and effects. This isn't really a big stretch, as the government's interest in ones 'papers' is for the information contained therein. Spying on the activities of people is no different than seizing their 'papers and effects'. Intellectual property is just like any other private property.

Donate to EFF! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954913)

I have been a member for two years. Nice T-shirt too.

Sue the government, not the parties (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25954965)

Doesn't anybody else see it as incredibly toxic to permit lawsuits against the telecoms?

Allowing such lawsuits to go forward means that every cooperating witness, and every party whose cooperation is requested by the government now needs to involve lawyers to determine their legal liability.

The traditional remedy in these cases is to sue the government. Why is that inadequate in this case?

The answer is simple, unfortunately. The goal is not to end the practice, it is vengeance.

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