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NSA Overstepped the Law On Wiretaps

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the can-i-hear-you-now dept.

Communications 164

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that legal and operational problems surrounding the NSA's surveillance activities have come under scrutiny from the Obama administration, Congressional intelligence committees, and a secret national security court, and that the NSA had been engaged in 'overcollection' of domestic communications of Americans. The practice has been described as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional. The Justice Department has acknowledged that there had been problems with the NSA surveillance operation, but said they had been resolved. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the intelligence community, did not address specific aspects of the surveillance problems, but said in a statement that 'when inadvertent mistakes are made, we take it very seriously and work immediately to correct them.' The intelligence officials said the problems had grown out of changes enacted by Congress last July to the law that regulates the government's wiretapping powers, as well as the challenges posed by enacting a new framework for collecting intelligence on terrorism and spying suspects. Joe Klein at Time Magazine says the bad news is that 'the NSA apparently has been overstepping the law,' but the good news is that 'one of the safeguards in the [FISA Reform] law is a review procedure that seems to have the ability to catch the NSA when it's overstepping — and that the illegal activities have been exposed, and quickly.'"

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when I overstep the law (4, Insightful)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622079)

I wind up in trouble. I hope the NSA does too

Re:when I overstep the law (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622105)

Nonsense! When a report about an agency of the government doing something illegal comes out, it is done not so that anyone doing anything illegal gets punished for it. Rather, it exists so that Congress can gently guide the NSA to stay inside the lines like a parent holding a retarded child's hand, trying to show them the proper way to color.

Re:when I overstep the law (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622131)

Agreed! The NSA is supposed to be a super secret agency. They can't go to some judge and say what they are doing. He'll leak it, and blow the whole operation. The whole point of the NSA is black ops. We can't live without that security option. You think Massad ask permission before they kill someone?

Re:when I overstep the law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622333)

Part of me hopes you're a troll. The other part of me is very sad.

Re:when I overstep the law (0)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622541)

A secret court for the purpose of obtaining wiretap warrants that require secrecy (for example, to protect sources' lives or technical collection means) is a good idea, in my opinion and likely in yours, as well.

Don't try to guess any further about how I feel. I'm only asserting what I specifically said here, and GP is a little too weird above.

Re:when I overstep the law (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622849)

"Excuse me Mr. ISP, we need to get a tap on your network."
''Do you have a warrant?''
"Yes."
''May I see the warrant?''
"No, it's privileged."
''Ok, can you point me to a judge that authorized this?''
"No, it's privileged."

You don't see a problem with this? How about taken with the fact that law enforcement is legally allowed to lie in the course of their duties?

Re:when I overstep the law (1, Insightful)

Kagura (843695) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623023)

"Excuse me Mr. ISP, we need to get a tap on your network." ''Do you have a warrant?'' "Yes." ''May I see the warrant?'' "No, it's privileged." ''Ok, can you point me to a judge that authorized this?'' "No, it's privileged."

You don't see a problem with this? How about taken with the fact that law enforcement is legally allowed to lie in the course of their duties?

Did you ignore the part where I said not to assume things that I didn't say? :(

Re:when I overstep the law (3, Informative)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623383)

Actually, it doesn't work that way. It's more like,

"Excuse me Mr. ISP, we need to get a tap on your network."
"Do you have a warrant?"
"We have the equivilent rm225 (whatever) form showing a proper warrant was issued and there is legal authority backing this action."
"May I see the warrant?"
"No, it's privileged. But for your records, this is a copy of the legal authorization we are serving you with. IF there are any questions, use the profile number in the corner."
"Ok, can you point me to a judge that authorized this?"
"No, it's privileged. but I can point you to a judge who will assure you that this legal authorization is legitimate. and you are required by law to comply with it. BTW talk to no one about this or who we are targeting."

When they serve a "secrete warrant", they don't leave you dumbfounded with a bunch of questions about if they were actually cops or whatever. They give you a writ saying they have the legal authority based on some law/order to do X or Y. You can't talk about them doing either except with your legal council or any employees who may need to assist but it needs to be confidential with them under the same gag orders.

Now the authorization papers will have enough information that can't be used to determine anything about the case or real warrant but enough information to associate the actions with the officers and for the appropriate clearance level employee to verify the situation without disclosing anything.

Re:when I overstep the law (2, Insightful)

Okomokochoko (1490679) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622543)

Massad [wikipedia.org] wouldn't. The Mossad [wikipedia.org] doesn't have to.

Re:when I overstep the law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622815)

Again with the wikipedia. How do you know what is made up bullshit and what is not?

Do you believe everything you read on wikipedia? Why not?

Do you only believe what you want to believe or what fits your template?

Re:when I overstep the law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622839)

Hear hear! That's telling him. Teabagging, always a popular term on slashdot, has now made it into popular middle American culture, eh?

Re:when I overstep the law (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623689)

Only because of the homos on CNN and MSNBC.

No surprise Olberman would be the first out of the gate making references. I guess he's had quite a few of them from his Sportscaster days.

Let's make it easy then. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623477)

Name names.

The NSA cannot "do" anything because it is nothing more than a legal fiction.

It is the people who are employed under that legal fiction that commit the crimes.

So, who will be fired for those crimes? It should be very simple to find the people who did it. And the people who authorized it. Etc.

Re:when I overstep the law (2, Insightful)

Quothz (683368) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622249)

I wind up in trouble. I hope the NSA does too

That's because you don't take it seriously. If you did, like the NSA does, you'd be fine.

Re:when I overstep the law (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622595)

When a parent tells a child to commit a crime there isn't really a point to punish the kid. The government asked them to do something. Even if it is illegal the boss of the country asked them. It would be silly for the boss to then punish the kid for doing as told. It would be like punishing your router for sending emails to the wrong person when you typed in the wrong name. Or scrapping your car for violating a traffic measure. (am i missing any metaphors? ... something about tubes on a truck...)

Re:when I overstep the law (5, Insightful)

grcumb (781340) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623255)

When a parent tells a child to commit a crime there isn't really a point to punish the kid. The government asked them to do something. Even if it is illegal the boss of the country asked them. It would be silly for the boss to then punish the kid for doing as told.

Tell that to the German officers who were executed for crimes against humanity, despite pleading their innocence on exactly these grounds.

This plea has since become known as the Nuremberg Defence [wikipedia.org] . To my mind, it's no more compelling today than it was over 60 years ago, when we rejected it out of hand.

In order for a democracy to remain healthy, it requires the participation of its citizens. This means more than just occasionally visiting a polling station. It means that, from time to time, we will be asked to challenge, in very practical terms, the validity of the assumptions to which we all adhere.

I do not for a second believe that the NSA management and staff involved in this operation were not acutely aware that they were circumventing the law. If they knowingly broke the law, then they should be prepared to face the consequences.

Opposing the System usually comes with a price. I don't doubt that refusing to carry out orders would be a, uh, career-limiting decision. But those who willingly participate in an immoral, unethical and illegal system should face the consequences of their choice as well.

Re:when I overstep the law (0, Offtopic)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623673)

Well now. Being told to murder and commit 'crimes against humanity' is one thing. Helping your country save peoples lives by mailing some harmless information is another. What ethical standard are we supposed to hold companies to? They were as fooled as most of the country about the clear and present danger the terrorists presented.
If the US government isn't going to punish ITSELF for entering a war and killing hundreds of thousands of innocents on false pretenses. Then do you think the people below them following orders and simply emailing info to support the government in this battle should be crushed? Not to mention the fact that it doesn't serve much of a purpose destroying all the telephone companies. Already in economic crisis, I don't think obliterating an entire industry is a great idea.

Re:when I overstep the law (2, Interesting)

michaelmuffin (1149499) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623933)

the nuremberg defence isn't valid against charges of war crimes or crimes against humanity. that wiretapping constitutes a war crime or a crime against humanity isn't clear to me

Re:when I overstep the law (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623285)

Even if it is illegal the boss of the country asked them.

It doesn't matter who asked them. Illegal is illegal. SOMEONE broke the law. Someone made the moral/ethical decision to break the law. That person was not a kid, and should be held accountable. Also, asking someone to break the law for you is conspiracy. The boss of the country should also be held accountable. It's about time we started throwing Presidents and Prime Ministers in jail.

Oh, and routers, cars, and tube carrying trucks do not have moral/ethical decision making capabilities. They cannot be held accountable for the actions of their users or abusers.

Re:when I overstep the law (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27624045)

When a parent tells a child to commit a crime there isn't really a point to punish the kid.

In this case, both the parent and the child were old enough to know that what they were doing is wrong. The only problem here is that we're only punishing the child.

Re:when I overstep the law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622777)

you're forgetting about government immunity laws, silly.

"change" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623057)

aha!!!!!1111

Obama is scrutinizing NSA wiretapping!!!!

You fools thought there would be Change! I am so cynical and clever!! Ron Paul 2010!!

Re:when I overstep the law (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623459)

No joke. Read about Russell Tice from the NSA. He's breaching classification limits because he swore to uphold the Constitution of the US. He found his own agency in breach of civil rights and did the right thing.

Criminals need to be held accountable or the frequency of the crime will increase; in this case the heads that should have known better need to be held responsible for the operations and orders they produced.

They have been doing this for a long time (4, Interesting)

stox (131684) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622099)

Telephone switches have had specific features to support this type of activity since at least the 1980's. The only difference, now, is that these practices are seeing the light of day.

Re:They have been doing this for a long time (5, Informative)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622351)

Perhaps to expand on what you are saying, because you are dead on accurate: GSM and many POTS telephone services use CCITT7, this comes with SANC, OPC, DPC, & ISPC codes (along with many others), these are all well established. The majority of countries that want to play nice with the rest of the world actually have to use these codes properly too. (Signalling systems are a complex business!) So what actually are these codes? They describe the geography of international telephone circuits. The phone companies latitude and longitude if you will, accurate to about the first digit. I did not say decimal place! :-) What can they be used for? Hypothetically speaking, one would feel confident in presuming these would be used by your local 3 letter agency to 'filter out the good guys' - that's about the only way I can figure it could be done practically anyway. Well, aside from I guess using the label written on some masking tape in sharpie at either end of the international fiber to figure out roughly who is using it. (Note: your good guys may not match my good guys, but that's a political thing)

Now obviously the diligent programer of this particular 'black box' would be inclined to put switches in to do this filtering based on these pretty little acronyms, thus allowing the owners of the 3 letter agency to legitimately talk about 'safeguards' and such. This is great, fantastic. Now, step in greedy middle level managers, directors, and politicians looking for that fast track up the ladder, or just in love with the whole "I can spy on your telephone call!!1!one!!" Rhetorical Question: You really think those switches are going to be in safe mode?

Obama administration (4, Informative)

bonch (38532) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622107)

Isn't this the same Obama administration that recently defended warrantless wiretapping [slashdot.org] ?

Re:Obama administration (5, Informative)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622271)

Obama's administration has claimed that companies who wrongly cooperated with the government in the warrantless wiretapping program should not be open to lawsuits.

While I, and many others, may not agree with that stance, it does not mean that he's going to let the NSA do whatever the hell they want.

At least, not necessarily. We'll see if anything comes of this.

Re:Obama administration (1, Interesting)

gringofrijolero (1489395) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622697)

The NSA/CIA/DEA/FBI will always do what it wants. And unless you have clearance, you will know nothing about it. The things you learn about now have been going on for decades. Nothing has/can/will be done about it, and they will continue to operate as always...in secret. Is there anybody here who actually believes we voted in a new/different government? That would be very naive.

Re:Obama administration (4, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622781)

equally naive to think the president has any POWER over the 3letter orgs.

come on. you think a genie that powerful (the secret services, of which there are more than we can even know about) orgs will simply 'listen' to some guy who is here for what, 4 years?

they outlast presidents. our system is now ruled by a small group and those you see on TV are the figureheads.

this is not 18th century america. we have changed, radically, from what our actual roots were.

Re:Obama administration (4, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622877)

For the LAST TIME, C.O.N.T.R.O.L. is a fictitious organization. There IS no agent 86 and especially no agent 99.

Re:Obama administration (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 5 years ago | (#27624321)

No agent 99? Damn, Barbara Feldon was HOT!!!

Re:Obama administration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622931)

I am curious as to when, exactly, they get "the talk". You know, when the files of personal information are slid across the desk and, if necessary, grassy knolls and sudden heart attacks implied. It is clear that just the leadership (presidents, senate and house leaders and important committee chairs) get it. Ever notice how they immediately back off certain positions upon promotion?

Re:Obama administration (1)

Phroggy (441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27624145)

I too disagree with Obama's position on immunity for telecom companies, and sent him an e-mail expressing my concern after he voted in support of a bill to grant immunity last year.

However, I'm not particularly interested in punishment for the companies involved. I just want transparency - the kind of transparency that only a lawsuit can bring. I want the public to know exactly what happened, why it happened, and who was responsible. What's important to me is that these these people not be protected from public scrutiny. I see no need to punish them further.

On the other hand, I do support Obama's position on not prosecuting CIA operatives who committed acts of torture. If the Stanford Prison Experiment has taught us anything, it's that following the crowd is human nature. These people were assured that the actions they were taking were both legal and necessary. They had explicit approval from the United States Department of Justice. The people at the bottom should not be held responsible.

The people at the top should hang.

Re:Obama administration (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27624295)

I think the Nuremberg principle should apply, really.

Re:Obama administration (4, Insightful)

rpillala (583965) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622325)

I think the difference here is what you'd call a dragnet. The Obama position (as I understood it) is that wiretapping individuals without a warrant is acceptable under certain circumstances. Gathering communication indiscriminately is different and objectionable.

Personally I like the way FISA was set up in 1978 and feel that 72 hours to obtain a retroactive warrant from a secret classified court is sufficient latitude for intelligence gathering in the "war on terror." Eliminating oversight by the judicial branch completely is totalitarian.

Re:Obama administration (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622705)

"When the axe came into the forest, the trees said, 'The handle is one of us.'"

Re:Obama administration (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623331)

retroactive warrant? a secret classified court?

You accept that? These things should strike terror in your bones and chill your very soul, yet you accept them?

Re:Obama administration (1)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623483)

I agree. We established what is called "Intelligence Oversight" in the 70s for exactly these reasons: Intelligence agencies have tendencies to ignore civil liberties and self-rationalize.

Whatever happened to those oversight guidelines is beyond me, but I'm sure it has a lot to do with a number of unconstitutional acts and executive orders that the SCOTUS has become too politically-aligned to do their job and undo.

Re:Obama administration (1)

Erikderzweite (1146485) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622387)

It is, and it is the same Obama who has stated that CIA operatives who were using torture won't be facing any consequences.
So I strongly doubt that NSA will be in trouble now or ever.

Re:Obama administration (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622633)

Torture? What torture? I've seen (and you have, too, if you admit it) S&M porn more violent than what our agents and soldiers did. And the "victims" in the porn PAID to have it done to them!!

Torture works, but should be used sparingly. Don't think so? Then let me torture you for a while - you'd tell me anything I asked.

Re:Obama administration (3, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622673)

Yup. A torture victim will tell his torturers anything!

For example, that 2+2=5.

Re:Obama administration (2, Funny)

The Grim Reefer2 (1195989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623035)

Yup. A torture victim will tell his torturers anything!

For example, that 2+2=5.

There... Are... Four... Lights!

Re:Obama administration (0, Offtopic)

prndll (1425091) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623265)

That's interesting.... The education system seems to be teaching children that 2+2=5 if they "feel" it does (could be 6 if they "feel" that too). Is this a possible method of torture directed towards children?

Re:Obama administration (1)

Darth_brooks (180756) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623259)

This is just unsubstantiated opinion and spout off but...

I get the feeling that part of the reason that the blanket "warrantless wiretapping is bad, mmmkay?" edict hasn't come yet is because, as of now, the Obama administration probably doesn't have a clear handle on how deep it goes, how much wiretapping we're really doing, and what examples are currently "in play." After 86? 88? days in office, I don't expect them know. Now, in a year....

For example, how many wiretaps are going right now, across all branches? Exact number. What branches are wiretapping. I mean, we can "assume" NSA, CIA, probably FBI. What about DEA? Does DHS have anything going? Who else? veterans affairs? IRS? There's very good reason to know who your shutting down before you go yanking plugs.

Or, in the vein of the old "is abortion wrong if the kid grows up to be the next Hitler?" argument, are there fruit bearing investigations that would be affected? Sure, you go can get a warrant, but what if your evidence for the real warrant gets shot down because your evidence is based on the just-made-illegal wiretap? Fruit of a poison tree is one thing. A Foxnews orgasm over a major terrorist attack that happened because of "those damned liberals" that comes with clearcut evidence would be a nightmare for the direction of the country.

I know that argument is just as gay as the "we don't want the next warning to be a mushroom cloud" bullshit we've been hearing, but I think that, practically speaking, pulling the plug on all warrantless wiretapping without knowing exactly what the scope is would be akin to putting every single soldier in Iraq on a plane tomorrow and expecting things to be hunky-dory.

That said, warrantless wiretapping is a clear violation of the 4th amendment and damn well better be on its way out the door by the time election season rolls around again. Because I can vote "change" again.

Wow, I totally didn't fuckin' expect that! (3, Insightful)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622115)

I mean, wow. They violated the law the first time, and then after the law was changed to allow that, they did it again?

I mean, holy crap, who'da thunk?

Umm... (1)

samriel (1456543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622123)

Duh? Did anybody besides those who voted for this think differently?

Re:Umm... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622429)

think differently

Steve Jobs?

Liberal Republicans (2, Insightful)

zymano (581466) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622129)

Who bend the laws of freedom to fit their needs.

Bush was no conservative.

Re:Liberal Republicans (1)

californication (1145791) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623063)

Is this some kind of pathetic, veiled attempt to dump Bush on the "liberal" Democrats?

Bush was not a "liberal" Republican at all, he was a socially conservative, cut-taxes-print-money-and-spend Republican. Bending the rules doesn't make him "liberal" any more than outright breaking the rules makes Nixon "liberal."

Re:Liberal Republicans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623339)

Bush was no conservative.

Yeah, and 2 + 2 = 5, and freedom is slavery, and war is peace. You people have everything figured out.

Tell that to the fundamentalist wackos . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623461)

who were his biggest supporters (and are now pretty much his only supporters).

In sufficient incentives (4, Insightful)

SpecBear (769433) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622153)

"When inadvertent mistakes are made, we take it very seriously and work immediately to correct them."

If such systemic negligence resulted in loss of employment, fines, and/or quality time in a federal PMITA prison, then perhaps they would take it seriously and make sure it didn't fucking happen in the first place.

Re:In sufficient incentives (3, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622287)

Come on now, when have draconian punishments ever stopped people from committing crimes, let alone making mistakes?

There should be punishments for messing up, and worse punishments for intentionally doing bad things, but you're kidding yourself if you think that the threat of jail time would stop this from happening.

Re:In sufficient incentives (4, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622731)

Come on now, when have draconian punishments ever stopped people from committing crimes, let alone making mistakes?

The big difference is that most people commit crimes for their personal benefit.
These guys are commiting crimes under some bogus rubric of protecting the country.
At best their only personal benefit is a reduction of their own time spent on the project (for which they get paid for either way).

What? (2, Insightful)

msimm (580077) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623165)

You're familiar with careers right? If I break the law to further my career am less guilty? Something always motives both good and bad behavior, the idea with the bad I think is not to reward it.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27624187)

You are essentially agreeing with the poster that you are "what?"ing

Re:In sufficient incentives (1)

prndll (1425091) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623305)

"These guys are commiting crimes under some bogus rubric of protecting the country." The same thing happens with environmentalism, only on a larger scale.

Re:In sufficient incentives (2, Insightful)

joocemann (1273720) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623499)

And what we should be more interested in is this.... will we actually stop this, or put on a dog+pony show for the public and restart the same ops with new names, faces, and clearances.... Or just write new laws that you know the SCOTUS puppets won't deem unconstitutional because they are worthless and need to be publicly hung and eviscerated for corruption.

We've known this for a long time (2, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622183)

Okay, so what? What's to stop the next Bush/Cheney right wing douche-o-rama from doing the same thing? If there are no consequences, the next time they get a chance they'll do the same thing. We know we can't count on the FBI and NSA to police themselves, the Supreme Court is loaded with people who don't care about the Constitution, so NSA gets a slap on the wrist and new guidance. Big hairy deal. They'd do the same thing again if some sock puppet Attorney General told them it was okay.

Re:We've known this for a long time (3, Insightful)

rpillala (583965) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622377)

I think on this issue we can call it the current Bush/Cheney douche-o-rama. The administration announced yesterday recent that CIA personnel who relied on legal advice from the DOJ will not be investigated or prosecuted. This says that anything written by someone senior enough in DOJ will be carte blanch for torture. At least, that's the way I would read it if I had a mind to enable torture during my administration. The announcement did not mention what would happen to those giving the advice (Yoo, Addington, etc) or to the officials at the top (Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc.) However, the administration constantly says that they are not interested in looking backwards, only forwards.

Well, that's a relief. When will this kind of forgiveness come to the criminal justice system that the rest of us live in? I mean, crimes I committed in the past should stay in the past why dredge up all that evidence at taxpayer expense just to put me in prison? Or, in the words of Bob Loblaw, "why should you go to jail for a crime that someone else noticed?"

Re:We've known this for a long time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623253)

oops, bad mod

Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (5, Informative)

Amiga500_Rulez (988955) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622261)

http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2009/04/obama-doj-worse-than-bush [eff.org] "The Obama Administration goes two steps further than Bush did, and claims that the US PATRIOT Act also renders the U.S. immune from suit under the two remaining key federal surveillance laws: the Wiretap Act and the Stored Communications Act. Essentially, the Obama Adminstration has claimed that the government cannot be held accountable for illegal surveillance under any federal statutes."

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (1)

WindowlessView (703773) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622749)

Someone has to ask: at this point are we really sure that the elected representatives are really in control?

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (1)

prndll (1425091) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623325)

This question created visions of Kennedy's alcohol soaked sponge-like brain.

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623509)

I assume you are referring to JFK but that description applies to any number of Kennedys.

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (1)

prndll (1425091) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623531)

lol...mainly referring to Ted Kennedy. But, you are right.

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623369)

Douglas Adams said it best: The president's job is not to wield power but to draw attention away from it.

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622789)

You have failed to worship Obama. Your freedoms will be removed shortly after your guns are removed.

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (2, Interesting)

brainfsck (1078697) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623061)

You have failed to worship Obama. Your freedoms will be removed shortly after your guns are removed.

Really? Has that happened a single time? I'd love to know.

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623523)

Really? Has that happened a single time? I'd love to know.

Shame on you, demanding the truth instead of whiny partisan rhetoric! Leave your Slashdot card at the door.

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (3, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622823)

It seems like given recent reports, that Obama is giving Bush-era government employees a free pass, but ordering the current administration to play by the rules. See his reversal of Bush torture policies, but unwillingness to persecute those who used those tactics.

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622953)

I don't know where you're getting that. Could you cite a source please? And if he is, I wouldn't generalize his torture stance to his eavesdropping or other constitutional issues he inherited from Bush.

I mean, I see President Obama shuttering Guantanamo (soon I hope), but then he's still arguing for the same types of detention at Bangram Airfield in Afghanistan. See this. [slate.com]

Seriously, the change is only cosmetic.

Re:Good thing the gov't is unaccountable (1)

Quothz (683368) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623069)

I don't know where you're getting that. Could you cite a source please?

Here you go: Executive Order 13491, signed January 22, 2009 [whitehouse.gov] .

Newspeak framing (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622273)

Just one example of newspeak framing:

"The practice has been described as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional."

"one official" -- makes the following sound like an "official" statement without anyone putting their name on the line. Who is the official?

"said it was believed to be" -- implies that others agree and that this is the general belief. Governmentsprech for "some people say."

Just reading this frames the subject, even if you know the announcement is full of s***. And framing is 90% of the battle. (Google George Lakoff on that one)

Obama says "It's bad!" (2, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622311)

But you will notice that he didn't say it will stop!

We have secret laws and secret courts convicting you with secret evidence. Is there anyone here who STILL thinks we are doing the right thing?

Said it once, said it a thousand times... (1)

Dice (109560) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622331)

Power granted is power abused.

This is what AP was talking about (4, Insightful)

TinBromide (921574) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622349)

I know that slashdot believes that information should be free. (And AP was wrong in accusing google because IIRC, Google does indeed license AP material from AP and they do pay AP money), but this is precisely the kind of story that you wouldn't get from bloggers or non-paid (free) journalism.

I wonder how much money NY Times paid for this story? $500k, $1m? So, remember, I will be modded down for this, but as you rail against the government for over-stomping our rights, this was the work of a paid Journalist or paid Team of Journalists who used their Journalism Major to bring home a paltry paycheck (well, paltry for those of us in the IT or engineering industry).

Stories like these make me hope that the newspaper industry finds a way to make money, because reporting like this takes money, but in a rare move by Big Content, that charged money benefits us all. (Unlike the latest Britney Spears release or Hollywood Movie).

Re:This is what AP was talking about (2, Interesting)

Orne (144925) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622489)

Paying for news is like torturing for information -- the only thing you're left with at the end of the day is a pile of suspect agenda-laden chatter.

I prefer to get my news the old fashioned way, from grass-roots advocates and disaffected whisleblowers.

Re:This is what AP was talking about (3, Insightful)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622511)

Er, no? There was no investigative journalism involved in this story. The Obama administration investigated the NSA. How do we know? From the press release. This is release regurgitation journalism, nothing more, and blogs are more than capable of that.

Re:This is what AP was talking about (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622741)

Highly appropriate nic for that response.

"unintentional"? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622389)

...and the pope is unintentionally catholic and bears unintentionally poo in woods.

Ok, I just have to snipe. (4, Informative)

Areyoukiddingme (1289470) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622431)

The practice has been described as significant and systemic, although one official said it was believed to have been unintentional.

My 10 year old daughter uses that excuse. 'I didn't mean to throw cookie dough at my friend.

'For 10 minutes.'

Joe Klein at Time Magazine says the bad news is that 'the NSA apparently has been overstepping the law,' but the good news is that 'one of the safeguards in the [FISA Reform] law is a review procedure that seems to have the ability to catch the NSA when it's overstepping -- and that the illegal activities have been exposed, and quickly.'"

Yeah, quickly. They were exposed almost 5 years [1] [salon.com] ago. An entire term of office for the US chief executive, for those of you keeping score. The FISA Reform act was not required to expose the activity. It was required to stop the activity. Maybe Time Magazine doesn't remember history very well, but we do. And we prefer not to implicitly lie with our choice of verb.

Nor do we believe for a moment that the activity actually was stopped. Secret (kangaroo) courts and secret meetings and the utterly worthless assurances of the US Justice Department. Of course it's still on-going. I don't even have to wear a tin-foil hat to proclaim that. I don't sound the least bit nutty, saying that, because even major media reported the story, in detail, for months, and nobody cared.

You think they're going to stop now? Of course they're not. Nobody was shot for treason when they endorsed a program that raped the US Constitution. Nobody was sent to jail when they designed a spying program that raped the US Constitution. Nobody lost their job when they implemented a surveillance program that raped the US Constitution. Nobody had their pay docked for listening to the phone calls of random citizens. Nobody got their knuckles rapped with a ruler for reading the email of random citizens. No, instead, they got condemned in the press. Oooooooo. The horror.

They got away with it. Completely and utterly and totally. So why would they stop? When there are no negative consequences whatsoever, there's no reason at all to stop.

The saddest part of all is that it can not be stopped. If Congress chose to do something about it, the members who led the effort would be pilloried as partisan and would lose reelection. Daring to stand on principle would result in losing their job, because that's what the voters think is right.

Oh my people...

Re:Ok, I just have to snipe. (1)

Quothz (683368) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623119)

Nobody was shot for treason when they endorsed a program that raped the US Constitution.

So... you're suggesting that we rape the Constitution to protect the Constitution, eh?

I agree with you generally - I dunno who said "If you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention", but it's as true as true. But shouting "TREASON!" when arguing Constitutional issues makes you look silly, since it demonstrates a basic lack of knowledge about the Constitution. (Hint: Article III)

Re:Ok, I just have to snipe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623543)

But shouting "TREASON!" when arguing Constitutional issues makes you look silly

Not giving a little latitude to passion, or just trying show off, also makes one look a little silly.

It is easier to beg forgiveness... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622445)

...than to ask permission.

This is what happens..... (1)

captnbmoore (911895) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622453)

When you let the fox guard the hen house. Some chicks are bound to disappear. If you did not expect this then you had you head up your A$$.

duh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622589)

The agency should have know that when you hook up Wireshark to "The Internet" in promiscuous mode, you're going to catch stuff that you shouldn't be looking at in the first place. Ditto for connecting to the telco hubs.

.

They need some better IT folks.

.

Ok, being serious now, laws aren't going to do much when you have people at the helm of filtering data on a infrastructure based on today's technology. The agency knows it and any technology wonk does too. FISA laws are more passive and do not give you non-linear 'powers': to reverse something already done in this context is pretty much impossible (just like credit fraud situations). Just give everyone 256-AES where we make the keys and it's a done deal.

Quit making up rights. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622689)

When were U.S. citizens given rights to privacy over a public infrastructure such as phone lines. If you are out on a public street talking to someone and a cop hears you talking about doing something illegal, you should get in trouble. Telephone lines are public infrastructure and thus are a controlled by the government. We are given privacy in our own private homes, but I am not sure when this right to privacy has been extended to public areas (including public infrastructure such as the internet or telephone lines). The government can police there roads and get you for doing illegal things if they are road related or not. Why should other public infrastructure be different. If you are not doing anything wrong then it shouldnt matter.

Re:Quit making up rights. (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622831)

Don't feed the trolls, I know.

Which is fine, because I don't even know where to start.....

Which misconception/fantasy/crack-induced-delusion do you counter first?

Re:Quit making up rights. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27622901)

The telephone lines are not controlled by the US government, but are in fact controlled by individual companies that must abide by certain laws (look up "common carrier" laws).
If a cop hears you on the street talking about illegal activities, then that is a more complex issue. What if you're relaying a story told by someone else, or something you read, or a work of fiction, or the plot to your novel, or describing your exploits in Grand Theft Auto? There needs to be more proof.

Second, wiretaps by federal agencies require warrants that specifically outline the actions to be taken, the purpose of the wiretap, the limitations of data collection, and the persons involved. Phone recording by individuals is defined by state laws. In some states, only one party in the conversation needs to know about the recording. In some states, such as California, both parties must consent. A 3rd party that is tapping the line cannot give consent, as they are not the intended sender or recipient.

Third, the government can police the roads and "get you" for doing "illegal things"? What do you mean by that, exactly? What is a "road related" illegal thing?

You're a troll as evidenced by your last sentence, anyway. I'm bored so I decided to reply in case someone decides to make similar idiotic arguments seriously.

It's called the Fourth ammendment (2, Informative)

captnbmoore (911895) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622907)

* Fourth Amendment â" Protection from unreasonable search and seizure. 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.

Since my phone is in my home I have every right to privacy to talk to whom I please in there home without having the gooberment listen in.

Re:Quit making up rights. (4, Informative)

Wyzard (110714) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623223)

When were U.S. citizens given rights to privacy over a public infrastructure such as phone lines

Katz vs. United States [wikipedia.org] , which established that private telephone calls are protected by the Fourth Amendment.

Re:Quit making up rights. (1)

da' WINS pimp (213867) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623405)

Well I would say that it came a little later in this little thing we call the Bill of Rights:

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

But I do like the way you think! Wish I had mod points tonight.

 

I wouldn't care if I could trust them (4, Informative)

carlzum (832868) | more than 5 years ago | (#27622995)

My bank has a record of every purchase I make, my doctor has my medical history, and my ISP knows what web sites I visit, but I'm not worried. So why do I care if the federal government has that information? Because I don't trust them, and for good reason. The Patriot Act was supposed to protect us from terrorists, but as soon as it was enacted the government used it to enforce copyright violations [boingboing.net] , kick homeless people out of a train station [firstamendmentcenter.org] , and investigate drug dealers [nytimes.com] . Demonstrate some integrity and you'll earn people's trust.

this FP for GNAA? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623107)

and exciting; moans anD groans the project is in

No sysadmin would buy that story... (2, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623123)

I dunno 'bout you, but when I accidentally turn logging on some high-volume task, I usually find out about it pretty quickly when /var/log fills up.

Now, while I doubt that the high-volume task the NSA was monitoring -- like, oh, let's say all voice and data communications in the US -- went to /var/log, the fact is that when most folks build out storage for data collection, it tends to be built in proportion to the amount of data to be collected, plus some moderate wiggle room for unexpected overages. Exactly how much wiggle room you allocate depends, of course, on how big you think a plausible overage is, but since cost is a factor, even for -- or so I presume -- organizations with black budgets, you don't build out multiple petabytes to hold a couple of gigs worth of data, for example.

So if the NSA was really only intending to capture a few, carefully targeted communications, you'd think someone would have noticed very quickly if they'd accidentally recorded more than they'd intended. For fucking years.

I'm not sure what's worse: the original crime, lying about it, or this gross insult to the intelligence of everyone listening to their transparent fictions.

Tell that to the fundamentalist wackos . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623395)

. . . who were his biggest supporters (and are now pretty much his only supporters).

listen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27623695)

In God We Trust. All others we monitor.

Phone Sex (1)

BountyX (1227176) | more than 5 years ago | (#27623813)

They also listen to our soldiers have phone sex when they call in from (overseas), which makes them possibly homosexual, but definietly perverted.

nt (1)

shentino (1139071) | more than 5 years ago | (#27624231)

suddenoutbreakofcommonsense

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