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FBI Violated Electronic Communications Privacy Act

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the you-can-trust-us dept.

Communications 285

An anonymous reader writes to tell us of a report from the Washington Post which alleges that the FBI "illegally collected more than 2,000 US telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records." The report continues, "E-mails obtained by The Washington Post detail how counterterrorism officials inside FBI headquarters did not follow their own procedures that were put in place to protect civil liberties. The stream of urgent requests for phone records also overwhelmed the FBI communications analysis unit with work that ultimately was not connected to imminent threats. ... FBI officials told The Post that their own review has found that about half of the 4,400 toll records collected in emergency situations or with after-the-fact approvals were done in technical violation of the law. The searches involved only records of calls and not the content of the calls. In some cases, agents broadened their searches to gather numbers two and three degrees of separation from the original request, documents show."

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Duhh... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30819468)

Your tax dollars aren't being used to your benefit. Your never going to get propper health care when it's more profitable for politicians to sell you out to insurance companies for 'campaign contributions'

I can't even find out how much my insurance company will cover for a given procedure. They refuse to tell me until its to late.

But the FBI can break the law and spy on me all day...

Re:Duhh... (4, Insightful)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819550)

And they have been able to twist the "healthcare" debate into a discussion about government taking away "freedoms"... while this is going on under their noses.

We've got a lot of people here in the US right now that are running after not only RED herrings, but blue, pink, orange and red pokadotted herrings as well.

Re:Duhh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30819572)

Well, Obama did promise us 'Change'.

Re:Duhh... (5, Insightful)

megamerican (1073936) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819902)

Many American's, whether they are democrat or republican aren't very happy with Obama because he promised two major things with healthcare: he would not force people to buy insurance and that he would televise healthcare discussions with insurance and big pharma companies.

He did a complete 180 on both of those promises. Many democrats realize what Congressman Dennis Kucinich said, that the current healthcare bills are bailouts to the insurance companies and wall street.

On topic for the FBI; they have always broken the law in very deliberate ways. Go read about the FBI's COINTELPRO operations.

You can watch this documentary: COINTELPRO: The FBI's war on black America [google.com]

Or you can read this Church Committee Report [icdc.com] on how the FBI illegally spied on Martin Luther King Jr. for years, using the Communist scare to justify their actions (the more things that change...)

There are plenty of legitimate reasons why people don't trust their government and it has nothing to do with what color fish people enjoy consuming. This country was founded on the principle of treating government actions with a large dose of skepticism.

Re:Duhh... (2, Interesting)

svtdragon (917476) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820336)

And people with practical foresight knew that no system can make insurance companies cover you, in spite of preexisting conditions, unless they had a mandate of some kind. The logical way that he could have done so would've been an employer mandate, but in a way you're forcing business owners to buy it, and they're people too. So no matter what you'll have some people upset.

I happen to prefer the employer mandate, but *some* form of mandate is absolutely necessary to avoid a death spiral in the industry (ie, I have no insurance, I get sick, buy insurance 'til I'm better, drop it again; if everyone does this the risk pool gets so poor that premiums are even more absurd, leading more to drop coverage, and eventually insurance premiums end up as a proxy for hospital bills).

As far as the healthcare bill being a bailout to Wall Street and the insurance companies, take a look at their profit margins. They're around 3%. What we're talking about is $900B in subsidies to people who can't afford insurance on their own:

Insurance stocks [rose 3.40%] on news of healthcare deal [fivethirtyeight.com] [...] The 3.40 percent net gain translates into about $3.34 billion in market capitalization added. [...] This would mean that the total value added from passage of the bill is $16.04 billion. [...] That's a lot of money: $16 billion. But relative to the total outlay from the bill, it is fairly small. Over the course of the next ten years, the Senate's bill directs about $447 billion in public subsidies to people for the purchase of private health insurance. (This is in addition to another $400 billion or so in subsidies for the expansion of Medicaid). The $16 billion in value-added, therefore, represents about 3.6 percent of the subsidy. Coincidentally -- and it is mostly a coincidence, since the numbers are not directly comparable for a variety of reasons -- this compares rather neatly to the 3.3 percent profit margin in the health insurance industry overall.

This is not to mention the fact that after passage, the stocks were down [fivethirtyeight.com] in the net, but the math about the percentage of the subsidy that actually profits insurers is the important bit.

Re:Duhh... (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820392)

The logical way that he could have done so would've been an employer mandate

That's only "logical" if you operate in a vacuum and ignore the realities of running a business. Such a mandate would drive many companies out of business in the worst case or force them to lay off workers in the best case. You don't fix unemployment problems by burdening employers with unfunded mandates.

Re:Duhh... (1)

svtdragon (917476) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820432)

But with everyone covered and everyone in the risk pool, everyone's costs go down. And they'd be just as heavily subsidized by the government as individuals are going to be--somewhere to the tune of $900B, geared toward smaller businesses (of which, as it turns out, many would be exempt).

Re:Duhh... (3, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820748)

What if I don't want to be part of the risk pool? What if I'd rather have the money my employer is going to spend on health insurance in my paycheck instead? The mandate is unpopular specifically because it takes away our freedom of choice.

Besides which, costs won't go down. Costs aren't going up because we don't have everybody in the same risk pool. Costs are going up because we've built a system that requires the involvement of several different layers of bureaucracy (public and private) before a simple bill for an office visit can be paid. Costs won't come down until people realize the absurdity of a system that uses insurance (a product designed to protect against catastrophe) to pay for routine expenses.

Can you imagine a system wherein your car insurance paid for oil changes? What about one where your homeowners insurance paid to shovel your sidewalks in the winter? Do you think that such a system might cost more than paying for those services out of your own pocket?

There's a really good article [theatlantic.com] in The Atlantic that looks at this problem. A problem that has been completely ignored during the debate about health care in DC. Give it a read, it'll be well worth your time.

Re:Duhh... (1)

The FBI (1717712) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820554)

If you have something that you dont want anyone to know, maybe you shouldnt be doing it in the first place

Maybe you should have thought of that before posting here.

Re:Duhh... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820126)

It's been my experience, that while 'heated' debates are being strewn out by our elected elite, Corporations, Law-Enforcement Bodies, and the M.I.C, are usually getting away with more murder than usual.

Especially if a natural disaster happens to strike. Double so, if it's not too far from home... ha iti

Re:Duhh... (0, Offtopic)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820038)

sorry, even with that last sentence this needs an Offtopic mod.

That anonymous reader is going to be jack bauered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30819488)

That anonymous reader is going to be jack bauered and then go to thompson.

The FBI? Surely not! (2, Funny)

JeffSpudrinski (1310127) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819510)

The FBI violated our privacy and civil rights? Surely not, I tell you!

-JJS

Re:The FBI? Surely not! (4, Insightful)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819568)

This is exactly why we protect our civil liberties. A lot of people are willing to hand over exceptional rights to the government to make them safe from terrorism. The reason we don't do that is because the government abuses our rights. Proponents for strong government say it's a slippery slope argument, fortunately, we now have the evidence of wrong-doing to point back and show why rights need to be protected, and people responsible for abusing those rights should be severely prosecuted.

Re:The FBI? Surely not! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820264)

Waiting for the first 'Let them. I have nothing to hide.' post .... Well, guess there are already 10 of it, I'm just too lazy to look for them. lol.

Surprised? (1, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819534)

When even the Supreme Court doesn't hold up the constitution as a valid basis there is not much that we can do except for revolt - but even if you get a critical mass to do that, they'll just stick the army on you or use near-lethal weaponry.

Re:Surprised? (3, Insightful)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819648)

Because revolution has never been bloodless. O.o

People revolt because they feel they have no other option and there are leaders strong enough to rally them. Look at the shit people took in Iraq and never revolted.
Yet, look at Indias revolution.

History shows that revolution happens, but only after years of oppression. Here in the USA, we get perceived renewed hope every 4, 6, to 8 years. Problem is, the "other guy" always did it even though those that actually did it have been in power throughout. Congress.... we really need to clean house.

Re:Surprised? (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820602)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Velvet_revolution

Re:Surprised? (2)

DakotaSmith (937647) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819674)

Revolt isn't necessary: the Federal Government is going to go bankrupt in the fairly near future and consequently collapse. With no money to fund it all, this becomes a self-correcting problem.

Re:Surprised? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820758)

Revolt isn't necessary: the Federal Government is going to go bankrupt in the fairly near future
Cant they just order the federal reserve to print more money?

Afaict most US debt is denominated in US dollars so the US can simply inflate it's way out of it.

Re:Surprised? (2, Insightful)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819726)

Soldiers are citizens too. And tend to dislike firing on their own countrymen.

Most successful revolutions have had a large chunk of the army on their side as well. Although you do need a pretty corrupt government for this to happen, and the Us is nowhere near there yet.

Re:Surprised? (2, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819830)

Most successful revolutions have had a large chunk of the army on their side as well.

And most unsuccessful revolutions have been crushed by the army. Funny how that works out.

Re:Surprised? (2, Insightful)

Alinabi (464689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820014)

Soldiers are citizens too. And tend to dislike firing on their own countrymen.

That has rarely been the case throughout history.

Re:Surprised? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820050)

Blackwater

Re:Surprised? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820228)

At a tactical disadvantage because it's a lot easier to find someone willing to lay down their life for a cause or for their country than for money.

Re:Surprised? (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820614)

Are you sure that they're not through and out on the other side, yet ? It's not written anywhere that you can't buy the army, too.

No shit, Sherlock? (0)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819538)

Wouldn't it be quicker to list ones they haven't violated?

Re:No shit, Sherlock? (1)

jhoegl (638955) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819666)

Ahhh complacency through nervous joking....

Re:No shit, Sherlock? (1)

Bastard of Subhumani (827601) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819838)

Ahhh complacency through nervous joking....

OK tough guy, what's your excuse? Complacency by abdication is somehow better?

Actually it's more like complacency through double nationality.

Not that it's much comfort, everywhere that isn't worse already is trying to catch up.

Re:No shit, Sherlock? (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820604)

I can answer that one for you. The 3rd. But only because the FBI are not considered soldiers. They have in fact occupied property without the consent of the owners.

Better Dead than Red? (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819540)

When I went to buy a printer the other day I was confronted with a dizzying array of choices. Do I want a laser printer or inkjet? Do I want one that supports Linux or is Windows-only OK? What is the cost of maintenance after purchase?

Then I remembered I don't have a personal PC to connect it to.

So too, in this case, I have to wonder what the benefit of having "civil liberties" is if the end result is being killed by a terrorist attack. Being alive is a prerequisite to enjoying civil liberties, so being dead means being unable to enjoy them. We should be preserving life now, as the most important first step, and we can focus on preserving our civil liberties later since we'll still be alive to fight for them.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (4, Insightful)

gninnor (792931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819652)

This is a false dichotomy. Giving away civil liberties does not equal more safety. There is much more that can be done to prevent crime and violence that would be much more productive than wasting time money and effort on wire tapping, and that is just legal wire tapping, not this.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819852)

Mod parent up.

Ben Franklin said: those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

Of course, this entire thread is going to be reviewed by some pencil pusher in Northern Virginia. A little note will be made.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819936)

Ben Franklin said: those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.

Voltaire said, "A witty saying proves nothing"

Re:Better Dead than Red? (1, Funny)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820008)

Ever read the Book of French Military Successes? Both pages?

Re:Better Dead than Red? (1)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820754)

I say, "If one is looking for proofs in witty sayings, then he is missing the point. Rather, one should look for insight."

Re:Better Dead than Red? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30819668)

I can see where you got your handle from 'BadAnalogyGuy'...

Re:Better Dead than Red? (4, Insightful)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819714)

You clearly have absolutely no fucking idea how unlikely you are to die in a terrorist attack, particularly in a pre-Patriot Act world. By your logic, we should all give up any semblance of freedom and have our government lock us away in cages to prevent automobile deaths.

I'd rather be dead then a slave.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (2, Funny)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820492)

Minor correction: I'd rather be dead than a slave. Being an undead slave would probably suck too.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (4, Insightful)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819778)

You sir, are an idiot.

The probability of getting killed by a terrorist attack is so low that it shouldn't be any valid excuse to give away your privacy.
Bend over if you'd like, but please let others fight for their rights.

"Post PS": "personal PC" is just wrong

Re:Better Dead than Red? (3, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819894)

Total number of Americans killed in Terrorist attacks in the last decade: ~3000 (No, soldiers fighting a way don't count)
Total number of Americans killed in car accidents in the last decade: ~400,000

I have to wonder what the benefit of having "the ability to travel" is if the end result is being killed in a car accident. Being alive is a prerequisite to enjoying travel, being dead means you'll never travel anyway. We should be preserving life now, as the most important first step, and we can focus on preserving our ability to travel later since we'll still be alive to work for it.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819996)

Unless you are trying to show how effective the counter-terrorism operations have been, it's unclear exactly what your numbers are meant to show.

There are billions of mosquitos in the world. Only a small fraction of them are killed by humans. Therefore we shouldn't kill them?

Your logic is astounding.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820154)

If someone has a gun to your head you're probably not very worried about the misquitos, why? Because the gun is a larger and more immediate danger. You are 2 orders of magnitude more likely to die in a car accident than a terrorist attack (and even those numbers are skewed by the largest terrorist act in our nation's history, the real value is probably closer to 3 orders of magnitude).

Yet we still invest hundreds of billions of dollars, give away our rights, and piss off the international community all in an effort to reduce deaths by terrorism. If we had put that same amount of money into things like high speed rail, improved roads, or enforcing drunk driving laws, we could have saved many more lives.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820306)

Obama spends some of his time watching basketball games. Bush spent a lot of his time clearing brush from his Crawford ranch. Clinton was a workaholic, but even he was able to squeeze in a blowjob while he used the phone.

You don't need to spend all your energy focusing on one thing all the time. In fact, there are many important things to focus and act upon simultaneously.

So yes, car safety is important. Is that what you wanted to hear? But god help me if I'm going to spend every waking minute trying to make my car safer when I have other things I need to do.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820634)

or enforcing drunk driving laws

It's interesting that you complain about a loss of civil liberties and then use drunk driving as an example of something that needs more attention. The war on drunk driving has infringed on many of our civil liberties. In no particular order:

  • "Implied consent" laws pretend that the 4th and 5th amendments don't exist.
  • Police roadblocks where you have to account for your origin and destination to the friendly representative of the state are normally something associated with authoritarian regimes. Yet we embrace them for the sake of catching drunks.
  • People make arguments like "driving is a privilege" to support these policies, thus reducing the citizenry to children that need to be watched over by a benevolent parent.
  • The 0.08 law ignores the fact that most drunk driving accidents involve BACs of 0.15 or higher. It also pretends that everyone responds the same to alcohol, which isn't the case. One person might suffer no ill effects at 0.08, while another might be falling down drunk. Biology does not respond to hard limits in the same manner as an engineering or legal project.
  • The Government invents bullshit statistics to support these policies. One of my favorites is the statistic that "nearly half of all fatal accidents involve alcohol". Guess how they arrive at that number? They include accidents where a passenger had alcohol in his or her system.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820222)

Pretend for a moment that every not-completely-stupid attempt at terrorism against the US had succeeded. The shoe and underpants bombers succeed. The USS Cole sinks.

The number of Americans killed in terrorist attacks would go from roughly 3000 to roughly 10,000 (being generous to Al Qaida and the Bush administration). You'd still be looking at a fraction of the number of deaths that you see annually for car accidents.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820328)

Pretend for a moment that every not-completely-stupid attempt at terrorism against the US had succeeded. The shoe and underpants bombers succeed. The USS Cole sinks.

The number of Americans killed in terrorist attacks would go from roughly 3000 to roughly 10,000 (being generous to Al Qaida and the Bush administration). You'd still be looking at a fraction of the number of deaths that you see annually for car accidents.

So what?

Re:Better Dead than Red? (2, Insightful)

JonStewartMill (1463117) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820686)

In one sense, all those attacks DID succeed. They achieved their aim of frightening America's government into imposing ever more infringements on the freedom of its people, and frightening Americans into accepting those infringements.

'Effective'? HA HA HA! (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820394)

Unless you are trying to show how effective the counter-terrorism operations have been

Ha ha ha ha! Oh man that's a good one -- "effective"!

Dude, we can't stop Teh Terrorists when their own fathers call us up to narc on them! There's no way you can call our counter-terrorism efforts "effective". Certainly you wouldn't say that about our counter-terrorism prior to 9/11, since it involved violating fewer liberties and liberty = teh terrorist kills you. But yet the death toll for that period even including the failure to stop 9/11 is still incredibly low.

I'm just pointing out what you already know of course, but I can't help it. You should get a new account called AwesomeTrollGuy, because you're really hitting it out of the park today.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (3, Informative)

ThrowAwaySociety (1351793) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820456)

Unless you are trying to show how effective the counter-terrorism operations have been, it's unclear exactly what your numbers are meant to show.

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That’s specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn’t work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It’s just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don’t see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (3, Interesting)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820082)

Seen many terrorists in your neighborhood? Don't count the ones in your family portrait now!!

So - you're willing to surrender your rights, and cower in fear of terrorists, and you've NEVER SEEN ONE!!

Cool.

Personally, I refuse to surrender my rights. Hell - every harbor town I've ever seen was populated by freaks of some kind or another, but I still walked the streets like I owned them. Chicago, New York, and LA are populated by thieves, robbers, whores, and worse - especially after the sun goes down. I should fear going out?

Funny - I don't fear what I HAVE seen, but you fear what you HAVEN'T seen.

Imagine that. Can I get you some more Kool-Aid, dude?

Re:Better Dead than Red? (0, Troll)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820188)

Yeah, why don't you pass me some of that global warming Kool-aid while you're at it. After all, if we're going to start ignoring things we can't see, we might as well start with greenhouse gases.

I'm sorry I'm not tough enough to hang with an ITG like yourself. Being wary of danger isn't common sense, it's "cowering" now. Ever since Bush's second term I've had trouble keeping up with the changing doublespeak vocabulary.

Heh, nice. (3, Interesting)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820184)

So too, in this case, I have to wonder what the benefit of having "civil liberties" is if the end result is being killed by a terrorist attack.

Actually, according to TFA, all these "nonexistent emergencies" and requests for records having nothing to do with actual terrorism overloaded the FBI's communications analysts, which one can reasonably guess hindered their efforts to find actual terrorist threats.

Oh but don't let practical consequences get in the way of that pretty "Liberty or Safety" false dichotomy. I mean it's so nice and obvious if you don't think about it even the tiniest bit.

Re:Better Dead than Red? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820334)

So too, in this case, I have to wonder what the benefit of having "civil liberties" is if the end result is being killed by a terrorist attack. Being alive is a prerequisite to enjoying civil liberties, so being dead means being unable to enjoy them. We should be preserving life now, as the most important first step, and we can focus on preserving our civil liberties later since we'll still be alive to fight for them.

Frankly, sir, I find you a much greater threat than any terrorist.

2000? What a shame they overdid it (3, Funny)

mrRay720 (874710) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819544)

Had they collected 16 fewer records, it could have been so much more appropriate.

Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (5, Insightful)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819596)

Some Judges need to let some guilty people walk to teach the FBI that they have to play by the rules. I don't know how often that happens in the USofA, but clearly it's not enough. I know that in Canada, it is not that uncommon to have evidence invalidated because of invalid collection technique.

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (4, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819690)

Some Judges need to let some guilty people walk to teach the FBI that they have to play by the rules.

How does that punish the FBI? We the People, then have to deal with the criminals.

Instead, punish the FBI, by punishing the FBI. Fire their asses.

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820330)

Instead, punish the FBI, by punishing the FBI. Fire their asses... out of a cannon. Maybe aimed at a country they'd feel more comfortable in, like North Korea or Iran.

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (5, Insightful)

RichMan (8097) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819706)

How about making some of the guilty in the FBI do the perp walk?

Deliberate illegal acts should lead to jail time. Law enforcement officers are not above the law.

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30819772)

I don't know how often that happens in the USofA

no u

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (3, Insightful)

Shatrat (855151) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819774)

It happens all the time and it doesn't really do anything but put criminals back on the streets.
What should be done is convict the criminal and then turn around and convict the investigator who broke the law during the course of the investigation.
What you propose is just 'two wrongs make a right as long as two different people commit them'.

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (2, Insightful)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820286)

No, you shouldn't convict the criminal based on illegally obtained evidence.

The reason for this is simple.

Do you know of every possible statute in your law that could put you behind bars if you violated it?
In Canada, we have the Criminal Code, for which most violations have the option of a jail term. There are lawyers who have made it their life's work for decades to work with only the criminal code, and still don't have it all down.

Then on top of that, there are the various tax, anti-terrorist crap, immigration, and other federal laws that could put you in jail. That doesn't even get to the provincial laws that could do the same. The Highway Traffic Act allows for jail terms for various things, although most of them are for obvious stuff like drunk driving, but still...

Then there are municipal laws.

Then there are all the laws at these three levels that could result in a fine, rather than jail time.

Do you know every single one of these laws?

Yeah....right.

The reason illegal evidence is not allowed in court, is that if it were allowed, then every citizen of the entire country would be a criminal, in one way or another, and anyone could be put in jail for political reasons because, with enough digging, it's guaranteed that you'd be able to find something they did that was illegal. The legal system is so horrendously complex, that nobody, anywhere, can know everything there is to know about it.

This goes for politicians, too, because there are known instances where one law contradicts another, and if you uphold one, you have no choice but to break the other.

The US legal system is probably even more complex, being that the country is older, and has more states with their own laws.

Don't pretend that all evidence should be allowed, or all it would take is for somebody to take a disliking to you, and all of a sudden you're in jail for breaking a law nobody knew about, and hasn't been enforced for a hundred years.

If there's reasonable belief that somebody's broken the law, that's one thing. Get a warrant. That's why the system is set up that way. If there's no reason to believe somebody's done something wrong, don't go fishing. Screw off and leave them alone.

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30819834)

That doesn't really help, because very often the illegal wiretapping is used to find evidence that can then be collected through traditional methods.

This kind of thing is often very politically expedient -- wiretap your oppenent and find his weakness, and then expose them and force him to step down.

The illegal wiretapping needs to be dealt with as a criminal offense. Subverting the Constitution shouldn't be treateed lightly.

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (1)

yariv (1107831) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819872)

This is ridiculous, although it is the behavior of any legal system I know of. Obviously evidents that were acquired in some illegal process should still be used, but those FBI officials who "didn't play by the rules" should be tried. I believe that for a policeman to know that violating a citizen's rights will send him to jail is probably more persuading than that what he found in this manner won't be used. In the current method, if you think you can't get the evidence in any other way there is no reason not to get it illegally and hide the illegality.

So, someone (I don't know how the US justice system works very well) should prosecute those responsible, as you do in any other violation of the law.

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (5, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819914)

FBI officials told The Post that their own review has found that about half of the 4,400 toll records collected in emergency situations or with after-the-fact approvals were done in technical violation of the law. (emphasis added)

It seldom happens here anymore because of the idea of "technicalities". Certain factions in the US -- chiefly the one that, with unconscious irony, is always calling for "law and order" -- have brainwashed large portions of the public into believing that the law doesn't or at least shouldn't matter in cases where the outcome displeases them. When someone is acquitted because law enforcement agencies trampled all over the law during their investigation, they are regarded as "getting off on a technicality", and it generally triggers a backlash against the rule of law and accusations that the courts in question are "soft on crime". Of course, what has happened is that the courts in question are actually tough on crime even when the crimes are committed by law enforcement, and they are far-sighted enough to know that treating law enforcement agencies as being above the law is the royal road to serfdom, but the yokels don't get it. In their view, the function of the law is to dish out punishment, not to maintain actual order, and anything that gets in the way of punishing people -- often including their actual innocence -- angers them.

Unfortunately, there's not a lot of sympathy among those types for enforcing proper police procedure. They're the same people who hold the view that if you have nothing to hide, you shouldn't care about being searched. And it's true enough that they have nothing to hide inside their trailer parks, so why worry?

I wouldn't expect anything to change until the "law and order" faction grasps the fact that the expression "technical violation of the law" has no actual meaning; something is in violation of the law or it is not, and if the law is to lead to justice, it must apply to everyone equally, whether it's a thug holding up a liquor store or a better-dressed thug illegally wiretapping American citizens.

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (3, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820044)

Some Judges need to let some guilty people walk to teach the FBI that they have to play by the rules. I don't know how often that happens in the USofA, but clearly it's not enough. I know that in Canada, it is not that uncommon to have evidence invalidated because of invalid collection technique.

It's not uncommon in the US either for improperly acquired evidence to be invalidated, and depending on the importance of that evidence for the accused to walk. That's generally been the "teeth" in the 4th Amendment and the rules of evidence. It's why cops always read you your Miranda Rights, because Miranda was a guy who was pretty much as guilty as they come but was tricked into thinking he didn't have any rights and had to confess, so his confession was thrown out and he walked.

The thing is, it's not clear that any of these investigations resulted in actual arrests or charges or anything. It's not clear to what purpose they were getting these records. All I can see from the article is that the agents got these records by invoking "nonexistent emergencies". Well if the emergency was non-existent, it's not hard to imagine that the crime was non-existent too.

The impression I get is basically the FBI going on fishing expeditions. Fishing expeditions that not only came to naught and violated civil liberties, but also overloaded their communications analysts with crap that had nothing to do with actual terrorist threats. So the FBI's counsel can say that they only "technically" violated the law but that the agents were only trying to stop the next terrorist attack, and hey that might even be true, but the practical result was they made it harder to stop the real terrorist threats with their sloppy and illegal work.

Hey, who would have thought that the FBI "technically" violating the law would be a bad thing both to those who value civil liberties, and to "Ends justify the means" types?

Re:Some Judges need to lay the smack down. (1)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820052)

I don't think these illegal wiretaps lead to any convictions. So there is no case, no judge, and no defendant.

Told you so! (4, Funny)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819604)

After diligently criticizing the powers of government for over 11 months, we have more proof that Obama is destroying America.

Sincerely,

Your Fox Opinutainment Team

Re:Told you so! (0, Offtopic)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819842)

Obama is not the end all and be all of American government. He is no where near perfect but just because things aren't going the way you want them to doesn't mean he is solely to blame. There is an existing system that he has to work within. Now if you want W back or W 2.0(aka McCain) they would still be doing the exact same thing that W always did without any attempt to change at least Obama is making the effort and in many cases making improvements. For example he has given Iran the chance at talks which it claimed it wanted but has now proven it is hesitant at best(with good reason the U.S. has not always be the most forward negotiator).

Re:Told you so! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820070)

Whooosh

Re:Told you so! (2, Interesting)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820030)

Why will Obama not Deny that he signed each one of these requests? I have heard that several of them were related to Glen Beck killing and raping a young girl in 1990. [gb1990.net]

Why won't Glen Beck Deny that he raped and killed a young girl in 1990? And why won't President Obamba deny that he signed each one of these orders personally?

(ever notice how when the last administration was in, certain people got mad, and corrected you that "It is PRESIDENT Bush", and those same people call our current president by his last name, or even worse, his first-middle-last.. Even if you don't respect the person, you have to respect the position, damnit. During the Campain, President Clinton came to my small town.. Some people wrote in nasty editorials about referring to him as President, when our President was PRESIDENT Bush. the newspaper had to explain that president is a title for life, and that its actually encoded into law somewhere...)

A question: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30819620)

Just out of interest, does anyone know what jurisdiction the feds. in the US would hold for international calls made to/from the US?

Surprised? (5, Insightful)

SirBigSpur (1677306) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819656)

Is anyone actually surprised by this?

Re:Surprised? (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819938)

Police are just doing their job. They want their job to be easy and it is their boss's job to make sure they are not breaking the law and same goes all the way up the line. They need to be held accountable for what they are doing and that starts with courts enforcing the laws on the books and the legislative branch removing bad laws. Every time you say "oh my vote doesn't matter" or you vote when you don't have the appropriate knowledge of the issues you are feeding the system that feeds off people's votes based on knowledge that is irrelevant thus changing behavior of the politicians. Like Jefferson said "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance" or as the saying goes "Freedom isn't free" and our freedoms will be abused and short cut around if people can get a gain from doing so weather it is direct or just makes their job that little bit easier.

Re:Surprised? (4, Insightful)

Tim C (15259) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820020)

Police are just doing their job. They want their job to be easy and it is their boss's job to make sure they are not breaking the law

No, part of a police officer's job is to uphold the law, it is no more their boss's job to ensure they are not breaking it than it is my parents' job (given I am an adult) to make sure that I'm not breaking the law.

Re:Surprised? (2, Informative)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820326)

It's my boss's job to make sure I'm not breaking the law? WTF?

I'm sure he'll be happy to know that.

No...it's your job to make sure you're not breaking the law. Especially when you work in law enforcement.

Re:Surprised? (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820704)

It is also the police's job but it is also the job of their boss since , all the way up to the three branches of government who are meant to each watch over each other and keep each other from gaining too much power or abusing the power that they have.

I'm sure it was for our own good. (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819682)

I am shocked and appalled. So who knows who was in charge of the FBI during this period?

2000+ Felonies? (4, Interesting)

macemoneta (154740) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819720)

Aren't these violations felonies? If so, then why are criminals employed by the FBI instead of in prison? If not, then (aside from the invasion of privacy), what's the problem?

Who's going to jail? (4, Insightful)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819722)

According to TFA, the US DOJ started investigating the FBI over this issue in 2006. Why aren't FBI agents in jail right now? And why didn't the Washington Post ask this question?

Hmm, this is like saying -- (0)

dwiget001 (1073738) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819728)

corrupt politicians are... CORRUPT! OMFG!

Re:Hmm, this is like saying -- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820258)

Corruption might be commonplace but does that mean it's acceptable or not noteworthy?

Re:Hmm, this is like saying -- (1)

cbiltcliffe (186293) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820348)

corrupt politicians...

You repeat yourself, grasshopper....

On the other hand... (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30819780)

"Bureau officials said agents were working quickly under the stress of trying to thwart the next terrorist attack and were not violating the law deliberately. " Well, I guess if they didn't MEAN to be naughty we can't complain.

Like to believe these are all good people, but .. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30819798)

I'd like to believe these are all good people, but sometimes even good people get carried away and need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law... to the top of knowledge and 1 more level of accountability.

Jail time is needed.

I've seen people fired for policy violations in the private sector. Anyone who knew about these violations needs to be fired even if they didn't actively participate.

The FBI needs to be cleaner than any other law enforcement agency in the USA. They haven't lost my trust, but they are headed that way.

Technical Violation of the Law (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30819968)

After an internal review, I have determined that when I shot that guy and stole his wallet, that was in "technical violation of the law". However, since I performed a good faith auditing of my procedures on the matter, I feel that an administrative reprimand is the appropriate course of action.

I'm a bad person... there now everyone can feel safe again.

There should be criminal prosecutions (4, Insightful)

Grond (15515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820024)

about half of the 4,400 toll records collected in emergency situations or with after-the-fact approvals were done in technical violation of the law.

'Technical violation of the law' is also known as 'crime.' The degree to which the law has been violated may be relevant for sentencing, but it's irrelevant in determining whether or not a crime has, in fact, taken place.

In true emergencies, Caproni said, agents always had the legal right to get phone records, and lawyers have now concluded there was no need for the after-the-fact approval process.

So how many of these were actually true emergencies? And having the legal right to get something doesn't excuse getting it illegally. If the police have probable cause they can get a warrant to search my house. If they decided to skip getting a warrant and search it anyway, the results of that search are inadmissible even though the police could have done it legally. It should be no different in this case. In fact, in this case there's a statute specifically defining the crime, and it does not excuse a criminal act if it could have been done legally but wasn't.

Bureau officials said agents were working quickly under the stress of trying to thwart the next terrorist attack and were not violating the law deliberately.

That's not a legally recognized excuse. The intent that matters is the intent to intercept the communication, which was plainly present (this is not a case of accidentally tapping the wrong line or anything like that). Whether they knew what they were doing was illegal or whether they thought what they were doing was justified is irrelevant in this case, per the statute.

Caproni said the bureau will use the inspector general's findings to determine whether discipline is warranted.

Discipline? I hope that's just for starters. The ECPA provides for a jail sentence of up to 5 years per violation, and I would like to see prosecutors pursue significant jail sentences for the "senior FBI managers up to the assistant director level" that approved the procedures for emergency requests, particularly for those who did so "for two years after bureau lawyers raised concerns and an FBI official began pressing for changes." They betrayed the public trust and broke the law even after their illegal behavior was pointed out to them. It's utterly inexcusable.

The federal government should also be made to pay the appropriate statutory civil fine to the parties whose phone records were illegally gathered, which is the greater of actual damages, $100 per day of violation, or $10,000. If $10,000 in statutory damages seems excessive, the government should take a look at the Copyright Act some time. And if 5 years in jail seems excessive, it should take a look at the penalties for growing certain plants in your back yard.

Who cares... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820032)

If it helps reduce the threat of terrorism and none of those involved with making or receiving the phone calls were inconvenienced or were persecuted on other charges that were discovered outside the original reasons for looking at the records than what is the difference? Perhaps they had a lead on a terrorist act that lead them down the path of needing some additional records. If it had discovered a plot to blow up some major building and those involved were arrested the FBI would probably have been hailed as heroes and given medals. I'm not suggesting the government have total power to do anything they want, but how can we stand by and complain that terrorism is on the rise when a fit is thrown every time some phone records are looked at due to some technicalities? We should stop wasting resources on investigating our own agencies for things that did not have any affect on anyone. Maybe we could get out of debt and put the economy on track...

Re:Who cares... (2, Informative)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820352)

none of those involved with making or receiving the phone calls were inconvenienced

I'm inconvenienced when my tax money goes to bullshit like this, especially when the FBI was already having trouble paying for the wiretaps they actually needed [arstechnica.com] .

If it had discovered a plot to blow up some major building and those involved were arrested the FBI would probably have been hailed as heroes and given medals.

And making up fake terrorism threats would have discovered one?

Re:Who cares... (1)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820734)

If it helps reduce the threat of terrorism and none of those involved with making or receiving the phone calls were inconvenienced or were persecuted on other charges that were discovered outside the original reasons for looking at the records than what is the difference?

That police-state tactics may be a graver threat to this republic than terrorism?

I'm not suggesting the government have total power to do anything they want, but how can we stand by and complain that terrorism is on the rise when a fit is thrown every time some phone records are looked at due to some technicalities?

I don't recall complaining that terrorism was on the rise. Could it be that the people who are complaining benefit from those complaints by having larger budgets and more power?

We should stop wasting resources on investigating our own agencies for things that did not have any affect on anyone. Maybe we could get out of debt and put the economy on track...

Because these investigations are going to cost more than the budget of the Department of Homeland Security?

Where were the T-parties (2, Informative)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820072)

Where were the T-parties? Where is Fox news? Why are they not protecting our constitutional rights and going after the people who committed these felonies against the our citizens?

Oh, that's right. The only protest people they think are liberals, who want things like health care, and believe in the rule of law. When a conservative administration breaks the law its for our own good. My bad.

I'm still waiting... (2, Insightful)

macintard (1270416) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820260)

...for the Hope & Change that was promised to me. So far, BO seems a lot like GWB, but with better speaking skills.

Really (1)

delvsional (745684) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820284)

This is a big fucking surprise. /sarcasm

You ignorant liberals just don't get it (4, Funny)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820382)

We have to sacrifice our freedoms to protect our freedoms. Even though our free society is better than an authoritarian one, authoritarianism is far better at protecting freedom. So, the only way to be free and have rights is to not be free and lose your rights. You dirty hippies get it now?

Re:You ignorant liberals just don't get it (1, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820502)

In the event you are joking, my response is this: lulzwut?

In the event you aren't joking, my response is this: lulzwut?

Your First Premise Is WRONG (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820446)

You have NO rights in the U.S.S.A. [whitehouse.org] .

Yours In Minsk,
K. Trout

At least China is honest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30820524)

At least China doesn't pretend to have more than one political party. Republicans == Democrats

It's Obvious (1)

drej (1663541) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820594)

It's a new law (involving electronic devices and such) so of course it's still okay to break it. I mean, it's not even in the bible! Besides: It's just too damn comfortable to spy on people over the phone or internet, much better than hiding bugs in people's houses and waiting outside in inconspicuous trucks. If for one can't see the FBI stopping anytime soon.

This is the problem. (1)

lattyware (934246) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820760)

Whenever anyone points out that these laws are to help stop terrorists, they forget that the first abuse often comes with good intents, but slowly decends into the police state nightmare no one wants.

Perspective (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30820770)

Tracing down the communications "networks" of suspected terrorists actually does sound like a useful way of generating intelligence, so the FBI may have a valid rationale behind doing this. However, I fail to see how this constitutes an "emergency", since there is little requirement for timeliness -- these records are not going to disappear if they don't collect them right away, and the analysts are going to take weeks or months to analyze them anyway. In short, I don't see any down side to using approved procedures to collect this information, making sure to dot all the "i"s and cross all the "t"s. Failing to do so is either laziness or the result of a delusion caused by watching too much "24".
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