Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

NYTimes Sues US Gov't To Know How It Interprets the PATRIOT Act

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the however-it-pleases dept.

Censorship 186

hydrofix writes "Techdirt has been following the story of the DoJ's classified interpretation of the PATRIOT Act. Specifically, it's all about Section 215, the so-called 'business-records provision,' which empowers the FBI to get businesses to turn over any records it deems relevant to a security investigation. Senators Ron Ryden and Mark Udall have been pushing the government to reveal how it uses these provisions to deploy 'dragnets' for massive amounts of information on private citizens 'without any connection to terrorism or espionage,' a secret reinterpretation that is 'inconsistent with the public's understanding of these laws.' After NYTimes reporter Charlie Savage had his Freedom of Information request denied, the NYTimes has now sued the government (PDF) to reveal how it interprets the very law under which it's required to operate."

cancel ×

186 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Holy Crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685040)

I now less-hate NYT! Who knows, I didn't read TFA, so I'm sure there's still some reason I shouldn't...

Wyden not Ryden (5, Informative)

theswade (2020510) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685050)

Hey, that's my senator's name you're mangling there! Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Re:Wyden not Ryden (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685110)

Won Wyden of Oregon. Got it. Thanks!

-ed.

Re:Wyden not Ryden (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685316)

Won Wyden of Oregon. Got it. Thanks!

-ed.

No, no, that's still wrong. It's Won Wyden of Owegon.

Re:Wyden not Ryden (1, Funny)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685432)

Don Dryden of Oregano. Check.

Re:Wyden not Ryden (1)

electron sponge (1758814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686276)

Ken Dryden, Liberal MP of Ontario, got it. He was strong on defense from what I understand. Kick save, and a beaut.

Law should be like code. Not up for interpretation (0)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685062)

Oh wait that would be if we actually lived in a republic. Never mind.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (5, Insightful)

xstonedogx (814876) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685222)

That will never happen, but I think we can make it less open to, shall we say, loose interpretation.

Make the spirit of the law explicit. The first part of the law should state "This is the problem we are trying to resolve."

Then let judges determine whether or not the executive (or a plaintiff) is using that law for that particular purpose. If they're trying to use it for another purpose, let them go to Congress to get a new law passed.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (4, Insightful)

msauve (701917) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685294)

The first part of the law should state "This is the problem we are trying to resolve."

Then let judges determine whether or not the executive (or a plaintiff) is using that law for that particular purpose.

Yea, that will work.

Like the way many federal laws start with "...interstate commerce..." (one of the few federal powers, so it's the justification for many federal laws), and then go on to legislate on things which aren't interstate commerce, and the courts play along. Wickard v. Filburn, as a single egregious example.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685480)

[T]he courts play along. Wickard v. Filburn, as a single egregious example.

I know you just worked all that in there to get the Ron Paul Google Ad to show up on the page.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (2)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685546)

You don't have to be a Paulite to realize that Wickard v. Filburn was as badly decided as Dred Scott.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (4, Insightful)

anagama (611277) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685484)

Many laws do have this kind of prelude and even those that don't have legislative history that may be helpful in ascertaining the purpose of the legislature in making the law.

That said, the law should be like open source code, freely available for anyone to read and analyze. Yes, it might be complicated and confusing to a non-lawyer, but computer code is complicated and confusing to a non-programmer. Even with that complicated nature, either can be analyzed with some study and effort, at least to some extent.

The real problem we have been having, starting with Bush's secret legal memos regarding due process free detention, and Obama's legal memo regarding due process free execution, is that the executive branch is essentially creating laws and keeping them secret making it impossible to know if what you are doing is something that will get you jailed or killed. That's a big deal, a dagger in the heart of what any free society is based upon, a shredding of the separation of powers, and ethically indefensible. There is no circumstance in which the rules of society ought to be secret.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685866)

That said, the law should be like open source code, freely available for anyone to read and analyze.

How far to go? E.g. may I make a fork on a certain law and adjust it to my needs?

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37686144)

If you maintain another country, absolutely. You are not allowed run a virtual machine.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (1)

c0lo (1497653) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686234)

If you maintain another country, absolutely. You are not allowed run a virtual machine.

VM is a bad analogy for this case (as bad as the Open Source is. Open Standards would have been more appropriate).
Anyway, why don't you try a car analogy, I find easier to understand them ;)

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (2)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685938)

Don't worry. They'll only go after the big, bad terrorists...

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (1)

OzoneLad (899155) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685514)

It is so very wrong that such a broad-ranging law could be open to any sort of interpretation at all. Might as well make the first part explicitly state "This is a huge power grab. If we decide we don't like you, kiss your ass goodbye."

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37686094)

It is so very wrong that such a broad-ranging law could be open to any sort of interpretation at all. Might as well make the first part explicitly state "This is a huge power grab. If we decide we don't like you, bend over and kiss your ass goodbye."

FTFY>

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (1)

Hentes (2461350) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685230)

An interpretation is applying a logical system to specific real-world scenarios. It does not necessarily against a law, it might be just nontrivial to deduce. You can think of laws as axioms and interpretations as theorems. Although the analogy is bad as legal systems are not logical systems.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685256)

It's easy to say things like this without any thought for the implications of what you propose. The fact is, there will always be at least ONE interpretation, and it will be this interpretation that will be followed. Even if you call it "black letter with no room for interpretation," it's still just one interpretation.

The same thing applies to code. There is no such thing as something independent of interpretation.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (4, Insightful)

anubi (640541) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685320)

Exactly.

We have so many "weasel words" in the language of law that interpretation is up to the judge and jury. Its not like engineering at all. Its more like the language of statistics.

Every time I try to read a business contract, its like reading some newbies code where its full of undefined variables.

Drives me nuts.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (3, Interesting)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685472)

That reminds me of these lines we put in our requirements.

1.3 Definitions
The following definitions are used throughout this document:
“Shall” defines a requirement that requires a waiver if not performed.
“Will” defines a function that is expected to be performed during the implementation of the Project’s Parts Program, however does not require a waiver when not performed.
“Should” defines a “best practice” and is strongly recommended but does not require a waiver when not performed.

I wrote a contract for a Company to build a test sled that would accelerate a 100 kg mass at 30m/s^2 in the horizontal and vertical orientation. They undersized the system so it could only do it in the horizontal orientation. They tried to claim that in the vertical it is already accelerating at 1g due to gravity.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686198)

Yikes, what's the difference between "will" and "should" under those definitions? Yeah, yeah, "expected" versus "strongly recommended", but unless they have another section defining those terms, all I see is "does not require a waiver". It's like corporate Simon Says... you gotta listen real close for the shalls versus the wills.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686512)

That's easily solved - just require all laws to be written in Lojban.

It also have a beneficial side effect of significantly raising the IQ of an average member of Congress (since Lojban proficiency would necessarily be mandated).

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685330)

The same thing applies to code. There is no such thing as something independent of interpretation. [wikipedia.org]

2 + 2 = 4 is just like... your opinion man.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685482)

the dude abides, was i first?

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (3, Insightful)

Empiric (675968) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685328)

I think it's even worse than that. A "secret interpretation" doesn't even give us the basis for general expectations based on having an objective, available reference of the -same- code. This is more like having an entirely new spec with no necessary correspondence to the code available as the only means to characterize or evaluate it. Yet, it suggests the veneer of being like the objective reference by mere association with it.

It is, and it is not, this or any particular other thing at the sole discretion of those with access to the "secret" information that actually defines it. It seems like the very definition of institutionalized deception, that doesn't even acknowledge itself as such.

Like it's said... Mystery, mother of the abominations of the Earth...

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (5, Insightful)

517714 (762276) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686152)

A "secret interpretation" does indeed give us a basis for general expectations. Expect tyranny.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (2)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685386)

What a simpleton you are. You can't make it 'not open for interpretation' Not possible. You would need to know future event, and everyone would need to violate it under the exact same circumstance.

Think, think bigger.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685544)

It depends on you point of view. As a citizen I would actually like to know what what the law actually means no matter how inconvenient it is to our rulers.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (2)

BitHive (578094) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685736)

Hear, hear! The truth of what you say should be obvious to everyone because as we all know, coded systems never have unintended consequences and can always account for every situation that comes up "in the field".

Additionally, your comparison is quite apt because as everyone knows code is not ever subject to interpretation when it is executed. That is why we use one code to express everything.

I am reminded of the invention of the first formal symbolic logics. Philosophers were rightly excited to have settled all human argument because finally each side could simply write down their arguments as symbolic logic and then whoever was correct would become self-evident.

Bravo, sir. I hope your insights shake the foundations of our legal system and I wish to subscribe to your webinar and such.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37686220)

Law should be like code. Not up for interpretation.

Good luck writing any rule that does not have exceptions, corner cases, etc. Read any supreme court case: You may have an opinion on what a law means, but there are smart people making logically sound arguments on every side of the issue being decided.

Re:Law should be like code. Not up for interpretat (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686314)

Here is how I see it. You shouldn't be convicted of a crime unless the law is specific. If someone slips through an exception in the law then it should be up to the legislators to close the exception not for the executive and judge to interpret.

How it works (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685066)

We'll take all your records then tell you if you've done something wrong*.

* After we've raided your offices and taken all your fun little computers out in boxes.

Re:How it works (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685310)

Yes We Can! Change you can believe in!

Due process (2)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685076)

Doesn't the 5th amendment to the constitution require laws to be clear and fair?

Re:Due process (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685128)

Our government doesn't give even half of a flying fuck about what the Constitution says any more.

what I find most illumunating (5, Insightful)

v1 (525388) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685284)

is that we have to sue our own government in an attempt to force them to tell us about the laws they are enforcing against us. That alone indicates a huge problem with the system, regardless of the nature of the laws themselves.

If I could vote in one constitutional amendment right now, it would be "No Secret Laws". That alone would fix a great deal of evil by shining some light into the many dark corners of our government.

Re:what I find most illumunating (4, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685336)

Secret "laws" don't even make any damn sense. A law is an instruction they want you to follow.

If they don't tell the NYT what the rule is, it's not a law at all. It's just standard run-of-the-mill selective enforcement of the rulers' whims. A tyranny.

Re:what I find most illumunating (2)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685486)

Secret laws work because they want you to do things they *can't* require you to do, so they pass a law that says nothing and hide it, hinting that you'll get in trouble for some unrelated things. What are you going to do, break the "law" or follow it voluntarily, even if the law, if it were what they said it was, wouldn't be enforcable. But you can't challenge it, as it's not even there.

Re:what I find most illumunating (3, Insightful)

GoodNewsJimDotCom (2244874) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686918)

Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it. We will not even tell you what crime you are committing. Maybe you didn't break any law, but now you're resisting arrest by verbally arguing with an officer.

try looking up ACTA sometimes... (5, Insightful)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685394)

oh, you can't. sorry about that...

Re:what I find most illumunating (3, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685580)

If I could vote in one constitutional amendment right now, it would be "No Secret Laws".

Then the courts would just declare a national security exemption. What's actually in the constitution doesn't matter, as long as the courts are willing to disregard it.

Re:what I find most illumunating (2)

Z8 (1602647) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685666)

is that we have to sue our own government in an attempt to force them to tell us about the laws they are enforcing against us. That alone indicates a huge problem with the system, regardless of the nature of the laws themselves.

Totally agree, but that may be just how messed up our system is. I think it's an example of why at least some of the money that traditionally went to newspapers was helpful. If the NY Times didn't do this I doubt there'd be a long line of bloggers and community news aggregators with the money and ability to sue the government for this information.

People just dismiss the problem and say "the press needs to adapt or die". I hope they don't just die and take with them a vital source of pressure on the government.

Re:what I find most illumunating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37686804)

This is the most transparent administration in history (cough cough)!!!!

Re:Due process (1)

Nittle (1356899) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685152)

No.
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation"

http://www.gpoaccess.gov/constitution/pdf/con016.pdf [gpoaccess.gov]

Yes it does (4, Informative)

pavon (30274) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685302)

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation

I highlighted the important part. The heart of the concept of "due process of law" is that no one will be punished until they have been declared guilty of breaking a law in a fair trial. If the meaning of a law is so vague that neither judge nor jury can reasonably ascertain who is guilty of the law and who is not, then the only fair ruling it to acquit everyone accused of it. If the Supreme Court decides that a law cannot be reasonably interpreted, then no other court in the land should attempt to do so. In this case the law is void due to being unconstitutionally vague.

Re:Due process (1)

bigtrike (904535) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685154)

Those rights only apply when there aren't big scary terrorists killing a tiny fraction of a percentage of our population.

Re:Due process (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685204)

Law student here, so take this with a grain of salt. The due process clause essentially purposes to prevent unfair service of process against people. For example, certain methods of process (i.e. serving someone), like mailing them a letter, may not be valid in certain circumstances. Due process takes into account primarily fairness in the service of process and whether the process is reasonably calculated to provide notice to the party being served.

Re:Due process (2)

icebike (68054) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685338)

Salt grain, exhausted. Please send dump truck full of salt.

Re:Due process (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685350)

Just out of interest, do you think the average legally-untrained US citizen would be able to understand what you just wrote?

Re:Due process (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685504)

He said "due process" applies only to "process servers." He's wrong, and if you don't know what a process server is, google it.

Re:Due process (1)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685388)

Just remember in law school they only teach you the government view of the law.

Re:Due process (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37686620)

BS - the government has no control over what is taught in law schools.

Re:Due process (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685576)

You're a 1L taking civ pro, right? Due process extends waaay beyond service of process. You'll deal with it more when you take criminal procedure.

Re:Due process (1)

anagama (611277) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685590)

Service of process is only one aspect of getting a fair trial and perhaps you are being tripped up by the word "process" meaning two things in different circumstances (the actual paperwork you get served with, and the actual mechanism of trial).

Here's what Cornell Law School's website has to say about due process:

THE PROMISE OF LEGALITY AND FAIR PROCEDURE

While the text of the due process clause is extremely general, the fact that it appears twice makes clear that it states a central proposition. Historically, the clause reflects the Magna Carta of Great Britain, King John's thirteenth century promise to his noblemen that he would act only in accordance with law (âoelegalityâ) and that all would receive the ordinary processes (procedures) of law. It also echoes that country's Seventeenth Century struggles for political and legal regularity, and the American colonies' strong insistence during the pre-Revolutionary period on observance of regular legal order. The requirement that government function in accordance with law is, in itself, ample basis for understanding the stress given these words. A commitment to legality is at the heart of all advanced legal systems, and the Due Process Clause often thought to embody that commitment.

The clause also promises that before depriving a citizen of life, liberty or property, government must follow fair procedures. Thus, it is not always enough for the government just to act in accordance with whatever law there may happen to be. Citizens may also be entitled to have the government observe or offer fair procedures, whether or not those procedures have been provided for in the law on the basis of which it is acting. Action denying the process that is âoedueâ would be unconstitutional. Suppose, for example, state law gives students a right to a public education, but doesn't say anything about discipline. Before the state could take that right away from a student, by expelling her for misbehavior, it would have to provide fair procedures, i.e. âoedue process.â

If you really are a law student, read it all before finals: http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/due_process [cornell.edu]

Re:Due process (1)

electron sponge (1758814) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686508)

Congratulations on finishing a year of law school. When you finally make it into the real world you'll find that service of process is something that still gets argued over quite often, and the plaintiffs often win. Of course YMMV but in New York, this great state founded upon litigiousness, we have rules good sir. Shadow corporations (which are the common defense against service) don't really fly. I suppose that's why our industry has evacuated to the Confederate States of America.

Re:Due process (1)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686676)

Law student here, so take this with a grain of salt. The due process clause essentially purposes to prevent unfair service of process against people. For example, certain methods of process (i.e. serving someone), like mailing them a letter, may not be valid in certain circumstances. Due process takes into account primarily fairness in the service of process and whether the process is reasonably calculated to provide notice to the party being served.

So you must think that its ok for the government to kill Americans without trial, since "due process" only applies to process servers. Wonder why it says "deprived of life" in there? Is there much loss of life in the process server business you think?

Constitutional Law - you fail it.

Re:Due process (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685218)

It does not. The 5th Amendment ensures that the law is carried out (and not circumvented) when the government seeks to deprive you of life, liberty, or property. The government is managing this by simply deciding (in various convenient ways) what it means to carry out the law.

IANASOCL (I am not a scholar of Constitutional law)

Re:Due process (1)

Pseudonym Authority (1591027) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686542)

IANASOCL

That's fine, Obama is. We can trust him.

Re:Due process (1)

gary_7vn (1193821) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686306)

Sorry, but those days are over. The President can order you, or any American, or anyone at all, killed. There will be no trial, there will be no charges, the process, from beginning to end, is secret. If your government can kill you, they can do anything. And if that is the case, and it is, what hope do you have that the laws they draft will be "clear and fair"? The America you seem to think you live in, no longer exists, if it ever did.

Re:Due process (1)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686614)

The 22nd catch to the constitution says they don't.

the secret lawsuits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685094)

The American legal system is so interesting to an outsider ... companies can sue you for patent infringement without telling you what patent was violated
The government can sue you based on a "secret" interpretation of the law..... if the law is secret how do I know if I have broken it? Doesn't ignorance of the law become a valid defense ?

Re:the secret lawsuits (1)

rrossman2 (844318) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685244)

whats even more crazy is some jurisdictions won't just send you a copy of the laws, but require payment "for the time and costs of producing them"... so how someone would knows the laws so they could avoid violating them if they didn't have the money to pay is beyond me.. and is wrong on so many levels

Re:the secret lawsuits (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685534)

Note, many laws are now privately written. Electrical and building codes are closely held by private organizations, but laws are passed saying "must be up to current NECA standards" without directly citing the standards. You must pay a private company profit to be able to read the laws that apply to you. IRS laws are passed faster than they could be reasonably read by a regular person. As such, knowing the law is impossible. Additionally, not knowing the law is not a defense. The system is broken.

Re:the secret lawsuits (2)

JBMcB (73720) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685276)

The American legal system is so interesting to an outsider ... companies can sue you for patent infringement without telling you what patent was violated

Not entirely true. They can serve you notice of litigation without spelling out what patent you violated, but once it gets to trial they must say exactly what parts of which patent you violated.

The government can sue you based on a "secret" interpretation of the law..... if the law is secret how do I know if I have broken it? Doesn't ignorance of the law become a valid defense ?

The laws themselves are still public knowledge. It's the governments interpretation of them that's secret. Which I think is completely bogus, but hey, a constitutional scholar is currently sitting in the white house - he must think it's kosher, right?

Anyone who watched the hearings... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685108)

...already knew that there were secret portions that included this warrantless wiretapping of basically all American telecom.

Quick, mod this down! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685118)

Simultaneously, the NYT is also reporting this [nytimes.com] .

The part that involves a naturalized citizen makes it on topic, malcontents.

What? (1)

elsurexiste (1758620) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685132)

Are you telling me US legislators don't have a clue of how the laws they passed are being interpreted?

Re:What? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685226)

They'd have to read them first, so of course not.

Re:What? (2)

trout007 (975317) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685380)

As Nancy Pelosi said we have to pass the law to find out what is in the law. I guess the new line should be you have to be charged with being a terrorist before you can find out how it is defined.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685246)

No, they have an understanding of the law as it was discussed when they passed it years ago. The executive branch gets to interpret the laws any way they see fit. That usually means the broadest possible interpretation of those laws.

Because we are all distractable sheep. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685334)

Are you telling me US legislators don't have a clue of how the laws they passed are being interpreted?

How can they?

For one things , these bills are these gigantic tomes that would take a month to read and understand.

Secondly, even if the legislators actually read the bill and understood them, if they didn't vote for the law, you'd have a bunch people saying "[said politician] is soft on terror! He want's the terrorists to win!" etc .. etc.. etc ...

And can the legislator actually explain himself? Nope. Because explanations take time, thought and reasoning with the populace - and they won't take the time. People want opinions and reasons to fit on the bottom of their TV screens or smartphone.

Then there's the lobbying by law enforcement and the spy agencies. They sold the PATRIOT Act as a means to fight terrorism and when anyone brought up slippery slopes and moral hazards, the FBI among others pooed pooed the idea and said that there were checks and balances and it couldn't happen.

They lied.

And when the PATRIOT Act, which was passed to fight terrorism and protect the safety *snicker* of US citizens is now used to track copyright infringers - like some putz copying a movie endangers our lives. I now have this horrible taste in my mouth and the thought that our Government isn't out to protect us but the interests of large corporations which for all intents and purposes are the proxies of the powerful moneyed elite.

We are not free. We vote and vote and nothing changes. Why is that? Maybe because the populace is voting for sham issues that are spoon fed us via the media while the ruling class sneaks away with gold.

Re:What? (1)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685358)

I'm telling you that most US senators probably don't have a clue about much simpler things than the laws they make.

Re:What? (2)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686310)

Harry Reid once quipped that the US doesn't have GPS like the rest of the world. He's the guy running the Senate right now.

you know, most of them don't even bother to read (1)

Lead Butthead (321013) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685426)

Most of the congress critters don't even read the bill that's being put up for a vote, assuming they bother to show up for the vote.

To be fair, most of the bills being put up for a vote are unnecessarily wordy and obscure, with six zillion unrelated amendments attached. All of which makes a very dry reading and makes layman's head spin (before exploding.)

Re:you know, most of them don't even bother to rea (1)

RobertM1968 (951074) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686516)

Most of the congress critters don't even read the bill that's being put up for a vote, assuming they bother to show up for the vote.

To be fair, most of the bills being put up for a vote are unnecessarily wordy and obscure, with six zillion unrelated amendments attached. All of which makes a very dry reading and makes layman's head spin (before exploding.)

So, all we need to do to fix this situation is force the congress critters to actually read these bills!!! Then, when their heads explode, we can replace them!

Re:you know, most of them don't even bother to rea (1)

bryan1945 (301828) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686904)

Good luck with that, we can't even get /.ers to read TFAs most of the time.

Wyden, not "Ryden" (1)

barkingcorndog (629651) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685206)

I believe Ron Wyden deserves more credit than this fictional "Ryden" character.

What blog can do this? (4, Insightful)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685232)

Unfortunately, sometimes you need a real entity with some clout in order to bring this kind of information to light. It shouldn't be the case, but it is. And I just can't see a blog having the resources to do something like this, or discovering the wiretaps a few years back, or uncovering Watergate.

Most of the time, news is nothing special... stuff happens and it gets written about - but sometimes it takes significant resources, and I just don't see any news blogs being able to muster up that kind of force. Which is why you won't be finding me cheering the death of newspapers.

Re:What blog can do this? (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685600)

Most of the time, news is nothing special... stuff happens and it gets written about - but sometimes it takes significant resources, and I just don't see any news blogs being able to muster up that kind of force. Which is why you won't be finding me cheering the death of newspapers.

This has nothing to do with "significant resources" and everything to do with significant access.

Newspaper Journalists do not have some magical ability to dig out information.
Their main superpower is the ability to protect the identity of their sources. That's it.
Everything else they do is about cultivating access to people with secrets.

As an example: Wikileaks doesn't have significant resources, all they have is a large public presence and a promise of anonymity.
People come to them

Re:What blog can do this? (1)

sootman (158191) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685658)

You beat me to it. There are some VERY HARD PROBLEMS that need solving in the news business: the cost of copying someone else's content and distributing it to the world is effectively zero; there is always "somewhere else" to get the news, probably for free; lots of people don't care about non-celebrity-related news; and the entire print publishing industry has not done very well coping with the digital world. Plus there are big problems with the media as we know it today (as evidenced in the annual "top ten stories the mainstream media didn't cover this year" that you can read in any "independent weekly" (are about as independent as Clear Channel stations anymore)) but even with that, stories like this one are EXACTLY why I hope newspapers don't die.

Not so much the physical "news on paper" part, but the trained, experienced staff who actually knows how to research things, with the resources and knowledge to do things like file lawsuits against the federal fucking government. It's like investing in academic research. Even if I never read a single newspaper or watch a single news broadcast, I would happily pay every year just to keep organizations like the NYT running, warts and all.

Re:What blog can do this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685876)

Unfortunately, sometimes you need a real entity with some clout in order to bring this kind of information to light. It shouldn't be the case, but it is. And I just can't see a blog having the resources to do something like this, or discovering the wiretaps a few years back, or uncovering Watergate.

Wasn't Watergate basically an insider selecting a journalist and dumping a pile of documents on them? (Not American)

In any case, I don't believe traditional news media (the "newspaper", perhaps in some new shape) is going to die out completely, what we are seeing at the moment is shrinking of the market, there are too many players of too low quality who are being squeezed out. In the end, some players will still be left standing but the bulk of local, small scale and vanity news will come from smaller sources.

Re:What blog can do this? (1)

slimjim8094 (941042) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686262)

Agreed on the 'shrinking' bit. There are *two* shitty papers in my 2-square-mile 7k-person hometown. They are being replaced by a hyper-local blog (which itself is big news... it was sorta the first), and that's not a bad thing. But NYT, WaPo etc aren't going anywhere, probably. And they're the ones that can break these kinds of stories, so it's probably not the end of the world just yet.

As for Watergate... yes, that's true in the broadest sense, but Woodward and Bernstein did a huge amount of research. Deep Throat essentially said "there's more to see here" and "it goes all the way up"... important tips, but not enough to get a president out of office.

Re:What blog can do this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37686766)

Headline of the story: It's the New York Times doing the suing.

and people still vote for Democrats or Republicans (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685300)

a never ending trail of privacy and rights disasters yet people are played deftly by the parties so that a perpetual state of power is maintained.

To think that even Congressmen have to jump through hoops to find out how the system works speaks loudly that the system is horribly broke. When you have a system run by lawyers looking for every little hole instead of looking for the truth or the spirit of the law you end up with lawlessness incarnate.

The best solution is to vote out the current administration and if the next does it then to vote them out in hopes someone will get the message. Even better would be to get people out from under both parties but that will require work from the state side of politics. That means finding a way to make redistricting less prone to political power plays guaranteeing elected officials stay in power.

Its means voting against incumbents in your favorite party just to get the bums out when they support abuses like this. If you cannot stomach the other side just to prove a point you have no point. Politicians do what they do because they know that they can play on hatred to stay in. We must get out those who support the Patriot act regardless of party and regardless of terms in office.

Even the OWS is being actively co-opted so that unless it serves a purpose it will get buried in the press again. Just like the tea party before it, as long as it aligns with a party it will be OK but if it strives to maintain its Independence it will be vilified in the papers with various hit pieces and the like.

Re:and people still vote for Democrats or Republic (1)

currently_awake (1248758) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685344)

Or YOU could start an alternative party (or take over an existing one), build it up to national level then take over and fix the problems. We like to make excuses for all the bad horrible things the government does but the truth is most people just don't care.

Re:and people still vote for Democrats or Republic (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686754)

Or they care, but not enough to do anything about it.

Re:and people still vote for Democrats or Republic (1)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685390)

and if we use your method we can be out of this mess in just 12 or more years.
I don't even like to wait 1/2 an hour for my pizza. Should I call another store?

Re:and people still vote for Democrats or Republic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37685474)

so you're saying I should take the chance of losing the senator/representative that brings money into my household with his continued interest in my industry, on the possibility that some no-name with no connections and no experience of politics at a national level and with shady, unknown benefactors can take power and steer the country in which direction, exactly? Towards the crazy old people fascist police state or the crazy young people anarchro-communist nanny state?

I suppose it doesn't matter, they'll be bought and paid for within a week of being voted in (if not before).

Re:and people still vote for Democrats or Republic (1)

ThorGod (456163) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686218)

No, no, what we need is a new voting system.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xeblp8_steven-brams-on-approval-voting_people

Get rid of the single vote and get rid of the two dominating parties. Simple as that.

Re:and people still vote for Democrats or Republic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37686232)

[snip]

The best solution is to vote out the current administration and if the next does it then to vote them out in hopes someone will get the message. Even better would be to get people out from under both parties but that will require work from the state side of politics. That means finding a way to make redistricting less prone to political power plays guaranteeing elected officials stay in power.

[snip]

You miss the larger issue here. As long as getting elected is dependent upon the ability to raise vast sums of money, the moneyed interests will always have their lapdogs in congress, the White House and statehouses around the county to do their bidding. The only way to get rid of the corrupting influence of the moneyed interests is to take the money out of politics.

Even if you "throw the bums out," those looking to replace them still need to raise millions of dollars to run a successful campaign (most of which goes to the media companies who are propagandizing^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H...err...reporting the news). Until such time that television time is free in equal measure for all candidates, we will be at the mercy of the moneyed interests.

gov't response (2)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685404)

We don't have to tell you. The PATRIOT act is our shield.
The Constitution is MY "patriot" act, obey it!

My prediction. (1)

WorBlux (1751716) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685614)

My prediction. It will be thrown out for lack of standing.

+1 Sad (1)

margeman2k3 (1933034) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685900)

It's a little sad that the only way to find out what the law is is to sue the government.

What if we ask really nicely? (1)

presspass (1770650) | more than 2 years ago | (#37685994)

"Senators Ron Ryden and Mark Udall have been pushing the government..."
Our representatives are "pushing the government"?

WTF!!
How about we demand to know?

Ah well, too late to work within the system and too late to shoot the bastards.

Habeas Corpus - Kill it (0)

E.I.A (2303368) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686632)

Simply suspend (or expel) Habeas Corpus and detain these annoying journalists indefinitely. File an injunction on all further inquiries and reporting, and proceed with the final few steps to an authoritarian hell. Use FAST to detect public curiosity, and send drones for them. And if you're lucky, the drones will only drop porn and Romanian spam. If that doesn't work, they can bury their heads in Mt. Weather until people stop asking why we've lost our freedoms, homes, and sense of identity all for a few trigger-happy Duck hunters (Cheney), (skull &) Bonesmen, and generals fascinated by artist's renditions (WMD - Iraq).

According to our secret interpretation (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 2 years ago | (#37686714)

We don't have to tell you that.

(Oh wait, that was too much information already; now we must kill you.)

The NY Times Fools (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37686800)

Obama will butt-fuck and kill them (NYTimes employees one and all) rather than give up power and most importantly the perception of power.

Obama will pledge to his god that he will butt-fuck every 1-yr old child on Earth to perserve his perception of power.

--

Ron Wyden (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37686986)

Please correct the spelling: Ron Wyden.
http://wyden.senate.gov

(It makes me mad here is one of the few politicians doing good things, things this community supports, and we can't spell his name right. Go Ron! You're doing a fucking good job, even if it appears they're on behalf of a bunch of nitwits. Keep up the great work.)

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>