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DOJ To Claim National Security in NSA Case

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the nice-idea-now-its-mine dept.

337

deblau writes "Wired is reporting that the federal government intends to invoke the rarely used 'State Secrets Privilege' in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class action lawsuit against AT&T. The case alleges that the telecom collaborated with the NSA's secret spying on American citizens. The State Secrets Privilege lets the executive branch step into a civil lawsuit and have it dismissed if the case might reveal information that puts national security at risk."

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337 comments

I think... (5, Insightful)

Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) | more than 7 years ago | (#15226985)

that this action by the fed pretty much confirms the EFF's claims here.

Re:I think... (-1, Troll)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 7 years ago | (#15226998)

that this action by the fed pretty much confirms the EFF's claims here.

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence or in other words what you are saying is only supposition and is not supported by the evidence. Remember don't look for the absence of evidence to prove something and now all this case is about is absence of evidence as THERE IS NO EVIDENCE for what you're implying.

Re:I think... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227013)

You're right, but the fact that the DoJ is invoking this protection is a strong indicator that they do have something to hide. Given the fairly narrow focus of the EFF claims (The NSA have wiretaps in major ISP data centers), the NSA obviously have something to fear from having to publicly defend itself against such a claim. At the very least we can surmise with some certainty that yes, the NSA probably do have some form of wiretaping program taking place on US soil, done in conjunction with US ISPs.

Re:I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227016)

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

That's right. Just because I can't see an elephant in my kitchen and can't feel an elephant in my kitchen and can't smell an elephant in my kitchen, see no reason at all to suppose that there's an elephant in my kitchen and have no reason to believe that there's an elephant in my kitchen isn't evidence that there isn't an elephant in my kitchen.

Oh wait, of course it fucking is. The ONLY evidence we have most of the time for something not being there is the complete lack of all the evidence that we'd expect to have if it was.

Re:I think... (0)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227023)

1. the NSA is not an elephant
2. the AT&T is not your kitchen

your analogy falls down flat on both of those points.

Re:I think... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227053)

your analogy falls down flat on both of those points.

What analogy? Your claim was "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". You were clearly presenting that as a general principle to support your argument. Try reading your post if you've forgotten it already. I don't need an analogy to show that a principle is not valid, by giving an example.

Do you even know what an analogy is? (0, Offtopic)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227211)

<i><blockquote>1. the NSA is not an elephant
2. the AT&T is not your kitchen

your analogy falls down flat on both of those points.</i></blockquote>

Um, if the NSA was an elephant and AT&T was his kitchen then it would cease to be an analogy, it would be an anecdote.

Re:I think... (4, Insightful)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227110)

Correction:

    1) The trainer said they brought the elephant into your kitchen.

    2) There are elephant droppings leading up to your kitchen.

    3) The elephant has a huge interest in being in your kitchen.

    4) For national security reasons, we will not let you into your kitchen, nor tell you anything about what's happening in your kitchen.

    I'd be lead to believe there's a warm cup of coffee in your microwave. Oh no, it would indicate that there's an elephant in your kitchen.

Re:I think... (1)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227114)

Just because the former employee(s?) haven't testified in court doesn't mean their testimony isn't evidence. There are, in my opinion, credible claims that the NSA is behaving exactly as accused. Interestingly enough the media isn't making a big deal over this - a truly anti-Bush mainstream press would blare on every headline "Bush's NSA comfirms wire-tapping claims are state secret" or similar.

Re:I think... (5, Insightful)

zCyl (14362) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227031)

now all this case is about is absence of evidence as THERE IS NO EVIDENCE for what you're implying.

Do you really think the federal government has the political capital to spend right now going around and covering up wiretapping that they're NOT doing?

Re:I think... (5, Interesting)

jrmcferren (935335) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227030)

I think it is in the best intrest to let the case go on. The approval rating of the administration is very low and we are talking atomic bomb low. While I voted for Bush, this issue should not be covered up. The Bush administration's approval rating will drop either way, but the effects may not be as damaging if the truth is told instead of covered up. BTW: I wish Bush was censured, spying on American Citizens is wrong without just cause.

Re:I think... (5, Interesting)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227074)

Agreed. Where there's smoke, there's fire. I hope people keep after government spying. It brought down one administration, and it can bring down another. Once it starts to unravel, we're going to find out more about the vast conspiracy that is the neo-con movement, from rigging the ballot to treason to war profiteering and on and on. It will shake the republic to its very roots. But once we excise them from the body politic and expunge their backers (the ultra-wealthy who are behind it all), we'll be a much stronger country. See, those people think they're born with the divine right of kings and think they can command the rest of us like sheep. What they fail and have ever failed to understand is that America's strength is in her people.

Re:I think... (1)

Triskele (711795) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227247)

What they fail and have ever failed to understand is that America's strength is in her people.
I wish I had your faith in the people, friend. Or perhaps to put it another way, if America's strength is in the people, then the brains directing it to their own goals is the elite.

Re:I think... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227289)

Agreed. Where there's smoke, there's fire.
I agree with you, but that same attitude is why the government is spying in the first place, and leads to paranoid trends. However they have a problem of confusing fog for smoke.

Re:I think... (-1, Flamebait)

jscheelmtsu (955511) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227304)

Oh, it's that darn "vast right-wing conspiracy" (Hillary Clinton) is it? Did it ever ONCE cross your mind that the government could actually be spying on people who need to be spied on? No, of course not, because people like you immediately think that everybody in the world is going to get along if we all smoke the peace pipe together. And you automatically assume that the government is evil, and that conservatives eat little African babies for a snack before dinner. Come on, there is no vast neo-con conspiracy going on. There are two thing tearing this country apart: politicians who think more about their constituents than their nation (i.e. Bush on illegal immigration) and the mental disorder known as liberalism. The EFF says, "big brother hates you want wants to kill you and your children and eat the leftovers," whereas conservatives realize that big brother has a job to do, and lets them do it within the confines of the Constitution. Of course, liberals hate the word 'Constitution' because they know that if the American public were to actually read and understand the Constitution, the liberal platform would literally crumble into dust. The only thing the American people need to realize is the dangerous ideals of liberalism, and the dangerous ideals of supporting your backers to the detriment of America.

Bingo (2, Insightful)

Kludge (13653) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227093)

People on /. have been complaining about the EFF filing lawsuits that they don't win. They may not win this one either, but it proves a point: The gov't is spying on a lot of us and doesn't want us to know it.

EFF Loss = New Precedents against our Civil Rights (1, Troll)

sakusha (441986) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227404)

The problem is not just that the EFF loses cases. The problem is that for every lost case, a new legal precedent is established that permanently reduces our civil rights. In this case, the EFF has given the government an opportunity to use a new legal theory, that they are immune from lawsuits to prevent illegal violations of the Fourth Amendment (i.e. illegal search and seizure) merely by invoking Executive Privilege with a National Security Letter.

With their ill-conceived, poorly planned and poorly executed lawsuit, the EFF will permanently establish that the President and the Executive Branch is above the law and can violate the Bill of Rights at their whim, and that citizens have no redress. Thanks a lot, EFF!

Re:I think... (2, Insightful)

dougsyo (84601) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227172)

I saw the government's weasel words about how their action shouldn't be construed as any confirmation. My response to the government: "If you haven't done anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide." The government tries to tell us that often enough.

I'm not a court of law, but I'm sufficiently convinced that the government's done something fishy (again) and gotten caught at it (again).

Doug

No way! (3, Funny)

Abalamahalamatandra (639919) | more than 7 years ago | (#15226986)

The Bush administration? Keeping secrets? Say it ain't so, Joe!

Re:No way! (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227026)

The Bush administration? Keeping secrets?
After looking at other democratic systems of government around the world I can't see why the USA is still stuck with a system that doesn't let the ruling party replace lame duck presidents with others. Surely after the situations where Nixon, Reagan and even some democrats couldn't get anyone to take them seriously towards the end we shouldn't be in the same situation or approaching it now?

BTW, I'm not in the USA but live in a country with a Westminster style democracy instead.

Re:No way! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227054)

Bubbles: The fact that you speak of Nixon and Reagan in the same sentence, and DO NOT mention Clinton (the impeached horndog-in-chief) demonstrates conclusively that you have no idea what you're talking about. Certainly you're not someone to be taken at all seriously.

Re:No way! (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227180)

speak of Nixon and Reagan in the same sentence, and DO NOT mention Clinton ... no idea what you're talking about ... not someone to be taken at all seriously
Like an anonymous poster for instance :)

The reason I grouped Nixon and Reagan is that each had nearly an entire term without the trust of the government, even though they were in the same party as the ruling party. I mentioned the other party so that people could find their own less obvious examples without pointless flames - but Clinton's party didn't have the numbers so the issue wasn't so simple, obvious and bipartisan (eg. no-one wanted Nixon to stay, he was a liability to his own party - so that's simple). The executive branch used to have equal power with the other branches and not the ability to behave as a monarchy that changes kings every few years - and when a President starts acting like a king even their own party will not work with them so it works to a point. The problem as I see it is how can you depose a bad king in the US system without it damaging the party in control to the point where they will lose the next election? If that can't happen then you'll never replace a President who is not facing serious criminal charges if his party is in control.

The best example I can think of for a lame duck President who should have been replaced is Wilson. Due to a stroke he was not capable of acting as President at the end of WWI but was not replaced, and a lot of bad descisions resulted. No criminal issues - just not up to the job as history tells us. Somehow the invalid Roosevelt was up to the job later on - but Wilson just couldn't do it and still served to the end of his time.

Let me be the first to ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15226991)

welcome our investigation-suppressing overlo..umph!

So they're doing it then? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15226992)

Such an action could only be seen as a flat out admission that the EFF allegations are at least as bad as they claim, and quite possibly worse. There you go, Citizens, your Government is spying on you. Now lets watch as the major media outlets all ignore the story.

The NSA defense (4, Funny)

wfberg (24378) | more than 7 years ago | (#15226995)

"In our defense, your Honor, we did it in secret so as not to get caught."

"Case dismissed!"

But if ... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227003)

If the Executive *didn't* use ATNT to spy on Americans then it is not a security matter.
If the Executive *did* use ATNT to spy on Americans then its illegal (no warrant) and legal protection doesn't apply to illegal acts.

Try it, the judge will bend over backwards to find a way to continue this case.

Re:But if ... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227063)

See, that's where you're wrong. There is legal protection that applies to illegal acts. The national security intervention throws out the case, regardless of the potential outcome of the lawsuit. It isn't meant to protect the lawbreaker, but that result is an accepted side effect of protecting the secrets which would be revealed in the lawsuit. The culprit is still on the wrong side of the law, but it doesn't matter because you can't sue him anymore. This happened in business cases as well, where the DoD plagiarized patented defense technology. The exploited companies couldn't sue because security sensitive details would have had to be revealed in the lawsuit.

Re:But if ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227088)

The point that the grandparent is making is that the security classification itself had as its primary purpose the shielding of illegal acts. "Protecting the law-breaker" isn't a side-effect, but the intended effect. In the case you're talking about, the purpose of the classification wasn't to prevent the discovery of the plagiarism, but to protect the technology being plagiarized. In this case, the informatino classified is apparently the fact that the arguably illegal actions are taking place. In such a situation, the judge *could* throw out the secrecy protection, in much the same way that a lawyer who is himself a principal in a criminal conspiracy can't use attorney-client privilege to shield the conspiracy.

Of course, he won't, as the whole system now seems to have decided to give up all its responsibilities to the chief of the executive branch, and we're all screwed. But if the judge had the cojones, he could do it.

Re:But if ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227182)

As the secrets have not yet been revealed, all you can do is speculate about the reasons why the national security privilege could be invoked. You think that it's apparent what is being protected, but you could be wrong. The secret might be the technology, not its use in this particular case. Most likely the same technology and infrastructure which is used to spy on foreign affairs would be used to spy on US citizens as well.

Re:But if ... (4, Interesting)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227107)

Irrelevant. No law supercedes the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen's right to privacy and the right to a due process warrant for search and seizure. It doesn't say "unless the President thinks it's a national security matter". The national security clause would have to be in the Constitution to be able to override this kind of suspension of Civil Rights.

Unless the Prisident is going to try to claim that he secretly declared martial law, there is no law in the land that will stop this from progressing. The best they can realistically hope for is a closed courtroom and sealed documents.

Re:But if ... (1)

AstrumPreliator (708436) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227199)

The Constitution doesn't mean anything anymore though. I mean what haven't they obliterated? And I don't just mean recently it goes back way before the current administration. State rights have been demolished, personal liberties are on their way out, Federal power is nearing absolution and the American citizenship is perfectly okay with it - or oblivious to the fact - just so long as they can watch their sports and entertainment. So many citizens don't even know what the Constitution says and public education barely even teaches it. Or if they do teach it they usually flat out lie about it. For instance when I was in 2nd grade we had these "amazing" teachers who stated the Second Amendment only applied to the military! Needless to say my father had a conniption about the entire ordeal. We're heading for some rough times there's no doubt about that.

Re:But if ... (3, Interesting)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227276)

We always have an alternative:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government [...]
The framers believed that change up to and including revolution against your government is a fundamental right. If you truly believe that the state of this Union is as bad as you suggest, exercise your unalienable rights. Or leave the nation.

"But the armed forces..."

Will be just as divided as the citizens are. During the last Civil War, the leadership of the Armed Forces divided almost evenly between the North and the South. I can name 5 generals who would not follow Mr. Bush, although they still might remain loyal.

Believe it or not, the moderate majority is beginning to get upset with our government. 70% of the nation now disagrees or is unsure of our leadership. Historically speaking, a President with less than 65% approval is considered ineffective. Mr. Bush is at 30%. Do you think the people don't see the unending corruption in the Legislature by big business and special interests? That they don't see the repeated illegal acts of the Executive and his officers, and his failure to lead the military effectively?

Re:But if ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227385)

The question this case raises is:

Do we operate under the Constitution or not?

That is, is there a declared state of emergency that makes it possible for the executive branch to at least claim that it can circumvent the Constitution?

As many others here have pointed out, the Constitution is the supreme law. No other law is even a valid law if it is unconstitutional.

So, the executive's position is either absurd, or we have something like a "dictatorship-on-demand" where we can pretend we have a Constitution until it is inconvenient for our executive branch ruler.

Re:But if ... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227224)

Ultimately I guess you're right, but the way this goes one has to fight for the right to bring lawbreakers to justice first, and only then can you have the lawsuit over the actual case. Now the EFF will have to have the national security override thrown out before they can go after AT&T. This won't be easy because national security (not the privilege itself, but its goal) is also a constitutional right, and one which is currently in high regard.

Um, are you serious?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227159)

...the judge will bend over backwards to find a way to continue this case.


The judge will bend over for the Bush Administration...or haven't you been paying attention since, oh, 2000...?

Why do you think he doesn't got to FISA? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227179)

He only gets backing from his cronies, the problem is he's stuffed the Supreme Court with cronies so he'll always win eventually. That doesn't mean that the lower judges will simply bend over backwards for him.

Look at the issue at hand, why do you think he doesn't go through FISA, it's because FISA will only give him warrants to spy on suspected terrorists, not innocent Joe Sixpack and certainly not politicians and judges. If he can't get FISA to bend enough that he has to bypass them what chance will he get the lower judges to bend.

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227203)

The reason he doesn't go that route is because he doesn't have to: they already own the people at the top of the ladder. Why dick around buying the underlings when you control their bosses?

I still don't see how state secrets applies (5, Informative)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227011)

The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (which established the FISA court) clearly and explicitely says that the US Government may not do survielance of American citizens without a warrant. I do not see how the government can assert privilege over the NSA's clearly illegal actions. (Nixon tried and failed - badly)

Re:I still don't see how state secrets applies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227035)

Totalitarian regimes usually find a way of keeping public scrutiny at bay. There are enough examples in history. Nothing new, just the same old stuff: industry controls government, everyday life gets less good, government finds an enemy, starts nationalist propaganda, tightens controls, limits civil rights. Propaganda advertising militant ideas, buzzwords are thrown around ("freedom" "free world" "democracy" are frequent in this case).

Re:I still don't see how state secrets applies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227044)

This means that the prosecution should be allowed to continue, in the UK we no longer have a right to silence, silence is now considered an admission of guilt. The government employees who made these decisions were acting outside their official mandate and should therefore be prosecuted as enemy combatants; their actions are directed against US citizens. I suggest arresting and torturing them without charge before considering a trial.

Re:I still don't see how state secrets applies (1)

Soulfarmer (607565) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227166)

Does it matter whether it is a case of illegal or legal actions when the security of the nation is close to being "compromised". Secret is a secret, even if illegal secret.

Oh well, not my head-ache, far from the continent of america.

Re:I still don't see how state secrets applies (4, Interesting)

praksys (246544) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227170)

Under the US constitution power is divided between three branches of government. The central issue in this case is whether the power to conduct this kind of surveillence falls within the powers reserved to the executive branch. If that is the case then it doesn't matter what laws congress has passed, or what they appear to say. The only way to take this power away from the executive would be to ammend the constitution.

Nixon did of course get smacked down for doing something that looks similar, but in that case the spying was strictly domestic. In spite of what everyone keeps saying about the current case, it is not domestic spying. One end of every communication intercepted is in another country, and the court that decided the Nixon case specifically noted that their ruling did not apply to international communications.

The only thing putting national security at risk (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227018)


is the Bush administration

global terrorism cases have jumped 5000% since Iraq

Re:The only thing putting national security at ris (1)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227072)

Sources please?

Re:The only thing putting national security at ris (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227113)

Even if that is gross hyperbole, the AC still has a point -- if our government hadn't screwing around with them for the past 20-odd years, they wouldn't have attacked us in the first place. Bush's policy of retaliation just pisses them off even more, and makes things worse.

Re:The only thing putting national security at ris (1)

ergo98 (9391) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227195)

Even if that is gross hyperbole, the AC still has a point -- if our government hadn't screwing around with them for the past 20-odd years, they wouldn't have attacked us in the first place. Bush's policy of retaliation just pisses them off even more, and makes things worse.

Not only is this a defeatist attitude, but it's completely baseless to boot -- you have no idea how the world would have turned out under alternate scenarios, and you're just idealizing that under a non-intervention approach everyone would be holding hands and singing songs.

In reality your approach could have led to extreme hardline overthrows of all of the Middle East, Turkey, Pakistan, extreme military hostilities with India, more violent wars between the secular Iraq and her neighbours, endless assaults on Israel, and so on.

Given that most Westerner's live a life that would earn them a stoning to death, I think it's a bit ridiculous to think that letting them in peace would make them good neighbours.

Re:The only thing putting national security at ris (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227131)

Rep. Waxman issued a Flash Report examining data released by the State Department and National Counterterrorism Center that shows that the number of reported global terrorism incidents has increased exponentially in the three years since the United States invaded Iraq--an increase of over 5,000% in the number of terrorist attacks and over 2,000% in the number of deaths in three years.
report [house.gov][pdf]

Re:The only thing putting national security at ris (1)

jcnnghm (538570) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227145)

You forgot "outside of the United States". Wasn't the whole idea to get terrorism out of this country.

Re:The only thing putting national security at ris (1)

Lokni (531043) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227374)

Wow, if you really believe that they are only spying on 'foreign nationals,' you are a sucker.

Re:The only thing putting national security at ris (1)

funkatron (912521) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227315)

It probably has since the word terrorism has been extended to mean "anything we don't agree with"

If you aren't a muslim terrorist you have nothing (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227022)

If you aren't a muslim terrorist you have nothing to worry about. If you are, you have nothing to worry about, except me biting your fucking head off like the chicken-ass you are.

Re:If you aren't a muslim terrorist you have nothi (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227075)

If you aren't a muslim terrorist you have nothing to worry about.

Unless, of course, you're a journalist investigating wrong-doing by a favored government staffer, or a politician on the other side from the party in power, or you're a member of the UN about to vote against something the current administration wants badly, or...but why go on; there are endless reasons you're wrong. You're so naive, or arrogantly stupid. I bet you listened a lot to Limbaugh, before his drug arrest.

Independent examiner (4, Interesting)

Alain Williams (2972) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227024)

So, will the US government allow this to be examined by someone completely independent who can then vouch that the government is clean ?

The examiner would, of course, be bound to secrecy other than answering the above question.

Need to get right: 1) who chooses the examiner (we don't want a gov't stooge); 2) who drafts the wording to the question to be answered.

OK: the above is a nice idea, but it won't happen - governments don't like their workings scrutinised.

Re:Independent examiner (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227041)

who chooses the examiner (we don't want a gov't stooge)
how about China?

Re:Independent examiner (4, Interesting)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227042)

"So, will the US government allow this to be examined by someone completely independent who can then vouch that the government is clean ?"

Why would they? Seriously, you're talking about the US. One of the few nations in history that can call a shot that it will invade a sovreign nation and replace its government, follow through on that threat, and face absolutely no opposition, and even come out with exactly the same alliances and trade relationships as before. Certianly no domestic rebellion or resistant military.

And you think that country should, or would, subject itself to any scrutiny from someone outside its government because....?

Re:Independent examiner (3, Insightful)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227069)

Face absolutely no opposition? What are you smoking?

Re:Independent examiner (4, Insightful)

sachmet (10423) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227357)

Who allied with Iraq to fight against the United States?

Words are one thing. Actions are another.

Re:Independent examiner (1)

CCW (125740) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227406)

Would you be talking about Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan or Iraq here?

"absolutely no opposition" isn't really accurate. minimal or token opposition is more accurate I think.

Re:Independent examiner (1)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227051)

Independent reviews don't work.

They will be led on a pony show and baffled with flashing lights, o-scopes, and spectrum analysers. Told about an infinite array of checks and balances that ensure 'bad things' could never happen. They will be spoon fed all the rhetoric they need for their final reports, then sent on their way.

I have spent a large chunk of my life working in and around the Defence Signals Directorate. I've seen it happen more than once.

Re:Independent examiner (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227080)

Well, how about inviting an inspection team from the UN? After all, that's what's been tried on pretty much everything that stinks on this world.

legal system beond repair... Time for a reinstall! (3, Insightful)

gnarlin (696263) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227029)

Seriously, when the executive branch of the government can simply come swinging in and end any lawsuit they see fit without full explenation to all involved parties (including the public) sounds like what happens in banana republics. No justice for people when they can't get their few remaining rights enforced by the courts.
There is also the constant media consert in fortissimo about how the ends justify the means, i.e. chopping off liberty for the sake of temporary safety and all that jazz. Then there is the issue of seperation of Church and state is slowly but surely being erased. Unfounded wars of aggression (arguable to some extend though I guess) and last but not least, many computer programs are being Censored.

I find it easier to make a list (ala Kill Bill) no only for what needs to be done, but to check to make sure that basic rights are being violated. Lets call this list the constitution.
Here is your assignment for today kids: Go forth unto the internet and find EXTREME cases of governmental violations of each part of the constitution and the bill of rights. Extra points for snappy quotes from goverment officials and spokespeople chanting the party line!

Me thinks it time for a bloody revolution again!
(tickets sold seperately).

Re:legal system beond repair... Time for a reinsta (4, Insightful)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227094)

"A little revolution now and then is a good thing; the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." -- Thomas Jefferson
It seems to me that the tree is looking a bit dry at the moment; perhaps we should water it now. That is why we have a 2nd Amendment, after all!

Re:legal system beond repair... Time for a reinsta (1)

Nexcis (962706) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227220)

I must say that quote got me a little choked up. I hope it doesnt come down to that but; as you say, the tree does look a tad dry.

Re:legal system beond repair... Time for a reinsta (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227188)

Has everyone forgotten the events that led to April 9, 1865 in the Appomattox Court House in Appomattox County, Virginia?

Civil rebellion. Poorly-armed and -trained volunteers. Leadership that, while exemplery and genius, was against the industrial might of an entire nation. Seizing of lands, property, wealth, and persons without due process, warrants, or a fair trial. A legacy of bloodshed, hatred, contempt, mistrust, lawlessness, and general horror that lasted beyond the shooting war to become a silent specter to this very day.

These things happened because men thought "we have the Second Amendment, we can protect ourselves from the Federal government". And those men all died in vain. Despite the insipid reasonings that led to that particular revolt and civil war, the very real facts stand that a large body of dedicated individuals attempted to simply remove themselves from the union and it ended very badly. An outright attempt to overthrow and usurp the government would likely be met with even greater violence and tyranny.

Men are fools to believe a piece of paper can service their needs. In the end humanity answers to only one law: might makes right. It is something humankind has still not clued into, and this silly Second Amendment and Constitution worshipping is a symptom of it. It's a symbolism of men and women who continually live with just-world bias in their hearts. There is no such thing as a just world.

The Federal Republic concept was tried and it failed on that cold April morning of 1865. The Federal government is simply a facade for the tyranny of the powerful, the wealthy, the strong, the cruel, the wicked, and the insane. Religions, businesses, and political parties exist to misdirect the common fool from these truths. The only self-evident truth is that man is either master or slave.

Welcome to the result of millions of years of inborn, violent, heirarchical instincts.

Yep. They do that alright (1, Insightful)

RLiegh (247921) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227032)

So we're gonna do what we all do best; bitch and moan and pretend like there's jack shit we can do about it.

Damn it, You just bummed me out (3, Insightful)

algerath (955721) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227066)

I was ready to jump in here with something insightful about democracy and voting. I then realized that we would have to convince a majority of the population to stop voting based on religion and look at issues. I don't know if that is possible anymore. Don't believe me, go hang out at a Wal-Mart for a while. Look in the parking lot at how many cars have Bush stickers and Jesus fish on them. Look at how many elected officials are pushing ID as science.

SHIT there isn't jack shit we can do about it.

Thanks for f'ing up my day

Algerath

The real question... (1)

spankaccount (971645) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227049)

The real question in this "State Secrets Privilege" issue is, what "secrets" does the State actually have... That is if you're not a conspiracy theorist.

huh? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227057)

As a Muslim American, I'm told that I should invite violations of my basic civil rights with the only probable cause being my skin color, ethnicity and religion because I shouldn't have anything to hide. Yet, when the corporations involved with the government and the government itself has lawsuits filed against it based on evidence beyond the realm of "probable cause," they can invoke some act they pulled out of their asses. How do I go about obtaining an act like this but only to protect my civil/constitutional rights? Does the "if you got nothing to hide..." line work with the government too or is FOX news going to spin it some other way for all of us?

FOX news doesn't have to spin it another way... (2, Interesting)

babbling (952366) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227217)

Does the "if you got nothing to hide..." line work with the government too or is FOX news going to spin it some other way for all of us?

Neither! It seems FOX news, along with all other major media organisations, are not going to cover this case at all. When the DOJ sued Google because "Google won't give us information about people searching for porn" that was big news. This seems like even bigger news, but strangely, it isn't in the news.

Why?

Re:huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227318)

"How do I go about obtaining an act like this but only to protect my civil/constitutional rights?"

That's a really good question, and I have a great idea!

Why don't we enshrine fundamental rights such as this in a document that everyone can agree to, and then have our government representatives and agents bound by the terms of that document, exactly as demanded by the people? Kind of a government for the people, of the people, and, uh, by the people. Don't misunderstand -- it'll only be words on paper, and only be as good as the people and actions behind it, but at least it'll be there for people to use as a reference. I suspect a document like that would be especially useful in the activities of the courts.

I know, I know, it sounds like a craaazy idea. Some people might even oppose it -- powerful people don't generally like limits being placed on their power. But bear with me. It will take alot of effort, but I think it might actually work in the long run. If we can get enough people to come on board, I think it could truly revolutionize democracy as we know it!

[posted anonymously -- these are dangerous times, and I wouldn't want monitors to think I was suggesting something seditious]

executive branch (4, Insightful)

sentientbrendan (316150) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227067)

I would like to see some serious punishment for some members of the administration after they leave office... People are talking about impeachment if the democrats get control of congress... but that seems like kind of a slap on the wrist, and would only effect bush himself.

It seems like more than anything else, what has characterized this administration is the desire for power. The wiretaps don't piss me off because I think they are unjust. They piss me off, because wiretaps without any kind of oversight seem likely to be used against the administrations political enemies. The administration has already openly abused its power to try to destroy its such enemies numerous times... they've been hunting down the people that leaked the warantless wiretapping stufff forever (didn't they find one guy?) and will probably try to bring some kind of trumped up charge against their obviously legitimate whistlebloying. Who is to say they weren't tapping democratic campaign headquarters in the 2004 election? I'm not sure that, with the character the administration has itself to have recently, that I can say that is beneath them.

At some point if the power of the executive branch isn't checked, the presidential office itself, could become a threat to the country. With the kind of power that the president has, how difficult would it be to just refuse to step down after your term was up? This president has shown no regard for the law, and a willingness to make up paper thin excuses for his abuse of power. Maybe Bush wouldn't, or couldn't take power like that, but if we set a precedent where we allow the president to break the law, and grab power like crazy all through his administration just like this one did, what's to stop someone more ambitious than him from going further in the future?

I'd like to see congress put some mechanisms in place for checking the execute branch. Specifically, I'd like whatever authority that the administration *imagines* gives them the power to do warantless wiretaps specifically removed. Power to spy on whomever it pleases the administration, without even having to tell anyone in the other branches about it, is clearly a threat to the checks and balance system. Maybe a constitutional amendment needs to be made laying out the powers of the executive branch more specifically, and limiting the power to spy on anyone without oversight from the judicial, and maybe the legislative branch.

Yes, but who passes these laws? (2, Insightful)

algerath (955721) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227077)

so far the abuse has been allowed by both other branches, in some cases abuses have been with the assistance of the other branches. Who passes laws to limit this? The people doing it.

Even if you elect people who are less abusive of the power I doubt you are going to see any elected officials vote to reduce their own power/influence.

Algerath

Re:executive branch (1)

stony3k (709718) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227089)

With the kind of power that the president has, how difficult would it be to just refuse to step down after your term was up?
Let's say there was a war with Iran going on and the President claimed that it was necessary that he remain in power to finish this war, or let's say that suddenly Osama Bin Laden was found (but not caught) and the President wanted to stay in office till Bin Laden was caught.

I can clearly see some scenarios that could be cooked up to bypass the term limits, and maybe even to bypass the elections itself. But how much support will Bush get if he decides to do this?

Re:executive branch (0, Flamebait)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227143)

Who is to say they weren't tapping democratic campaign headquarters in the 2004 election? I'm not sure that, with the character the administration has itself to have recently, that I can say that is beneath them.
Are you kidding?! I not only am sure that it's not beneath them, I wouldn't be surprised if they tampered with the vote (through Diebold) too!

These fascist assholes shouldn't be punished after they leave office, they should be removed from power now!
With the kind of power that the president has, how difficult would it be to just refuse to step down after your term was up? This president has shown no regard for the law, and a willingness to make up paper thin excuses for his abuse of power.
Mark my words: unless Bush hand-picks a successor and that successor subsequently wins the 2008 election, there will be another big terrorist attack, which will conveniently require Bush to declare Martial Law and extend his presidency beyond the two-term limit (i.e., he will declare himself a dictator).

A friend and I discussed this recently. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227226)

He believes the members of this Administration will forever go unpenalised, just as their crimes will never be investigated (genuinely investigated), a la Kennedy assassination.

OTOH I hope that one day, perhaps after we're long dead, the truth about the Bush cabal, and their crimes, 9/11, Iraq, etc, will come out.

Of course if it does, the only result will be the severe embarrassment of any surviving Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Rice/et al descendants.

What am I saying?: in America, no publicity is bad publicity. They'll probably get their own reality shows.

Sigh.

Turnabout (3, Insightful)

Odiche (513692) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227073)

"Sir, if you have nothing to hide, then you should have no objection to a full disclosure of the documents you have created and accumulated with your wiretapping activities."

"But it is in the interest of National Security that I do not perform my legal obligations, and I do not wish to tell you"

Hypocrites - A study in government responsibility.

Fast-track it. (4, Insightful)

genomicon (578786) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227084)

Whatever the trial judge decides about the DOJ motion, you can bet this gets appealed all the way up the line to SCOTUS. The claim, as asserted by DOJ, would be a clear violation of the due process clause if the government could step into any case and inhibit discovery or evidence presentation. In other cases involving sensitive material, the trial judge has the opportunity to review such material before granting or denying the motion.

It's lucky for Bush, then... (0, Flamebait)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227121)

...that he's managed to stuff the Supreme Court with dumbasses that see things his way!

just face it.. (2, Informative)

essence (812715) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227085)

...democracy is over. All the western countries are now becoming fascist. So what ya going to do about it? Write to your senator? pffft.

I pledge the fifth... (3, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227086)

It kinda sounds like the NSA equivalent, at least.

Ok, let's ponder. So it would endanger "national security" if they told that they used ATNT to spy on their own citizens. Now, those citizens are, at least if I got the system in the US right, the ones that elect the ones in power. They are the "nation". So it would endanger their security if they knew whether they've been spied on.

Ignorance is strength... where've I heard that before...

This country will be driven to the ground (2, Insightful)

thealsir (927362) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227100)

in the guise of "national security."

No. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227364)

No, it won't. It will only be driven into the ground if Americans in general allow it to be.

However, with the potent mix of FOX News and the severe lack of solid education we see in the US, you may just be right.

how times have changed (1)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227111)

Seems to me that something like this subject should have senators and congressmen pounding on podiums with veins sticking out of their foreheads denouncing those involved and making a lot of stink to oust the bastards... or maybe that was just a reality tv show I saw once.

Rarely used? (2, Insightful)

olddotter (638430) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227118)

I wish it were true, but I don't think the term "rarely used" applies to the states secrets privilege any more. Unfortunately it is used far too often, and even used when there is no state secret but the need to cover some body's hind quarters.

Perhaps it should be called the CYA privilege.

Re:Rarely used? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227366)

"I wish it were true, but I don't think the term "rarely used" applies to the states secrets privilege any more."

How do you know that?

Everybody knows nobody knows how many times state secrets are invoked because the number of times state secrets are invoked is a state secret.

Bullshit, how is does this even make sense? (2)

TheNoxx (412624) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227144)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the lawsuit is not over any government records, but those of civilians. The only aspect of this case that could be considered "national security" is the fact that the NSA and possibly other government organizations got the records from AT&T... Isn't there some statute or code that mandates relevancy? Or maybe, common sense? If they use this "privilege" in this case, couldn't they use it in any case concerning anything with the federal government?

put PGP everywhere (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227148)

It's about time to put an user-transparent version of GPG (or symmetric encryption) in about every open source project, which uses communication or stores something. I'm already wondering, why it's not included in Thunderbird by default (I know, the provided GPG plugin is one of the best available for mail systems see http://enigmail.mozdev.org/ [mozdev.org] ).

Good programs would be:

- encrypted storage for torrent files (F*** off RIAA)
- Generate and upload GPG key when you install Thunderbird by default
- Encryption for VoIP (yeah, Skype has it and it pisses of the feds)
        http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/04/voip _encryption.html [schneier.com]
        or zfone http://www.philzimmermann.com/EN/zfone/index.html [philzimmermann.com]
- GPG encryption in HTTP traffic (no more snooping on forms)
- ...

state secret clause (0, Troll)

Danathar (267989) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227153)

I find it funny how people are complaining about this particular tactic NOW. As if GW cooked it up and invented it.

I don't recall people complaining when the clinton administration used it.

Personally I think it sucks without oversight. When spewing this or that about the current administration, have some historical perspective.

Re:state secret clause (3, Interesting)

Aim Here (765712) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227218)

Erm, the allegations are based a story that entered the public domain in an NYT story in December 2005 which alleged that President Bush signed a secret order shortly after September 11th 2001 to conduct warrantless wiretaps of US citizens. This is backed up by the testimony of one Mark Klein, an AT&T tech who was approached by the NSA in 2002 to do some of the work. Clinton had absolutely nothing to do with the current allegations of illegal domestic spying. This is GWB's crime all the way.

Now I wouldn't call you a liar if you said that Clinton had perhaps done something similar sometime, but the reason people didn't complain about Clinton doing this is because there was, and AFAIK still is, no real evidence that he did so, and there was certainly no major news outlet or civil rights group making any allegations of domestic wiretapping when he was in power. If you remember, the US media jumped all over Clinton for all sorts of personal scandals when he was in power (Whitewater, Lewinsky, etc); if there wasn't an outcry over Clinton, it's because there wasn't an allegation to cry about.

Why should people complain about things that they've probably not heard of, and for which there appears to be no evidence?

Possible Justification (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227171)

Here's a scenario under which quashing the lawsuit would be a good thing.

Suppose that AT&T has been cooperating w/ NSA, this wouldn't take a great stretch of anyone's imagination. Now suppose NSA is using that access to get information on foreign diplomats and intelligence officers in the US (legally allowed) and data transiting the US or used by Al Qaeda people outside the US, such as Hotmail or GMail accounts. They could have a list of known overseas email accounts, and just watch the SMTP headers and grab them as they come by, or watch for the logins to suspecte accounts, they could even monitor the IP addresses on that SMTP or HTTP transfer to insure the email was in fact being retreived from overseas. The servers are here, but all the communications are between people outside the US, and the pipelines are an easy way to access it all, instead of having to monitor a bunch of dial-up, DSL, and DirecWay connections in the Middle East and Europe.

In this scenario, nothing illegal is going on, but for AT&T to defend itself, it would have to admit to cooperating w/ NSA, and would have to explain what traffic is being monitored, so as to prove it isn't helping monitor Americans, at least willingly or knowingly. That would definitely cause some of the bad guys to stop using US based servers, so we might lose valuable intelligence.

Who knows, but that could be a large part of it, and in that case I would have to agree w/ DoJ 100% on quashing the lawsuit.

Re:Possible Justification (1)

jaywee (542660) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227335)

It surprises me how many americans go such length to explain actions of their goverment. Reminds me of my father who grew up during Communist rule in my country. Always tries to find a "positive spin" explanation for goverment actions. Echelon anyone?

Re:Possible Justification (1)

novus ordo (843883) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227373)

they could even monitor the IP addresses on that SMTP or HTTP transfer

Wait...what was that??

Sounds like they're not denying it -- why?? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227193)

So, either they don't have such a monitoring program, but they want the terrorists to think they do, and it would compromise state secrets to reveal the fact it does not really exist, OR ...

It's exactly what people are suggesting it is, and the government is going to cover its ass with a big "state secret" stamp?

What is this? The frickin USSR?

Here's a clue: if the system had been set up via legislation, so that there was debate about its merits and it had some kind of legal legitimacy, it wouldn't be a big deal to keep the details of its implementation secret. But secretly set up something that sure sounds as if it must be violating well-established law, and of course people are going to be pissed off and demand answers to questions. They are asking now for answers and justification that should have been provided before the thing was deployed.

At least the Great Firewall of China is openly admitted to exist, and everybody already knows the government there is authoritarian. Does a Great Firewall of the USA exist? The world may never know. But if its existence and justification is not properly explained to its own people it will say much more about the current US regime than the answers to the legal questions in this case ever would.

In what kind of bizarro democracy would the government truly be better off not explaining itself? Shouldn't they dispell people's concerns about these rumors?

You have to be bold to be a lawyer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15227250)

[From the legal note]
"The President has explained that, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, he authorized the National Security Agency ("NSA") to intercept international communications into and out of the United States of persons linked to al Qaeda and affiliated organizations. See Press Conference of President Bush (Dec. 19, 2005), available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/ news/releases/2005/12/20051219-2.html [whitehouse.gov]. The purpose of these intercepts is to provide the United States with an early warning system to detect and prevent another catastrophic terrorist attack on the United States."

So, let me get this straight -- they're justifying this on the basis of the President's admission and explanation, in 2005, of a secret program that existed since 2001, and that people wouldn't have known anything about unless it had been revealed via the press. Well, I have to give the government credit for making lemonade out of lemons.

Oh, *that* secret program? Why, that's the same secret program we *already* disclosed and explained. And, as everybody knows, the explanation for that was entirely adequate.

Just in from the AP (3, Interesting)

codepunk (167897) | more than 7 years ago | (#15227307)

The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday.

And how many of these 3,501 where arrested as a terrorist? I suspect none or very , very few so how many of these where violated?
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