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U.S. Government Intervenes in EFF vs. AT&T

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the stepping-into-the-fight dept.

463

An anonymous reader writes "Reuters is reporting that the US government has 'filed a motion on Saturday to intervene and seek dismissal of a lawsuit by a civil liberties group against AT&T Inc. over a federal program to monitor U.S. communications.' More from the article: " In its motion seeking intervention, posted on the court's Web site, the government said the interests of the parties in the lawsuit "may well be in the disclosure of state secrets" in their effort to present their claims or defenses ... A hearing is scheduled for June 21 before federal Judge Vaughn Walker." You may recall a few weeks ago when the DOJ asked the judge to dismiss the case. They've now taken the next step required to quash this legal action.

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463 comments

Entire case can be summarized in one expletive. (-1, Troll)

numbski (515011) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326535)

Bullshit.

Re:Entire case can be summarized in one expletive. (1, Flamebait)

Manip (656104) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326587)

Tag: Bullshit

Then people will be able to search all these rubbish that goes on day to day by one convenient tag.

I did see this coming... But frankly am unhappy about it none the less. The funny thing is that this wouldn't reveal anything we don't already know.. All it would do is confirm facts and everyone who knows anything about politics and law should be aware that confirmed facts are a dangerous weapon.

We're from the government - we're here to help. (0, Flamebait)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326715)

Of course we should take your summary as accurate. After all, Bush himself says it's bullshit. So does his attorney general Gonzales. And Cheney says "go fuck yourself".

Rumsfeld, is that you?

I for one... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326537)

welcome our new, government-inconveniencing-case-dismissing overlords.

The is the largest government abuse (1, Funny)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326540)

Since Bill Clinton classed his penis as a state secret.

Re:The is the largest government abuse (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326692)

You were modded "-1, Didn't Worship Democrats," but I think your post is fantastic. I don't get mod points anymore, but if I had them I would flip one your way.

Re:The is the largest government abuse (1)

DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326779)

Not the moderator in question, but I'd wager it was "-1, Making Light of a Serious Issue While Not Adding Anything To The Discussion".

Re:The is the largest government abuse (1)

pHatidic (163975) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326790)

I was trying to subtly point out that the whole surveillance program started under Clinton, but everyone at the time was worried about him getting a blowjob. I guess I was a little too subtle.

Lawsuits (2, Insightful)

Smarty2120 (776415) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326544)

Lawsuits are as American as Apple Pie and Baseball.
When you can't sue anyone and everyone who has done or is doing anything you don't like, the terrorists have won.

Re:Lawsuits (-1, Troll)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326559)

No. The terrorists have won when the killed you and forced you to let them kill all the Jews, ban all the women, stone all the Hindus, and whipped all the children.

Or did you think this was a war on republicans?

Re:Lawsuits (3, Funny)

Al Dimond (792444) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326580)

Err... the problem is that if the terrorists have won by banning all women they're pretty much going to lose by default some 60 years down the road or so.

Re:Lawsuits (2, Insightful)

Watson Ladd (955755) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326657)

It's not a war. War has an end. This is tyranny. Hitler should have burned down more then the Reighstag to make a 1,000-year Riech. Because when life is more important then freedom, social standards trump letting people who love each other get listed as next-of-kin for each other, and having a little chemical fun gets punished more harshly then murder, that's what you have.

Re:Lawsuits (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326616)

Uhm.. Apple Pie is much less American than you think it is:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_pie [wikipedia.org]

So I guess Lawsuits are just as American as Baseball.
Or as we say: "Only in the USA" (when refering to this kind of things)

Re:Lawsuits (3, Funny)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326704)

Or as we in the US say: "only an insecure weenie would bother debunking a simple colloquialism being used in a humorous manner in a Slashdot post to put some weird points on an imaginary international scoreboard in a game that no one in the US is even interested in playing."

What about the other two? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326548)

Last I checked there were three suits pending on this exact issue, and the EFF suit was just one of them. Surely the executive can't brush off all of them.

Anyway I doubt they'll get their motion. While congressmen can be bought off and Supreme Court justices can be replaced, I see no reason why a normal civil court judge would roll over and abdicate his authority just because the executive branch is whining that they don't want oversight by other branches of government.

Re:What about the other two? (1)

Jason1729 (561790) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326647)

Supreme Court justices can only be replaced when they die or choose to retire. The government has no control over them once they're appointed, as it should be.

Re:What about the other two? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326712)

The government has no control over them once they're appointed That is to say, unless they covertly kill one so he could be replaced, or threaten to kill all of their family in some freakish airplane accident off of the coast... I'd guess the second option would tend to be much less obvious, and probably much more effective.

Re:What about the other two? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326732)

That's not really a problem. All you have to do is delay the judging of important issues until enough supreme court justices retire or die that you can repack the courts to be more sympathetic to you. Case in point: This very case this article is about.

In the time between the beginning of these illegal surveillance program sand the beginning of the court cases about this illegal surveillance program (i.e. now), two supreme court justices have died or retired and been replaced. By the time a court case evades the "state secrets" block, gets into the court system, concludes, gets into the appelate system, concludes there, and finally reaches the supreme court, how many more justices do you think will have been replaced by the time that happens?

judges can be impeached (4, Informative)

barutanseijin (907617) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326738)

Judges can be impeached, so it is indeed possible to replace them. I imagine it's not that easy to impeach a federal judge, but it has happened before.

Re:What about the other two? (0)

EvanED (569694) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326663)

The state secret priviledge is almost always successful. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Re:What about the other two? (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326736)

The NSA has also refused to grant investigators the needed security clearances. As such I believe at least one of the other cases has been dropped, as without access to any of the NSA's information on the subject they can't go any further. More stonewalling.

respect due coordinate branches of government... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326743)

Yup. The executive branch can commit all kinds of fraud which the courts will constitute a "political question" because they could not undertake independent resolution of the issues "without expressing lack of the respect due a coordinate branches of government." There's an enlightening discussion in US v. Stahl, 792 F.2d 1438 (9th Cir. 1986).

Re:What about the other two? (4, Interesting)

belmolis (702863) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326755)

Don't be so sure. What the government is doing is not something that the Bush administration just came up with. It is doctrine with long-standing in Anglo-American law called the State Secrets Doctrine and it has been successfully invoked in the past, including the very recent past. Only a year ago it was successfully invoked to terminate the whistleblower retaliation lawsuit by Sibel Edmonds [rcfp.org] , the former translator for the FBI who revealed incompetance and security breaches. The way it is supposed to work is that the head of the relevant agency (by law the only person who can invoke the doctrine) certifies to the court that continuation of the case would require the disclosure of information damaging to national security. The courts give great deference to such certification.

Even an advocate of open government such as myself can see reasons for having such a doctrine. Suppose that a deep cover agent of the US, who is providing critical intelligence about a hostile foreign power, cheats somebody in a business transaction. The person cheated sues. It could easily be the case that the information disclosed in the course of the suit would make the agent look suspicious. In a case like this, there would be a legitimate reason for the government to want to put a stop to the lawsuit. (One would of course expect the government to assume the financial burden for its action and compensate the injured party, but that's a different issue.)

The problem is that the doctrine relies on the truthfulness of the certification that national security would be damaged if the suit were to proceed. It assumes that he or she is telling the truth in claiming that the damage would really be to national security rather than embaressment to government officials or disclosure of their criminal activities. It also assumes that there isn't a workaround, e.g. limitations on certain evidence, requirement that evidence be seen only by attorneys with security clearance, in camera review of evidence by the judge, so that the only way to prevent the damage is putting an end to the lawsuit.

Unfortunately, it isn't safe to assume that agency heads will certify truthfully. That is particularly true of this administration. I say that not just on grounds of the unusually high levels of dishonesty and and self-serving hallucination in this administration but because we have strong reasons to believe that they have repeatedly lied about security issues. There are the bald-faced lie that the US does not countenance torture, the lies about the reasons for invading Iraq, and the laughable rationalization for warrantless surveillance. They have repeatedly made the bizarre claim that the disclosure of warrantless surveillance itself damaged national security. How could that POSSIBLY be? It told nobody anything about the US's surveillance capabilities, how it is done, or who is targetted. The only thing that was disclosed was that they are not getting warrants. As far as I can see, the only way in which this could lead to a security problem would be if the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had a leak, so that terrorist organizations were falsely assumin that they knew when they were under surveillance. The Bush administration hasn't come up with any explanation for how this disclosure could have security implications - they just yammer about it loudly and hope that nobody will notice what a crock this is.

I hope that the EFF and other plaintiffs in these suits will be able to persuade the courts to require an offer of proof from the government. Unfortunately, I am concerned that they will not succeed in this, due to the dangerous and undemocratic, but established tradition of deference the government in such cases.

Re:What about the other two? (1)

FyRE666 (263011) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326757)

The thing I find worrying with this case is that (to me at least, as someone in the UK) it seems to be of major importance, yet is not being reported on the BBC's news site. I don't watch TV, so have no idea if it's been shown there...

Open Source the Government (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326549)

EFF needs support from all of us in this action

Duuuuh! (5, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326553)

Guess what, the feds want the judges to approve their snooping and silence anyone daring to oppose it.

In a free country, the judges would give the government the proverbial finger and go ahead with the case. Let's see how it turns up in the US.

Re:Duuuuh! (3, Informative)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326596)

Guess what, the feds want the judges to approve their snooping and silence anyone daring to oppose it.

The problem is that the judges aren't even being asked to approve it. The Executive branch is just going ahead and doing it because they're afraid the Judicial branch might say "No."

In the Soviet Union.. (1)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326625)

In Soviet Union the government gives the judges the fing...... oh no wait that's the United States.

They become more and more interchangeable (2, Interesting)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326739)

The "in Soviet Russia" jokes have become obsolete. They're simply not funny anymore. "In Soviet Russia, the government monitors you", "In Soviet Russia, the products dictate the market", and so on.

The whole fun of twisting subject and object in a sentence around and placing "in Soviet Russia" in front of it is simply not funny anymore. It's true. It's where we're heading. Communism won. Slightly differently than we feared, but the result is the same.

Re:They become more and more interchangeable (4, Insightful)

Skreems (598317) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326758)

That's not communism, my friend. That's authoritarianism, fascism, blind nationalism, and religion run amock and manipulated against the people. Communism's got nothing to do with it.

Re:They become more and more interchangeable (1)

OctaviusIII (969957) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326767)

In Soviet Russia, joke's laughs at you!

Ya, fair (5, Insightful)

mikesd81 (518581) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326560)

In its motion seeking intervention, posted on the court's Web site, the government said the interests of the parties in the lawsuit "may well be in the disclosure of state secrets" in their effort to present their claims or defenses ... A hearing is scheduled for June 21 before federal Judge Vaughn Walker."

If I interpre this right...they want the case dismissed because it will discose state secrets? So it's okay to violate civil liberties and then get away with it because to defend it would hinder state security? Well what about my security? Hell what about my RIGHTS? Next to make a phone call you'll have to requisition phone time giving information like: number you're calling, receiving party, topic conversation.

Re:Ya, fair (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326603)

What about your rights? According to a recent poll at the Washington Post [washingtonpost.com] 63% of people approve of keeping phone records if it's for security.

I dunno, this all seems to remind me of some moment in history...where a small group of people were fed up with being manhandled by the government and staged a rebellion against them. Heck if I can remember what that was though... Curse me for not remebering past mistakes.

Re:Ya, fair (2, Insightful)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326705)

polls smolls. Here is my short rant on polls. They are very flawed. Telephone polls especially. Those without landlines don't get polled. They need to start sending people door to door in various regions. This will be flawed too, but I believe that telephone polls are getting more and more skewed. Of course, the president's rating has tanked, according to polls, so maybe they are on to something. I don't know. Anyone here have expertise with polling? What is the non-response error for a typical telephone poll? A face to face poll? A mail poll? Shouldn't those who poll use combination of all three (or more techniques)?

My guess, is that like everything else, cost cutting is preventing accurate polling. It costs money to poll. I'm sure that telephone polls are the cheapest. Maybe they can just make a magic 8 ball with poll numbers in it.

Re:Ya, fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326753)

Pollster: Would you mind if the government was recording this conversation?

Citizen: Ummm.... no?

Re:Ya, fair (5, Insightful)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326687)

its odd that a state secret can be known/shared by a non-state organization that has no special security clearance AFAIK. And several of them...

Hopefully this will be laughed out of court like so many others.

Just highlights the fact that the fight for freedom never ends. the CIA would act like the KGB if they could. Same with any other government entity.

Re:Ya, fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326775)

You don't get rights, citizen. Your rights are what the Gov says it is.

To get whatever you want, just play the terrorism game.

Gov: "Gimme your records for the past year on citizen #xxx"
Public: "WTF you can't do that!"
Gov: "It's to find terrorists and protect you."
Public: "Oh ok. Should have said that in the first place! Here you go!"
Gov: "Now gimme your money"
Public: "WTF no!"
Gov: "Does who don't give us what we want are terrorists, you're not a terrorist are you?"
Public: "..."

Re:Ya, fair (1)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326798)

That's OK, I wasn't using my civil rights anyway. I'm content to live as a slave, JUST LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE in the USA. It's either that, or have a rotten time crying about my lost rights, only to wind up at the wrong end of a firing squad someday.

I've made my choice. I'm with George Bush and Ann Coulter. The steak is yummay.

If the case is dismissed or otherwise rolled under (5, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326573)

the carpet, that will be exactly when the citizens of the US will know that big brother is watching, and Mr. Orwell was right. Its time for all US citizens (and now EU citizens) to make such matters of privacy a voter issue. Ask your current representatives how they stand on such issues, ask all prospective candidates, and then vote with your privacy in mind on the upcoming, and every subsequent election.

If you are not sure how to find out some of that information, go to eff.org

Re:If the case is dismissed or otherwise rolled un (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326643)

Sounds great except both parties candidates support this shit. What then? Welcome to the two party system.

Re:If the case is dismissed or otherwise rolled un (2, Informative)

WhatAmIDoingHere (742870) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326680)

So vote for a third party, duh.

Re:If the case is dismissed or otherwise rolled un (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326717)

Coulda swore we were talking about reality here. No problem then! Vote for the Good Guys party and everthing will be ok. Then we can all just sit and laugh at the antics of those previous maroons.

Might be some good here? (-1, Troll)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326577)

Just curious, but has anyone thought that our own government might not be the bad guys here? That they might actually be trying to use these records to rapidly roll up terrorist groups after a initial attack instead of having to arrest 5000+ in the aftermath of 9/11? Maybe that they are legitimately trying to build in a system that allows them to protect Americans?

Anyone think that maybe there might be good and legitimate reasons for this system? I know that I am about to taste the wrath of /. for daring to question the mindthink, but there is a role for government here to actually analyze and stop terrorist attacks, preferabley before they kill Americans.

We have a intelligence committee in the congress for a reason. They have a job to do to oversee this. I am sure the self-important judiciary committee will get into this as well. Involving some random judge who doesn't have security clerence and special interst groups (who I tend to agree with) when they are not my elected representatives may not be the best thing here. We live in a representitive democracy, let's work through the correct channels there.

Re:Might be some good here? (4, Insightful)

mcc (14761) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326593)

Anyone think that maybe there might be good and legitimate reasons for this system?

No. If there were good and legitimate reasons, they would have simply obtained warrants.

Re:Might be some good here? (5, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326611)

Just curious, but has anyone thought that our own government might not be the bad guys here?

Look, the idea of keeping the government in check by due process of law and constitutional guardrails is that, if it is bad, it doesn't do extreme damage, like turn into a dictatorship. When it's good, then of course it's hindered in its ability to serve citizens quickly and efficiently, but that's the price to pay.

Oh and yes, here's a hint: a good government is so rare you haven't seen one in your lifetime anywhere in the world.

Re:Might be some good here? (-1, Flamebait)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326631)

I agree that Republicanism is the worst form of government, except for all the others. But we still have to make trade offs for security. We do have to understand how terrorism actually works. So far I have yet to see anyone prosecuted soley because of a illegal warrant, or wiretap without authorization. Now that the administration backtracked on Padilla, we won't see it happen, because no judge would move forward on a case without the standard set of warrants etc.

I am glad people are concerned about these issues. But there does need to be some avenue for the government to actually have a functioning intelligence system. Warrents are for criminal prosecution. This is about foreign intelligence.

Re:Might be some good here? (3, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326668)

I agree that Republicanism is the worst form of government, except for all the others. But we still have to make trade offs for security.

No we don't, that's my point: when you make tradeoffs, you open the door to tyranny. Dictatorships almost invariably start by some powerful ruler using some strikingly frightening event to declare that "special rules" must be enacted to fight whomever did the deed, and planting enough fear in people's minds so that they accept making the tradeoffs. Once that's done, they can use the special rules to enact some more special rules, etc..., until the country is a dictatorship.

Re:Might be some good here? (0, Troll)

shmlco (594907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326796)

And the most interesting aspect of the "war" on terrorism is that it can never be won. And as such can be used to justify these excesses for as long as the state of 'emergency" exists.

BTW, I'd be prepared to see the number of increased "threat" levels rise as we get closer and closer to the mid-term elections. The government, after all, has to remind us of why we need it.

Re:Might be some good here? (1, Insightful)

sconeu (64226) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326719)

But we still have to make trade offs for security.

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. -- Benjamin Franklin

Re:Might be some good here? (5, Informative)

Kythe (4779) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326729)

But there does need to be some avenue for the government to actually have a functioning intelligence system. Warrents are for criminal prosecution. This is about foreign intelligence.

I think this displays a serious misunderstanding about the law and the way our system works.

The warrants in question are obtained from a court that is explicitly designed to deal with foreign intelligence, called the "Foreign Intelligence Survellience Court". The law in question is called the "Foreign Intelligence Survellience Act" (FISA). They were set up expressly for the purpose of dealing with foreign intelligence issues and the wiretaps necessary to carry out intelligence gathering.

No objection has been put forth that the current law cannot deal with. The one thing that the law wouldn't allow for is abuse of the system. In other words, the fact that they're avoiding the law and the system strongly implies that it's being abused.

The FISA system has been in place for three decades, and has dealt with tens of thousands of wiretap requests quite successfully. And because the "foreign intelligence" apparatus can be abused to harm Americans, that system provides oversight and a check.

Seriously, the arguments you're making could just as easily be used to justify putting cameras and microphones in everyone's houses.

Re:Might be some good here? (2, Insightful)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326763)

I agree that Republicanism is the worst form of government, except for all the others.

What the fuck is Republicanism? Republican is a political party, and I can think of a lot of things that are better than the Neocon dream, a representative democracy with a weak executive branch being one of them.

This country would be a whole lot better if our electorate were informed.

Re:Might be some good here? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326612)

If you're going to ask us to work through the correct channels here, then can we at least require the rest of the government to operate via the correct channels, too? That's the main problem people have here. It's not necessarily the actions that they're taking (though some argue that, too), it's how they're going about doing it.

Re:Might be some good here? (-1, Flamebait)

tenchiken (22661) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326644)

Warrent's are the correct channel for criminal prosecution. But Al Qaeda is not a criminal organization, they are a terrorist organization. The US does not have the means to prosecute a criminal globally except in a few rare circumstances. Hence we need mechanisms for intelligence that are governed differently (note not laxer, just targeted around intelligence)

Re:Might be some good here? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326707)

Then they should prepare some legislation detailing how to deal with it. Instead they've chosen to ignore any and all rules that were in place. And before you say, "But it would take them too long to prepare new legislation," remember how quickly they put the PATRIOT ACT together...

Re:Might be some good here? (1)

johnny cashed (590023) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326746)

Are you kidding? They got the PATRIOT act out of Hitler's bunker. They just had to freshen it up a little. Hitler didn't have email.

Re:Might be some good here? (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326776)

Then they should prepare some legislation detailing how to deal with it.

You mean like some sort of fireign intelligence surveillance act?

remember how quickly they put the PATRIOT ACT together...

A year or more, as I recall. They were just waiting for a chance to get it passed, and 9/11 was the perfect opportunity.

I do not think that was the word you wanted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326622)

I know that I am about to taste the wrath of /. for daring to question the mindthink

I think that this is the most telling typo I have ever seen on Slashdot.

That's not the problem (5, Insightful)

Kythe (4779) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326624)

Anyone think that maybe there might be good and legitimate reasons for this system?

Of course! Good Lord, man, no one I know has any problem with going after terrorists.

The problem here isn't that the system can be used to nail the bad guys. The problem is that there is absolutely no oversight, and it violates the law. Worse, any attempts to apply oversight have been shut down. If the system isn't being abused, then what the hell is all that about?

Our system of government is predicated on the notion that power inevitably corrupts. This system involves a lot of people, and the idea that absolutely all of them are uncorruptable is absurd.

On this very site as we type, it's reported that the U.S. Government is in negotiations to obtain the same sort of private information from European countries. Quite likely, that sharing will go both ways. Furthermore, media companies are closer than you'd like to getting access to that data, too, in order to "fight piracy". Other companies can't be far behind. Are we to believe that everyone who will eventually have access to our private communications without oversight will be on the up-and-up?

It is the potential for abuse that is the problem. And the fact that this administration has actively resisted any attempt to apply checks and balances in order to prevent abuse is extremely troubling.

Re:Might be some good here? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326629)

Just curious, but has anyone thought that the average slashdotter might not be wrong here? That there might actually be reason to worry that these records could be used for things other than to rapidly roll up terrorist groups after a initial attack instead of having to arrest 5000+ in the aftermath of 9/11? That maybe they are legitimately concerned about protecting a system that allows them to dissent?

Re:Might be some good here? (5, Insightful)

BalanceOfJudgement (962905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326640)

As my moniker suggests, I prefer a balanced judgement to a dogmatic one. Interestingly, in this particular case, a balanced judgement doesn't answer your question with "Yes" or "No."

Rather, I take this approach.

Assertion: The government is not the bad guys
Conclusion: It is ok to violate our rights if it's for a good cause.

I would think that the above conclusion seems nonsensical. If we accept that the current administration's plans don't include Big Brother-like control over the American public (a proposal that to some, might seem unrealistic, but I am willing to accept it for the sake of argument), that still leaves the question of whether it is RIGHT to be carrying out these surveillance programs.

The ends almost NEVER justify the means; a superior stating of this adage is the following:

"It is never a question of whether the ends justify the means; the means make the end."

In this case, the means being used are possible encroachments on the civil rights of American citizens. Acceptance of that kind of program can only have one end: surveillance of American citizens themselves.

That is not a power I want my government to have, regardless of how "safe" it might make the country. I am not willing to give up my fundamental rights for the ethereal promise of safety.

The US government is and always was, accountable to the American people. The system of checks and balances was put in place so that the no single branch of government could have enough power to destroy the rights of American citizens; the belief was that if one branch acted improperly, at least one of the others could kick them back in line.

What President Bush is attempting to do is tantamount to suppression of the system of checks and balances put into place specifically to protect us from government abuse.

And I leave you with one final question:

If what Bush has approved is so upstanding and legal, why should he fear a legal challenge? I, for one, would like another branch of government besides President Bush to tell me that my freedoms are not being violated, not because I think President Bush is lying, but because that's what the other branches are there for in the first place. And a healthy dose of suspicion of the government is very necessary to a free democracy; that is the only way a society remains free.

Re:Might be some good here? (1)

cazbar (582875) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326793)

This is working through the correct channels. They are not suing the Bush adminstration for constitutional violations, therefore congress does not need to be involved. They are suing AT&T for violating a federal law that is supposed to protect the privacy of their customers.

If the NSA has probable cause to get the phone records of a specific person, they can easily get a warrant in very little time. If they don't have probable cause, then they shouldn't be wasting their resources on that person.

And if you think the NSA's actions are prefectly legal, you need to read this [thinkprogress.org] .

If the monitoring of phone communications by the government is allowed, it definitely will be abused for political reasons. Neither republicans nor democrats have a squeaky clean record in terms of abuse of government security precautions. Since 9/11, many of the leaders of the lesser political parties have been flagged at airports as possible security risks. They weren't flagged because they were threatening, but because of their political positions.

If the president can't do his job without violating the rules of due process, he should step down and let somebody more competent do the job. The president's first priority should be to protect our freedoms. His second priority should be to keep us safe. Not the other way around.

This is not the truth you're seeking (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326581)

Gov: This is not the truth you're seeking. <waves hand>
Judge: This is not the truth we're seeking.
Gov: Dismiss the case. <waves hand>
Judge: Case dismissed.

The actions of a dictatorship (5, Interesting)

BalanceOfJudgement (962905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326588)

Only a dictatorship would take steps to prevent anyone from knowing if their rights were being violated.

If Mr. Bush is so sure of his assertion that nobody's rights are being trampled and that all of his Executive Orders approving these actions are legal, then he shouldn't be afraid for these actions to face the rule of law.

But then, the administration knows full well that none of this will stand up to a legal challenge.

You are witnessing the actions of a dictatorial administration consumed with the belief in its own superiority and its own place above the law. Bush believes that as President, he can do anything he wants without regard to the law; he believes himself to be invinceable.

Unfortunately, as Congress and the courts stand now, he's right.

Re:The actions of a dictatorship (2, Insightful)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326636)

Only a dictatorship would take steps to prevent anyone from knowing if their rights were being violated.

Because you had any doubts before writing this?

Quite frankly, with the way the constitution is being used as toilet paper, and the imperialistic ways the US is behaving with abroad, I really think the United States is quite comparable to 1933 Gernamy. This has been going on for a very long time, since the end of WW2 in fact, but I think it's now that we're seeing America turn into a full-blown dictatorship. The signs are everywhere, but people don't react... like in 1933 Germany.

Re:The actions of a dictatorship (1)

BalanceOfJudgement (962905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326682)

No, I didn't really have any doubt. I've known this was coming for a very long time, long before 9/11 ever happened.

But, I have a relatively high bar for when I finally declare someone or something "unsalvageable," because I try my damndest to be fair. This is so that when the reaper comes knocking, I can say I gave everyone a fair chance and did not jump to conclusions.

I have only, once in my life, ever been wrong in a suspicion; but because I was wrong once, I make sure to be very patient to always be as correct as I can be.

Alas, the current state of the United States is just about a millimeter under my bar. Won't take long for this country to cross it.

And then what am I going to do? Haven't really decided yet. That 2nd Amendment is become more and more relevant, though..

Re:The actions of a dictatorship (5, Insightful)

whathappenedtomonday (581634) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326699)

I feel an urge to repost this.

The 14 Defining Characteristics Of Fascism by Dr. Lawrence Britt

Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14-defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism - Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
4. Supremacy of the Military - Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
5. Rampant Sexism - The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
6. Controlled Mass Media - Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
7. Obsession with National Security - Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined - Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
9. Corporate Power is Protected - The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
10. Labor Power is Suppressed - Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts - Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment - Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption - Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
14. Fraudulent Elections - Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

The 7 conditions (Warning signs) that foster & fuel fascism

Instability of capitalist relationships or markets
The existence of considerable declassed social elements
The stripping of rights and wealth focused upon a specific segment of the population, specifically the middle class and intellectuals within urban areas as this the group with the means, intelligence and ability to stop fascism if given the opportunity.
Discontent among the rural lower middle class (clerks, secretaries, white collar labor). Consistent discontent among the general middle and lower middle classes against the oppressing upper-classes (haves vs have-nots).
Hate: Pronounced, perpetuated and accepted public disdain of a specific group defined by race, origin, theology or association.
Greed: The motivator of fascism, which is generally associated with land, space or scarce resources in the possession of those being oppressed.
Organized Propaganda:
a) The creation of social mythology that venerates (creates saints of) one element of society while concurrently vilifying (dehumanizing) another element of the population through misinformation, misdirection and the obscuring of factual matter through removal, destruction or social humiliation, (name-calling, false accusations, belittling and threats).
b) The squelching of public debate not agreeing with the popular agenda via slander, libel, threats, theft, destruction, historical revisionism and social humiliation. Journalists in particular are terrorized if they attempt to publish stories contrary to the agenda.

Re:The actions of a dictatorship (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326778)

Hey! Can I put that in my sig?

Re:The actions of a dictatorship (0)

Peden (753161) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326714)

I hereby call Goodwin's law:
http://members.tripod.com/~goodwin_2/law.html [tripod.com]

Re:The actions of a dictatorship (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326735)

I hereby call you an ignorant and willfully blind fuckwit.

Re:The actions of a dictatorship (1)

Taevin (850923) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326749)

I believe the correct term is Godwin's Law [wikipedia.org] .

What an enlightened system (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326598)

Government tells government's courts that it didn't break the law. Government agrees. Film at 11.

Re:What an enlightened system (1)

Julian Morrison (5575) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326769)

It echoes the usual anarchist objection to government. You want a government to protect you? But from whom? Isn't the government itself the biggest and most common aggressor? How can it possibly protect you against itself? Even the most high minded attempt to wall off the judiciary will fail; after all, who's paying their salary?

This anarchist says: anyone who gives it some thought will recognise that law is separate from government, and that law came first. Government wants to control the courts in order to pick and choose which parts of the law they have to obey. Only private courts can deliver honest law.

Time to make these voting issues (4, Insightful)

pbailey (225135) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326623)

I'm not an American, so this is just my $0.02, but to those of you that are, your government seems to be taking away more and more of your civil liberties. America is supposed to be the land of the free, etc. etc. I think it is time that American government representatives were reminded of this - specially with elections coming up. They will do anything to remain in power. If you all tell them you are not going to put up with this kind of BS, then maybe they will stand up for you.

If everyone is silent, one day it will be too late. Speak up in unison to keep rights you have fought for over the past 200+ years. You know what they say - use em or lose em!

Good Luck!

Watergate (1)

moofdaddy (570503) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326638)

This is starting to smell awfully similiar to the early days of the Watergate investigation

Re:Watergate (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326731)

Just *exactly* what I was going to post. What secrets are behind the closed doors? Spying on who, what, when? Are some plumbers working as part of the NSA setup - doing a bit of spare time rat fucking to ensure that they keep things going their way?

Re:Watergate (1)

heinousjay (683506) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326745)

I'd be interested to hear how. I certainly see parallels between Bush and Nixon, but only the coverup aspects ofd Watergate bear any similarity in my eyes. For that matter, so do Clinton's prevarications regarding his oral habits. I think it's superficial, which is to say, there really aren't any applicable lessons that can be learned.

Fuck. (4, Insightful)

RyanFenton (230700) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326642)

When the judicial system is being asked by an agency to not permit itself to look into a subject, you know there is something VERY wrong with this government's actions.

Even if this were really the most effective way of rooting out terrorist actions, the fact that they seem to feel they have to shield themselves from judicial inquiry breaks the accountability of such a system. Are judges and juries too dangerous for our security network now? Are constitutional protections now too restrictive for our intellgence needs?

Do we really need an unnacountable set of parasites feeding on our basic rights in order to protect us from an invisible set of enemies now? If so, does the debate about if we need these things need to be outside public consideration?

Re:Fuck. (1)

shmlco (594907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326768)

Sorry, but the word "accountability" is not in the current administration's dictionary.

Worried? (1)

nbannerman (974715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326651)

As a non-US resident, I have to wonder exactly what press this is getting in more mainstream media outlets. Can a US-based person give me an idea of what kind of reponse this decision is being met with beyond the internet? Hell, is it getting any response at all?

Re:Worried? (1)

ocelotbob (173602) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326737)

It's in a significant number of the daily papers; hell, USA Today, which is pretty much the most pulp of the big dailies, is even all over this story. Newsweek is giving extensive coverage of the issue. There's a lot of people who are indifferent, but a considerable number who are quite pissed off about the issue.

Re:Worried? (1)

Mikachu (972457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326747)

I'm worried. I haven't seen anything on MSNBC.com, CNN.com... I don't see this story anywhere. Slashdot is the only place I've been able to find it without literally searching it.

Re:Worried? (1)

Bagels (676159) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326773)

It's made headlines in my local newspaper, the Portland Press Herald, two days running. I do find it disturbing that you have to scrounge the fine print of the politics section on CNN to find it, though; it should certainly come before articles like "the most popular baby names," which is currently amongst their front-page articles.

Another win for freedom, George Bush style! (1)

QCompson (675963) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326661)

There have been quite a few news happenings in the past week about increasing restrictions on American's privacy rights in order to be a little safer from terrorism (and by terrorism, I mean drugs and crime and dissidents in general, as well as people blowing up stuff). We must be really, really safe now! Props to the all-powerful executive branch and the rubber-stamp congress.

Re:Another win for freedom, George Bush style! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326722)

Remember what they said. Terrorists attacked the WTC and the Pentagon on 9/11 because they hated our freedom.

Should have thought of that before breaking law... (1)

Jason Straight (58248) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326666)

This is bullshit that the reason they claim they can't take it to court is because of secrets, they should have thought of the consequences before breaking the law.

only for national security? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326684)

The Valerie Plame incident was only the most recent reminder that there will be those in the Administration who will exploit their access to confidential information for political purposes. People get drunk with power, they come to think that their mission justifies all sorts of illegal and secretive behavior.

Suppose there are rumors that a member of the opposition party in Congress visits a psychiatrist, or that one of their wealthy contributors has a drug habit? I certainly wouldn't put it past a small group operating out of the Vice President's office (say for a purely hypothetical example) to conduct research and leak selected results to the press.

The Administration proclaims this database is being used very narrowly, strictly for going after "the bad guys" (America's enemies), but unless they describe the design of the program in detail, how can we be confident that that is the case, now and in the future?

Re:only for national security? (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326721)

Are U saying Stephen Colbert would have an "accident", or that the IRS would find discrepancies in his tax records?

Re:only for national security? (1)

BalanceOfJudgement (962905) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326801)

You laugh now...

Let's wait and see what happens in a year. Gotta give those NSA guys a FEW months to dig up some dirt on him.

The 4th Ammendment (5, Insightful)

ecorona (953223) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326697)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. People died for these rights. Human beings had to say goodbye to their girlfriends, wives, parents, and children forever in order to go die a likely horribly painful death. They did this because they believed there was some value in these rights. They sacrificed themselves so that the majority of us would, in privlige, enjoy the benefits of their sacrifice. Today, in this day and age and by not caring, we as a people are telling those TRUE patriots "You can take your sacrifice and shove it up your ass." Ironically, liberty and freedom are being attacked by the same people claiming to be inspired by it.

Justice Douglas on the Topic (1)

michaelaiello (841620) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326703)

Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order, to efficiency of operation, to scientific advancement and the like. -Justice William O. Douglas

Where are you now, assholes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15326709)

You know, you clowns who always say, "If you haven't done anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about."

It sounds like the government wants to know my business without me knowing their business. THAT'S EXACTLY BACKWARDS of how this country is supposed to be.

I Do Not Care (-1, Flamebait)

Quinn (4474) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326742)

The Constitution gives me free speech and guns, but not privacy. Scrape my DNA, fingerprint my dog, tap my bloody wires -- I do not care. Information wants to be free, right? Aren't people always complaining that the government never listens to them? Now they are, and you're still upset? Afraid Bush will snicker at your expressing your hatred of Walmart while you're lounging on your Ikea bench in your Aberzombie and Flinch underoos?

If you don't want someone to hear you, then whisper.

Or just shut up.

Last I knew.. (1)

SocialEngineer (673690) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326762)

last I knew, when the police collected evidence illegally, and knowingly, the evidence was thrown out. Too bad the courts will probably let it slide for the sake of our great nation, and it's apathetic people.

Checks and Balances (2, Insightful)

ayounge (906996) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326764)

Our system of government is founded on the basis of checks and balances. Each branch of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) all have ways to balance out the other branches.

This motion to dismiss the case goes against the very idea of having checks and balances, and if anything the motion itself is unconstitutional. I hope we (the American public) do not allow for this to occur. I hope this issue continues to gain media coverage, because it has the makings to be a very hot political issue. Something needs to be done to make sure this case gets heard.

One idea i have is to simply boycott of AT&T, Verizon, and Bellsouth. Corporations need to understand that they cannot sell out their customers, either to nasty spammers of the US government, without serious repercussions. Someone needs to picks up this idea and runs with it, because it will send the message home. Convince people to switch to other telco companies that did not participate in this such as Quest, or better get make the move to encrypted VOIP.

Re:Checks and Balances (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326792)

One idea i have is to simply boycott of AT&T, Verizon, and Bellsouth.

How can one do so in areas where Verizon is the local telephone company? Do you think Internet telephony (Vonage, etc.) is mature enough for this?

Won't Matter if They Do Dismiss It (3, Interesting)

Master of Transhuman (597628) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326777)


Because the US is attacking Iran in the next one to five months - before the fall elections.

Two aircraft carriers are moving through the Pacific to join a third already in the Gulf as we speak.

The US is running Kurdish and Iranian dissident groups on incursions into Iran, to stimulate Iranian incursions into Iraq. The Turks are severely upset, having massed 250,000 troops on the Turkey side of the Iraq border.

Once the Iran war launches, it will "bomb" all other concerns off the front pages - including the Republican bribery scandals, the CIA agent leaking, the wreck of the US intelligence services by Bush, etc., ad nauseum.

The end result of the attacks on Iran will be a ten-year guerrilla war two to four times as big and damaging to the US as Vietnam.

By this time in 2008, even Karl Rove will be demanding Bush's impeachment - oh, wait, Karl's being indicted this week (he told the President so last week and AG Gonzales went into the courthouse Friday to hear the indictment.)

So forget the spying on US citizens.

By the way, the Narus company that builds the hardware referenced in the EFF case is run by an "Israeli immigrant" (read: Mossad) - and one of the the directors is a former NSA guy.

Anything more you want to know?

Better learn to welcome your new Bush overlord...cause he already knows if you don't approve.

STASItastic (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#15326785)

Bush is nominating Hayden to direct the CIA. Even though Hayden broke the law by spying on us, saying the 4th Amendment doesn't require probable cause [editorandpublisher.com] . It does.

So Bush's government is derailing justice to protect his compiling vast complex databases [arstechnica.com] of our private communications. In the hands of Iran/Contra conspirators.

After Bush's Justice Department agreed to drop their in-house investigation [google.com] into Bush's NSA wiretap spying because Bush's NSA told them they didn't have security clearance, these lawsuits are the main obstacle to Bush spying on you as much as he can, taxpaid by you.

Next week, NSA whistleblower Chris Strom will reveal to the Senate how the NSA domestic spying goes even further [dailykos.com] than these latest exposures (despite Bush denial at every step). Probably spying on us with our satellites, which they scare us into paying for as part of that useless $BILLION Star Wars missile shield.

Feel safer?
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