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Government May Help Bells Defend Against Wiretap Suits

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the keeping-the-ducks-in-a-row dept.

315

Carl Bialik from WSJ writes "As lawsuits mount against phone companies from plaintiffs who allege their call records were handed over to the National Security Agency illegally, the companies' defense may get help from the U.S. government, the Wall Street Journal reports. From the article: 'The plaintiffs, who accuse Bell phone companies of privacy violations and are seeking billions of dollars in damages, would need to delve into the depths of the NSA's surveillance program to make their cases. But the government considers such information top secret, and legal experts expect the Bush administration to assert the "state secrets" privilege in the 20 or more lawsuits filed by privacy advocates in recent weeks. If judges accept the claim, as has been the case in nearly every instance in which it has been asserted since the early 1950s, the suits will dissolve.'"

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Nothing for you to see here. Please move along. (-1)

Megaweapon (25185) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456068)

The "state secrets" must apply to Slashdot as well...

Proposed Strategy (4, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456073)

The information itself may be classified but the fact of whether or not they collected it shouldn't be.

Why don't they ask the director of the NSA, Michael V. Hayden, whether or not their information was collected? They don't need the classified records, just to have him swear under oath (after checking appropriate databases) whether or not AT&T gave it to the NSA.

I would think a simple "yes" or "no" answer would be enough evidence and also keep the classified information concealed.

Re:Proposed Strategy (3, Insightful)

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456150)

Personally, if he answered "no", I'm afraid that wouldn't be good enough for me.

He Could Lie (2, Insightful)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456194)

Personally, if he answered "no", I'm afraid that wouldn't be good enough for me.
He could lie but you have to remember that there are people in the NSA with an axe to grind.

He could get up there and contemplate lying. But what if he lied and the information was leaked from the NSA or released after his death that the collections did occur?

Hayden is an important man. Important men (when intelligent enough) are constantly worried about how history sees them after they die. I would wager that his fear of the public finding out that he lied to his country, defied justice and decieved the very people he swore to serve would be a greater weight than the importance of covering up a breach of privacy on that same populace.

Re:He Could Lie (2, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456278)

No they aren't. Important men are concerned with maintaining their power/money/influence. While a few are megalomaniacs, most don't give a shit about history. As such, they'll lie in a second if they think they can get away with it and the lie will help them. Hell, Bush lied about WMDs and started a war over it, you don't think Hayden will lie over a few wiretaps?

Re:He Could Lie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456507)

"The number of times [the Patriot Act library records provision] has been used to date is zero." - John Ashcroft, 2002.

Re:He Could Lie (1)

diersing (679767) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456638)

How important could he be if I learned his name from your /. post? We're not talking about a President or Prime Minister, he's a department head and department heads are most concerned with being burned at the stake to protect their masters.

Truth is, it doesn't matter a bit how he answers, a court needs evidence - evidence it DID happen or evidence it DID NOT happen. I realize witness testimony is evidence, but we're dealing with a conflict of interest (see Lay, Ken testimony pertaining to Enron).

By being forthright and offering whatever it is (allegedly) captured, show it to the court - if you're worried about state secrets, make the court swear an oath & seal the records. That way, no one with an "ax to grind" can influence - documents and logs don't have an ax.

Re:Proposed Strategy (3, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456154)

Why don't they ask the director of the NSA, Michael V. Hayden, whether or not their information was collected? They don't need the classified records, just to have him swear under oath (after checking appropriate databases) whether or not AT&T gave it to the NSA.

The NSA wouldn't be willing to do this because part of ensuring the efficacy of its interception capabilities is making no public comment whatsoever. See Bamford's The Puzzle Palace [amazon.com] and Body of Secrets [amazon.com] for a layman's introduction to why keeping one's mouth totally shut is the only way to defend SIGINT gathering.

Re:Proposed Strategy (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456415)

Intelligence is kind of like encryption. Excluding things like infiltration, if it only works because it's super-sekrit, it's probably not working anyway.

Re:Proposed Strategy (2, Insightful)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456157)

FYI, Michael V. Hayden is the former head of the NSA. Also, i sincerely doubt that they'd put the head of the CIA under oath. The republican senate has been extremely leery about putting anyone under oath who might face tough questions (I.e. justice department officials such as Alberto Gonzales).

Recursive Iteration (2, Funny)

H3lldr0p (40304) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456175)

But what if the fact that the information was handed over was itself a state secret? Then we get into a wonderful recursive cycle of classifing the classified classification into a new category of secret classfications. This is perfect for the government agentcies involved becuase they can continue to deny that they have denied any denials about programs that have been denied to exist.

See? It's all so simple for them.

Re:Proposed Strategy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456264)

The Bush Administration has already said that just knowing about these illegal programs jeopardizes our security. But honest, its all for our own good.

Re:Proposed Strategy (4, Insightful)

demachina (71715) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456414)

I'm pretty sure he can plead the fifth. To get and keep his security clearance he can never divulge classified information. This program is no doubt still classified despite the fact that it was leaked. If he were to just confirm its existence he would be breaking the laws relating to his security clearance and subject to prosecution. You can't make people break the law, or incriminate themselves on the witness stand assuming the Bush administration hasn't unilaterally overturned this basic civil liberty yet. To get Hayden or anyone else in the NSA to testify about this program it would have to be declassified which ain't gonna happen.

If there was enough information leaked already to clearly establish that the records were turned over illegally then they might still have a case, but the government probably will try to have all the leaked evidence thrown out and to prevent anyone in the phone companies, who might not have a clearance to worry about, from testifying on national security grounds.

You would hope that if the law was broken, and it almost certainly was, that the phone companies and the government would be held to account. There is a communication act the explicitly forbids releasing your phone records without a court order.

It is an unfortunate fact that laws are much more vigorously enforced against ordinary citizens than they are against people in power. When the DOJ brings a Federal case against a citizen their success rate is extremely high like 80%. When citizen's bring a case against the government their success rate is extremely low. Welcome to Fascism.

Re:Proposed Strategy (3, Insightful)

PapayaSF (721268) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456530)

The information itself may be classified but the fact of whether or not they collected it shouldn't be.

Really? Isn't that like saying circa 1943: "The information itself may be classified but the fact that there is a secret project at Los Alamos and Oak Ridge and Hanford involving uranium shouldn't be"? Or perhaps "The photos themselves should be classified, but the fact that many photo recon missions are being flown over the Normandy coast shouldn't be?"

Sometimes keeping secret the fact that information is being collected is as important, or even more important, than the information itself.

Re:Proposed Strategy (1)

SCDavis (974281) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456587)

This is very true... also if you dont have anything to hide, why should it matter whether or not you are being "listened" to... i think it would be fun to see how much they are listening and start rambling off "bin ladens" and "bombs" and "pentagons" all seperated by some static...


"whos there?"
"The NSA"
...

"and you thought you we werent listening..." :)

Great (0, Redundant)

l5rfanboy (977086) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456088)

I'm sure it's obvious to most any /.'er, but isn't this one of the largest (and longest-running) examples of why the lack of transparency in our government is a bad thing? "We're suing you for helping the government!" "No you can't, your prosecution relies on State Secrets." I have the feeling this type of situation is going to becoming more and more prevalent in the upcoming years.

Bah! (4, Insightful)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456090)

This is so much bullshit. One of the principles of democracy is that the people get a say in how the government is run; preventing people from knowing what the government is up to, and preventing them from suing the government when it does something wtrong, goes against this principle. We aren't quite to the maching on congeress phase, but we are getting there fast.

Re:Bah! (1)

Dadoo (899435) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456156)

We do (sort of) have a say. In November, you can vote out the incumbents. That's what I'll be doing.

Re:Bah! (4, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456292)

> We do (sort of) have a say. In November, you can vote out the incumbents. That's what I'll be doing.

I'm sorry but that's not good enough. The rule of law is not something that should be lumped in with tax cuts and gay marriage and all the other happy fun wedge issues.

We can start with trying to vote out the current elite. But we need laws that hold the government accountable, we need to impeach after the fact (strips 'em of pensions and the rights to hold any other office), and so on. We cannot allow tyranny to be the natural result of a term-limited official.

Re:Bah! (2, Informative)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456318)

> We do (sort of) have a say. In November, you can vote out the incumbents. That's what I'll be doing.

Remember, Remember, the Seventh November,
Congress, Corruption and Rot.
I see no reason Dempublican treason,
Should ever be forgot.

Re:Bah! (3, Insightful)

spun (1352) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456474)

I'm reminded of an old political cartoon. In the first panel it shows an ugly rat in an excercise wheel in front of the US Capitol. He is running to catch a bundle of money dangled in front of him by a fat cat in a tuxedo. Behind him a mob bearing pitchforks and torches advances on him yelling "Throw the rats out!"

In the second panel, the mob has installed a cute mouse in the excercise wheel. The mouse is running after that same bundle of money while the mob walks off congratulating itself on a job well done.

Re:Bah! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456463)

I hate to break the news to you, but the President is not eligible for re-election; there will be no incumbent running in that race. As far as the bureaucracy is concerned, they are mostly appointed.

Who were you going to vote out of office again?

Re:Bah! (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456238)

I think the idea of suing the government rather than dissolving and recreating it when it goes severely afoul is wrong enough already. The fact that we can't even sue is at least fourth degree bullshit.

Re:Bah! (2, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456348)

to put it in the simplest possible terms:

"this is not your father's america".

what we have, now, is nothing close to what the founding fathers envisioned.

the next step... (3, Insightful)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456092)

Why stop with the telecomms?

Classify all information about lung cancer as a "state secret" and you can get rid of all the lawsuits against tobacco and asbestos companies. Do the same with medical records, and *poof* there go all of the malpractice claims.

It would certainly save trying to ram all those tort reform packages through pesky Congressional committees.

Re:the next step... (2, Informative)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456300)

I am kind of depressed that parent got modded funny. This is a valid point. The question at hand is really what is the purpose of classifying information, and what is a just use of the powers of classification. The Bush administration does clearly use it for their political benefit (Cheney's energy task force being the most egregious example). And i don't know whether a non-partisan case can be made for using classificational powers in this manner.

Re:the next step... (1)

DAldredge (2353) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456454)

It's funny, the Dems think the ETF was bad but Hillary's health care meetings we OK while the GOPers think the exact opposite.

If it is wrong - it is wrong when the side you support does it too.

Re:the next step... (2, Insightful)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456501)

But that's the point. The only justifications are partisan ones. Behavior like this should be unacceptable regardless of who you are. Just because the Dems did it, like the Republicans before them, and the dems before them, and the republicans before that, does not justify current behavior.

Re:the next step... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456531)

Stop pretending to be "fair and balanced" and get back to farking your Dick Cheney love doll!

Re:the next step... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456308)

Classify all information about lung cancer as a "state secret" and you can get rid of all the lawsuits against tobacco and asbestos companies. Do the same with medical records, and *poof* there go all of the malpractice claims.

They already do that with `unpopular' topics involving large corps and paid-off officials.

Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (0, Flamebait)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456098)

Then you need to pull your head out slowly and cleanly and WAKE THE FUCK UP! George W. Bush is a criminal and needs to be impeached. NOW. Real Americans realize this. Idiot Americans don't. The only time an attack by a foreign power was ever carried out on U.S. soil was Pearl Harbour. 9/11 was done by the U.S. government. WAKE UP NOW!

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (1, Redundant)

geoffspear (692508) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456134)

The only time an attack by a foreign power was ever carried out on U.S. soil was Pearl Harbour.

While I agree with your sentiment in the rest of your post, your grasp of history leaves a lot to be desired.

Unless you consider the War of 1812 to be a continuation of the Revolutionary War and hold the opinion that the US was still British territory until the Treaty of Ghent, which not even the British at the time would have asserted.

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456215)

You are correct. I should have specified within the last 100 years.

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (1)

Nf1nk (443791) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456511)

And you would still be wrong
http://www.militarymuseum.org/Ellwood.html [militarymuseum.org]
although this is a very small footnote in the history of world war II

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (1)

Phillup (317168) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456660)

And... let's not forget that the Japanese actually occupied [hlswilliwaw.com] a portion of US soil during WW2 also.
The Japanese occupied Attu island as well as several others in the Aleutian chain during WWII. For an interesting read, check out the book titled "The Thousand Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians" by Brian Garfield.

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (1)

slughead (592713) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456176)

The only time an attack by a foreign power was ever carried out on U.S. soil was Pearl Harbour. 9/11 was done by the U.S. government. WAKE UP NOW!

I woke up this morning, drank some coffee.. but since this got modded up I must still be asleep.

9/11 was done not by the US government but by Saddam Hussein! Wait that's not right either.

Couldn't there be some sort of middle-ground? Truth, maybe?

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456371)

"9/11 was done not by the US government but by Saddam Hussein! Wait that's not right either.

Couldn't there be some sort of middle-ground? Truth, maybe?
"

I like the way you think! I am interested in finding this truthy middle-ground.

How about a real investigation, where high-ranking folks like Bush and Cheney testify under oath?

Who says that the truth is in the middle? (1)

chaboud (231590) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456504)

This is one problem I have with the current mindset.

Why is it that the truth is in the middle between two seemingly extreme viewpoints? Why wasn't there facilitation of 9/11 by the Bush administration? There are a lot of unnervingly unanswered questions. Why wasn't Saddam responsible?

Okay... Sorry... That's just stupid.

Still, my point is that the middle between two opposed viewpoints shouldn't be where we assume the truth lies. It just allows someone who is willing to say or do anything shift the frame of assumption away from what may very well be the truth. Most of us will never know the truth about most things, so let's not let a few people skew the collective perception through deception.

Now, your larger point, that we should have a serious investigation, is something that I'd like to see coming from more people. It's a rather obvious point, once stated, but one that we don't make nearly enough noise for.

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456199)

you know, some Americans realize we are headed towards fascism but don't care. That is what they want. Don't forget, Hitler and the National Socialists were elected even after the publication of Mein Kampf, and they still went along with it. Same with Italy and Mussolini -- hell, many Italians WENT BACK after Mussolini came to power instead of fleeing FROM Fascism. Those who go along are not stupid, not duped -- they may just be evil. But so what? Majority Rule is always awesome... just look at South Africa -- its great now! :rolls eyes:

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (2, Informative)

The-Pheon (65392) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456239)

The only time an attack by a foreign power was ever carried out on U.S. soil was Pearl Harbour.

Maybe you forgot that the United States was invaded by Great Britian in 1812? The Aleutian Islands were invaded in june of 1942.

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456249)

Turninh him over to the Iraqi's for war crimes would be a more fitting punishment.

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (3, Interesting)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456327)

Do you care to back up any of the lofty claims you just made (George Bush crimes and 9/11 conspiracies)? No, I suspect not. I'm guessing you'll just make an immature profane rant of a reply. Grow up little kid, your crap is getting old.

For the record, I am not a G.W. fan by any means, but there is plenty of real evidence to be used to bash Bush without resorting to hysterical fabrications.

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (1)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456518)

You again? God you're a bore. Why don't you just ignore me and be over with it if you don't like my comedy stylings? That would be the more "mature" thing to do green wing.

Bush? You mean President Clark? (1)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456393)

Don't blame me - I voted for Kodos.

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (0, Flamebait)

JavaLord (680960) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456443)

Typically I don't respond to flamebait, however...

Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism?

The US isn't heading anywhere twards Fascism. The neocons are interventionalists, and imperialists via proxy. Really, this isn't anything new, because America has been fighting interventionist wars since Bush 1 was in office. Why do we continue to stick our nose in everyones business around the world against the advice of our founding fathers? While Hitler was a scourge to all of humanity, his legacy continues to haunt America, as America thinks they have some moral obligation to police the world, since when they didn't Hitler came to power. There is a collective guilt trip about not getting into WW2 earlier, and this leads to poor foreign policy.

Then you need to pull your head out slowly and cleanly and WAKE THE FUCK UP! George W. Bush is a criminal and needs to be impeached. NOW.

I'd hate to break it to you, but he's not a criminal. A weak president perhaps, but not a criminal.

Real Americans realize this. Idiot Americans don't.

Because anyone who disagrees with your personal beliefs must be an idiot. Isn't that the start of facist thinking? Perhaps you are heading twards facism, while the US is heading twards foriegn policy bankrupcy.

The only time an attack by a foreign power was ever carried out on U.S. soil was Pearl Harbour. 9/11 was done by the U.S. government. WAKE UP NOW!

I think you need to wake up now personally. I've watched loose change, and read the various internet theories about how 9/11 was done by our government. None of them lead to logical conclusions. Most are leftist propaganda. I can tell you why 9/11 happened with ease, they (the terrorists) were here, because we were over there. Bin Laden was unhappy with our continued support of israel, our military bases in the middle east, our propping up of corrupt regimes, and with our 1991 war in Iraq. He's said so in his statements. 9/11 happened for the same reason other terrorist events happen, an occupying force was in a foriegn land, the native people could not resist via standard military means so they resort to the weapon of the weak...Terrorism.

Instead of buying into these partisan theories, and coming up with arguements like "BUSH IS A WAR CRIMINAL!!!!@#! He is behind 9/11" go read the words of our founding fathers. Both Washington and Adams warned against our current foreign policy, and what it would lead to. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to dislike the policies of Bush without coming up with fabricated stories based on hollywood logic.

Also, you might come to the conclusion that this isn't just a George W. Bush problem. It's a consistant policy from Bush 1, to Clinton, to Bush 2. They all thought America should policy the world, and Hillary will be the same way if she gets into office.

You may think most of this post has nothing to do with the original article, but in truth it has everything to do with it. If we weren't being the keystone cops of the world, we wouldn't have to deal with domestic terrorism from foreign fighters.

Re:Still Think the US isn't Headed for Fascism? (1)

hrrY (954980) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456588)

[quote]Why do we continue to stick our nose in everyones business around the world against the advice of our founding fathers? While Hitler was a scourge to all of humanity, his legacy continues to haunt America, as America thinks they have some moral obligation to police the world, since when they didn't Hitler came to power. There is a collective guilt trip about not getting into WW2 earlier, and this leads to poor foreign policy. [/quote] Actually, we didn't get involved with WW2 officially until Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Also, on a more technical note; IBM was selling equipment to the Germans before PH so that they could more efficiently calculate how best to *ethnically cleanse* their country, and weapons logistics.

Time to boycott... (1)

sidfaiwu (901221) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456104)

...only I'm looked into a two year contract with Verizon, but as soon as that's up!

Hey government (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456110)

Hey government, fuck you! You don't work for us, why do we need you? I'm using encryption and will continue to, and will work around the government at every opportunity. I will work them out of my life because they're not a useful part of it anymore.

Welcome, comrade... (0, Troll)

RiffRafff (234408) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456127)

...to your police state.

Nothing to hide (4, Insightful)

Toby The Economist (811138) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456140)

Lovely comment in that recent /. article about that wiretapping equipment show -

The State broadly speaking may argue if we have nothing to hide, then why do we object to being watched?

If this is so, why does the State hide so much from *us*?

Re:Nothing to hide (2, Insightful)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456390)

Exactly -- if they think it's okay to spy on us then why can't we "spy" on the information they obtained from us? With a new non-civilian intelligence head, things don't look good for American civil liberties. I don't see any form of oversight keeping the government in check from abusing/misusing information. Power corrupts -- absolute power corrupts absolutely.

It's All in How You Read it (-1, Offtopic)

eno2001 (527078) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456171)

Let's parse that headline correctly:

"Government May Help Bells Defend Against Wiretap Suits"

Government = ostensibly the U.S. governement (remember there's a whole world that matters a whole lot more than just the U.S. folks)
May Help Bells = The aforementioned U.S. Government might offer some kind of assistance to all Bells (Art Bell? Carrie Bell? Reggie Bell?) in the country.
Defend Against = A redneck way of saying "defend themselves against" as applied to the previously mentioned Bells.
Wiretap Suits = All the rage in Europe. Suits made out of Wire with Taps that slide over any style of shoe but remain attached to the suit.

So in essence we are saying that the U.S. government may or may not defend all people with the last name Bell from having to wear Wiretap Suits. This is not a good development. Why should all the Bells be prevented from looking foolish when the latest fashion rage takes over the U.S? These are dark days indeed...

Re:It's All in How You Read it (1)

ethereal (13958) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456344)

I'm sorry, but that headline makes me think of:

"HELP HOWLS OUT NOW"

Hopefully I'm not the only one.

Disheartening corruption.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456179)

And our hero in this time of need... Judge Judy! She'd sort these NSA punks out.. in a half hour, plus commercials!

Suits will dissolve? (0, Redundant)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456187)

And people related to them disappear?

Re:Suits will dissolve? (1)

gandreas (908538) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456302)

At that point we'll clearly see that the emperor has no clothes!

Kill the bells with decentralized telephony (2, Interesting)

w33t (978574) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456201)

Does it seem plausable that someday voice communications could be handled completely by the people without the need for a big centralized entity like a government or a phone company?

I can see that VOIP is starting to show the potential of decentralized telephony. But could it go completely wireless? I know the technology would be tricky, but it's certainly plausable, yes?

Take for example the LP. Back in the day only very large companies could press records. The machines to mass produce these were expensive and bulky and they were very large. Additionally, after making the records you had to ship them - this required trucks: also expensive and bulky.

Fast forward to today. Anyone can burn a cd and anyone can send a song around the world. The means are here.

Cell phones require very little power and yet can transmit and recieve a signal from very far away. The base station is what currently makes this possible - but why couldn't something like a p2p cellular network be possible? Imagine if every car on the freeway as a node and if instead of a TV antenna on every house there were a repeater.

Perhaps this kind of technology could first take off in heavily populated metropolitan areas, where you are likely to be within mere feet of the next person with a cell phone. Everyone's voice and signals could route through each other.

I know this is a technical feat, but at one time so was creating microscopic holes in mylar with a laser using something as cheap as a meal.

Is this at least feasable?
--
Music should be free [myspace.com]

Re:Kill the bells with decentralized telephony (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456356)

"Does it seem plausable that someday voice communications could be handled completely by the people without the need for a big centralized entity like a government or a phone company?"

Every time a true p2p telephony system has come up the big telcos have had it legislated or sued from existance.

That said, it no longer matters, they have these machines connected to the internet sniffing all of your packets and reconstructing them.

Re:Kill the bells with decentralized telephony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456373)

Bandwidth, delay, reliability, load, MTU.

Re:Kill the bells with decentralized telephony (1)

w33t (978574) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456421)

and this is different from current cell phones how? ;)
--
Music should be free [myspace.com]

VOIP can't exist without centralized utilities (1)

drhamad (868567) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456455)

Be it telephony, cable or power lines, VOIP can't exist without the centralized utilities. Laying lines is a massive expense with little in the way of reward. Only companies that can be gaurunteed some profit on them can handle it. And that's just the end user (lines to the house) part of it. You have to have bandwidth, and it's the centralized companies that have that. Decentralization only works when you have free or standard access to already laid (as in, by those centralized companies) lines/bandwidth.

A very serious issue... (2, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456212)

Even Fox Trot [yahoo.com] is affected by this.

Yeah Asshole (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456272)

Because we all know that when a stupid comic strip for idiots comments on something it's really serious and well thought out news. Look fuckface, if we wanted your lamebrained opinion, we would have asked you for it. But we didn't, so go jump off a cliff. We showed your letter to our lawyers and they said that you don't have any jurisdiction and your laws don't apply to use so fuck off.

The Pirate Bay Troll

Re:Yeah Asshole (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456477)

Gotta love AC lawyers without a sense of humor.

Uncle Sam will get to collect all he wants. (0, Troll)

blcamp (211756) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456220)

If the Government wants to find out who I talk to and when... it's pretty easy to get that information now as it is.

If they want to actually listen... it's a waste of time but hey, what do I care? Knock yourself out.

My point: I hardly think the Government is interested in what I am asking my wife to make for dinner tonight, or whether I need to pick up anything at the store on the way home to help in making said dinner.

They want to know when, where and how the next attack on our country is going to take place. I don't break any laws as I conduct my telephone conversations, nor do (I would speculate) 99.99% of Americans.

But if we catch terrorists and avert attacks, what's the harm in the government monitoring these phone calls? It doesn't affect my daily life one bit - but an attack not thwarted most definitely would!

I asked the above question seriously, not rhetorically. And folks, please spare me the privacy argument/nonsense... the moment it became technically feasible to "violate" one's privacy, that privacy is already gone forever.

I think the lawsuits were already a non-starter, and now that the government is said to be stepping in, this matter will likely be put down so quickly, you'll be able to count the times the judge pounds the gavel on one hand.

Re:Uncle Sam will get to collect all he wants. (4, Insightful)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456303)

I don't break any laws as I conduct my telephone conversations, nor do (I would speculate) 99.99% of Americans. But if we catch terrorists and avert attacks, what's the harm in the government monitoring these phone calls?....And folks, please spare me the privacy argument/nonsense... this statement is nothing more than a more sophisticated way of saying "if you've done nothing wrong you have nothing to fear", the last portion really disqualifies you from saying anymore on the subject. It reflects absolutely no respect for the constitutional protections for the people of this nation. Point1: there are many "unenforcible" and antiquated laws on the books which can be used against you if the dominant party doesnt like what you are doing or who you are associating with Point2: even if it is not used for legal abuse, it can be used for closed door blackmail/threats to keep the opposing political groups and corporations "in line" Point3: We have had technically feasible ways to invade people's privacy en wholesale since the late 40's but you didnt see it happen because when they try they face the public wrath Point4: according to that statement above, why are they trying to invoke state secrets to hide their obvious breach of the constitution on multiple amendments? hmmm?

Re:Uncle Sam will get to collect all he wants. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456346)

"If they want to actually listen... it's a waste of time but hey, what do I care? Knock yourself out."

You should care because it's your rights being violated. Since you obviously don't care, you're one of the reasons we all lack the liberties we used to enjoy, and that this country was founded on. You're one of the reasons young people such as myself can't vote without wanting to commit suicide, because all the people running are complete WASTES of oxygen and space. Unfortunately, my generation (20-somethings) is too young to have all the wealth of the older generations, who apparently just don't give a damn about anybody but themselves. That's why we have all these corrupt politicians, and insane policies being enacted. You know what's terribly sad? People constantly quip "If you don't like the way things are done, you should vote!" Well guess what, assholes, we *can't* vote in good conscious because there is *nobody* running worth a shit. The only people in the running are people with tons of campaign dollars, and people my age just don't have the money to fund those people, because we're getting turned down for all the *good* jobs because we don't have 20 years of experience, but we can't get that experience because entry level jobs are being sent overseas, and the ones that aren't are soaked up by the gazillions of the baby boomer+ generation. You really are the scourge of America, at least a good example of it. At this rate, by the time I'm 35, social security (MY MONEY) will be bankrupt, I will have no civil liberties anymore, I will have no rights, my country will be subject to nuclear annhilation by the entire world (all pissed off at us for screwing them in the ass, repeatedly, for no reason), the country in quadrillions of dollars in debt, and nothing to show for it but tears.

Re:Uncle Sam will get to collect all he wants. (2, Interesting)

jaystrick (955012) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456386)

> But if we catch terrorists and avert attacks, what's the harm in the government monitoring these phone
> calls? It doesn't affect my daily life one bit - but an attack not thwarted most definitely would!

That's the point. Why make sweeping changes that will get everyone up in arms when you can do it little by little, one basic right after another. By the time mainstream America finally gets the gumption to protest about it, it's too late. The USA 'democracy' is brought down, not by terrorists, but by the ones we've 'elected' to protect us.

I can't think of many (if any) times that our government kept information from us about a project targeted at US citizens that turned out to be for the good of the people. Please, point one out if you know, because my belief in our government has gone the way of the Dodo.

Welcome to the Totalitarian States of America.

Re:Uncle Sam will get to collect all he wants. (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456553)

Hmmm....."Totalitarian States of America"...."TSA"...I don't like where this train of thought is leading :(

<pulls tin-foil hat a little tighter around head>

Re:Uncle Sam will get to collect all he wants. (2)

Proteus (1926) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456392)

But if we catch terrorists and avert attacks, what's the harm in the government monitoring these phone calls? It doesn't affect my daily life one bit - but an attack not thwarted most definitely would!

Sure, it doesn't affect your life, but what about the lives of the current administration's (whomever that may be at any given time) political opponents? And no, this isn't tinfoil-hat talk: it's been done before by other administrations, and is a large part of why we have the wiretapping laws to begin with!

Further, what about abuses? Even if abuse isn't systematic, the government is made up of people: what if one person decided to record your phone records and extort you with them. Easy example -- "I see that you've been calling divorce lawyers. I'm betting your spouse would find that very interesting...". Or even s/divorce lawyers/abuse shelters/ in some cases.

It's not about "how much it affects our lives" -- it's that we have this thing called "due process". The basic idea is that the government stays the hell out of my personal life unless they have "probable cause" to go poking around. They want to tap my phone or get my phone records? Cool -- all they have to do is get a judge to agree that there's a reason for it, and they can even do that after they've started in most cases. So why'd they skip that part?

Re:Uncle Sam will get to collect all he wants. (2, Insightful)

beck001 (26515) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456471)

COINTELPRO, do you know anything about history? You do not have to break the law, you just have to disagee with whoever is in power.

Re:Uncle Sam will get to collect all he wants. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456483)

My point: I hardly think the Government is interested in what I am asking my wife to make for dinner tonight, or whether I need to pick up anything at the store on the way home to help in making said dinner.

Great comrade! we are so happy you are wiulling to cooperate fully! Now please explain to us why over the past year you used the words "bomb", "kill", "damned", and "democrat" many many times.

We are looking foreward to your detailed explination over each offense. REmember it is not that important as only a terrorist would not have a satisfactory explination and it only carries a 16 year prison term for each offense.

Again, thank you. And please let us know when it would be a good time to come over and search your home. We want to make sure there are no terrorists hiding someplace in your house or maybe they are hiding guns, drugs, or tools of terrorism there.

Finally, we also are kind of interested in your last purchase on your Visa Platinum card, why did you need those items? Detailed explination please.

Gave a great day citizen!

Re:Uncle Sam will get to collect all he wants. (1)

koreth (409849) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456615)

Jeez, the above should not be modded "Troll." A whole lot of people feel the way the poster does. I am not one of them, but even though I vehemently disagree with this point of view, I see that it's one whose popularity makes it very much germane to the discussion. Moderate based on whether something contributes to an interesting discussion, not whether you agree with it.

With that off my chest, I will try to answer the question. You should be concerned about this because once the infrastructure to spy on your calls is in place, and especially if it's kept secret, you have no way of knowing how it's used, and no control over future abuses. Let's say for the sake of argument that today, you're correct and the government is solely listening in on terrorism-related conversations. Fair enough. Now imagine that the next administration, or the one after that, is a bunch of flaming liberals (I am assuming here, perhaps incorrectly, that you'd put yourself somewhere on the right-hand side of the political spectrum). They feel that hate speech is a graver danger to society than terrorism. The next president issues a secret order to the spooks to start compiling lists of people with a history of making threats of violence against others.

Now all of a sudden the government is very interested indeed in your offhand comment, "I could just kill that guy!" You didn't mean it literally, but the speech-recognition systems that today are scanning for "Osama" and "fertilizer truck" don't know that, and your name is added to a list of people who might warrant future scrutiny. You have no way of knowing your name is on the list. All you know is that all of a sudden you're being pulled aside at the airport and given an extra thorough search.

Think that's unlikely? Then leave aside the hypotheticals and consider this: by allowing the government to have this capability, you're making a bet on the good faith of not just the current people in power, but on the good faith of every group that might be in power in your lifetime. If you've looked at any history at all, you know that sooner or later someone who you really don't trust will be in charge of the country. Do you really want them to have an undetectable, consequence-free, oversight-exempt way to decide whether or not they're interested in you? Are you one hundred percent certain that you will never do anything that someone might, even after the fact, find worthy of further scrutiny? I know I'm not.

Really now... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456230)

Does anyone realize that the State Secrets legal tactic has been used by the Bush administrations than ALL PREVIOUS PRESIDENTIAL ADMINISTRATIONS COMBINED?

Ask yourself this:

DO WE REALLY live in a time more dangerous than the Vietnam War?

DO WE REALLY live in a time more subversive than the Free Speech Movement of the 60's?

DO WE REALLY live in a time more frightening than the Cuban Missile Crisis?

DO WE REALLY live in a time more threatening to our way of life than the 70's Oil Embargo?

State Secrets was ONLY used in the past when classified data could be revealed in a case such that it would greatly hinder or be a serious detriment to National Security. Now I ask you this: What is that danger? Is it Osama Bin Laden? Is it a terrorist in the Middle East who hates us even more for a War that wasn't justified to begin with? Who is our enemy?! Damn, this is the most infuriating thing!

WHY IS NO ONE IN THE MEDIA ASKING THESE QUESTIONS?

Re:Really now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456379)

1. it's too complicated to explain to the "average" person
2. it doesnt sell ads

Re:Really now... (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456384)

Because maybe the answer to all of your "rhetorical" questions is Yes.

Re:Really now... (5, Interesting)

10100111001 (931992) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456447)

WHY IS NO ONE IN THE MEDIA ASKING THESE QUESTIONS?

No one in the mainstream media is asking these questions because if they did they would lose their jobs. More than 95% of all the media we see (radio, newspapers, tv & movies) comes from one of five media corporations. [corporations.org] These corporations are interested in maintaining and gaining power. They do not want the general population to start asking these questions, so they rarely allow any dissenting viewpoints to enter the mainstream media.

If you want to hear these and other questions being asked, you need to go to independent media sources.

Re:Really now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456520)

He's also used more "signing statements" (ie, to bypass McCain's anti-torture bill) than all previous administrations combined.

and so will the political careers of those... (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456235)

and so will the political careers of those attached to it.

I remember the government pulling the same crap with toxic waste mismanagement in the supposedly non-existant nellus airforce base (you know.. area 51).

the court rejected it, instead insisting on closed hearings.

Any intelligent judge would instead require the plaintiff lawyers sign secrecy agreements and move the case into closed sessions. Anything less would be partisan pandering.

Would these be these same bells (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456274)

that said that they had nothing to do with the NSA? Or are they now acknowledging that CNN was honest.

translation, law don't apply to us (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456279)

So much for democracy and following the law. Any asswipe in government that says secrecy is needed isn't interested in national security. They are interested in having lots of power. It's pretty simple. Why are people surprised. Quit your whining. If you really care, then impeach bush already. Like I thought, ain't gonna happen.

In other I'll-scratch-your-back news... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456305)

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12952860/ [msn.com]

"President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations. Notice of the development came in a brief entry in the Federal Register, dated May 5, 2006, that was opaque to the untrained eye."

Land of the free? (4, Insightful)

Cicero382 (913621) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456358)

I don't mean to knock America, but really!

I left the UK in 2001 (just before 9/11) to escape crippling taxes and what I saw as an increasingly oppressive government. I considered two possibilities; the USA and Italy. My wife persuaded (OK, ORDERED) me that Italy was the best bet. On the face of it, at the time, it was the lesser choice. But now...

Forget the taxes, I'm still better off - I'd be even better off in the States, but it's the other thing that concerns me.

Since I've been here I've watched (from a safe distance) a dramatic reduction of the rights someone living in a democracy should expect, both in the UK and the US. Why are you allowing it to happen?

What *really* gets me is - why is it happening? I've asked this question on /. before. It's obviously nothing to do with terrorists and so forth.

It's getting to the point where I'm seriously considering making a tin foil helmet.

PS. Yes, I know similar laws are being considered here, but we have one major advantage. We just say "AAh, F*ck off!" (And that includes the police).

Re:Land of the free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456578)

Isn't Italy the nation where the former head of their version of the RIAA or MPAA was elected to the presidency, and promptly passed the most draconian copyright laws i've ever seen?

At least in the states we only get sued, over there they go to prison for a decade.

That aid will take the form of . . . (1)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456359)

notifying Night Watch of the names and addresses of all plaintiffs attempting to sue a Bell company for complicity in NSA's wiretapping scheme.

Re:That aid will take the form of . . . (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456480)

Gotta love a good B5 reference.

The sad part is, it fits. (1)

mmell (832646) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456535)

Thankfully, we don't need to worry about the Psi Corps, but President Clark, err, I mean Bush, well . . . that's another matter.

Re:The sad part is, it fits. (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456624)

I'd take Clark over Bush any day. At least he was being controlled by the Shadows. With Bush, I think he really thinks he's doing the right thing.

show me the proof (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456368)

The administration like to hide behind the line that there have been no attacks in the last few years and that these measures are necessary to prevent an attack. OK, I say, now how about actually *proving* that these tactics agains the Constituion have borne fruit? How about names and dates of cells busted up, individuals arrested, and attacks thwarted?

Show me the money, or at least the proof this has worked.

Re:show me the proof (1)

jank1887 (815982) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456448)

but showing you the proof from past events would endanger the present operations that are stopping even more attacks that are TAKING PLACE RIGHT NOW!!

Won't get fooled again... (1)

Recovering Hater (833107) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456374)

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. These type of actions are nothing new. The government has harmed its own citizens secretly many times in the past. What about Operation MK Ultra? MLK? Trail of Tears? History repeats itself. *sigh* Now just add illegal NSA wiretaps to the list.

Can you hide crimes behind a veil of secrecy? (1)

metoc (224422) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456389)

The big question is can using the "state secrets" privilege be used to permit illegal behaviour now that a secret court exists under FISA?

No place for "state secrets" in a democracy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15456482)

There is absolutely no place for "state secrets" in a democracy, or even in a republic. If the public is to be able to perform their democratic duties properly, then they need access to all information.

It doesn't matter how much that information may compromise politicians, corporate leaders, or even other nations. This is one of the few issues where there is no grey area: either the citizens of a state have access to all government-held information, or the state is not a democracy/republic.

State Secrets Privilege was abused from the start (1)

molo (94384) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456489)

The State Secrets Privilege [wikipedia.org] was abused from the start. The landmark case that established it via the Supreme Court, United States v. Reynolds [wikipedia.org] , was used to cover up the military's negligence. The B-29 crash did not involve national security, but rather a poorly maintained aircraft. Fraud all around. The State Secrets Privilege should never have been made in the first place and should be removed from legal precedent.

-molo

+1, correct (1)

rodentia (102779) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456658)


Yes, the *state secrets privilege* was established in the 50's precisely to limit liability claims against pet military procurement contractors, not to guard secrets. The current case would seem to be a tailor-made situation for the invocation of these dubious privileges.

No wiretaps involved here (3, Informative)

steveg (55825) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456573)

There are wiretaps involved with the NSA's FISA violations, but there has been no accusation of domestic wiretapping in the suits against the Bells.

The Bell suits all have to do with turning over call records, not wiretapping. Wiretapping is *live* monitoring of the contents of telephone calls, and the legal bar to performing a wiretap is considerably higher than "trap and trace" or "pen register" monitoring. The massive turnover of call records is equivalent to trap and trace and pen register, and according to the PATRIOT Act, all the authorities have to do to get an order authorizing these latter types of surveillance to to atest that such monitoring is "necessary to an ongoing investigation."

So when the NSA claims that those requests for records was legal, they're probably right. The question to be asked, of course, is *should* it be legal, and that's a whole different question. Congress had the chance to fix that, but they passed the renewed PATRIOT Act, so I guess that means that *they* thought it was OK.

And there may be actual domestic wiretapping going on, but we don't know that since if there is, that story hasn't yet broken.

Vote! (3, Interesting)

posterlogo (943853) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456595)

I know that people are a bit disillusioned right now with the going-ons in government, and feel waiting until Nov 2006 or 2008 to vote is not enough to deal with the immediate threats and violations of the constitution. A unoffical poll of Slashdot posters would demonstrate a near-unanimous discomfort with the wiretapping, but some of the same people would not be willing to vote out the perpetrators. I ask that everyone here put their money where there mouth is. In this particular matter, there is one party that is thrilled to be spying on Americans and questioning our patriotism, the party of "with us or against us": the Republicans. Though it seems almost certain that the violation of the bill of rights offends most republicans (just look at gun-control attempts), in this case the mob mentality has overruled just about any one Republican's personal moral choices. The solution is to not vote Republican: if you are truly uncomfortable with the way the country is headed, it is necessary to realize that the neo-con movement has usurped the moral authority the Republicans once had.

Re:Vote! (1)

tweek (18111) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456644)

Don't think for a minute that Dems wouldn't do the same thing if they were in power and the Repubs would be bitching about it. Make no mistake that the parties involved are exactly the same but they are just the minority.

w0w (1)

neogold (918273) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456634)

This idea makes my stomach turn. Once everyone knows who you are you dont know who you are. And if you dont know who you are, you become a drone... i gues this is all that we want yea? i duno you tell me.

What Will It Take? (3, Insightful)

ewhac (5844) | more than 8 years ago | (#15456646)

Government and corporations, working hand in hand!

There's a word [wikipedia.org] for that, you know...

Let's review:

  • The United States Government is spying on you;
  • The United States Government lied to you to get you to agree to go to war;
  • The United States Government is sending your children half way across the world to be killed;
  • The United States House and Senate are refusing to their jobs of representing you and advocating for your rights and interests;
  • The United States Government has undermined your reputation among nations by abandoning global cooperation and diplomacy and acting unilaterally;
  • The United States Government has endangered your safety by antagonizing and attacking foreign people, thereby turning them into extremist people;
  • The Federal Government and the governments of several states are eliminating your right to self-determination via voting by systematically ignoring all evidence placed before them of voting irregularities and compromised electronic voting machines;
  • Etc., etc., etc....

In case you haven't been paying attention for the last seven years, it may interest you to know: You are being systematically fucked. The press has been bought off; they will do nothing to help you. There is only one person left who can do something about it...

But, you see s/he's too busy, and can't be bothered, at least not yet. See, there was the American Idol finale a couple weeks ago where whatshisface (or was it whatsherface?) won, thanks to your attentive help and eager phone calls. Oh! And, and missing the final episodes of Survivor, Will and Grace, The Amazing Race, and House were simply unthinkable! And then there was "March Madness" back in... uh, March, I guess...

"Public corruption? Senate scandals? Incompetent emergency management officials? Mendacious Attorney Generals? Fuck that! I need to know if Natalee Holloway is still dead... [dailykos.com] "

See? Very very busy. So if something important is going on, it will need to be really important before we get his/her attention and they start to act and save the United States. It will need to be shocking so that we grab his/her attention. And it will need to be big so that they understand the importance of acting now. In fact, it will need to be so big that it will swamp out all the other "important" stuff for months.

And so, the question we all need to ask is:

What Will It Take?

Schwab

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