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Telco Immunity Goes To Full Debate

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the finger-pointing-all-around dept.

Privacy 154

Dr. Eggman notes an Ars Technica analysis of the firefight that is the current Congressional debate over granting retrospective immunity to telecoms that helped the NSA spy on citizens without warrants. A Republican cloture motion, which would have blocked any further attempts to remove the retroactive immunity provision, has failed. This controversial portion of the Senate intelligence committee surveillance bill may now be examined in full debate. At the same time, a second cloture motion — filed by Congressional Democrats in an effort to force immediate vote on a 30 day extension to the Protect America Act — also failed to pass. The Protect America Act has been criticized for broadly expanding federal surveillance powers while diminishing judicial oversight. While the failure of this second cloture motion means the Protect America Act might expire, a vote tomorrow on a similar motion in the House will likely bring the issue back into the Senate in time. It seems, according to the article, that both parties feel that imminent expiration of the Protect America Act is a disaster for intelligence gathering, and each side blames the other as progress grinds to a halt."

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154 comments

Hmm (1, Insightful)

chuckymonkey (1059244) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220416)

If it passes I wish that I had enough money to hire a lawyer and take this law to the Supreme Court as I do believe that somewhere in some old document called the Constitution it say something about not passing laws ex post facto. It's not like it'd be hard to win either, it's pretty clear about that in the Constitution, unless everything is truly corrupted and there's just no hope left.

Re:Hmm (3, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220478)

Never mind ex post facto for a minute. The Protect America Act has been in place how long? What has it accomplished? What? For all these rights that have been trampled, what has been gained? What? Name one positive good outcome from it?

Perhaps it's time to remind your representatives that you want some ROI here. My constitutional rights are very expensive. If their abuse of my rights does not land bin laden in jail, or bolster the free world by some provably huge fscking margin, then I'm going to want to see rolling heads. So far... I'm thinking of rolling heads (figuratively speaking... say hello to the nice FBI agents)

Re:Hmm (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22220508)

Hmm, well, since your family hasn't been consumed by the white-hot aftermath of an Islamic terrorist's suitcase nuke, I'd say it has accomplished quite a bit, wouldn't you?

Re:Hmm (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220712)

Did I miss the announcement that one had been intercepted? Or the telecast from the parallel universe where there was no such law showing the devastation?

If the absence of a negative outcome is proof to you, I'll be sending you a bill shortly for my hard work preventing you from getting cancer.

Re:Hmm (1)

ultranova (717540) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220978)

If the absence of a negative outcome is proof to you, I'll be sending you a bill shortly for my hard work preventing you from getting cancer.

As it happens, the effectiveness of intelligence against terrorists can be measured objectively by simply enumerating the terrorists caught, bombs or other means of terror confiscated, or nefarious schemes exposed using information gathered from said intelligence. So, anyone got any statistics on those ?

Re:Hmm (1)

nschubach (922175) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221172)

I'm sure the numbers are protected for "National Security."

Re:Hmm (0, Troll)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221308)

so that they can hide how inffective this whole boondogle has been - except for the war profiteers which have made hundreds of billions of dollars off it.

Re:Hmm (2, Interesting)

The Spoonman (634311) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221392)

While we're on the topic, I have a rock I can sell you that will protect you from tigers. Since I found this rock, I have not been attacked by a single tiger, so its effectiveness is 100%. You'd be a fool to pass it up.

Re:Hmm (1)

easyTree (1042254) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220564)

For all these rights that have been trampled, what has been gained?

Uhh? people have less rights - what more do you want? - and, by virtue of all the hoo-hah (tm) "omg, there's a terrorist behind you", people are afraid. I seem to recall someone mentioning that a fearful electorate is easier to control. So, there you have it - mission accomplished.

Re:Hmm (0)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220798)

Never mind ex post facto for a minute. The Protect America Act has been in place how long? What has it accomplished? What? For all these rights that have been trampled, what has been gained? What? Name one positive good outcome from it?

Well, have you been killed by terr'ists yet ?

(There's a huge market out there for tiger-repelling rocks as well...)

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22220502)

unless everything is truly corrupted and there's just no hope left.

Sorry, no hope left. The supreme court has made it pretty clear what the meaning of the ex-post facto law is: nobody can be tried for an action that was legal at the time but became illegal later (unless it was kiddie porn, that case itself set a major precedent now generally known as "entrapment"). Making illegal things legal again is perfectly fine.

Re:Hmm (4, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220542)

it say something about not passing laws ex post facto

Umm, IANALOCLS (I am not a lawyer or Constitutional Law Scholar), but my understanding has always been that only prevents the Government from passing retroactive laws that criminalize events in the past... i.e: if alcohol prohibition is passed tomorrow they can't punish me for drinking today. It doesn't prevent them from retroactively decriminalizing something.

Granted, it's a load of shit that they are even considering immunity for these bastards, but I still think you'd lose if you tried to argue against it on the basis of ex post facto laws.

Funny (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22220560)

Granting pardons is the duty of the President or head of the executive branch.
Granting immunity is the domain of the Judicial branch.

Nowhere in here is the Legislative branch involved.

Re:Funny (2, Insightful)

c_forq (924234) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221656)

Because you left out decriminalization. Do you think that when it was decided that prohibition of alcohol was a bad idea that it should be left up to the President and the Judicial system to give everyone pardons and immunity (which in most cases someone has to be arrested for something before they can receive either)? Don't you think it would be a hell of a lot easier of the legislators were able to change and retract laws? I would like to point out at this time there have probably been more judges bought and owned than congress-people. Granted the appeals court is usually a good check on this, but if you also own the district attorney...

Re:Hmm (5, Informative)

flappedjack (1228928) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220578)

Ex post facto (Latin for "after the fact") means that a person cannot be prosecuted for violating laws passed after he/she committed an act. So if I were to call Congress a bunch of asshats, and 3 days later Congress were to pass a law banning all mockery of that very august body, I still could not be prosecuted. (And all of that could happen, because most members of Congress are, as we all know, asshats.) But ex post facto says nothing about being granted immunity after the fact. Basically, there is nothing in the constitution that prevents the government from selling out to corporations, even retrospectively. Damned asshats.

Re:Hmm (2, Insightful)

vastabo (530415) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220630)

You wouldn't have standing to sue unless you could prove: 1) That'd you'd been surveiled 2) That the surveillance had caused you harm--which, incidentally, is the point of the legislation in the first place.

Re:Hmm (1)

Phisbut (761268) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221430)

If it passes I wish that I had enough money to hire a lawyer and take this law to the Supreme Court as I do believe that somewhere in some old document called the Constitution it say something about not passing laws ex post facto. It's not like it'd be hard to win either, it's pretty clear about that in the Constitution, unless everything is truly corrupted and there's just no hope left.

I'm no specialist in US Constitution, but I'd be curious to see where that is said. I always thought that the constitution prevented you to be accused of a crime that was commited before it was legally a crime, but I never thought it applied to the opposite, as in, if it was a crime then and you weren't tried yet, and it's not a crime anymore, you might be off the hook. Basically, a new law can't make you "more guilty" for what you've done, but it could make you "less guilty".

Protect America Act... (5, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220426)

I really wish they would start giving honest descriptive names to Bills, rather than marketing names. Seriously, just like the new 'Economic Stimulus' bill, that should be 'It's an Election Year, here's a handout that won't really affect the economy much'. Bills to impose new taxes should have names like 'Bend over for us please' or 'Yeah, we're screwing you again.'

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, stop calling it a peacock. Yes, I know it will never happen. One can fantasize.

It's Orwellian is what it is (3, Insightful)

Nursie (632944) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220548)

Was thinking along the same lines myself. It's scary stuff though. Take the PATRIOT act. It contains a lot of nasty, freedom stealing measures, extensions of government power etc etc.

But it got through. Why? Because in a time of national panic (9/11) you wouldn't vote against an act called the Patriot act would you? You are a patriot aren't you?

Jingoism and marketing need to die.

Re:It's Orwellian is what it is (1)

tritonman (998572) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220646)

On top of that, if you vote against the "Protect America" act, then you obviously want to see harm done to America, so if the bill passes, you will be the first on the list, the thought police will be staking out your house the very next day.

Re:It's Orwellian is what it is (3, Insightful)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220728)

Equally, in Britain, who wouldn't support the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001?* There's something tragic about the way that on both sides of the Atlantic, our shared culture has lost or is losing all the things that made it great - individual liberty (and it's twin, responsibility), cultural confidence, distrust of authority and the same bullheaded stubbornness and refusal to submit that is the common factor from Hereward the Wake through to a few thousand men sitting shivering, starved and diseased in Valley Forge.

Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt, indeed.

*Though at least our bills don't sound like something invented by 8 year old children.

Translation for the Lazy and Non Pretentious (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22220894)

Ubi sunt qui ante nos fuerunt = "Where are those who were before us?"

Re:It's Orwellian is what it is (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221448)

Interesting! I'd never heard of Hereward the Wake before, and I like to think I'm literate in history.

Re:It's Orwellian is what it is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22221614)

Actually, it wouldn't be all that difficult, except for the resistance of the lazy asshats themselves to legislation that would actually force some favorite disingenuous tactics into the light of day, and prohibit them.

Several Scandinavian countries (folks from those countries please chime in with details, I'm too busy to Google for them, atm) have laws requiring that titles of bills/prospective laws must meet specific descriptive guidelines, and prohibit titles that make cute acronyms (whether to misrepresent their contents or not). It may make it (even more) boring, but it prevents the very jingoistic nonsense we see on a daily basis.

Much more importantly, they have laws that require a law address only a single topic and purpose, prohibiting non-relevant amendments, a favorite tactic of our own lawmakers to hide things they don't want to be debated in otherwise unrelated bills, or to attempt to scuttle legislation they don't like by adding an (often unrelated) amendment the majority will find unacceptable.

Re:Protect America Act... (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221394)

bills _are_ honestly named. Honest from the PoV of the dissembling namers. So just invert.

Re:Protect America Act... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22221992)

Or let opponents of the bill name it. Since they probably won't fly, requiring that everyone refer to it by a bill number would probably be a reasonable compromise.

More surveillance and less oversight? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220436)

More surveillance and less oversight?

Who could vote no?
And after it takes effect, who would dare to vote no?

Re:More surveillance and less oversight? (5, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220600)

First they came for the first posters, but I wasn't a first poster so I didn't speak up.

Then they came for the people with hot grit fetishes, but I wasn't into that so I didn't speak up.

Then they came for the beowulf clusters, but I couldn't afford one so I didn't speak up.

Then they came for the immigrants from Soviet Russia, but I wasn't from Soviet Russia so I didn't speak up.

Then they came for the people posting lame jokes based on tired old /. cliches... by this time there was nobody left to spea&*)$)(*&@(*)@*(&%&OICARRIER LOST

Great (0)

Kagura (843695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220446)

Now we can't retract the retrospective immunity they were granted without possibly undermining the US government's promises even further... not that the telcos should have necessarily been granted it in the first place, but now there is another thing that is catching us up.

Not surprising (2, Interesting)

Tibor the Hun (143056) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220514)

Immunity for the mercennaires, immunity for the snitches, -- leaves no room to hide for the real criminals - me and you buddy.
As those cowardly French say: eqality, liberty, and fraternity...

Re:Not surprising (2, Insightful)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221644)

Actually, it's liberty, equality, fraternity. As someone states in his sig, this makes for an interesting set of priorities... too bad neither the french nor the americans seem to follow that set of priorities.

Love It Or Hate It... (-1, Troll)

blcamp (211756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220524)

...it doesn't matter to me whether you think the law is good or bad, or whether you love Bush or hate him (or for that matter, people from either side of the aisle)...

Bottom line is: there needs to be a way to be able to monitor terrorist activity, criminal actvity... ANY KIND OF THREAT BEING PLANNED.

I'm as much a freedom-loving, flag-waving, baseball-hot-dogs-and-apple-pie loving American as the next Yankee here, but ya know... it's kinda hard to have a debate about civil liberties if you've been blown to smithereens by a nuclear suitcase, or had your crops poisoned by a stolen airplane dusting all your corn with Lord Knows What.

We've been damned fortunate and thwarted every single planned attack since 9/11... we've batted 1.000 so far. At some point, we're going to be nailed again unless a way is found to MONITOR future plans.

I'm not suggesting we totally roll over to the authorities and have Big Brother watch every single thing every American does. But Common Sense dictates that SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE.

There should be a way - there MUST be a way - to safeguard our security, while safeguarding everyday civil liberties. I don't buy the argument that they are mutually exclusive.

I don't think Uncle Sam gives a rodent's rear end about when my wife's parents are coming to visit us, and when we have to pick them up from the airport... but you can bet if someone there wants to fly that plane into the Sears Tower, I damn well want Uncle Sam to be able to find out and know about it.

Make the tools available, for crying out loud.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (2, Insightful)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220580)

Make the tools available, for crying out loud.

Would you rather have a shovel, or a backhoe with busted hydraulics? I don't give a damn what tools they want if they can't figure out how to use the ones they currently have.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1)

blcamp (211756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220638)


I want the tools, a toolbox, a mechanic to fix the busted tools, and people who are ready, able and willing to use them.

And use them in a way that still protects the legitimate privacy interests of citizens, while allowing intervention and interdiction of terrorist activities.

Again, BOTH can and must be done. I don't care who it is that takes up residence or gets "hired" to work on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, it still has to be done.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22221464)

The tools are available. They've been available. FISA requires that there is judicial oversight. If the surveillance is warranted, this should be no problem. And I don't buy the bullshit line that it takes too long. FISA allows warrants to be issued up to 3 days after surveillance starts, so the "we can't wait for oversight" argument is pretty lame.

The bigger problem is that as the US intelligence services have been allowed to indiscriminately accumulate vast amounts of data, they have become unable to process it all. This hasn't helped thwart terrorist plots so much as it has diverted resources away from productive intelligence work and wasted it trying to analyze reams of useless information and investigate countless dead-end leads produced from it. Is this really making anyone safer?

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1)

Quill345 (769162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220640)

Uncle Sam may not care about your personal business, but the individuals who are doing the wiretaps may. The point is that without oversight there is plenty of chance of abuse; that abuse comes in the form of individuals using the wiretaps for personal gain. (Remember Watergate?)

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1)

blcamp (211756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220690)


And remember what happened in the aftermath of Watergate?

Those who carried out the "abuses"... did they not get caught? I recall that even a sitting President had to step down, the offenses were so bad.

What would be so different now?

Obviously some reasonable controls would have to be put in place. Common-sense and all...

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (2, Insightful)

Quill345 (769162) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220774)

That's the POINT. Reasonable controls would be requiring a warrant (which is as simple as presenting a basic reason to an impartial judge). The government can already perform these taps with a warrant using the secret and expedited FISA court. This law guts the warrant necessity eliminating any reasonable control. It's already been shown that the FBI has abused these sorts of wiretaps with bogus National Security Letters. We're not saying don't wiretap, we're saying require a review (as required by the Constitution). And, so what if the President got caught in Watergate? It was by accident that the unlocked door was found. How many more similar incidents have happened that we haven't heard about? We'll never know without auditable control.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (-1, Flamebait)

blcamp (211756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220898)


You think a terrorist gives a damn about a warrant?

You think they are going to sit around and wait for a federal judge to give an FBI or ATF agent or a US Marshall a search warrant to find their suitcase nuke?

Tell me: how might serving a search warrant might have averted 9/11?

You know... I have literally dozens of items in my home that can be used to hijack an airplane, including the now-infamous box-cutter. Last time I checked, it was still legal to possess one of those.

Flame me all you like, but I kinda think it's a pretty good idea for my government to try and find out how best to prevent terrorist attacks in the future, and as long as my constituional rights don't get outright trampled on, I REALLY DON'T CARE HOW THEY FIND TERRORISTS... just as long as they catch and kill every goddamn one of them.

Go ahead, mod me down.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22221004)

Go ahead, mod me down. With pleasure. People like you are who's ruining this country for the rest of us.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (3, Insightful)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221192)

as long as my constituional rights don't get outright trampled on, I REALLY DON'T CARE HOW THEY FIND TERRORISTS... just as long as they catch and kill every goddamn one of them.
Including ignoring the rights citizens of other countries have in their countries? Beware, slippery slope ahead. It leads to a PR disaster that would crush the last bit of goodwill the rest of the world has for the USA. Which would be very welcome to any terrorists.

The trick to terror prevention is ensuring your safety without causing more damage than the terrorists could have. Alienating people is rarely a good idea because that only gets more people motivated to join the terrorists. Alienating entire countries is just as bad because they might not want to do business with you anymore (yes, that's possible; China is a viable alternative) and your economy suffers. Alienating your own people is even wore because it creates unrest and might even get som of them to help the terrorists out of the belief that the current government needs to be replaced.

Just finding terror suspects and killing them at any cost is quite likely to get the country into more trouble than just dealing with them like one did before the whole War on Terror(TM) started. The correct approach lies somewhere in the middle. One needs to be careful enough not to upset everyone but thorough enough to actually catch the dangerous plots. That requires more deliberation than zealotry.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1)

tinkerghost (944862) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221520)

I REALLY DON'T CARE HOW THEY FIND TERRORISTS... just as long as they catch and kill every goddamn one of them.

The problem is 90% of the stuff they do isn't designed to catch terrorists. It'd designed to look like they are doing something to catch terrorists. According to the latest penetration tests against the airports we are probably less safe than prior to 9/11. The mass influx of tech and new recruits to the screening process has dropped the catch rate from 85+% to as low as 65% in some places. You have a bunch of new people who don't know how to do anything but watch the system & wait for the beep. You look safer because there is all the security. You want to feel safer because otherwise it's so much wasted time, but the reality is that nothing has changed in how safe you actually are.

Tell me: how might serving a search warrant might have averted 9/11?

It absolutely wouldn't have. Nor would this whole realID plan that the government is pushing. Everyone involved was in the US legally & had legally valid ID. A fact that the govt conveniently ignores every time they push that Real ID will make us safer.

but I kinda think it's a pretty good idea for my government to try and find out how best to prevent terrorist attacks in the future, and as long as my constituional rights don't get outright trampled on,

Define trampled on....

From where I am looking, the expansion of foreign wiretap rules to include US citizens appears to be a clear trampling of the 4th amendment, but hey I agreed with Nitke that laws designed to -as SCOTUS stated - 'have a chilling effect on expression' were unconstitutional under the first amendment.

Having listened to a lot of the discussion on prevention etc, the one thing proven to work - actually having enough local cops doing real cop work - just doesn't spark enough political interest to get the kind of money that a proposal to install the latest gizmo at every airport does.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22220650)

Strictly speaking, if you have no at bats, your batting average is .000, not 1.000.

The terrorists have won (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22220664)

They have reduced us to craven cowards willing to give up our birthright for the illusion of security.

Ask anyone who was brought up on the wrong side of the iron curtain. When you have a government with that much power, lots of innocent people suffer and even die.

In any event, the government will use the 'information' any way they see fit. That includes lying about things like weapons of mass destruction. No matter what else happens, the increased power will feed the bureaucracy and bork the economy.

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." often attributed to Ben Franklin.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220688)

That's a wonderful post with completely valid points. Unfortunately you overlooked the fact that had anybody bothered to connect the dots, 9/11 could have been stopped using the existing laws on the books with the powers that the Government already had.

All the wiretapping in the World isn't going to help you if the President gets a memo saying "[SOMEBODY] determined to attack US" and ignores it. All the wiretapping in the World won't help you if FBI agents in the field are being ignored by headquarters when they attempt to report suspicious activity.

Maybe we should be asking why all of those failures happened instead of bending over backwards to give the Government sweeping new powers to monitor our daily lives.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (2, Insightful)

roystgnr (4015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221612)

All the wiretapping in the World isn't going to help you

It's even worse than that. All the wiretapping in the World is going to hurt you if the problem is that it's already too hard to pick signal out of noise in the intelligence we currently gather. If you start also sifting through conversations between people so unsuspicious that you can't even get an after-the-fact FISA warrant to spy on either of them, does that add to the signal or does it add to the noise?

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (5, Insightful)

jamie (78724) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220696)

Republican Senators are right now stonewalling and trying to prevent a one-month extension of the same legislation they insisted last year was vital, urgent, and necessary to prevent terrorist attacks in "days, not weeks [salon.com] ." The President has said he would veto a one-month extension of this legislation that, last year, we supposedly needed to stop the terrorists from attacking America.

They are protesting a one-month extension so that people who aren't paying attention will pressure Democrats to cave in and give Republicans what they want. The Republicans are literally -- if you believe their own words -- exposing America to danger of terrorist attack as a political tactic to pass the legislation they want.

And what they want is retroactive immunity for corporations so that we, the people, have no legal recourse to discover whether those corporations cooperated with the Bush administration in breaking the law.

The tools are already available. They allow the NSA to spy, and they allow American corporations to assist that spying. It's just that the laws must be followed. They are not difficult to follow. And corporations already are immune from both civil and criminal consequences if they can just demonstrate that, even though they broke the law, they acted on a good-faith belief at the time that what they did was legal.

If you think this about whether we can monitor what the terrorists are talking about, you're wrong.

What are you smoking? (3, Insightful)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220724)

...it doesn't matter to me whether you think the law is good or bad,

So, you want to join the debate about this bill but you don't care what anyone thinks about the bill? Won't that sort of hinder your ability to engage in rational discourse?

Bottom line is: there needs to be a way to be able to monitor terrorist activity, criminal actvity... ANY KIND OF THREAT BEING PLANNED.

See? The discussion is over the attempt to rid the bill of a provision protecting telecoms from the consequences of their past criminal activity. This has nothing whatsoever to do with monitoring terrorist activities, apart from the fact that certain members of congress (Jeff Sessions, for example) led by VP Cheney are willing to scuttle the bill if they can't get their friends a "get out of jial free" card.

We've been damned fortunate and thwarted every single planned attack since 9/11... we've batted 1.000 so far. At some point, we're going to be nailed again unless a way is found to MONITOR future plans.

Uh, what attacks would that be? And how does that have anything to do with the PAA which, as I just pointed out, has little or nothing to do with the telecom immunity? As far as I recall, all of the so-called "threats" that have been thwarted have turned out to be bogus, and none of them--none of them were found using the powers under PAA. So what's the connection?

I'm not suggesting we totally roll over to the authorities and have Big Brother watch every single thing every American does. But Common Sense dictates that SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE.

Perhaps. But even if, as you say, "SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE" a minute's thought leads to the conclusion that giving big corporations a blank check to violate our nations laws probably isn't it.

--MarkusQ

Re:What are you smoking? (0, Troll)

blcamp (211756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220838)


Is your idea of debating a legitimate issue - intervening and interdicting terrorism - launching a straw man attack against politicians and "evil" big corportations... or private citizens who don't happen to agree with you?

This is why those on the left don't manage to get anything done. Their whole strategy is to bash others who propose solutions and come up with no solutions on their own.

Why not come up with an ACTUAL WORKING SOLUTION to the problem terrorism, as was the original topic of this discussion?

Other lawbreaking (such as the allegations against telcos and whatnot) can still be dealt with - that is a separate issue. Leave out there, don't sweep it under the rug... but don't use it as a means of obstructing our national defense, either.

Re:What are you smoking? (2, Insightful)

MarkusQ (450076) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221122)

Is your idea of debating a legitimate issue - intervening and interdicting terrorism - launching a straw man attack against politicians and "evil" big corportations... or private citizens who don't happen to agree with you?

No. But the topic is the telco immunity provision, not "intervening and interdicting terrorism" whatever that is.

This is why those on the left don't manage to get anything done. Their whole strategy is to bash others who propose solutions and come up with no solutions on their own.

First, I'm coming from the right (life long Republican and current Ron Paul supporter), so that jibe just plain misses the mark. But since when and on what basis is insisting that no one is above the law been "bashing others who propose solutions"?

Why not come up with an ACTUAL WORKING SOLUTION to the problem terrorism, as was the original topic of this discussion?

Sure thing. So long as you come up with a cure for cancer first.

Other lawbreaking (such as the allegations against telcos and whatnot) can still be dealt with - that is a separate issue. Leave out there, don't sweep it under the rug... but don't use it as a means of obstructing our national defense, either.

First, the whole point of this discussion is that, if they pass the immunity, it can't be dealt with later. That's what immunity means. Further, the people "obstructing the national defense" here as you construe it are mostly on the right, not the left. It's Cheney, Sessions, McConnel, etc. (all Republicans, I'm ashamed to admit) who are insisting that the PAA must die if they can't get immunity for their pals. So get your facts straight, OK?

--MarkusQ

Re:What are you smoking? (1)

Jesus_666 (702802) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221246)

This is why those on the left don't manage to get anything done.
The USA have a left? When did that happen?

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (2, Insightful)

tpheiska (1145505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220744)

Private communication is a key factor in a democratic society. Without it, a powerful opposition is not possible. And an opposition is very necessary, even though the current US regime/government tries to label it 'unpatriotic'. But then, I'm an ignorant European treehugger who undersands nothing about the dangers USA is facing. There is also a nice quote from one of the great minds that America has produced. "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (5, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220830)

We've been damned fortunate and thwarted every single planned attack since 9/11... we've batted 1.000 so far.
By that weak standard, Bush should also get full credit for there not having been a single American city demolished by a meteor, and he's "batted 1.000" in keeping California from falling into the Pacific.

Maybe we should look at it the other way around. George Bush has been the only president in the 20th century to allow such a devastating foreign attack on our soil.

It might just be that the threat of terrorism isn't as serious as you seem to think.

But the most important argument against creating a "total surveillance society" in order to prevent terrorism is that there already is a very good legal system for allowing the kind of surveillance against terrorists that you seem to believe we need. It is called the FISA court and gives our government plenty of tools for fighting terrorism.

Finally, for me it comes down to this: Yesterday, we heard one GOP senator after another say that the telecoms did nothing wrong in allowing the government to eavesdrop, and the program is completely legal. Well then, why do they need immunity? Why not leave it up to our legal system and a jury of citizens to decide whether any laws were broken.

blcamp, I live in the shadow of Sears Tower. I'm as concerned about my wife and daughter as you are about your family. But as I've said before, I will take my chances with the terrorists, but leave my liberties intact.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1)

blcamp (211756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221170)


Utter Nonsense:

First World Trade Center Attack in 1993. President: Bill Clinton.
Pearl Harbor, 1941. President: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. (Yes, even then Hawaii was "our soil".)

Those were both a "foreign attack on our soil."

As I have said before, and I'll say again: BOTH can be done - both protecting our civil liberties AND preventing terrorist attacks. They are NOT mutually exclusive.

If you sacrifice either one without the other (EITHER WAY), we're in trouble.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221598)

If you want to be that pedantic, don't forget that FDR was president during the only time since the War of 1812 when a foreign power occupied United States soil (the capture of two Aleutian islands, Attu and Kiska, by the Japanese).

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221994)

blcampy, you don't read carefully enough. I said that George Bush was the first President to allow such a devastating attack on our soil. There's plenty evidence that 9/11 was the most devastating attack on US soil in the 20th century.

And yes, being 100% safe from terrorist attacks IS mutually exclusive with protecting our civil liberties.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1)

Teflon_Jeff (1221290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22222012)

Technically, the 9/11 attacks were int eh 21st century. But regardless, the Telco's were really between a rock and a hard place. Even recently as 18 months ago, they were handing over private information to the NSA by request. Except Qwest, I believe. I don't support blanket immunity, but I do support some immunity. We should be looking at specifics on a case by case basis.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (4, Insightful)

bhima (46039) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220954)

OK. I'm all for making the tools available, once the make sure that they safeguard our everyday civil liberties and that their continued use is based on regular and accurate validations their efficacy.

Seriously: Safeguard our liberties first then worry about security.

Security in the United States today is Security Theater. It's operatic in it's grandeur and stupidity.

5 Year olds and US senators on 'No Fly Lists'? Falafel stakeouts in San Fran looking for Iranian sleeper cells? The Secret Service strong-arming high school students for anti-war anti-bush speech? Calling the Bomb Squad on hot chilies, LED cartoon advertisements, and state owned traffic monitors? Arresting, Beating, Nearly Shooting & Killing innocent people because they act or look different?

There is no way I'm willing to give up any of *anyone's* liberties for that sort of buffoonery.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221144)

Those tools are already being abused. The FBI has admitted to using warrentless wire tap provisions intended to fight terrorism on non-terrorism related cases. Not once, not a few times, thousands of times. Agents were either improperly trained on how to use the powers, or deliberately abused their powers. In either case, a bit scary, no? We have freedom and liberty for a reason, to sacrifice them for a very nebulous degree of safety (after all, point out one major terrorist plot that was stopped by these new powers) is foolishness of the highest order. I don't want to live in a country that is safe for "FREEDOM", but has no freedom.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (1)

jo42 (227475) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221398)

How about stop pissing "them" off so that they don't want to do this "to us" in the first place?

You do know that because of the American meddling in their affairs over the last few decades that all of this is going on.

Yup. You done did this to yourselves.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (4, Insightful)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221454)

9/11 wasn't a good thing. But face it: Big deal.

Nobody else is going to easily do it again even without all the "Patriot" bullshit. The 9/11 hijackers "ruined the market" for future hijackers.

Before 9/11 the "unwritten protocol" was - hijack announced, everyone meekly stays in their seats, nobody (mostly) gets hurt, negotiations start, hijackers get something, passengers get to go. Unless of course the hijackers were crazy enough to do El Al ;).

After 9/11 hijackers WILL have a more difficult time with passengers and air crew, the cockpit doors are reinforced. Enough passengers will think "If I'm going to die anyway, I'm going to make sure that hijacker suffers first". If everyone just threw their shoes and stuff at the hijackers at the same time it will really hurt :). I can tell you for sure that many passengers will look at each other and have a go at the hijackers.

In fact even _DURING_ 9/11, passengers on board one of those planes figured out what was happening, and one of the planes didn't hit the target.

You think most hijackers haven't figured that out? Only a few stupid ones (or mentally ill) have tried since 9/11. They have to move on to other methods if they want to crash into towers - charter/steal private planes etc.

The bulk of the new procedures like banning liquids and checking shoes is just to make the stupid sheeple feel safe.

The fact that the US Gov lies to its citizens regularly, and puts in laws that don't actually address the problem shows to me that the US Gov is a greater danger to US citizens than the "evil terrorists" are.

The 9/11 killed like 3K? And cost the USA how much?

In comparison the US Gov started a war in Iraq (based on _deceit_ ) and got how many killed? And cost the USA how much?

Not to mention the US Gov has been trampling over the "precious" US constitution which so many US citizens _allegedly_ value so much. They don't even bother to amend the constitution, they just ignore it or twist the interpretation so much.

The US people should serious consider who really is their biggest enemy.

Re:Love It Or Hate It... (2, Insightful)

bitflip (49188) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221696)

> We've been damned fortunate and thwarted every single planned attack since 9/11... we've batted 1.000 so far.

But what does Bush, or congress, or any of the laws they have passed have to do with it?

The reason we haven't been attacked is because after 9/11, I started shaving my crotch, and have kept it shaved ever since then.

Yes, I'm willing to do this to save American lives. I'm that cool.

It's not that each person is evil (4, Insightful)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220532)

Just remember, when you are reading about the fall of the American constitution that it's not because any person involved is inherently bad. Quite the opposite. Most of them are good. They love America generally speaking and want the best for their people. They have to. Power only works when you respect the people you control. When you approach each person involved in this situation and ask them just what the fuck are they thinking, they would probably tell you, and honestly at that, that they are doing the best they can for the people they represent.

I'm not saying stupidity is an excuse. I'm just saying that the supposed "inherent evil" that people want to believe politicians all possess isn't the problem. The problem is political ignorance and an extreme distance from reality that accompanies the higher eschelons of power.

This is also, I would imagine, why the fore-fathers imagined a country run by the stronger states, not controlled by a stronger federal government. Keep the power closer to the people, at lower levels, and the reality is much harder to miss.

Re:It's not that each person is evil (2, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220606)

Power only works when you respect the people you control.

It is fair to say that my experience of the world does not provide much support for this notion.

Re:It's not that each person is evil (1)

n3tcat (664243) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221206)

It is fair to say that my experience of the world does not provide much support for this notion. It sounds to me like you are thinking of the illusion of power. The ability to change the environment around you based entirely on people's misconception that you are actually in control works only so long as people don't realize the truth. In fact power works this way regardless, but when the time comes that your actual power vs percieved power comes into question, if the respect is not there, the power will most likely not last long.

What's that quote? (1)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220668)

"Never attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity."

But the thing is that Congress-critters are a lot smarter than you think. Like most people (not all), they have their own self interest at heart. They may want to protect their business constituents, that's all. And gosh, you don't want someone with all that money to be donating it to someone that may not be able to help in the next election, do you?

Real peace at last? (3, Interesting)

miffo.swe (547642) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220540)

With the US going in the opposite direction of China, Iran, North Korea etc they will in a short timeframe meet halfways. We will have a world where the western world inches towards the banana republics and opressors while they go slowly towards democracy. This is interesting times to live in. One cant stop wondering if it will stop halfways or if a time down the road we westerners will be the new "muslims".

Re:Real peace at last? (2, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220760)

With the US going in the opposite direction of China, Iran, North Korea ... while they go slowly towards democracy

Uhh, yeah, I'll grant that on Iran (with the students and young moderates) and maybe even China, but North Korea???

One cant stop wondering if it will stop halfways

It'll come back around. Look at some of the laws that got put on the books is the US and UK during WW2. Hell, look at some of our actions [wikipedia.org] during that time. Hell, look at some of what happened after [wikipedia.org] the war.

Point being, that in spite of all of that, it eventually came back around towards freedom and liberty. I see no reason why it won't do so again as long as we continue to fight for our rights.

It might take some time but... (3, Funny)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220566)

It's never to late to add retroactive immunity!

Re:It might take some time but... (1)

niceone (992278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220582)

Too too too, must use preview, too too too, will the lameness filter let this trhough? too, too, too.

Radicals (5, Interesting)

jamie (78724) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220568)

I liked the comment [gpo.gov] by Sen. Bond (R-Mo.) that failure to give telecom providers retroactive immunity for any crimes they may have committed would be

leaving them open to disclosure and exceedingly serious competitive and reputational harm, perhaps even physical retaliation by radicals who oppose our intelligence gathering.

He is saying -- he is actually saying -- that Congress has to prevent its own laws from being applied to a corporation, because if the courts are allowed to proceed with civil lawsuits, angry mobs of disaffected citizens will storm the corporate headquarters of AT&T and Verizon and burn them to the ground because they oppose intelligence gathering. We must circumvent the legal process to soothe the hordes of Americans who are furious at the NSA. This is surely the most bizarre panem-et-circenses ever.

Or maybe he's saying Al Qaeda sleeper cells will launch attacks on key NOCs for our internet backbone... the only thing holding them back is they're waiting for word to come that a civil lawsuit has been filed against the owning corporation and depositions have been submitted and discovery is proceeding, Allahu Akbar!

Re:Radicals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22220704)

Makes you wonder who Congress works for, doesn't it?

Re:Radicals (1)

dkf (304284) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221168)

Makes you wonder who Congress works for, doesn't it?
No. Congress works for itself, its members have their re-election as their primary concerns, and this has been the way for centuries (though the fine details have varied). If this surprises you, you're not realistic enough.

Re:Radicals (3, Funny)

roystgnr (4015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221564)

if the courts are allowed to proceed with civil lawsuits, angry mobs of disaffected citizens will storm the corporate headquarters of AT&T and Verizon

Well, to be fair, the only proven way to stop a horde of radicals with pitchforks and torches is to calmly explain to them that the criminals spying on them paid millions of dollars to politicians who then let them off the hook. "You mean we have no legal recourse against those who wronged us?" the mob will say. "Well, there's hardly any point to physical retaliation unless it can be accompanied by lengthy judicial review of an accompanying civil lawsuit!"

Re:Radicals (0, Troll)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221638)

On behalf of Missouri, I apologize for that douchebag and say that I have never voted for him. At least we got rid of our other Republican senator and Bush lickspittle in 2006.

Slogan (4, Funny)

dlc3007 (570880) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220592)

AT&T -- Your world. Delivered. To the NSA.

Re:Slogan (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22220656)

That reminds me; I recently saw an AT&T commercial and noticed that they call themselves the "carrier you can trust." How hard were the execs laughing at that gem when they thought it up?

Capitulation Happens (3, Insightful)

Ranger (1783) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220732)

If the Fuck, er, ah, Protect America Act expires, the old FISA law is still in effect. The key difference is oversight. The Democrats in the Senate will pretend to put up a brave fight then give Bush everything he wants. We got screwed when Congress rammed the PATRIOT Act I down our throats. Everything else since then has been gravy for them. Makes you wish you were a big fat corporation. After the telecoms get their immunity, other corporations will want the same deal. I hope I'm wrong. I really do.

PAA should just die (1)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220762)

There is no need for it. The existing FISA laws are enough. It is only up to the government to follow FISA and do the warrant procedures properly.

The PAA and the attempt to include retroactive immunity is a sham to destroy the constitution. If passed, then it would set a precedent that would allow any corporation to get immunity for their actions. Pure fascism.

Examples would be pollution cleanup, consumer poisoning, and investment fraud. The mess that would result would actually destroy the corporations in the long run, along with the population.

It's a losing game, but short-sighted greed can not see that.

Don't be to distracted by the retroactive immunity (4, Informative)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22220804)

Unless you think that warrantless wiretaps are a good idea, the rest of this bill is pretty damn bad as well.

Re:Don't be to distracted by the retroactive immun (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22221280)

Retroactive, not retrospective

Re:Don't be to distracted by the retroactive immun (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221964)

Uhm...

I said "retroactive". But I'm not sure what the difference is. Both seem to mean applying to events in the past.

retrospective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22221026)

Retrospective doesn't mean what the author thinks it means. Perhaps the author meant 'retroactive'?

Reminds Me Of This: (-1, Troll)

blcamp (211756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221066)

Are you a Democrat, a Republican, or a Redneck?

Here is a little test that will help you decide:

You're walking down a deserted street with your wife and two small children. Suddenly, an Islamic terrorist with a huge knife comes around the corner, locks eyes with you, screams obscenities, praises Allah, raises the knife, and charges at you.

You are carrying a Glock cal. 40, and you are an expert shot. You have mere seconds before he reaches you and your family.

What do you do?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Democrat's Answer:

Well, that's not enough information to answer the question! Does the man look poor? Or oppressed? Have I ever done anything to him that would inspire him to attack? Could we run away? What does my wife think? What about the kids? Could I possibly swing the gun like a club and knock the knife out of his hand? What does the law say about this situation? Does the Glock have appropriate safety built into it? Why am I carrying a loaded gun anyway, and what kind of message does this send to society and to my children? Is it possible he'd be happy with just killing me? Does he definitely want to kill me, or would he be content just to wound me? If I were to grab his knees and hold on, could my family get away while
he was stabbing me? Should I call 9-1-1? Why is this street so deserted? We need to raise taxes, have a paint and weed day and make this a happier, healthier street that would discourage such behavior. This is all so confusing! I need to discuss with some friends over a latte and try to come to a consensus.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Republican's Answer:

BANG!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Redneck's Answer:

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! Click....

(sounds of reloading)

BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! BANG! click

Daughter: 'Nice grouping, Daddy! Were those the Winchester Silver Tips or Hollow Points?'

Son: 'You got him, Pop! Can I shoot the next one?'

Wife: 'You are not taking that to the taxidermist.'

Re:Reminds Me Of This: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22221498)

you were just aching to prove to the world what they already knew when it comes to the notion of what "average american" stands for, eh?

bravo, you've left no doubt...

here's a hint: guns are phallic symbols...

The *real bill* (3, Interesting)

dpilot (134227) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221306)

Enough of this chiseling around. Someone should introduce a bill making GWB above the law, and law as well as in fact. We should spell out the super-capabilities of the Executive, essentially pointing out that we have an elected, term-limited King.

We've just been pussy-footing around for the past 7 years. GWB is very nearly a King already, between Signing Statements and Executive Privilege. The mechanisms of tyranny are in place. The checks and balances of government are broken. So the question becomes, "Do you trust GWB?" as well as, "Do you trust the next President?"

Name a spade a spade, and maybe people will finally wake up to the slippery slope we've been sliding down.

Fall on sword (2, Insightful)

redelm (54142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221360)

Of course the Ds blame the Rs and vice-versa. They both want the spying, but know it's unpopular and cannot afford to be seen as supporting it in an e[rl]ection year. Yet they don't want to be seen/accused of doing anything to hamper the WOT.

The hypocrisy of Congress cannot by overestimated. Without the moral compass that principles provide, there will always be situations where expediency is unclear.

That kind of easy cynicism doesn't solve anything (1)

psiogen (262130) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221624)

If more people like you who care about privacy issues get out there and put pressure on those wavering Democratic senators who can't quite recall who they answer to, we might actually be able to stop things like this. It's the only way it ever happens.

Re:That kind of easy cynicism doesn't solve anythi (1)

redelm (54142) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221798)

Actually, cynicism, when realistic, solves a great many problems. Particularly avoiding wasted efforts and unnecessary disappointments.

Leaning on Ds won't work very much. They're just counting votes. Likewise the Rs. Without pricinples, all is expediency.

Good for the Goose... (1)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221594)

Good for the gander.

If the government wants to be able to listen in on all my communications, then I want to listen in on all of theirs. I want to know what my employees are doing.

So let it expire (1)

Nexus7 (2919) | more than 6 years ago | (#22221620)

So the Protect America Act will expire, huh? OK, so what will happen? I think what the congress-people and the potus are afraid of is that if it does expire, nothing will happen. Before the act was in place, the security agencies has enough powers and enough information about an impending strike (that happened on a certain day); they just weren't co-ordinated enough, or agile enough to prevent it.

Why do we have to bear the burden of someone else's disorganization by incursions into our freedoms?

Especially with these "1984"-style naming of legislations - "Patriot" act, "Help America Vote Act", "Protect America Act."
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