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White House Says Phone Wiretaps Will Resume For Now

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the can-we-hear-you-now dept.

Privacy 262

austinhook brings us news that the U.S. government has resumed wiretapping with the help of telecommunications companies. The companies are said to have "understandable misgivings" over the unresolved issue of retroactive immunity for their participation in past wiretapping. Spy agencies have claimed that the expiration of the old legislation has caused them to miss important information. The bill that would grant the immunity passed in the Senate, but not in the House.

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How do they know? (5, Interesting)

duffetta (660874) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534628)

How do they know that they've missed important information, if they aren't wiretapping?

Darwinian M&M duels (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22534658)

Whenever I get a package of plain M&Ms, I make it my duty to continue the strength and robustness of the candy as a species. Taking two candies between my thumb and forefinger, I apply pressure, squeezing them together until one of them cracks and splinters. That is the "loser," and I eat the inferior one immediately. The winner gets to go another round.

I have found that, in general, the brown and red M&Ms are tougher, and the newer blue ones are genetically inferior. I have hypothesized that the blue M&Ms as a race cannot survive long in the intense theatre of competition that is the modern candy and snack-food world.

Occasionally I will get a mutation, a candy that is misshapen, or pointier, or flatter than the rest. Almost invariably this proves to be a weakness, but on very rare occasions it gives the candy extra strength. In this way, the species continues to adapt to its environment.

When I reach the end of the pack, I am left with one M&M, the strongest of the herd. Since it would make no sense to eat this one as well, I pack it neatly in an envelope and send it to M&M Mars, A Division of Mars, Inc., Hackettstown, NJ 17840-1503 U.S.A., along with a 3x5 card reading, "Please use this M&M for breeding purposes."

This week they wrote back to thank me, and sent me a coupon for a free 1/2 pound bag of plain M&Ms. I consider this "grant money." I have set aside the weekend for a grand tournament. From a field of hundreds, we will discover the True Champion.

There can be only one.

Holy crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22534860)

you made my day.

Re:Darwinian M&M duels (4, Funny)

Soft Cosmic Rusk (1211950) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534972)

I must admit that I don't quite see the connection to TFA, but anyway: Would you please either stop doing that or pay my dentist bills?

Re:How do they know? (5, Funny)

ExecutorElassus (1202245) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534668)

Sorry, that information is classified for reasons of national security. You have an inappropriately strong interest in questioning the Terrorist Monitoring Program's scope; just whose side are you on?

News at 11 (1)

conureman (748753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535468)

Yeah, like an announcement by our Fearless Leader was needed, for us to know they are tapping our communications.

Re:News at 11 (2, Insightful)

The Spoonman (634311) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535602)

Yeah, like an announcement by our FearFUL Leader was needed, for us to know they are tapping our communications.

There, I corrected that for you. Bush, like anyone else still afraid of "terrorists", is a huge pussy.

Re:How do they know? (1)

lorg (578246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534688)

Last thing transcribed ... "so I'll call you again next week to discuss THE plan in detail".

Re:How do they know? (2, Interesting)

lorg (578246) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534736)

OUTSOURCING. They had someone else do the wiretapping for them. Just like they don't use "harsh interrogation" techniques themselves they get someone else to do it for them. Same here .. They missed the information and then had to trade, buy or acquire it somehow from some other friendly agency.
 

Re:How do they know? (3, Insightful)

MyNameIsFred (543994) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534746)

...How do they know that they've missed important information, if they aren't wiretapping?...
It's not that hard to presume that they know they are missing information. Assume they recorded a conversation that was important, and part of that conversation was let's talk every Thursday. Or they said we're putting everything in place, we'll contact you shortly with the time. Although those examples raise the question of why don't you just get a warrant...

Re:How do they know? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535324)

Ongoing investigations are covered by the laws in effect when the investigation started. This means that if they started monitoring a phone number last month, the can continue to monitor the conversations. Also, if they discover some reason to establish a new investigation, under the current law, they can start monitoring immediately and ask for permission up to 72 hours later.

The house would have been happy to extend "Protect America" but not make it permanent. Bush said he would veto an extension.

In reality, I believe the situation boils down to the Bush administration not wanting the paper trail they get with the FISA court where you have to ask, and you are always told yes, but they've made a paper trail of what you've asked to monitor.

It is pretty clear that right now all conversations going through the phone systems are recorded. Some are erased after an hour, some are erased after a year. I'm not even sure this is a bad thing --- it might have been pretty useful to have a copy of all phone calls made in the USA for the 3 days prior to 9/11.

This being slashdot, we should talk about how we'd do it, not how it is a profound intrusion into our privacy, or how the gubberment is lying to us.

Re:How do they know? (4, Informative)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535328)


Assume they recorded a conversation that was important, and part of that conversation was let's talk every Thursday. Or they said we're putting everything in place, we'll contact you shortly with the time.

Yah, that would be true if the current wiretaps were to expire when the legislation expired. But the law was written to specifically say they didn't. Any existing wiretaps expire when they were originally set to expire.

Re:How do they know? (2, Interesting)

Cocophone (702019) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535336)

That is why there are warrants. The Government can already start listening and then get a warrant after the fact. There is no excuse for wiretaps without warrants.

If they are not able to get a warrant, then who exactly are they spying on?

Re:How do they know? (5, Interesting)

Zeinfeld (263942) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535342)

It's not that hard to presume that they know they are missing information. Assume they recorded a conversation that was important, and part of that conversation was

That is the White House line and its a lie. Existing authorizations continue to be in force for a year. That takes us past the next inauguration.

The only case where the administration could not conduct a warantless tap is if there was an entirely new terrorist organization to emerge in the next twelve months. And they could still get a wiretap, they just have to get a warrant.

The issue here is not providing immunity to the telcos, it is providing immunity to the Administration. They want to be able to shred all the evidence of their criminal activities before a Democrat takes over. And they are willing to hold the security of the country hostage till they get their way.

Up till now it has been sufficient for the Bushies to cry National Security and the Democrats would run frightened to hide. Now they have accidentally called the Administration's bluff they have discovered the consequences of standing up to Bully Bush - absolutely nothing. Bush's approval ratings dropped by ten points to 19%. The wiretap issue was gone after a single media cycle.

Re:How do they know? (1, Flamebait)

v1 (525388) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534858)

because when you're in the evesdropping business, everything is important. Every minute you've missed invading someone's privacy is a travesty!

Resuming wiretaps (5, Insightful)

Ice Wewe (936718) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534672)

...that the U.S. government has resumed wiretapping with the help of telecommunications companies.

Which just goes to show you that they never had any intention to stop wiretapping, just to throw a big tantrum over it and then go back to spying on Americans the good old fashioned way, illegally.

Re:Resuming wiretaps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22534966)

But Daddy said I'd get to do spy stuff! Spy stuff rules! Bang Bang, Bin Laden!

Re:Resuming wiretaps (1, Flamebait)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535230)

Which just goes to show you that they never had any intention to stop wiretapping, just to throw a big tantrum over it and then go back to spying on Americans the good old fashioned way, illegally.
I hear words like "illegal" an awful lot when it comes to things that Bush does. Illegal wiretapping, Illegal war, Illegal interrogation. Why don't we just call it "undocumented"? Isn't that the new PC word for "illegal"

Seriously. Is it illegal to eavesdrop on overseas conversations? That is what we are talking about here. These calls we are tapping have at least one party overseas. Please, tell me: What law designed to protect non-Americans are we breaking?

Re:Resuming wiretaps (2, Interesting)

Eggplant62 (120514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535296)

Fuck the non-American's, it's the American side of the conversation that needs, no REQUIRES, protection. Last I checked, unwarranted searches and wiretaps were still unconstitutional, but the Bush administration has trampled roughshodden over our rights so much anyway that the sheep living in this country just shut up and take it. It's like everyone in this country has been put under some Svengali spell designed to keep them complacent, docile, and unquestioning, primed for the day before the '08 election, when the Bushies will dispatch the National Guard to institute martial law and a new Christian Theocracy. No one will question it, and no one will even raise a hand to do a damned thing about it.

Yeah, I know, it's a totally made up scenario. But with things going the way they are, that scenario could one day become very real. Take this moment to drop an email to your elected representatives and demand an end to this nonsense.

Re:Resuming wiretaps (1, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535356)

Seriously. Is it illegal to eavesdrop on overseas conversations? That is what we are talking about here. These calls we are tapping have at least one party overseas. Please, tell me: What law designed to protect non-Americans are we breaking?
Someone want to explain how this is flamebait? Or was the mod not able answer the question?

Re:Resuming wiretaps (1, Troll)

SpaceLifeForm (228190) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535618)

It's Sunday in the U.S. and the reich-wing astromods will be out in force. They will be overwhelmed today though, and they should just go back to their planning meetings where they can bullshit each other and feel better.

Seriously moderators, if you have a bad reaction reading something here today on Slashdot, it's probably just due to your cognitive dissonance, and for your own safety, it would be best to leave before your head explodes.

Remember, it's for your own safety, we're here to protect you.

Re:Resuming wiretaps (2, Insightful)

fangorious (1024903) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535552)

go dig up the testimony of the AT&T engineer whistleblower, and the Qwest CEO. The surveillance rooms intercept all calls coming over the lines. There is no way for the telcos to route specific calls. During the onset of these programs, no language was involved to specify domestic versus international traffic. The overwhelming majority of traffic going thru some of the centers is domestic. And since you seem so confused, the Constitution is all about inalienable human rights, not inalienable American rights. It says the government needs warrants that specify parameters about what's being search: who; when; where. The very architectural design of this surveillance system (surveil everything that goes through a call center at all times) breaks the specificity requirements.

Re:Resuming wiretaps (4, Informative)

Phroggy (441) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535608)

Seriously. Is it illegal to eavesdrop on overseas conversations? That is what we are talking about here. These calls we are tapping have at least one party overseas. Please, tell me: What law designed to protect non-Americans are we breaking?
Take a look at the fourth amendment to the United States Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The language is a bit archaic, but the gist of it is, the government can't go snooping through your stuff, unless they can show probable cause and get a warrant that says what they're looking for and where it is. Obviously telephones didn't exist at the time, but if they did, it's reasonable to assume that telephone conversations would have also been included along with "papers and effects", so that's how we interpret this.

So it's perfectly OK for the government to wiretap someone's phone, if they get a warrant. However, this raises three concerns: first, if they get a tip, they need to act immediately, and getting a warrant from a judge normally takes time. Second, it may be difficult to explain to a judge who hasn't dealt with matters of national security before why the government really should be wiretapping this person's phone. Finally, warrants are normally a matter of public record, and we wouldn't want terrorists to know which phones we're wiretapping!

So, Congress addressed these concerns by passing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It establishes a secret court that can issue warrants without making them public; the judges have a ridiculously high security clearance and have training and experience dealing with matters of national security, and the warrants issued by the FISA court are retroactive for 72 hours - so the government can start eavesdropping immediately, then file the paperwork a couple days later and everything is OK. As it turns out, the FISA court is little more than a rubber stamp (apparently out of thousands of warrant applications, they've only ever rejected five). But this allows the government to comply with the Constitutional requirements laid out in the fourth amendment.

The problem is that the Bush administration is ignoring the law and wiretapping people's phones without getting warrants from the FISA court.

You mentioned that these calls have at least one party overseas. Even if you interpret "the people" to include only US citizens on American soil, if only one party is overseas, you're still eavesdropping on a conversation involving an American, so it's still illegal regardless of who they're talking to (if you don't have a warrant).

Also, how do you know the conversations the government is wiretapping all involve foreigners? Sure, that's why President Bush says he wants the power to wiretap without a warrant, but with no oversight whatsoever, all we have is his word, which most of us don't hold in high esteem at the moment.

Does this clear things up?

Well that answers the immunity question... (5, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534728)

Retroactive immunity is now a moot point. Previously they could argue that they weren't aware that they were operating illegally. Now they surely have no such defence. I'm sure some of the lawyers on Capitol Hill will start using words like 'wilfully' now.

Re:Well that answers the immunity question... (1, Troll)

Bonker (243350) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534884)

Hmm... We may actually have to impeach this asshat before the election.

Re:Well that answers the immunity question... (3, Insightful)

whoisjoe (465549) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535360)

Hmm... We may actually have to impeach this asshat before the election.
We *need* to impeach both of these asshats before the election (both Dubya and Darth Cheney). Given all of their crimes (from misleading the public to sell a war to willfully performing unlawful searches), not impeaching them sends the message to future administrations that this sort of behavior is OK.

Re:Well that answers the immunity question... (2, Interesting)

kharchenko (303729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535438)

Not that I don't think he deserved it, but I have some qualms about having current VP fill the spot.

Re:Well that answers the immunity question... (5, Insightful)

htnprm (176191) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534944)

BS. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Telcos are well aware of the details under FISA. Honestly. The fact that your average American does nothing as a result of the evidence that this administration has been illegally wiretapping since 2002, if not before (Well before the Protect America Act was passed) says so much. People I speak to are waiting for Obama to change things. Well. Wait for this to change:

If Obama is elected - "I haven't had enough time in four years to change anything, so elect me again".
At the next congressional elections - "We haven't had enough time with a Democrat as President, so elect us again". ...What will you all do when nothing changes? I'm taking bets if anyone is interest.

(Note, this post is not a message against Obama, or for any other candidate. Just pointing out details regarding a candidate who everyone thinks will change things, but who is simply another politician, and an individual person, up against the whole of the political machine).

Re:Well that answers the immunity question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535582)

It wasn't since 2002, and that's the funny thing: it was since 2001 and *before* 9/11!

massjunk@gmail.com email me if you dont like Bush (1)

massjunk956 (1237948) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534754)

massjunk@gmail.com email me if you dont like Bush

massjunk@gmail.com spam me if you dont like Bush

I call B.S. (4, Insightful)

christurkel (520220) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534760)

Spy agencies have claimed that the expiration of the old legislation has caused them to miss important information.

Riiiiiiiiight. If you can't illegally wiretap, how could you possibly know what you missed? Besides, there is a perfectly good FISA court still around; you can even wiretap and get a warrant 72 hours later.

Fear mongering sucks. We're a better nation than this.

Re:I call B.S. (2, Insightful)

marzipanic (1147531) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534836)

Exactly! How would they know? Unless they have the extra secret alleged psychic warriors on the case, which would be easier than the whole wiretap thing.

I believe the age of "Enemy of the State" is upon us, I believe they have been doing it for a very long time! But that is just me and from what I hear.

It is not just the US either, it is UK too http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/01/29/interception_communications_commissioner/ [theregister.co.uk] although they keep getting "wrong numbers" ahem! Bet it is those 0898 numbers they keep trying!

It is good in one way as it will help reduce crime (allegedly) yet in another it is an invasion of privacy and as we know what is meant for good is usually used for bad by certain people.

Bring back James Pond! Codename RoboCod....

psychic warriors (1)

jefu (53450) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535096)

Given the reports of the value of the intelligence before the Iraq war, and the continuing reports of bad intelligence about other areas, it may not be unreasonable to assume that most of the intelligence gathering by the CIA is indeed being run by psychic agents. The satellite they just shot down - it contained a very highly instrumented dowsing rod.

Sounds almost like a comedy film plot - go into the CIA and see women with crystal balls (probably wearing trench coats), levitating tables, windowless rooms with velvet covered tables for tarot readings.

Re:I call B.S. (5, Insightful)

johnsonav (1098915) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534942)

The real question for me is, why not get FISA warrants? By all accounts, they are a rubber stamp that will grant most any warrant. The FISA court was set up for exactly the type of activities that they say they are doing. So by circumventing that process, I can only conclude that the real program is much more broad, and illegal, than they are letting on.

Re:I call B.S. (4, Insightful)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535056)

The real question for me is, why not get FISA warrants? By all accounts, they are a rubber stamp that will grant most any warrant. The FISA court was set up for exactly the type of activities that they say they are doing. So by circumventing that process, I can only conclude that the real program is much more broad, and illegal, than they are letting on.
Even more than a rubber stamp, since the spook agencies are allowed to begin surveillance, *then* apply for the warrant (up to 72 hours later).

But the issue, I think, is the paperwork. For instance, each application must be personally approved by the Attorney General (can you imagine poor Mr. Gonzales having to review and sign hundreds or thousands of such applications at a time?).

The surveillance carried out in support of the "war on terror" is orders of magnitude greater than was contemplated when the FISA court was created. So Bush & Co. simply decided to ignore the problem and proceed without bothering to get warrants from the FISA court.

Re:I call B.S. (1)

Lloyd_Bryant (73136) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535198)

Wow, do I look stupid. I had completely forgotten that Gonzales was no longer AG until I spotted a comment about it later in the topic (I guess my mind insists on associating the surveillance program with him, for some reason).

Not that it actually changes anything, mind you. Same agenda, different face.

Re:I call B.S. (-1, Redundant)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535254)

Even more than a rubber stamp, since the spook agencies are allowed to begin surveillance, *then* apply for the warrant (up to 72 hours later).

But the issue, I think, is the paperwork. For instance, each application must be personally approved by the Attorney General (can you imagine poor Mr. Gonzales having to review and sign hundreds or thousands of such applications at a time?).

The surveillance carried out in support of the "war on terror" is orders of magnitude greater than was contemplated when the FISA court was created. So Bush & Co. simply decided to ignore the problem and proceed without bothering to get warrants from the FISA court.
You seem to know what you are talking about. Maybe you can tell me. Do you need a warrant to listen to calls overseas?

Re:I call B.S. (1, Insightful)

smitth1276 (832902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534970)

I think you need to learn to take any characterization made by a reporter (most of whom aren't that intelligent in the first place) with a grain of salt. Just because a reporter's characterization the agencies' statements was that "they had missed important information" doesn't mean that they actually phrased it like that. What's actually a bit sad is that your comment was modded '5-insightful' for making that little fallacious leap.

Re:I call B.S. (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535004)

You mean we are capable of being a better nation than this.

Semantics, but there is an important difference there.

Re:I call B.S. (4, Informative)

Verteiron (224042) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535174)

Fear mongering sucks. We're a better nation than this.

Apparently we are not.

I just don't get it (5, Interesting)

websitebroke (996163) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534764)

What does the White House, et al. want with this? In the previous system, all you had to do was get a warrant to spy on somebody. There was a special court set up just to issue these warrants, and it was completely confidential. If they really, really had to spy on somebody right this very instant, they could, and just had to make sure that they touched base with the court in the next few hours. Seems pretty reasonable to me.

What does Bush want, other than to spy on everyone with no supervision whatsoever?

Oh, yeah, he wants us to not sue Verizon, AT&T, whoever. Well, sorry guys, you had a responsibility, as citizens of the USA, to tell the government no. I mean, WTF, corporations run this country anyway...

Re:I just don't get it (5, Insightful)

drooling-dog (189103) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535112)

What does Bush want, other than to spy on everyone with no supervision whatsoever?
Exactly this. The FISA court is practically a rubber stamp for legitimate surveillance, and yet Bush's spying needs are so super-sensitive that not even it can be allowed to catch wind of them. Unless you believe that the court has been infiltrated somehow by "the terrorists", there's only one logical reason for this: both the court and the public would be outraged if the real reason for the surveillance became known. Are they collecting commercial intelligence for their closest corporate patrons? Do they intend to tamper with the upcoming elections? Are they going to mess with political and ideological opponents? I'd worry about all three.

Re:I just don't get it (2, Insightful)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535472)

Unless you believe that the court has been infiltrated somehow by "the terrorists", there's only one logical reason for this: both the court and the public would be outraged if the real reason for the surveillance became known.
Or it's like the **AA & the DMCA: FISA was a good idea at the time, but now the government has realized how much extra work it is to comply with the law & they're desperate to get around it.

However, the fact that the telecoms are having "understandable misgivings" after the collapse of the immunity bill tells us all we need to know about how their corporate lawyers view the situation. If we're lucky, the truth will get declassified in 25 years, but I doubt it.

Re:I just don't get it (5, Insightful)

Lijemo (740145) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535150)

Because the previous rubber-stamp system left a paper-trail (albeit one they could claim was "classified for reasons of national security") as to who they were spying on and why, and thus had some amount of accountability, no matter how tiny.

The new system does not.

If there's anything this administration hates, it's accountability.

Re:I just don't get it (4, Insightful)

bberens (965711) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535302)

My speculation is this:

You get a warrant when you want to spy on SOMEONE. You don't get a warrant when you want to capture all inbound and outbound (from the country) telephone traffic and put it through your NSA analyzer supercomputer thingymajig looking for suspicious activity. You see, for something like this to work, you need a very large sample of data to compare to. You will never be given a warrant for little Felipe who wants to call mommy back in Italy to talk about spaghetti recipes. But you need that data as a base line.

Yeah, and we have a process for that... (1)

PotatoHead (12771) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535506)

...too!

All this administration needed to do was demonstrate that was warranted and it could have had Congress modify the law on a vote. Maybe it's ok if we do that. Maybe it's possible to do in an accountable way?

Just doing it, with no accountability, is the core problem.

That's a law violation and a crime against the people. That debt needs to be paid.

Hope Dodd is up for another stand or two, because they are not gonna yield on this one.

Tapping the future. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22534766)

Well the more enlightening slashdiscussion for today is: when is wiretapping ok and when isn't it, and to what degree? Keeping in mind the world today isn't the same one in Capone's times.

Re:Tapping the future. (2, Insightful)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535006)

It's ok when they get a fisa warrant, and not ok wehen they decide they don't need one.
Somebody should troll a terrorist attack, get caught, and then expose the whole mess of no fisa warrant.

Re:Tapping the future. (1)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535142)

Somebody should troll a terrorist attack, get caught, and then expose the whole mess of no fisa warrant.
I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to do the "troll" and "get caught" parts, but the last bit might be really, really hard, because you'd have to make it look like you were serious about it. Once you've put effort into making yourself look like a serious terrorist, it's probably kinda hard to transform into a whistleblower.

Re:Tapping the future. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535216)

also, noone will hear a whistle that is blown in gitmo.

Re:Tapping the future. (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535250)

Go ahead

Re:Tapping the future. (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535256)

OK, volunteers for anyone willing to get shipped to "friends of the CIA" for rendition, and somehow get back in shape to "expose the whole mess" after X years...

Sounds like a combo Darwin "Peace Prize" Award sort of thing. You might even get a "Purple Heart"...

Now he says that? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22534768)

"Bush has said he would hold out for a permanent overhaul of the 1978 surveillance law."

Wow, what a brilliant idea! Too bad Bush didn't suggest that BEFORE authorizing an illegal program and goading the telecom companies into going along with it. Had he done so he wouldn't need to get retroactive immunity for them.

I think everybody understands that in the height of an emergency tough decisions have to be made, but the next priority should have been to move for revision to the FISA legislation [wikipedia.org] , not keep the thing secret for several years and then try to bail out the organizations involved once people found out the law was being broken. Don't like constraints of the FISA law? Conform to it, revise the legislation, or break the law and face the legal consequences. There is no other option for a person holding office who has sworn an oath to uphold the law. Well, there isn't supposed to be.

Business Opportunity ... (0)

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Bush Blows It (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534798)

Yesterday, Bush barfed at us [yahoo.com] in his radio address:

WASHINGTON - President Bush said Saturday that Democratic leaders in the House are blocking key intelligence legislation so trial lawyers can sue phone companies that helped the government eavesdrop on suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Terrorists are plotting new attacks against America "at this very moment," Bush said in renewing his call for the House to pass legislation needed to renew the intelligence law that expired last weekend.


Bush has his new Attorney General lying to back him up [dailykos.com] , but they can't even keep their stories straight [washingtonpost.com] :

The Bush administration said yesterday that the government "lost intelligence information" because House Democrats allowed a surveillance law to expire last week, causing some telecommunications companies to refuse to cooperate with terrorism-related wiretapping orders.

But hours later, administration officials told lawmakers that the final holdout among the companies had relented and agreed to fully participate in the surveillance program, according to an official familiar with the issue.


It's obvious that it's Bush's fault [salon.com] the PAA expired without extension:

But even if telecoms were refusing to cooperate, the reason for their refusal was not because they don't have retroactive immunity, but rather, it's because there is alleged uncertainty over the legality of current surveillance requests, and uncertainty over the ongoing validity of the prospective immunity provided by the PAA, because the PAA expired. If the PAA had been extended, they would be completely protected with prospective immunity for future surveillance cooperation. And, of course, the PAA would not have expired had Congressional Democrats had their way -- they wanted to extend it until they could agree to a new bill. Thus, any alleged refusal on the part of telecoms to cooperate is exclusively the fault of Bush and House Republicans for forcing expiration of the PAA. That's just true as a matter of basic logic.


The bottom line is that Bush's own Attorney General just admitted that he and Bush and the rest are repeatedly breaking the law:

But leave all of that aside for a moment. Since Mike Mukasey himself just said in this letter that spying outside of FISA is "illegal," and since it's indisputable that the Bush administration did just that for years, doesn't that compel him as Attorney General to commence a criminal investigation into this "illegal" conduct?


What does it take to get impeached in this country? Will someome please blow Bush already, so we can finally get it over with?

Re:Bush Blows It (4, Informative)

rpillala (583965) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534834)

Yesterday, Bush barfed at us [yahoo.com] in his radio address:

WASHINGTON - President Bush said Saturday that Democratic leaders in the House are blocking key intelligence legislation so trial lawyers can sue phone companies that helped the government eavesdrop on suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks.
This is a fabrication, as the only case pending right now (am I wrong?) is the one by the EFF, hardly a bunch of trial lawyers looking to get rich. Gleen Greenwald interviewed Cindy Cohn [salon.com] , the lead counsel in EFF's case against AT&T in October of last year.

Re:Bush Blows It (3, Insightful)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534890)

No one is going to impeach the president as long as the vice president is more corrupt and criminal than the president is.

Re:Bush Blows It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535084)

So impeach him first. A thorough investigation into his back-room energy dealings should provide enough reasons to impeach.

Re:Bush Blows It (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535128)

Why not? Cheney's crimes depend on him having the time and privacy to work them. If he had to be the spokesmodel, and his team were cut in half, the operation would b crippled.

Besides, what makes you say that Cheney's not the president right now? And who says he can't be impeached, on his own charges, or as siamese accomplice to Bush? In case you don't recall, Nixon's VP Agnew was forced to resign first under threat of impeachment (for tax fraud over bribery). Which showed that their gang was vulnerable, which forced people to talk and abandon the conspiracies. Not a bad model for today.

Re:Bush Blows It (1)

Carewolf (581105) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535344)

True. To be honest I believe the main reason no one is more aggresive in their attacks on the current president right now is because he has such a short time left, and any attacks is likely to backfire at least a tiny bit on the aggresor. The democrats probably consider their chances better if they are not smeared in the blood of the former president.

That said, it could be harder to remove Cheney than Bush, because his crimes are more traditional stuffing the pockets of his friends, than outright lying to congress (unless I've been overlooking something?)

Re:Bush Blows It (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535580)

The Democrats are playing it "safe" because Bush/Cheney's crimes make it cheaper and easier for Democrats to run against them this year. So they're bottling us up in here with them, our only way out seemingly to hand Democrats a trifecta power monopoly. Democrats mainly care about increasing their nominal Senate majority closer 60:40, with Republicans defending 23 seats to Democrats 11. In January the Congress will also probably have some thing like a 15-20 point Democratic House majority, possibly that 60+ seat filibuster-proof Senate, and a Democratic president with the first actual majority of voters since Reagan.

With which Democrats can abuse all those "Bush/Cheney" tyrannical powers without the Iraq War that gets you caught. But with the Iraq War that gets you paid.

Quite a racket. Which is why Americans should force them to impeach, or at least make it as costly as possible not to. Because Republicans will be in no position of any kind to offer the kind of "opposition party" these Democrats couldn't muster even the past 8 years with very solid minorities and blatant catastrophes.

The missing party, as usual. is the American people. And decent country would be out in the streets with pitchforks and torches by now, especially with economic collapse staring everyone in the face. Instead, we've got Slashdot and the Daily Kos. And President VP Cheney.

oblig (4, Funny)

PieceofLavalamp (1244192) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535590)

yeah i've gotta admit i'd rather be constitutionally violated than shot in the face.

Re:Bush Blows It (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22534916)

You cite the Daily Kos as if it were a credible source? How quaint.

Re:Bush Blows It (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535088)

Anonymous Republican Coward calls a source not credible without even clicking it, where they'd see it's a simple quote of two contradictory lies by Bush's henchmen, presented with the most basic logic. No wonder facts are a stranger to this AC.

These sources are as "quaint" to Republicans as are the Geneva Conventions they've been torturing for years.

Re:Bush Blows It (1)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534932)

What does it take to get impeached in this country?

Invasion of the US by the coalition of the willing. When you don't deal with your own, and other countries have to step in, it's a lot worse for you than if you'd done it yourself. Just a thought

Re:Bush Blows It (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534992)

Iregardless of whether or not he will be impeached, he will loose some of that tention he has.

Re:Bush Blows It (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535036)

Just a respectful note: "iregardless" is not a word. regardless would be quite enough :)

Re:Bush Blows It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535138)

Screw your intern - get threatened with impeachment.

Screw your country - nothing happens.

Corporate intrest (3, Interesting)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534828)

I cant help but wonder how long it will be until the RIAA are allowed to wiretap just in case people are talking about their latest downloads.

~Dan

Re:Corporate intrest (4, Interesting)

rhendershot (46429) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535090)

I was going to moderate you off-topic but, well, then.... my 2 cents.

First, don't minimize the scope of the government of the largest and strongest nation coercing private enterprise to bend to its will and to do illegal acts. That goes WAY beyond the issues of private commerce between individuals and recordings-producers.

With that said; what the fux do you think DRM *is* except a way to "wiretap" the private individual (aka. customer). Without judicial review. Unilaterally.

Personally I think it's a violation of RICO and monopolistic to enforce law through technology when the issues of fair-use are not resolved by a court. That's another rant though.

Re:Corporate intrest (1, Funny)

jimmydevice (699057) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535474)

The lower the # the thicker the tin-foil?

They're playing to cover their own crimes (4, Insightful)

Phoenix666 (184391) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534846)

If the Whitehouse can bully Congress into passing retroactive immunity to the telecoms for warrantless wiretapping, then they also by extension are exhonerated. So, they get to get a free pass for breaking the law without directly asking Congress to give it to them.

Free Speech. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22534862)

Coming soon: a counterstrike map that accurately portrays the White House and surrounding grounds. Of course it's an assassination map. Suck it Bush, you're the only president in the last 40 years (yes, including Nixon) that if I knew I could get completely scot free with killing that I'd have to seriously think about it.

Re:Free Speech. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535186)

Congratulations, you have just been wiretapped.

Re:Free Speech. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535272)

Why would you even have to think about it?

There's a word for this: Fascism (5, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534882)

They could do this legally through the FISA courts, but rather than go bother with even a Ruber Stamp court like FISA and at least pretend they're not spying on American citizens in direct violation of the fourth amendment for which the FISA courts were implemented to supposedly protect, they would rather run rough shod over everyone's privacy and interests for their own ends based out of their own incompetence and ignorance.

The sad part? There is no promise that any democratic administration would stop this.

Why? Because it's fascism, or, as one of the guys who invented fascism (Mussolini) caled it: Corporatism.

The American Empire is dying and it's a sad thing to watch it act, as WS Burroughs said in 1984, as the single greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams. [youtube.com]

RS

What do you expect with a secret government? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22534898)

Instead of secret governments that spy on people in fear of terrorism, an open government would make all these problems go away. There's no point conducting terrorist attacks when you can productively participate in the system. And of course, there's no point in an open government trying to do things in secret.

The framework is already being built: http://www.metagovernment.org/ [metagovernment.org]

I'm sure that website is "wiretapped" :) but it doesn't matter. There are no leaders in an open source government.

Radical Transparency (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535094)

These ideas are well-known: Radical Transparency [wikipedia.org] and Open Source Governance [wikipedia.org] .

But it is great to see people trying to make it happen.

It's a smokescreen - you're already wiretapped (4, Informative)

Zollui (1230734) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534938)

The NSA has been eavesdropping on electronic comms of US citizens including telephone conversations for several decades. It was illegal to do this in the USA so they did it from their base at Menwith Hill in Yorkshire, England (MH is the world's largest listening post).

Re:It's a smokescreen - you're already wiretapped (2, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535366)

That'll be rather hard, since you'd have to send all the conversations across the Atlantic.

Much easier if you shipped the Brits to the USA to listen and then ask them if they heard anything interesting ;). Then you have some of your people to the UK to listen to the UK people and do the same thing. Similarly for the rest of the Echelon members.

BUT the main thing is, it looks like they've even stopped bothering to go through the proper motions. And that should worry the people in the USA (and people elsewhere because the USA is the most powerful nation and willing to unilaterally use that power for bad reasons).

When the people in power regard their _subjects_ with such contempt that they even stop putting on a "quality show", then it makes you wonder what's next.

Just by way of reminder (5, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 6 years ago | (#22534996)

We were not completely surprised by the 9-11 hijackers, the problem was we didn't act on what we did know. Even then we knew. We knew without the Patriot Act, we knew without wholesale spying on the American public, we knew without the Protect America Act. We knew and did nothing. So now the solution is to spy on Americans. Makes almost as much sense as being attacked by terrorists operating out of Afghanistan and responding by attacking Iraq.

Only a Republican would think it makes sense to fight terrorism by monitoring my 83 year old mom's phone calls.

And, just in case this dust up has interfered with the intelligence community's ability to monitor the activity of Americans, the bake sale has been postponed until next week because the lady running it broke her hip and mom change her hair appointment to 11 am this week because Marge's family is flying in from Montana. And dad still can't figure out why his pineapple plants keep dying in the front yard. Now you're up to date.

Re:Just by way of reminder (3, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535136)

re: nsacarnivore-20080915-1103535-2535EJA34032:
subject lives in climate where pineapples can grow, similar to asian areas with high islamic radical populations. relatives in Montana which is known abode of militia groups. subject altering appearance at 11am.

action: subject to be reclassified as probable threat to national security.

Revolution 2.0 (5, Insightful)

fishthegeek (943099) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535014)

Will be fought one vote at a time. If the telecom providers didn't do anything wrong when they assisted the wiretaps then they do not need legal protection from congress. By moving to protect the telecom providers Congress is implicitly admitting that they acted in ways that are probably illegal.

Bush has agreed to pardon the telcos? (1)

schwit1 (797399) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535078)

How else could he continue to get unfettered access to the phone systems?

Wiretap this! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535106)

Screw Fuhrer Bush and screw the United Snakes of Amerikkka!

Resume? (4, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535118)

Did they ever really stop?

This whole issue of the US gov. spying on .... (3, Interesting)

3seas (184403) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535122)

...its citizens is not about identifying potential terrorists but rather to determine what the general public mindset is so to know what to promote in order to manipulate it.

Why such spying has resumed, or hasn't stopped, is because its an election year.

And that should be obvious.

Is this against the constitution of the united states? Absolutely, as it is an intent to invade privacy in order to deceive.

This is nothing new as even the "Declaration of Independence" identifies government abuse of its citizens, even being specific.

To All: When was the last time you read it?

Now what? (4, Insightful)

EaglemanBSA (950534) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535190)

...and just when I thought the administration couldn't be any more open about breaking the law and violating my civil liberties. Honestly, does this piss everybody else off as much as it does me? I'm all for America, and I think we have a good number of good things going on over here, but this is getting ridiculous - we have these controls in place (the representatives of the people) to limit the power of the executive branch, and it's as if the administration doesn't even hear them.

I don't know what's worse, not having any input at all, or knowing that it won't be used in any decisions in the end anyway.

Re:Now what? (0, Flamebait)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535318)

...and just when I thought the administration couldn't be any more open about breaking the law and violating my civil liberties. Honestly, does this piss everybody else off as much as it does me?
Yeah, it did until I realized that we are talking about conversations where one or both parties are NOT in America. Then I started wondering what made me, and evidently everyone else, start thinking that the Constitution was meant to protect everyone in the world. Why are we extending Constitutional rights to people in Pakistan, Germany, Indonesia and Burma when their own governments don't?

Then I realized. It was the rhetoric. "Illegal Wiretaps" sounds so much more unconstitutional than "foreign surveillance". Bush's illegal war in Iraq sounds so much worse than "Bush's Congressional approved liberation of a country that was riddled mass graves of women and children". It sounds so much more ominous when it has the right name.

It works the other way too. "Undocumented workers" instead of "illegal aliens"...

Spying on the democrats and peace groups (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535194)

They know that they can get fisa warrants on anyone they want to even retroactively, so the only reason they can be putting up a fuss is that they are spying on people that wouldn't be approved by fisa - peace groups, eco groups, and anyone that wants to oppose them like democrats. 800,000 AMERICANS are on the terrorist watch list - they can't all be al queda. After this post I might be too.

The end of the Afghan war (2, Interesting)

Max_W (812974) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535196)

To understand what is going on in the USA and in the world one has to realize what a traumatizing event was the destruction of Mew York City and the US military headquarters in September of 2001.

The war in the Afghanistan ended not by the withdrawal of the Soviet troops from Afghanistan. The true end of the war was on 9/11. It was the logical final of supporting and financing the religious fanatics around the world.

At the same time it was a wrongful attack on the civilian targets which forever changed the social and political climate in the USA. Like the defeat of Germany in 1918 brought radicalism and extremism decades later, the same way 9/11 will bring the certain political realities for years to come.

What happens in Iraq, Kosovo, the USA itself is the message which hurt American people send to the world and to themselves: "We can be as cruel, ruthless, nasty just about the same as the outside world was to us. Even more so. Much much more."

There is nothing new in this phenomena. Sometimes people are surprised why the leadership of the USSR did not want accept some good economics ideas from the West. But they forget that Leonid Brezhnev was a general during the WW2. He was part of the battle for Crimea. He was among few survivors of the most ferocious artillery barrage during human history at Malays Zemlya.

It is difficult to expect a senseful decisions from traumatized people. The crime that was committed against the great nation on 9/11 will be felt by the generations to come.

The New York City was not only the achievement of the USA. It was the part of the humankind heritage. That is why its destruction changed the humankind. Inevitably to the worse.

How unpatriotic (1)

krbvroc1 (725200) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535214)

We know the answer already, but why isn't the government highlighting just how unpatriotic these Telecom companies are that they are unwilling to help in the 'war on terra'. I mean if its so important, just nationalize the fuckers.

This has to be a cover-up (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535282)

The Bush administration has to be covering up something very embarrassing. Something worse than what we know about already. Otherwise it wouldn't be spending its remaining political capital on this issue.

If the Bush administration really had a national security case for this, they could make it in a classified briefing for the House and Senate intelligence committees with the people at the CIA, NSA and telcos directly involved testifying under oath. They haven't done that.

The Bush administration likes to pretend that the President is the "decider", but he isn't. Congress is. Whenever Congress takes a unified position opposing the President, they win. Even many of the Republicans in Congress are fed up with Bush at this point.

The details will come out under the next administration.

Criminal charges (2, Insightful)

Nimey (114278) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535300)

Since the current congress is too spineless, too complicit, and too full of Republicans, I think we'll have to pin our hopes on the next President telling his AG to investigate and pursue criminal charges against those responsible in the Bush Administration and in Congress.

That definitely wouldn't be Clinton (too much of an insider) and it wouldn't be McCain (he's shown he's a good boy after all), and Paul hasn't got a snowball's chance. I can only hope that Obama wouldn't pull a Ford and pardon Bush "so the country can move on".

Re:Criminal charges (1)

Vellmont (569020) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535374)


I think we'll have to pin our hopes on the next President telling his AG to investigate and pursue criminal charges against those responsible in the Bush Administration and in Congress.


It'll never happen, no matter who the president winds up being. Any administration doesn't want to look back on the previous one, and realistically they only have so much political capital to spend. This administration has screwed things up so badly that it'd actually be a waste of political capital for a new President to pursue that.

I'd say the only hope we have of that happening is someone in Congress to take up that cause.

For all you legal experts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22535462)

How do you know who to get a warrant for if you have not listened to their conversations? I am so tired of these lame Slashdot circular arguments. This is like requiring the police to get warrants for using radar guns to check if someone is speeding, if you don't know they are speeding, then how can you get the warrant? Next I suppose you will tell me they needed warrants in WW2 to listen to shortwave broadcasts of spies residing in the US. (even if they didn't know the source) Same idea, different technology.

Furthermore you haven't bothered to show any intelligent distinction between gathering intelligence and building a legal case which have completely different sets of goals. The only way the 9/11 guys could have been stopped was if you knew what they were planning. And that would have required listening. But please, by all means, tell me how you will keep us safe, by doing nothing. It is such a well though out plan. Of course if always gives you a new reason to complain about the government for failing to protect you as you have tied their hands. What a bunch of whiners

Spying is OK if accountable. (2, Insightful)

headkase (533448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535586)

The problem isn't with the spying - like you say there are many cases where it is needed. The problem is that the checks and balances from the oversight aspects are being compromised. The Federal Government can spy on anyone they like and even get a FISA warrent for it after the fact in cases of emergencies. The problem is that the Administration branch of the government thinks that even that is too much and want to remove that check and balance (or continue to ignore it). Spy away, but damn well be accountable *when* it is abused.

Want to send the NSA a message? (1)

WhitefishMT (825776) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535534)

http://www.wiretapthis.com/ [wiretapthis.com] - if they're reading your mail, they'll find it. If they're not reading you mail yet, they will!

Now theres a War on Liberals? (2, Insightful)

Doug52392 (1094585) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535544)

I bet that's why the wiretaps are here. So the government can read the forum posts, IM conversations, IRC chat logs, and even Slashdot posts, of liberals that oppose the government. I bet all liberals could find themselves on one of those "Watch Lists" soon, just for expressing their 1st Amendment rights!

Spying to find "terrorists" is just the pretext the government is using to wiretap the homeland (and why FISA, it should have been called HISA, Homeland Intelligence Surveillance Act), so they can find not terrorists, but rather innocent people who criticize the government on the Internet through blogs, IM, IRC, etc.

So that's where our tax money is going: paying the NSA to read all the rants on the government (most of them are the real truth to, how ironic!)

change your national anthem (1)

Coraon (1080675) | more than 6 years ago | (#22535570)

You guy should sue your government. your national anthem is flagrant false advertising. you are most defiantly not the land of the free and the home of the brave. your the land of the indentured to corps and the home of the paranoid. Come to Canada, we will let you have your freedom, just leave your violence back in the US.
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