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DOJ To Claim National Security in NSA Case 337

Posted by Zonk
from the nice-idea-now-its-mine dept.
deblau writes "Wired is reporting that the federal government intends to invoke the rarely used 'State Secrets Privilege' in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's class action lawsuit against AT&T. The case alleges that the telecom collaborated with the NSA's secret spying on American citizens. The State Secrets Privilege lets the executive branch step into a civil lawsuit and have it dismissed if the case might reveal information that puts national security at risk."
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DOJ To Claim National Security in NSA Case

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  • I think... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @04:57AM (#15226985) Homepage
    that this action by the fed pretty much confirms the EFF's claims here.
    • Re:I think... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jrmcferren (935335)
      I think it is in the best intrest to let the case go on. The approval rating of the administration is very low and we are talking atomic bomb low. While I voted for Bush, this issue should not be covered up. The Bush administration's approval rating will drop either way, but the effects may not be as damaging if the truth is told instead of covered up. BTW: I wish Bush was censured, spying on American Citizens is wrong without just cause.
    • Re:I think... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Phoenix666 (184391) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:52AM (#15227074)
      Agreed. Where there's smoke, there's fire. I hope people keep after government spying. It brought down one administration, and it can bring down another. Once it starts to unravel, we're going to find out more about the vast conspiracy that is the neo-con movement, from rigging the ballot to treason to war profiteering and on and on. It will shake the republic to its very roots. But once we excise them from the body politic and expunge their backers (the ultra-wealthy who are behind it all), we'll be a much stronger country. See, those people think they're born with the divine right of kings and think they can command the rest of us like sheep. What they fail and have ever failed to understand is that America's strength is in her people.
      • What they fail and have ever failed to understand is that America's strength is in her people.
        I wish I had your faith in the people, friend. Or perhaps to put it another way, if America's strength is in the people, then the brains directing it to their own goals is the elite.
      • Re:I think... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by tenchiken (22661)
        It's not quite that simple, any more then invoking the 5th admendment implies guilt. The reality is that there are good and sane reasons for some government wiretaps. The government could also be invoking the state secrets priviledge simply to keep details on how the current system works (legaly) out of the press and the court.

        If you don't think this matters, take the recent article about the Madrid bombings. The Bombers knew that their email would be read if they sent it from Hotmail or from Yahoo mail. So
        • Re:I think... (Score:3, Insightful)

          If you don't think this matters, take the recent article about the Madrid bombings. The Bombers knew that their email would be read if they sent it from Hotmail or from Yahoo mail. So they shared a email account between them, shared the password, and hence never hit any of Europe's security flags.

          Please don't treat this stuff as if it were all one dimensional and simple. This is a complex issue, and a knee jerk reaction just proved how incapable people are of thinking through the issues.


          You see, there are a
    • Bingo (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kludge (13653)
      People on /. have been complaining about the EFF filing lawsuits that they don't win. They may not win this one either, but it proves a point: The gov't is spying on a lot of us and doesn't want us to know it.

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

        With their ill-conceived, poorly planned and poorly execut
        • by Bogtha (906264) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @08:29AM (#15227471)

          In this case, the EFF has given the government an opportunity to use a new legal theory, that they are immune from lawsuits to prevent illegal violations of the Fourth Amendment (i.e. illegal search and seizure) merely by invoking Executive Privilege with a National Security Letter.

          This is by no means a new legal theory. The State Secrets Privilege was first recognised by a judge in United States v. Reynolds, 1953 [findlaw.com], and he drew on existing English case law to make that judgement. The precedent was set over fifty years ago, it's hardly being set by the EFF.

          • by sakusha (441986) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @09:16AM (#15227677)
            You obviously didn't read US v. Reynolds. The plaintiffs were seeking federal data to support their CIVIL lawsuit. The case established the Government's right to invoke Executive Privilege to stop disclosure in a tort.

            The EFF case is entirely different. The government claims that Executive Privilege is a higher power than the 4th Amendment in the Bill of Rights. And the EFF, in the process of losing their lawsuit, will permanently erode the 4th Amendment, and place the Executive Branch beyond the reach of the courts.
            • by Bogtha (906264) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @09:42AM (#15227794)

              Whether or not the executive branch believes it can ignore the Fourth Amendment is beside the point. The State Secrets Privilege is all about dismissing lawsuits before they even get to a point at which such a thing can be discovered.

              This can be used to cover up abuses of power, but that doesn't mean precedents can be set making the abuses of power legal. That doesn't make sense. To set such a precedent would mean that the lawsuit wasn't dismissed but went ahead anyway.

        • by Tim C (15259) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @09:00AM (#15227596)
          Well, seems to me that they have two choices.

          Either they go ahead with the prosecution and risk creating this precedent that you fear. Or, they do not, and the government gets away with it.

          Either way, with no consequences to their actions, the government is (or might as well be) above the law. At least with the EFF trying to prosecute, they

          a) have a chance of doing something about it
          b) bring it to people's attention
          c) in the event of losing, sow the seed in people's minds that they *must* have been up to something in order to quash the case like that

          Incidentally, you also mustn't forget that precedent is a guide, not an iron clad rule. Judges are free to rule differently; precedent just gives them something to use as guidance, and to point at in the event of their ruling being questioned.
    • Re:I think... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dougsyo (84601)
      I saw the government's weasel words about how their action shouldn't be construed as any confirmation. My response to the government: "If you haven't done anything wrong, then you have nothing to hide." The government tries to tell us that often enough.

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

      Doug
    • Aside from there being something fundamentally not right with the term "state secrets" being applied to the activities of a telephone company, if the phone company and the government have done nothing wrong, what do they have to worry about? Let the discovery proceed.
    • Re:I think... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tim C (15259)
      That was my first thought too. However, it is just possible that it could also mean "we're not doing that, but in order to prove it we'd have to tell you stuff that we simply can't tell you - ie, the real reason why all those packets are coming to us. We're not spying on you, but the truth (and proof of that) is classified."

      The cynic in me says "that proves it!". The scientist in me says that we can't be certain of that.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        The statistician in me says that they are almost certaintly not "not hiding anything".
  • No way! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Abalamahalamatandra (639919) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @04:57AM (#15226986)
    The Bush administration? Keeping secrets? Say it ain't so, Joe!
    • The Bush administration? Keeping secrets?

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

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

    • patch:

          > "Bush administration"
          < "Government"
    • Re:No way! (Score:5, Funny)

      by joe 155 (937621) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @07:25AM (#15227283) Journal
      Say it ain't so, Joe

      It ain't so
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 29, 2006 @04:59AM (#15226992)
    Such an action could only be seen as a flat out admission that the EFF allegations are at least as bad as they claim, and quite possibly worse. There you go, Citizens, your Government is spying on you. Now lets watch as the major media outlets all ignore the story.
  • by wfberg (24378) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:00AM (#15226995)
    "In our defense, your Honor, we did it in secret so as not to get caught."

    "Case dismissed!"
  • But if ... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:04AM (#15227003)
    If the Executive *didn't* use ATNT to spy on Americans then it is not a security matter.
    If the Executive *did* use ATNT to spy on Americans then its illegal (no warrant) and legal protection doesn't apply to illegal acts.

    Try it, the judge will bend over backwards to find a way to continue this case.
    • Re:But if ... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      See, that's where you're wrong. There is legal protection that applies to illegal acts. The national security intervention throws out the case, regardless of the potential outcome of the lawsuit. It isn't meant to protect the lawbreaker, but that result is an accepted side effect of protecting the secrets which would be revealed in the lawsuit. The culprit is still on the wrong side of the law, but it doesn't matter because you can't sue him anymore. This happened in business cases as well, where the DoD pl
      • Re:But if ... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Bacon Bits (926911) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @06:13AM (#15227107)
        Irrelevant. No law supercedes the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen's right to privacy and the right to a due process warrant for search and seizure. It doesn't say "unless the President thinks it's a national security matter". The national security clause would have to be in the Constitution to be able to override this kind of suspension of Civil Rights.

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

        • The Constitution doesn't mean anything anymore though. I mean what haven't they obliterated? And I don't just mean recently it goes back way before the current administration. State rights have been demolished, personal liberties are on their way out, Federal power is nearing absolution and the American citizenship is perfectly okay with it - or oblivious to the fact - just so long as they can watch their sports and entertainment. So many citizens don't even know what the Constitution says and public educat
          • Re:But if ... (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Bacon Bits (926911) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @07:23AM (#15227276)
            We always have an alternative:
            We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government [...]
            The framers believed that change up to and including revolution against your government is a fundamental right. If you truly believe that the state of this Union is as bad as you suggest, exercise your unalienable rights. Or leave the nation.

            "But the armed forces..."

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

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

            • Re:But if ... (Score:3, Insightful)

              by MustardMan (52102)
              The really scary thing is, people act like those words from the constitution are unpatriotic. I got into a HUGE blowup a while back because I said I wished Bush would die in a plane crash. I didn't say I was going to asassinate him. I didn't even say I wished someone would asassinate him. I said I wished he would die so there might be a chance of a snowball effect that could free this country from the corruption in the government. I was BLASTED as unpatriotic, some folks going so far as saying I'd bett
              • by Tony (765) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @09:41AM (#15227791) Journal
                Quite a few people believe it is our duty to support our President, even if he's a lying, cheating, murdering, egg-sucking, goose-fucking prick (and he is, too). Many even think that "freedom of speech" goes too far, and that the government should approve news stories (it seems it is these days). These same people have perverted the meaning of patriotism.

                Patriotism is standing up for liberty. Patriotism is battling against tyranny, even if that tyranny is home-grown. Patriotism is putting the rights of the people before the rights of the government, and before the rights of corporations.
              • Re:But if ... (Score:5, Interesting)

                by Fred_A (10934) <fredNO@SPAMfredshome.org> on Saturday April 29, 2006 @11:19AM (#15228234) Homepage
                I don't think the USSR ever had a propaganda machine approaching the efficiencu of the US one. It's no wonder people react that way, they've been conditionned to do so since the craddle.

                I mean just look at the people with flags on their houses. Try finding a single other country worldwide where people feel compelled to do something odd like that. The very concept of the US has been turned into a godlike entity. Hosting critical thoughts is akin to criticizing the prophet in an islamic country (although you won't be lapidated just yet ;) ).

                What's interesting though is that elsewhere the people that are adamant when you criticise the county, party, whatever, are those that are in power. The common people will more or less maintain appearances but in private will very clearly take the propaganda for what it is. In the US, it's the common people who hold no power that seem to be the most thourougly brainwashed.

                This has always struck me as being both very odd and very unique. But then since don't visit very often and see things from a distance, I might get the wrong impression.
            • Re:But if ... (Score:3, Interesting)

              by freedom_india (780002)
              Doing a mistake once is acceptable, but then you stupid texans voted for Bush a second time.

              You americans deserve all you get as a result of electing dubya a second time.

              I have neither sympathy nor concern for you guys who are stupid enough to vote for an idiot, thief, AWOL president a second time.

        • No law supercedes the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen's right to privacy and the right to a due process warrant for search and seizure. It doesn't say "unless the President thinks it's a national security matter".

          I don't think that matters anymore. The President never did offer a legal defense of his violation of the FISA act, he just said "it's something I want to do." And everybody went for it. In congress, Russ Feingold tried to get Bush censured (which is really just a gesture) and it

        • Re:But if ... (Score:3, Informative)

          by physicsphairy (720718)
          Irrelevant. No law supercedes the Constitution, which guarantees every citizen's right to privacy...

          Hmm...
          cat constitution.txt | grep -i "privacy"

          It would appear that particular aspect of the document is missing.

          I think that contemporary case law has been mistaken for a constitutional protection. But that is where you and I have the same problem, namely, government entities going and hazing things up with a delusionally enlarged sense of their own power.

          It's unfortunate that this notion of privacy

          • Re:But if ... (Score:5, Informative)

            by Bacon Bits (926911) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @10:04AM (#15227875)
            Hmm... cat constitution.txt | grep -i "privacy" It would appear that particular aspect of the document is missing.
            Didn't take a college government class, eh? Just because the word ain't there don't me the law ain't real.

            The US legal system is based on Rule of Law with precedence. That means previous court rulings on laws are considered the correct interpretation of laws, or, in this case, can effectively establish laws. Even constitutional ones.

            From http://www.usconstitution.net/constnot.html#privac y [usconstitution.net] :

            The right to privacy The Constitution does not specifically mention a right to privacy. However, Supreme Court decisions over the years have established that the right to privacy is a basic human right, and as such is protected by virtue of the 9th Amendment. The right to privacy has come to the public's attention via several controversial Supreme Court rulings, including several dealing with contraception (the Griswold and Eisenstadt cases), interracial marriage (the Loving case), and abortion (the well-known Roe v Wade case). In addition, it is said that a right to privacy is inherent in many of the amendments in the Bill of Rights, such as the 3rd, the 4th's search and seizure limits, and the 5th's self-incrimination limit.

            More:
            http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/index.php/Privacy

          • by Jon Luckey (7563) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @10:13AM (#15227915)
            Hmm...
            cat constitution.txt | grep -i "privacy"

            It would appear that particular aspect of the document is missing.

            Hmm...
            echo cats cats cats lions tiger ocelots | grep -i "feline"

            It would appear that any feline aspect of that string is missing

    • If the Executive *didn't* use ATNT to spy on Americans then it is not a security matter.

      Not true. If they are going to use this privilege at all, then they must invoke it even in cases where the allegations aren't even remotely true. Otherwise, by invoking it only for the legitimate cases, they are leaking information about classified projects.

      Think about it - if a foreign country wanted to know if the USA was working on a particular secret project, they could troll the courts with a dummy lawsui

  • by Raul654 (453029) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:08AM (#15227011) Homepage
    The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (which established the FISA court) clearly and explicitely says that the US Government may not do survielance of American citizens without a warrant. I do not see how the government can assert privilege over the NSA's clearly illegal actions. (Nixon tried and failed - badly)
    • by praksys (246544) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @06:40AM (#15227170) Homepage
      Under the US constitution power is divided between three branches of government. The central issue in this case is whether the power to conduct this kind of surveillence falls within the powers reserved to the executive branch. If that is the case then it doesn't matter what laws congress has passed, or what they appear to say. The only way to take this power away from the executive would be to ammend the constitution.

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

        No, that's what the administration is claiming. The truth is, no one knows for sure and the administration is doing its damndest to make sure no one will. That sure makes me feel more secure!
      • by gstoddart (321705) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @09:41AM (#15227790) Homepage
        In spite of what everyone keeps saying about the current case, it is not domestic spying. One end of every communication intercepted is in another country, and the court that decided the Nixon case specifically noted that their ruling did not apply to international communications.

        Are you sure about that? The way I read the EFF case and the and the Wired writeup [wired.com], they are under the belief that ALL communications are being re-routed to the NSA. Not simply all calls which are going international.

        If they are truly getting copies of every single AT&T communications, this would most especially NOT be limited to international communications -- it would, in fact, be large-scale domestic spying with no warrants or specific targets. Merely recording everything that goes on to see if they can sift out anything useful.

        That is bloody scary! And, highly illegal.
  • Independent examiner (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Alain Williams (2972) <addw@phcomp.co.uk> on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:15AM (#15227024) Homepage
    So, will the US government allow this to be examined by someone completely independent who can then vouch that the government is clean ?

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

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

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

    • by fishbowl (7759) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:30AM (#15227042)
      "So, will the US government allow this to be examined by someone completely independent who can then vouch that the government is clean ?"

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

      And you think that country should, or would, subject itself to any scrutiny from someone outside its government because....?
    • Independent reviews don't work.

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

      I have spent a large chunk of my life working in and around the Defence Signals Directorate. I've seen it happen more than once.
    • Well, how about inviting an inspection team from the UN? After all, that's what's been tried on pretty much everything that stinks on this world.
  • by gnarlin (696263) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:19AM (#15227029) Homepage Journal
    Seriously, when the executive branch of the government can simply come swinging in and end any lawsuit they see fit without full explenation to all involved parties (including the public) sounds like what happens in banana republics. No justice for people when they can't get their few remaining rights enforced by the courts.
    There is also the constant media consert in fortissimo about how the ends justify the means, i.e. chopping off liberty for the sake of temporary safety and all that jazz. Then there is the issue of seperation of Church and state is slowly but surely being erased. Unfounded wars of aggression (arguable to some extend though I guess) and last but not least, many computer programs are being Censored.

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

    Me thinks it time for a bloody revolution again!
    (tickets sold seperately).
    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Saturday April 29, 2006 @06:08AM (#15227094)
      "A little revolution now and then is a good thing; the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." -- Thomas Jefferson
      It seems to me that the tree is looking a bit dry at the moment; perhaps we should water it now. That is why we have a 2nd Amendment, after all!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Has everyone forgotten the events that led to April 9, 1865 in the Appomattox Court House in Appomattox County, Virginia?

      Civil rebellion. Poorly-armed and -trained volunteers. Leadership that, while exemplery and genius, was against the industrial might of an entire nation. Seizing of lands, property, wealth, and persons without due process, warrants, or a fair trial. A legacy of bloodshed, hatred, contempt, mistrust, lawlessness, and general horror that lasted beyond the shooting war to become a silent spe
    • Me thinks it time for a bloody revolution again!

      We have a good system. What it requires is citizen participation. Yes, corporations have money. Yes, politicians are corrupt. But in the last presidential election, only 67% [census.gov] of eligible voters (and that's the most since 1968) turned out. That 2/3 of the electorate voted in Bush despite all the evidence that had accumulated since his election in 2000.

      A representative system only works if the people are engaged. The problem is, the people don't want to be

  • huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:42AM (#15227057)
    As a Muslim American, I'm told that I should invite violations of my basic civil rights with the only probable cause being my skin color, ethnicity and religion because I shouldn't have anything to hide. Yet, when the corporations involved with the government and the government itself has lawsuits filed against it based on evidence beyond the realm of "probable cause," they can invoke some act they pulled out of their asses. How do I go about obtaining an act like this but only to protect my civil/constitutional rights? Does the "if you got nothing to hide..." line work with the government too or is FOX news going to spin it some other way for all of us?
    • Does the "if you got nothing to hide..." line work with the government too or is FOX news going to spin it some other way for all of us?

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

      Why?
  • executive branch (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sentientbrendan (316150) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:47AM (#15227067)
    I would like to see some serious punishment for some members of the administration after they leave office... People are talking about impeachment if the democrats get control of congress... but that seems like kind of a slap on the wrist, and would only effect bush himself.

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

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

    I'd like to see congress put some mechanisms in place for checking the execute branch. Specifically, I'd like whatever authority that the administration *imagines* gives them the power to do warantless wiretaps specifically removed. Power to spy on whomever it pleases the administration, without even having to tell anyone in the other branches about it, is clearly a threat to the checks and balance system. Maybe a constitutional amendment needs to be made laying out the powers of the executive branch more specifically, and limiting the power to spy on anyone without oversight from the judicial, and maybe the legislative branch.
    • so far the abuse has been allowed by both other branches, in some cases abuses have been with the assistance of the other branches. Who passes laws to limit this? The people doing it.

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

      Algerath

    • Specifically, I'd like whatever authority that the administration *imagines* gives them the power to do warantless wiretaps specifically removed.

      Those laws were passed in the wake of Watergate, but the White House acts like the law doesn't apply to them. So what good would it do to pass more laws the administration feels free to ignore?

      I say we take some of that massive intelligence apparatus and turn it on the Federalist Society. They're a bigger threat to our country than Al-Qaida. The terrorists m

  • Turnabout (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Odiche (513692) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @05:51AM (#15227073) Journal
    "Sir, if you have nothing to hide, then you should have no objection to a full disclosure of the documents you have created and accumulated with your wiretapping activities."

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

    Hypocrites - A study in government responsibility.

  • Fast-track it. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by genomicon (578786) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @06:00AM (#15227084) Homepage Journal
    Whatever the trial judge decides about the DOJ motion, you can bet this gets appealed all the way up the line to SCOTUS. The claim, as asserted by DOJ, would be a clear violation of the due process clause if the government could step into any case and inhibit discovery or evidence presentation. In other cases involving sensitive material, the trial judge has the opportunity to review such material before granting or denying the motion.
  • just face it.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by essence (812715)
    ...democracy is over. All the western countries are now becoming fascist. So what ya going to do about it? Write to your senator? pffft.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @06:01AM (#15227086)
    It kinda sounds like the NSA equivalent, at least.

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

    Ignorance is strength... where've I heard that before...
  • in the guise of "national security."
  • Seems to me that something like this subject should have senators and congressmen pounding on podiums with veins sticking out of their foreheads denouncing those involved and making a lot of stink to oust the bastards... or maybe that was just a reality tv show I saw once.
    • . . . or maybe that was just a reality tv show I saw once.

      Yeah, it was a reality TV show. They called it, "Watergate." And it was nowhere *near* this bad.
  • Rarely used? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by olddotter (638430) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @06:18AM (#15227118) Homepage
    I wish it were true, but I don't think the term "rarely used" applies to the states secrets privilege any more. Unfortunately it is used far too often, and even used when there is no state secret but the need to cover some body's hind quarters.

    Perhaps it should be called the CYA privilege.
  • Correct me if I'm wrong, but the lawsuit is not over any government records, but those of civilians. The only aspect of this case that could be considered "national security" is the fact that the NSA and possibly other government organizations got the records from AT&T... Isn't there some statute or code that mandates relevancy? Or maybe, common sense? If they use this "privilege" in this case, couldn't they use it in any case concerning anything with the federal government?
  • put PGP everywhere (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 29, 2006 @06:31AM (#15227148)
    It's about time to put an user-transparent version of GPG (or symmetric encryption) in about every open source project, which uses communication or stores something. I'm already wondering, why it's not included in Thunderbird by default (I know, the provided GPG plugin is one of the best available for mail systems see http://enigmail.mozdev.org/ [mozdev.org] ).

    Good programs would be:

    - encrypted storage for torrent files (F*** off RIAA)
    - Generate and upload GPG key when you install Thunderbird by default
    - Encryption for VoIP (yeah, Skype has it and it pisses of the feds)
            http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2006/04/voip _encryption.html [schneier.com]
            or zfone http://www.philzimmermann.com/EN/zfone/index.html [philzimmermann.com]
    - GPG encryption in HTTP traffic (no more snooping on forms)
    - ...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 29, 2006 @06:49AM (#15227193)
    So, either they don't have such a monitoring program, but they want the terrorists to think they do, and it would compromise state secrets to reveal the fact it does not really exist, OR ...

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

    What is this? The frickin USSR?

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

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

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

  • Just in from the AP (Score:4, Interesting)

    by codepunk (167897) on Saturday April 29, 2006 @07:33AM (#15227307)
    The FBI secretly sought information last year on 3,501 U.S. citizens and legal residents from their banks and credit card, telephone and Internet companies without a court's approval, the Justice Department said Friday.

    And how many of these 3,501 where arrested as a terrorist? I suspect none or very , very few so how many of these where violated?
    • It doesn't matter if it was 1 or 0. The fact is, an illegal operation was performed and it's time to reboot.

      Oh, God. I'm a geek.
    • It could also be that those 3,501 did business with or donated money to an organization that is a front for a terror group. Bin Laden and his associates did well to learn from the Irish Terrorists, using the same structure to get money. But now it's different since western countries are now cooperating to take these front groups down, and stop the flow of money.

      If any of the 3,501 that were linked committed a terror act, and weren't investigated, heads would roll, just like after 9/11. This isn't about sk

  • what happens now, does it just go away? has this been getting news coverage or anything? i don't watch tv so i don't even know.

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