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EFF Case Against AT&T To Go Forward 227

Posted by Zonk
from the beauty dept.
Tyler Too writes "The NSA wiretap lawsuit filed by the EFF will apparently be moving forward. A federal judge has denied the government's request that the EFF's lawsuit against AT&T be dismissed. Among other things, the judge ruled that 'if the government has been truthful in its disclosures, divulging information on AT&T's role in the scandal should not cause any harm to national security.' The case will now move forward, pending a government appeal."
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EFF Case Against AT&T To Go Forward

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  • by Winckle (870180) <mark.winckle@co@uk> on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:37PM (#15752846) Homepage
    "if the government has been truthful in its disclosures, divulging information on AT&T's role in the scandal should not cause any harm to national security."

    Sounds like the "terrorists" might've won.

    But sounds good to me, but i'm a filthy liberal.
    • by Tackhead (54550) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:50PM (#15752933)
      > Sounds like the "terrorists" might've won.

      <voice=texan>
      An' they hate us for our freedom. So...
      </voice>

      > But sounds good to me, but i'm a filthy liberal.

      <voice=texan>
      Yeah, it's all your fault! Fer six years some folks have been complaining that the government isn't listening to the people... an' now that it does, y'all are haulin' us into court for it! What gives?
      </voice>

    • by Vicissidude (878310) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @06:07PM (#15753041)
      No, in this case, the problem isn't the filthy lib'rals, but them thar activist judges!
      • You know, I'm from the South, and I know that people actually do say "them thar," but I can't read that sentenence and not think it's meant to be read in a pirate's voice:

        No, in this case, the problem isn't the filthy lib'rals, but them thar activist judges! ARRRR!
      • /me smacks the ignorant hillbilly upside the head.
        You sound like one of them Cee-En-En types.
        Don' chew know that all them thar activist judges is filthy lib'rals?
    • the judge ruled that 'if the government has been truthful in its disclosures, divulging information on AT&T's role in the scandal should not cause any harm to national security.'


      Hmmmm, remarkably similar to "If you're innocent, you have nothing to worry about". And where have we heard that before?
  • by Skyshadow (508) * on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:39PM (#15752855) Homepage
    I just got the EFF's "we're winning, now please donate more cash" spam and surfed over here to see if there were details. Scary how the two lined up so perfectly.

    So yeah, if you have a few bucks, they could probably use it. I realize it's only our basic liberties, but let's be honest -- if you don't donate your spare cash to the EFF, you're just going to waste it on booze.

  • Hmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Poromenos1 (830658) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:39PM (#15752857) Homepage
    "if the government has been truthful in its disclosures, divulging information on AT&T's role in the scandal should not cause any harm to national security."

    Is that like "if you have nothing to hide, you won't object to surveillance"? Seriously, poor government!
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Soko (17987) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:48PM (#15752920) Homepage
      Is that like "if you have nothing to hide, you won't object to surveillance"? Seriously, poor government!

      No, it's not like that. It's more like this:

      "If you have been truthful to previous investigaters about your involvement in this, you won't mind us investigating your pal over here for any wrong-doing on his part."

      The US Govt. tried to have the case against AT&T thrown out - not a case against itself. It's quite a diffrent matter.

      Soko
      • More like... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by jd (1658) <.moc.oohay. .ta. .kapimi.> on Thursday July 20, 2006 @06:04PM (#15753020) Homepage Journal
        "If you've not commited any crimes with your friend, you won't have anything to worry about if I ask your friend if he's commited any crimes with you", which does reduce to the grandparent post's phrasing. Basically, the judge is daring the Government to either let the case through (and risk disclosure) -or- be found guilty of lying.


        Since the Government isn't a defendent, and as the US has no meaningful concept of "contempt of court" or perjury, the court can't do anything about it if the Government is found guilty of lying. On the other hand, this is election year, which is not a good year to be found guilty of anything, even if there is nothing the courts can do.


        My guess is that the Government will do anything and everything to stall proceedings, such that if there is a trial, there's absolutely no risk of anything embarassing being said before polling day. If they're in power, they can clean things up afterwards. If they're not, it's no longer their problem.

        • Re:More like... (Score:5, Informative)

          by AuMatar (183847) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @06:12PM (#15753067)
          Of course, the republicans have set a nice precedent of impeachment proceedings for perjury by the executive branch...
          • In order for impeachment to happen you need a congress which cares more about the constitution and America then they do about their party and the next election. Either that or you need a congress that is run by the opposing party.

            We have neither in this case so there will not be any impeachment even though a stronger case can be made for Bush then Clinton.
          • Re:More like... (Score:3, Informative)

            by StikyPad (445176)
            Because the republicans are likely to impeach Bush? And before you talk about the dems pulling a majority congress out of their collective derriers in '06, you should be aware that it takes a supermajority [wikipedia.org] to convict.

            You also seem to forget that Clinton was aquitted.
            • Lets see how the elections go. I think the dems are going to take the majority. A supermajority will be harder, but you never know.
          • It wasn't perjury, remember. It was thoroughly vetted lawyer talk, and it was slimy, but Clinton never broke that law.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by theCat (36907)
      That would imply that judges have a sense of humor. And perhaps that they are not above cruel irony. Which, if true, speaks highly of the judiciary, in my opinion.
      • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Knara (9377)
        Most people haven't read a lot of judicial decisions, but it's no uncommon for them to have clever (if obfuscated) wording showing wit and distain for stupid plaintifs/defendants.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by GigsVT (208848) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @06:12PM (#15753070) Journal

      Is that like "if you have nothing to hide, you won't object to surveillance"? Seriously, poor government!

      Absolutely.

      The government is supposed to be "surveilled" by the public. It is our responsibility to watch the government as closely as we can. It's not hypocritical to object to cameras on street corners but to lobby for cameras in police cars. They work for us, not the other way around.
  • by kravlor (597242) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:39PM (#15752861) Homepage
    I certainly look forward to seeing just how much the phone companies have been aiding the NSA. With the abuses leaked regarding the "terrorist surveillence program" related to international phone calls, the warrantless surveilance of American citizens certainly needs to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the light of day.
  • A First in History (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ToAllPointsWest (801684) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:41PM (#15752875)
    AFAIK, the government has always gotten "national security" cases such as this thrown out of court, this change represents a very good historical first! The Right of Petition is still alive in the US!!!!
    • nope.. what about the time magaizne case?

      still.. in this age, which has been described as "worse than watergate", it is a small.. thin ray of hope that we might yet claw our way back from the brink of totalitarianism.
    • Yes, the judiciary at large is getting pretty annoyed at the way the other two [executive and legislative] are behaving. It is time that our checks and balances started to work for us. It is no mystery that Bush's supreme court nominees were pushed so hard and that their confirmation was so wildly fought. In the end, Bush's congressional and senate majorities confirmed them. But even now I get the feeling that some of Bush's judges will start to think for themselves.
      • sad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 20, 2006 @06:36PM (#15753226)
        Is it so sad or what that it is in fact the two elected branches of government that are running the country into the ground while the other one with its appointments and life terms is the only thing standing in their way? I'm beginning to think people are really that stupid.
  • Quite a Surprise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BigCheese (47608) <dennis.hostetler@gmail.com> on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:43PM (#15752888) Homepage Journal
    I expected the yes men to have buried this long ago.

    Is the US justice system working? We'll have to wait and see...
    • Is the US justice system working? We'll have to wait and see...

      I had actually fallen into a sort of pessimistic mindset about the future of the Constitution and democracy in America, but the recent Supreme Court decision in Hamdan vs. Rumsfield has given me great relief that our system of checks and balances is still capable of fighting back, even if weakened.

      Now that the case is proceding, I have high hopes that this nation is on the road to recovery from the post-9/11 madness.
      • Same here. When I navigated to Slashdot and saw this headline on the page, I jumped out of my seat and yelled "YES!!!" as though someone had just given me a million dollars. Frankly, I fully expected the judge to throw out the case and I have been sitting here for weeks thinking to myself that this country is completely screwed and wondering what I could do about it.

        This is such great news and it gives me a sliver of hope that maybe, just maybe we aren't on the road to complete totalitarianism that I thoug
  • by N. Vander Ende (990045) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:44PM (#15752894)
    It's nice to see the intended balance of power in our government begin to stabilize once more. When one or more sides start to get out of hand, the other side steps in! Sort of like rock-paper-scissors, but C-SPAN covers the matches. I eagerly await the incensed cries of "activist judges!"
    • I eagerly await the incensed cries of "activist judges!

      Yeah, no kidding. Seriously though, an activist judge is usually one that wants to set new precedent according to his own convictions, whereas this judge is attempting to uphold existing law ... you know, the Constitution. It sure would be nice to get back to a state of affairs where the government is transparent and scared shitless of us.

      I'm dreaming, I know.
  • no subject (Score:2, Interesting)

    by UnixSphere (820423)
    As a consumer, I'm ready to look at these list of companies and effectively not do any business with them anymore. I certainly hope I can convince others close to me to do the same. Your dollar is stronger than your bitching to these companies, stick it to them.
  • by shuz (706678) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:46PM (#15752905) Homepage Journal
    It is nice to see the Judicial branch keep the Executive branch in check. What's even nicer is that the lower court will have the power to see if the Executive branch has been telling the truth without going to the supreme court. As a US citizen I am comforted by this news.
  • YES! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheDarkener (198348) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:55PM (#15752968)
    A win for those who dislike governments breaking their own laws!

    *does a little dance*

    *realises that we still have a LONG way to go*

    *frowns*
    • NSA: The most organized, well funded group of terrorists in the world.

      I wish that ppl would think about this before posting such things. First the NSA does not involve itself with manipulating others. All they do is monitor, as well as work on securing our (USA) communications and systems. In fact, up till recent times, the monitoring was limited to who and to where the data went. But the NSA was professional enough to not send it elsewhere (or perhaps greedy).

      Now, the real issue here is the PATRIOT act w

      • I wish that ppl would think about this before posting such things. First the NSA does not involve itself with manipulating others. All they do is monitor, as well as work on securing our (USA) communications and systems.

        Terrorism is literally the act of carrying out actions that cause people to fear for their safety or well being.

        From my own perspective, I would consider the Chilling Effect [wikipedia.org] to be a form of terrorism. I sometimes wonder if people will be 'disappeared' for being a little too outspoken abou

  • I'm stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 20, 2006 @05:59PM (#15752993)
    I guess I'm stupid.

    I don't understand how invading a country protects my freedom. Or how, terrorists threaten my freedom. They can blow shit up all they want, but I still have freedom of speech and religion. Or how by violating our civil rights, our Government protects our freedom. How is this true??

    The only threat to my freedom has been my own Government. They are the ones (and unfortunately, the majority is letting them) who are trying to restrict the freedom of the press with their lawsuits over leaks. They are the ones who are violating citizens rights by spying on them.

    This case is protecting our rights and fredoms that, let's see, were violated by our Government.

    I'd rather live free and live with the vry remote possiblity of dying in a terrorist attach than having my Government take my rights away to protect my Freedom!

    I've been voting and writing letters, but, unfortunately, the cowards run the show.

    • Re:I'm stupid (Score:3, Informative)

      by drinkypoo (153816)
      I'm stupid (Score:-1)
      by Anonymous Coward on 07-20-06 14:59 (#15752993)

      [...]

      I've been voting and writing letters, but, unfortunately, the cowards run the show.

      Irony, thy name is slashdot.

    • Re:I'm stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mirio (225059) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @06:23PM (#15753146)
      AC, you are right on the mark.

      When people talk about freedom (real freedom, not the politician's word), what are they talking about? FREEDOM FROM GOVERNMENT.

      Governments are to be feared. The natural tendency of any government to expand it's power over it's people must be continuously fought.
    • They are decreasing our freedom TO do things, which they falsely imply increases our freedom FROM other things. By keeping people scared, they get votes.

      I too have been writing letters. Keep them up. People like us have managed to stop bad government before: maybe we'll win this time, too.
    • I don't understand how ... terrorists threaten my freedom. They can blow shit up all they want, but I still have freedom of speech and religion.

      Terrorists threaten your inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Or at least the "life" part. That's the reasoning. They also threaten your freedom of speech with that "don't draw Allah or we'll riot!" stuff.

      You may not think giving up one right (privacy) to decrease your chances of losing another right (life) is a fair trade. But some peo

    • I guess I'm stupid. I don't understand ...how terrorists threaten my freedom.

      Ask Salmon Rushdie.

      I'd suggest you ask Theo van Gogh. But you'd need a Ouiga board to get his answer.
    • I'd rather live free and live with the vry remote possiblity of dying in a terrorist attach than having my Government take my rights away to protect my Freedom!

      Haven't you been watching 24? You need to get a proper dose of conditioning.

      Government heros like Jack Bauer NEED total information awareness, and they need the authority to shoot then decapitate your uncle in order to save us all from a nuke. A NUKE!!! Ahhhgg! You're panicked too, right?!

      The exception is the rule. 24/7. :)

  • One step closer (Score:3, Informative)

    by imemyself (757318) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @06:12PM (#15753069)
    Hell yeah! At the very least this shows that the Bush administration can't arbitrarily say "national security" to cover up things that they've done that may not be entirely legal. With this, and the stuff about San Francisco and AT&T, its nice to know that AT&T might actually get in some trouble/lose some money because of what they've done. Maybe they should change their advertising slogan to Your World, Delivered...To The NSA.
  • by Mad Martigan (166976) on Thursday July 20, 2006 @07:21PM (#15753517) Homepage
    The Ars article's title was: Federal judge doesn't buy state secrets argument in NSA wiretap case, which I think is a little misleading. Read this passage from State Your Secrets [fas.org] (an article by Louis Fisher appearing in the June, 2006 edition of Legal Times, reprinted courtesy of Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists [fas.org])


    The responsibility for deciding questions of privilege and access to evidence is central to the role of a judge in conducting a trial.

    This authority is well established. In his well-known 1940 treatise on evidence, John Wigmore recognized the existence of "state secrets" but also concluded that the scope of the privilege had to be decided by a judge, not executive officials. He agreed that there "must be a privilege for secrets of State, i.e. matters whose disclosure would endager [sic] the Nation's governmental requirements or its relations of friendship and profit with other nations." Yet he cautioned that this privilege "has been so often improperly invoked and so loosely misapplied that a strict definition of its legitimate limits must be made."

    Wigmore considered the claim of "state secrets" so abstract and useless that he divided it into eight categories, including exemptions from giving testimony, attending court, providing evidence by deposition, and disclosing communications by informers to government prosecutors. But on the duty to give evidence, he was unambiguous: "Let it be understood, then, that there is no exemption, for officials as such, or for the Executive as such, from the universal testimonial duty to give evidence in judicial investigations." An exemption from attendance in court "does not involve any concession either of an exemption from the Executive's general testimonial duty to furnish evidence or of a judicial inability to enforce the performance of that duty."

    Wigmore came down clearly on which branch should determine the necessity for secrecy. It was the judiciary: "Shall every subordinate in the department have access to the secret, and not the presiding officer of justice? Cannot the constitutionally coördinate body of government share the confidence? The truth cannot be escaped that a Court which abdicates its inherent function of determining the facts upon which the admissibility of evidence depends will furnish to bureaucratic officials too ample opportunities for abusing the privilege . . . Both principle and policy demand that the determination of the privilege shall be for the Court."


    Basically, he's saying that, yes, there are state secrets, but the judiciary -- not the executive -- is responsible for determining how trials involving state secrets proceed. This idea of someone crying 'State Secrets!!!1!!1!one!11!!!' and automatically getting a case tossed out is relatively new, and, as most of us here believe, contrary to the basic premise of the court system.
  • The american illusion of democracy boil away when this case is mysteriously, or not so mysteriously boiled away.
  • by CurtMonash (986884) on Friday July 21, 2006 @01:00AM (#15754708) Homepage
    A lot of people seem to be overlooking two basic facts:

    1. The amount of information government truly needs to gather to protect us is also sufficient to greatly threaten our liberty.
    2. Governments will inevitably gather much more information than they really need.

    As a result, it is necessary to design legal systems (and where possible to restrain the design of technical systems) so that even though government has the information, it doesn't commonly use it in nefarious ways. I've written a series of articles about that. Most of them can be found starting from the link http://www.monashreport.com/2006/06/06/freedom-eve n-without-data-privacy/ [monashreport.com], or more generally from http://www.monashreport.com/category/public-policy -and-privacy/privacy/ [monashreport.com]

    Examples of why we should expect government to gather huge amounts of information include, in no particular order:

    A. All the call/e-mail/whatever connection information they're already getting, as documented in the news around NSA surveillance, AT&T's involvement, and so on.
    B. Laws to require ISPs or information service providers to keep records of which IP addresses connect to which sites (so as to fight child porn, piracy, whatever).
    C. Britain's moves towards complete video tracking of car movements (I get my reporting on this from The Register).
    D. Credit card transaction records.
    E. Forthcoming integrated electronic health records. (Those will have huge benefits to the saving of lives, quality of life, cost and efficiency of health care, etc. Whatever the privacy risks, they need to be managed so that health care is allowed to improve.)

    And that's even without mentioning RFID.

    What's slowing all this down is some political opposition, plus the huge technical difficulty of the required system integration projects. But in a small number of decades, it will all have happened. Our laws and oversight systems need to have evolved drastically by then. We have to start now.

    I'm definitely not saying that we should cripple government in gathering and using information. Indeed, I'm an advisor to Cogito, a company with some of the most powerful relationship analysis software out there. http://www.dbms2.com/category/object-oriented-and- xml-technology/cogito/ [dbms2.com] But I think we need to radically upgrade our legal structures in response to these technological trends.
  • by Rev Snow (21340) on Friday July 21, 2006 @10:38PM (#15761455)
    The summary is misleading because it
    quotes the article in such a way as to
    appear to be quoting the judge's opinion.

    The word "scandal" does not appear in
    the judge's opinion.

    The article itself is clear on the quoting,
    but Slashdot editors should know how few
    people RTFA, and avoid giving them the
    wrong impression.

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