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Wiretap Ruling Threatens Telecoms 501

Posted by Zonk
from the i-am-deeply-moved-by-their-plight dept.
ches_grin writes "Yesterday's ruling on the NSA warrantless wiretapping program could mean that businesses that assisted in the program are in for some serious legal problems. The judge's decision clearly dismissed out of hand the arguments of the telecoms, saying that the protections due journalists and lawyers was a clear matter of the public's best interests." From the article: "Businesses accused of aiding the Bush administration in wiretapping could also be in for a legal bruising, say civil liberties groups that have sued telecom providers AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth for allegedly helping the NSA. The ruling could set a precedent other courts can't ignore. 'Every phone company that is assisting the government in its illegal surveillance would want to think long and hard before it continues that agreement,' says Ann Beeson, the ACLU's lead attorney in the case. 'There are already lawsuits claiming that their cooperation for the past several years is illegal and now that the judge has declared it is illegal, their liability increases. The risk is much greater from a business perspective.'"
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Wiretap Ruling Threatens Telecoms

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:16AM (#15934816) Journal
    Businesses accused of aiding the Bush administration in wiretapping could also be in for a legal bruising, say civil liberties groups that have sued telecom providers AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth for allegedly helping the NSA. The ruling could set a precedent other courts can't ignore. 'Every phone company that is assisting the government in its illegal surveillance would want to think long and hard before it continues that agreement,' says Ann Beeson, the ACLU's lead attorney in the case. 'There are already lawsuits claiming that their cooperation for the past several years is illegal and now that the judge has declared it is illegal, their liability increases. The risk is much greater from a business perspective.
    Wait, you mean that a company that wronged me and my fellow countrymen might be under legal penalty? You mean I might have as much right to my privacy as my government?

    What a novel concept!

    Let's try this: Let's conspire with a telecom provider to monitor government employee's communications and try to figure out what the government is thinking and what they're doing. Then, we'll blow the story all over the media and claim immunity based on something we just made up. We can claim that we were just making sure the federal government wasn't doing anything wrong and that if they weren't doing anything wrong, they shouldn't have to worry or press charges. I wonder if the telecom provider and those involved would be prosecuted.

    Oh, and we'll use a recent event to justify our actions. Like the war in Iraq. Yeah, uh, we need to make sure no one in the government is conspiring to start another war based on false information. That's it, that's why we need to monitor your communications.

    If the government is taking actions like these that are illegal for us to take ourselves, it's starts to sound less like we're on equal footing with the government and more like the government is demanding we "do what they say not what they do." Does anyone else remember back in the day when the United States was a government of the people, by the people and for the people? None of these recent NSA actions sound "for" the people. More like "against" with what should be serious legal repercussions. What the hell ever happened to a weak federal government with strong local governments? That was the basic idea for our government I thought. Instead we have some backwards beltway insiders pushing everyone around while my local county and city governments try to figure out what the hell "PC Load Letter" means.

    I say we jail those responsible (government directors and telecom CEOs who oversaw it) just as any citizen who tried the same thing would be jailed.
    • by Recovering Hater (833107) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:21AM (#15934852)
      I fully agree with the sentiment. Nixon resigned under the shadow of impeachment for illegally wiretapping a hotel. One single place. This administration basically wrietapped the entire country. I can't understand why their wasn't more outrage. It saddens me.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)


        I can't understand why their wasn't more outrage.

        <neocon>

        Because Bush is wiretapping the country to save us from the terrorists! The terrorists!!! You remember the terrorists, don't you? Aren't you still afraid??? FEAR!!! Fearing another terrorist attack and surrendering our freedoms and rights is the only way to safeguard us from the terrorists!

        </neocon>
        • by cpghost (719344) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:47AM (#15935114) Homepage

          Yep!

          "Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?... Has it ever occurred to your, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?...The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact, there will be no thought, as we understand it now." -- George Orwell, 1984.

          It looks like most people already got used to Newspeak nowadays...

          • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Friday August 18, 2006 @02:49PM (#15936452) Homepage Journal
            What's amazing is how the rough, tough Authoritarian Right-Wing in this country turned into a bunch of frightened little bedwetters because of a single terrorist attack, so willing to have "Big Daddy" government take away their rights and freedoms so they can be protected. I have to say that I'm ashamed so many of my countrymen have bought into the manipulation of the Bush Administration, which is simply bent on consolidating power at any cost. The events of recent weeks in Britian have shown that a civilized country can fight terrorism without resorting to breaking the law. Even if it's a little bit harder, so be it. We have accepted a lot of things that are harder because we are a free people. Remember, it's much easier to govern as a dictator than as an elected official, responsible to the citizenry. And, it's much easier to live in prison than in the free world. I choose to be free, as have Americans for more than two centuries. And when I hear the Bill Bennetts, William Kristols, Bill O'Reillys and Sean Hannitys, shaking in their boots, so afraid that the big bad terrorists are going to drop a plane on their heads, just begging the likes of Dick Cheney and George Bush to please, take away their freedom so they don't have to pee their pants any more, it disgusts me, as it should disgust every American.
            • by demachina (71715) on Friday August 18, 2006 @04:54PM (#15937240)
              "The events of recent weeks in Britian have shown that a civilized country can fight terrorism without resorting to breaking the law."

              I wouldn't champion the Brits for their respect for their citizens rights. They've passed laws that are much harsher than any in the U.S. Not sure they outlaw spying on their citizens in the first place. The law broken by the NSA has only been in place since the 1970's in the U.S. The U.S. was rampantly spying on its citizens before then.

              The most recent was called the Prevention of Terrorism Act [wikipedia.org] and was passed in an illadvised frenzy after the subway bombings, kind of like the Patriot Act.

              In a previous "terrorism" investigation British law enforcement murdered an innocent Brazilian electrician claiming he was a terrorist which is pretty much the ultimate form of "breaking the law". He apparently just had the misfortune to be living near a place under investigation, looking Arab, and being an illegal immigrant who was afraid of the police. The police officials lied through their teeth about the whole thing after they murdered him.

              Some examples of recent British antiterrorism law that really read more like "police state":

              - The British government can lock up anyone incommunicado for 28 days without charges being filed.

              - The British can slap a control order on you without convicting you of anything. Control orders can impose curfews, limit who you associate with, limit religious freedom, prevent you from having a cell phone, using the Internet, or where you work, they are basically a form of preemptive probation they can slap on anyone they merely suspect of being a potential terrorists whether they are or not.

              - You can be arrested for expressing opinions or selling books in support of "terrorists". The government also gets to decide who is and who isn't a terrorist so they get to decide what causes their citizens can and can't support, for example championing the cause of Palestinians is very chancy in Britain now.

              - An earlier law passed in the wake of 9/11 allowed the Brits to hold a resident alien suspected of terrorism indefinitely without trial.

              The Brits were an originator of habeas corpus, due process, in the Magna Carta 790 years ago only to throw it away in the last 5.

              Quite predictably, using the liquid explosives busts as an excuse, the Bush administration has been campaigning they need the same laws the Brits have to make us safe, though the British laws would be completely unconstitutional in the U.S.

              I'd really wait to see how successful the supposed liquid explosive investigation proves to be when its all said and done. Its a lot easier for the government to use the media megaphone to trumpet their success in breaking up a terrorist ring than it is to actually prove there was one, or for it to be as real a threat as its been made out to be. The practicality of bringing down an airliner with small quantities of liquids mixed on board is unproven. You can cause an explosion, which Al Qaeda did in their previous attempt dubbed "Bojinka", but its not clear it would be enough to bring down an airliner. In their dry run a decade ago they killed one passenger but didn't damage the airplane to any serious degree. I wager that in this case like so many before it the overreaction will do more damage than the plot would have. The Brits are making airline travel so painful many people are having second thoughts about it, which translates in to real and lasting economic damage.

              Reference the "terrorism" plot the U.S. broke up in Michigan where a couple Arab looking guys were buying cell phones in quantity to resell in Texas for a small profit. U.S. law enforcement inflated it in to a terrorist plot to blow up a bridge in Michigan. It was insane, it wasn't good law enforcement or good counter terrorism. They made life living hell for a few guys for NO REASON. In the U.S. we are approaching an election where the ruling
        • by MECC (8478) * on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:12PM (#15935350)
          Because Bush is wiretapping the country to save us from the terrorists! The terrorists!!! You remember the terrorists, don't you?

          Exactly. Nixon was illegally wiretapping to save us from the democrats! The democrats!!! You remember the democrats, don't you?
      • by postbigbang (761081) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:31AM (#15934952)
        There was burglary, theft, and perjury, not to mention numerous other items uncovered by Archibald Cox (and of course, others).

        Oh yeah, and there were about 28,000 GIs killed in Viet Nam, not to mention about a quarter of a million Vietnamese.

        I suppose those dead people didn't count in the indictments... nor the resignation of Spiro Agnew for tax fraud-- his vice president.

        Now, between Bush Jr and Sr, we have about 600,000 Iraqis dead, 3,500+ of our troops.

        So there's wiretapping incideous habeas corpus violations, and heavens knows what else in the Bush administration.
        • Nixon = Bush (Score:5, Informative)

          by shaneh0 (624603) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:30PM (#15935477)
          Yes, Nixon did some very dirty things, like trying to steal democracy from the American people. But his administration did more good for the country then GWB has. Just a few of Nixons lasting accomplishments:

          - Creation of the E.P.A.
          - Ending engagement in Vietnam
          - Opening China to diplomatic relations, including their induction as a UN member state
          - Singning of the SALT treaty and the ABM treaty with the soviets
          - Embracing and signing-off on the NASA STS program
          - Elimination of the "Gold Standard" of US Currency allowing more natural currency flux

          No matter what, you can't seperate Nixon from Watergate. But he isn't anywhere near the worst president we've had. And in a way, watergate helped America. A healthy distrust for government is a good thing.

          This world would've been a much better place today had RFK not been shot. He would've ate Nixons lunch in a general election and the course of history would've been changed. I'm a big blue-stater but I believe in giving credit where credit is due.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Wow, I don't care if he made Santa Claus Secretary of Defense. The fact is that up until Bush took office, Nixon tried the hardest to circumvent the Constitution to create a "unitary executive" branch. His legacy is that we still have hordes of his neocon disciples (many of whom are in office now) who believe in what he was trying to do and in fact are pushing his ideas even further.

            As for the accomplishments you've listed, some of them are suspect. The China deal was a very self-serving effort to build
        • by kilodelta (843627) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:57PM (#15935662) Homepage
          Interesting statistics there. In Vietnam we were at a roughly 10:1 kill ratio. In Iraq we're way over that at 171:1

          We've gotten much more efficient at killing people. So our tax dollars are being used for something productive, we just didn't know it.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by oDDmON oUT (231200)
            Interesting statistics there. In Vietnam we were at a roughly 10:1 kill ratio. In Iraq we're way over that at 171:1

            And this is something we should be proud of?

            This isn't a video game, and many of those dead (like the Viet Namese before them) are nothing more than collateral damage in the eyes of the military.

            Besides, it's not your tax dollars, or mine, paying for this. It'll be the taxes of our sons and daughters, and likely their sons and daughters, that will pay for this ill conceived and poorly execute
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by markmier (306777)
            Yes, because efficient killing of brown people is the pinnacle of human achievement. And also the best possible use of our tax dollars. Think of the children!
      • by lottameez (816335) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:33AM (#15934965)
        I can't understand why their wasn't more outrage.

        I think it has a lot to do with motivation. Many people feel that the Government/Bush is doing what it/he can (sometimes misdirected) to thwart terrorist attacks. Whether or not you agree with the wisdom of his decisions, it's hard to fault the motivation and gin up some "outrage".

        Nixon's was clearly a case of playing unethical (and illegal) tricks on a political opponent.
        • by MasterOfMagic (151058) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:13PM (#15935359) Journal
          I think it has a lot to do with motivation. Many people feel that the Government/Bush is doing what it/he can (sometimes misdirected) to thwart terrorist attacks.

          What I find ironic is that many people who were against the Nixon administration (which did similar things to the Bush adminstration) actually support the Bush adminstration. Almost as if their disillusionment with the political system wore off once they actually had to support a family.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jackbird (721605)
          Nixon's was clearly a case of playing unethical (and illegal) tricks on a political opponent.

          Good thing nothing like that happened when Bush got 'elected.' Or when his VP and Chief of Staff leaked Valerie Plame's occupation. Or when he ignores parts of laws he doesn't like with his 'signing statements.' Or when he led the country to a ruinously expensive war based on wishful thinking and fat checks to his VP's former company.

      • by rbochan (827946) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:35AM (#15934987) Homepage
        I can't understand why their wasn't more outrage.


        I'll reiterate:

        The US government must think that Americans are lazy, brainless sheep who will shut out even the most obvious evidence that criminals are running the country. I mean seriously, only the most idiotic... Oh look! American Idol is on!

        • by Aadain2001 (684036) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:47AM (#15935113) Journal
          I really wish I had mod points for your post! You hit it on the head! People in this country just don't give a damn any more. And if you try to convince them otherwise, they or the government place the ultimage trump card: it's to protect the country from terrorists.

          You know that saying that came out after 9/11, how if we don't do this or that, the terrorists have won? Well, they did win. Life in American will never be the same again.

          • by jrister (922621) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:13PM (#15935354)
            Life in American will never be the same again.

            This is the single point that pisses me off the most.

            Remember when Bush stood on the rubble pile there right after the attack and said that we would not allow the terrorists to change our way of life?

            Now, we only find out 4 years later (last year) that he was arranging to rob us of our Constitutional rights, as those words came out of his mouth. Too bad we found out so late in the game, or I wouldnt have likely voted for him again.

            • by Darby (84953) on Friday August 18, 2006 @02:20PM (#15936254)
              Too bad we found out so late in the game, or I wouldnt have likely voted for him again.

              Now, this kind of incredibly deluded intellectual dishonesty is what is killing this country.

              *We* did find out long along ago.
              All of this was clearly going to be the result of a vote for Bush *in 2000*. Had you done anything at all to inform yourself about Bush, his friends associates and people he was courting for his cabinet then you would have already known this a long fucking time ago.

              "We" didn't find out late in the game. You wilfully ignored every relevant fact for 6 fucking years. I knew in 2000 that a vote for Bush was a vote to invade Iraq and nothing else. You would have too if you had taken your responsibility as a citizen seriously.

              You don't have a god damned leg to stand on or any right to be "pissed" about any of this.
              It's your fucking fault for not doing your god damned duty as a citizen and informing yourself before twice voting for the worst traitor in American history.

              So, I'm glad you're finally starting to wake up and pay attention, but don't you dare pretend any of this is new news.
              Don't you fucking dare pretend that this isn't *exactly* what you voted for.

              Seriously, the complete lack of personal responsibility you demonstrated in your post is endemic to the ignorant masses who voted for this douche bag.

              So don't you fucking dare pretend that you're all surprissed and pissed off.

              You caused this situation.
              Until you can honestly look at yourself and take responsibility for what *you* unleashed on this country due to your unwillingness to do your job, then nothing will change.
              Until you can figure out how you were so easilly fooled by blatantly obvious techniques that have been used repeatedly throughout history while people were telling you what was going on the whole time and you actually learn something from your easilly avoidable mistake, then you will be fooled over and over again as you already were in 2000 and 2004.

              Seriously, take responsibility for your own actions.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Grym (725290)

          I agree with the gist of your message, but I just wanted to point out that as much as we slashdotters like to jeer at American Idol watchers, we're no better. How many of us play WoW? How many of us watch ESPN or play sports? Well, scratch that last one. =P Entertainment--any entertainment--is a a distraction; from the most banal (American Idol) to the most intellectual (Tinkering with the Linux kernal).

          This isn't the only case where we are very hypocritical, though. Look at your sig and its disdain o

          • by tradiuz (926664) on Friday August 18, 2006 @02:31PM (#15936335)
            I drive a "sports" car that gets 30+ mpg (I've gotten upwards of 40mpg by babying it on the highway, measured by distance/gallons used).

            I used to drive a truck that, when babied, got a whole 18 mpg. City driving made it plummet quickly into the 12mgp range. Most sports cars (unless it's got a V10-V12) get better fuel economy than this. In fact, some of the innovations in sports cars (the Audi R10 for one) increase fuel economy.

            On the note of fuel economy, and the like, what is the point of 10% ethanol gas. My car runs worse, gets less mpg (around 10% less mpg). Is it just an excuse to dilute the fuel, and charge the same for it? I know it reduces emissions, but when I have to use more to go the same distance, it seems like it isn't doing anything helpful. Much like the "hybrid" cars, that cost you more than they'll ever save you in fuel (fuel savings for 3 years is usually around $3000, the replacement battery in 3 years is around $3500-$4000), and the technology to make the batteries is also harmful to the environment.
      • by Tackhead (54550) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:45AM (#15935096)
        > Nixon resigned under the shadow of impeachment for illegally wiretapping a hotel. One single place. This administration basically wrietapped the entire country.

        "Everyone screams that they want a government that listens to its people. We did that, and then y'all turn around and ask the us to stop listening. What gives? Make up your minds, or maybe it's time for us to just dissolve the people and elected a new one!"
        - Your Government

      • Privacy is only for nutcases with kooky ideas, and miscreants trying to hide their activities. Do you really think that my fellow Alabamans care if you have phonesex and talk about a blowjob? Ok, there's a law against blowjobs here, but really, who's gonna arrest you? And so what if someone plays your blowjob talk in front of the whole world one day? That's the whole point of removing privacy for Americans; if you're too ashamed of what you do in secret being shouted on the mountaintops, maybe you shouldn't
      • by owlnation (858981) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:48PM (#15935602)
        Nixon resigned under the shadow of impeachment for illegally wiretapping a hotel. One single place. This administration basically wrietapped the entire country. I can't understand why their wasn't more outrage. It saddens me.
        I totally agree. Despite the many articles on Slashdot and other sources such as The Daily Show etc, our rights and freedoms have been eroded to a level previously unheard of in the West. The so-called "War on Terror" has been a gift to extremists in US and EU governments to begin implementing types of controls similar to those of the Nazis in the 1930s. (I live in Berlin, I know the history here pretty well - and I use the comparison carefully, the Nazis did things small step, by small step, by small step). We seem perilously close to being under the complete control of dictatorships here. The war on Terror is clearly being won by both the terrorists and the extremists in Western governments. You, I, and everyone else are losing this War. Which makes me wonder when the terms like "regime change" were being bandied about, which regimes did they actually mean?

        I am shocked, saddened and disgusted by the news each day. Obviously many of us would like to see our present governments replaced with more democratic and accountable institutions. But how? Protesting seems not to work, and so many are apathetic to any kind of truth. There really does need to be more public outcry, perhaps we need to see more anti-Vietnam types of scenes? What do we need to do to convert raised awareness into actions that will get Bush and Blair etc voted out of office?

        Or perhaps I just need to move to Cuba where the government might allow me some more freedom, and at least the weather's nice.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by brian.glanz (849625)

        Unfortunately, outrage rarely impacts political decision making at this level without an impending election, and this president does not face another election. We teetered at 50/50 around both of the elections Bush survived, but by now less than one third of Americans support this president and this country's "direction." There is outrage, and plenty of it, but it doesn't much matter.

        Our "leaders" are much more "practical" than that.

        On practicality: Nixon ducked out because Congress was not his own, a

    • by supabeast! (84658) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:22AM (#15934868)
      Given the way the American legal system works, it's far more likely that we'll all just get coupons toward extra phone services we don't have now, the phone companies will run some public service advertisements about communications, and the lawyers will rake in piles of cash.
    • Why am I reminded of this:
      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062153/ [imdb.com]
    • by MrSquirrel (976630) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:30AM (#15934935)
      What happened to the good old days... when crimes against the entire country were dealt with as "treason" and the bastards were hanged?
    • by ookabooka (731013) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:30AM (#15934938)
      "Wait, you mean that a company that wronged me and my fellow countrymen might be under legal penalty? You mean I might have as much right to my privacy as my government?"

      It's not as simple as that, the NSA has a certain degree of authority that they most certainly abused. If a government agency that high up came to you and told you to do something that wouldn't really affect your company financially would you do it? I assume that the telcos thought they would be in way more trouble if they didn't comply, the NSA would make them their enemies (Would you want to be on the bad side of the NSA?) that the media would tear them apart for assisting "terrorists". As an informed slashdottter, I am appalled. From a business and PR perspective, I can sympathize.

      The true evil here is the NSA, while it is a common stratagy for the executive branch to pretend it has more power than it does, these guys took it way too far. Don't get me wrong I think the telcos should have thought a bit longer, hopefully they will get some sort of punishment so there is more of an incentive for companies to think before they comply with a government request.
      • by pegr (46683) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:49AM (#15935127) Homepage Journal
        If a government agency that high up came to you and told you to do something that wouldn't really affect your company financially would you do it?
         
        Oh, it's better than that. I'm sure the telcos profitted from the arrangement. That is to say, the gubmint paid the telcos to do their dirty work for them! Yes, that's your money the telcos took to spy on you!
    • by Irvu (248207) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:36AM (#15934996)
      Does anyone else remember back in the day when the United States was a government of the people, by the people and for the people? None of these recent NSA actions sound "for" the people. More like "against" with what should be serious legal repercussions. What the hell ever happened to a weak federal government with strong local governments? That was the basic idea for our government I thought. Instead we have some backwards beltway insiders pushing everyone around while my local county and city governments try to figure out what the hell "PC Load Letter" means.


      Ironically these people are members of the party that claims to champion a limited federal government that operates for not against the people. They campaigned on the very idea of shrinking government and reducing its invasiveness. They have reduced education and social spending (mostly through crippling unfunded mandates). They have left the science budget the same but selectively trimmed spending on some subjects e.g. Global Warming. But when it comes to spying on Americans and invading others no amount is too high and no law apparently can stand.

      Not even Richard Nixon went around claiming that he was just "above the law because he says so" but apparently these people think that it is a valid legal principle.

      This isn't flamebait, I'm being serious, the only other times that I can think of where anyone claimed such a thing (rule of law but my word is above all law) was the old Russian Tsars after Katherine the Great, and Adolf Hitler who had the "Furher's Princip". Again this isn't flamebait it is frightening.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lawpoop (604919)
        "Not even Richard Nixon went around claiming that he was just "above the law because he says so" but apparently these people think that it is a valid legal principle."

        Actually, Richard Nixon *did* believe that the president's actions were always legal, by definition: [landmarkcases.org]

        FROST: So what in a sense, you're saying is that there are certain situations, and the Huston Plan or that part of it was one of them, where the president can decide that it's in the best interests of the nation or something, and do somethi
        • Are you at war? (Score:3, Informative)

          by VdG (633317)
          Bush seems to justify a lot of things by saying that the USA is at war. But it's not a type of war that anyone even half a century ago would have recognised. It may be that it *is* a war, (of sorts) but if so I see no prospect of it ever ending. Maybe you (and your allies, such as my own green and pleasant land) will acheive victory over Al Qaida et al but I'm sure that there will be more such extremists in the future.

          If "war" can be used as a justification for additional powers make no mistake: they wil
    • by PFI_Optix (936301) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:49AM (#15935128) Journal
      Does anyone else remember back in the day when the United States was a government of the people, by the people and for the people?


      Not really. I doubt anyone alive today remembers 1788 all that well.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jahz (831343)
      I agree with your post, except for the following statement

      Does anyone else remember back in the day when the United States was a government of the people, by the people and for the people?

      Honestly, I don't see these recent events as anything different than has happened in the past. From the view of the NSA, knowing everything you that everybody does helps to protect the masses. You should have no doubt that the NSA was, in fact, really trying to combat national security threats with these wiretaps. You s

  • Poorly worded (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aqua_boy17 (962670) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:19AM (#15934838)
    saying that the protections due journalists and lawyers was a clear matter of the public's best interests

    Um, just curious. What about the protections due to us average citizens, or don't we count anymore?
    • Re:Poorly worded (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Burlap (615181) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:26AM (#15934903)
      honestly... no. you can't afford multi million dollar lawyers like the big newspapers and firms can.
    • Re:Poorly worded (Score:5, Insightful)

      by truthsearch (249536) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:48AM (#15935119) Homepage Journal
      "Average" citizens have a number of protections. But journalists have the added protection of freedom of press and lawyers have the added protection of client confidentiality. It's much easier to argue that the protections for press and lawyers is violated by warrantless wiretaps than freedom of speech or other rights. It's quite clear that with a warrantless wiretap the government can easily listen to a lawyer speak to his client or find a newspaper's secret informant. There's no "right to privacy" per se for average citizens, so that's a harder case to prove.
  • by Avillia (871800) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:19AM (#15934841)
    Until the Republican-slanted Supreme Court overrules that brave federal judge with a party-line vote, new guy Alito being the tiebreaker. This is a victory, but do not be mistaken, it is a hollow one.

    • Agreed. This 'victory' will last exactly as long as it takes the appeal to get to the SCOTUS.
      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Lehk228 (705449)
        can SCOTUS justices be impeached for treason?

        can raping the constitution be considered treason because it is aiding the terrorists in destroying america?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by stinerman (812158)
        I wouldn't go that far. I think the liberal wing will be in the bag on this one, so that gives 4 right there. And based on Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, I think Scalia will go along with them. He noted that congress hadn't suspended habeas corpus, so Bush had to try terrorism suspects under normal criminal law or release them. Then again, he never was much of a advocate of privacy as a right. Then again, the 4th amendment is very plain, and Scalia isn't about to disregard it. If Scalia goes, Kennedy will as well
    • by nanojath (265940) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:50AM (#15935139) Homepage Journal
      I hope you (and the many others asserting this sentiment) are wrong. I'm not counting on it, certainly, but I hope you are. The Supreme Court has a long history of dissapointing the people who put it into power, and while I'm not thrilled or encouraged by many of the cases we've seen before, I don't think there is any guarantee that the administration will get a pass on this. It is not so easy to get a total partisan hack or lap dog into the SCOTUS, and people change when they receive that lifetime, practically bulletproof appointment. The degree to which the Bush administration has claimed presidential authority over roles constitutionally assigned to the judiciary is extraordinary and I maintain hope that it will be corrected.

      If they capitulate, then we know that we really lost. And that those terrorists, eleven murderous zealots, really won. If the check of the judiciary is that emasculated then liberty in America is truly dead.
  • Once again, an alliance of big business and government conspires to strange the last remnants of freedom on the internet. The end of free expression is night. In a few years...

    Oh, hold on a minute.

    Did we win this one!?
  • Extortion? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Enoxice (993945) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:22AM (#15934866) Journal
    I agree someone needs to be held accountable. But it should be the government. No corporation can resist governmental pressure. Is this just the government trying to place blame elsewhere to protect itself?

    "Well, you LET me do it! It's your fault!"
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lehk228 (705449)
      yes corporations can [blogspot.com] resist government pressure to do questionably legal things. the big telecoms are much more established than google and are in a much better position to refuse to do illegal things for the government.
      • by Rotten168 (104565)
        Being that they are "natural monopolies" they have much more to lose by refusing to cooperate with the government, actually. "Hippy McFreakington" by comparison has a lot less to lose (borrowed from "America the Book").
    • Re:Extortion? (Score:5, Informative)

      by nanojath (265940) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:41AM (#15935046) Homepage Journal
      No corporation can resist governmental pressure.

      It has been widely reported that Qwest refused to comply with these requests on concern of their legality. And the administration did nothing about it because there was nothing for them to do. "Hey, give us a direct connection to your customers' personal data." "Sure thing, where's your subpeona?" "Oh, we're not doing that, we have the authority to ask for this data without any judicial oversight." "Oh wow, who gave you that authority?" "We did." What are they going to do if you say no, ask a judge to make you comply? Oh my, irony! Not only did they do nothing to Qwest, they said nothing about it because they have been applying every possible delaying tactic, including imposing as much secrecy as possible, to put off this day of reckoning. Not only is "because some bureaucrat told me to" not a good excuse for breaking the law, it is the worst excuse, exactly the kind of cowardly capitulation that leads to the worst sort of government corruption. Nobody deserves a free pass on this craven, cynical assault on the principles of freedom.

      (on preview, the captcha for my sign-in was "conspire." Damn, they're on to me).
  • "damned if you do, damned if you don't"

    Help the feds and get your but sued off by your customers, or dont help the feds and run the risk of pissing off the powers that be. I can understand how the telco's are in a serious pickle over this, since both sides will start screaming "do what we say, the law is on our side"
    • How do we fix this? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Lurker2288 (995635)
      Apologies for the tin foil hat moment... I was wondering that myself, but from a more universal perspective, how do we as a society strike down this kind of thing? This is a victory for privacy, but there's no way the administration will just stop--it will appeal, or claim executive privilege, or just move the whole thing underground away from prying eyes. Even if we soundly boot the Republicans out in 2006 and 2008, does anyone expect the Democrats to do differently? How can we protect our rights to priv
      • The Democrats would be different in 2006, because there'd still be a Republican in the White House. The US historically does better when one party is not in complete control.
        • by cyber-dragon.net (899244) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:13PM (#15935363)
          No the answer is for Americans to get the *&%$ over this two party mentality and the driving NEED to vote for the guy who one and VOTE, VOTE OFTEN and VOTE YOUR CONTSCIENCE, not who you think is going to win.

          Also do not vote based on a single issue. Regardless of what you may think of the abortion issue basing a decition as important as who you vote for on that single issue is STUPID. If politician X agrees with me on 8 of 10 issues I find important and disagrees on 2, and politician Y agrees with 2 and disagrees on 8, why the hell would I pick Y even if those 2 where "hot button" issues? Yet oh so many Americans do.
  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:24AM (#15934885)
    While I feel the wiretapping is illegal, suing the companies that helped the government I feel is bad practice. These companies are in a bad position both ways. First you got a governing body to tell you to do something or face the consequences. You can be noble and such and be placed in jail and/or pay for lawyers to defend you, or just do what they say because they tell you it for national security and you have to assume that it is legal.

    It is similar to a situation where a policeman stops you and tells you to run that stop sign so they can give you a ticket or they will arrest you, on some charge like failure to cooperate with an officer. So what do you do, just get and pay the ticket because getting arrested is much more of a hassle and fighting it will take more of your time (lost work etc...) or stand up for what is right and get arrested and fight it, even though you will loose days or weeks of work costing you more then what the ticket would bring.

    What will probably happen is these companies will in turn sue the NSA, for their damages, such as the smart thing would do is fight the traffic ticket and also sue for unlawful conduct by the police, and get some extra for your expenses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It sounds like you're condoning these company's actions.

      I respectfully disagree with your position, here's why:

      The more people who enter into the mindset of "Oh well, even if I know it's wrong, I'm gonna do it becuase it's less of a hassle", the more power is given to people like those who make up the Bush administration.

      This isn't about party-line politics; it's about the fundamental principles this country was founded on. Primarily the freedom from the invasion of one's privacy by a tyrannical government
    • by walt-sjc (145127) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:40AM (#15935031)
      I think you don't realize the power of major telecoms. Cooperating with the NSA without law or court order to back up the request is highly unlikely to land an AT&T executive in jail or get the corporation sued. Now the gov may have played hardball another way, such as "do it or we pass network neutrality legislation," but that's about it.
    • by MarkusQ (450076) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:47AM (#15935110) Journal
      While I feel the wiretapping is illegal, suing the companies that helped the government I feel is bad practice. These companies are in a bad position both ways. First you got a governing body to tell you to do something or face the consequences. You can be noble and such and be placed in jail and/or pay for lawyers to defend you, or just do what they say because they tell you it for national security and you have to assume that it is legal.

      They're in a bad position? Oh, the poor corporations! We, the people, have for generations had to fight and die to defend our freedoms, but the new "Corporate people" who demand all the rights of citizenship might get stuck paying a fine or something if they refuse to actively break the law! The horror! The unfairness of it all!

      I say the consequence for violating the constitution should be stiffer than anything corrupt officials can impose--say, complete and utter destruction of the corporation. Collaborate with corrupt government officials in an unconstitutional act? Fine. You aren't a corporation anymore. Everyone is fired, the assets are auctioned off and the proceeds (after all the corporation's debts are paid) goes to the shareholders. That way, it becomes a no brainer to say "No way!" the next time you are asked to betray the nation at the behest of a few power hungry elected officials or their minions.

      That, or we could just give 'em a pass this time and hope that they've learned their lesson...

      --MarkusQ

    • by truthsearch (249536) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:01PM (#15935251) Homepage Journal
      you have to assume that it is legal

      Bullshit. And your police example isn't appropriate. Nothing is done in big business or big government without paperwork. These telecoms are REQUIRED to ask for the paperwork. They each have a department full of lawyers who would tell every employee, "Make sure to get the paperwork to cover our asses."

      What's the worst the government would do to the telecoms for not complying? Raise their FCC license fees? Every one of those telecom employees who complied and is a US citizen conspired with the government to impinge on the rights of fellow citizens. I hope they get sued for every last dollar they earned while trampling over our rights.
  • I mean they have to face the dual pressure of an American public who would view them as "hating America" for going against the NSA as well as the pressure of a federal investigating agency demanding the tapes.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pizzaman100 (588500)
      I doubt the American public gives a flying crap either way. They're too busy watching American Idol to be concerned with telcom issues.
  • I'm glad. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:26AM (#15934908) Journal
    Good. They deserve some socio-legal proctology for betraying their paying customers to the government, without even a hint of protest against an action that is illegal, against all precident, and clearly unconstitutional.

    Makes you wonder how often they allow wiretapping without a warrant, doesn't it? Clearly they had no problem with it.
  • What's the point? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tracer_Bullet82 (766262) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:28AM (#15934918)
    So, the telecoms are gonna be held culpeable.

    What about Bush's administration?Are they going to get something even equal to a wristslap.

    As much as I like the idea of blase corporations getting reamed in the hilt..

    punishing one party(which is the subservient one) while the main offender(bush) is still scott free.. what exactly is the message that's going to be sent to corporations and business.

    Unsure of their options.. the one's they'll take is quite likely the ones that are detrimental to people.
    • Re:What's the point? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Anon-Admin (443764) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:39AM (#15935029) Homepage Journal
      IANAL but it seems to me that some one should file charges on the president and the NSA based on

      USC TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 13 > 241

      If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same; or
      If two or more persons go in disguise on the highway, or on the premises of another, with intent to prevent or hinder his free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege so secured--
      They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

      and maybe even

      TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 13 > 242

      Whoever, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of his color, or race, than are prescribed for the punishment of citizens, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and if bodily injury results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

      I say we make an example of them all. They like to make examples of others.
  • Businesses accused of aiding the Bush administration in wiretapping could also be in for a legal bruising, say civil liberties groups that have sued telecom providers AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth for allegedly helping the NSA.

    Yeah, but when has the "I was just following orders" defense ever worked, really?
  • When there was freedom of speech, privacy, liberty in U.S. ?

    Well thats a relief.
  • by elucido (870205) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:30AM (#15934941)
    It's only a matter of time before the Supreme court reverses the decision. If the Supreme court supports the decision then the program will continue in secret. No news here, move along.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:33AM (#15934967)
    Let's be serious here, this won't stand its ground. As long as the judges aren't independent from the rest of the governmental body, they will be at the governments beck and call. At the very least, this will be squished once it touches the supreme court.

    I'll try to keep an eye on this to find out just how long it takes until that matter is "settled" (read: Drowned in enough red tape to be grinding to a halt), and at what body it will perish. Because if this matter is turned down and not even investigated, as I expect, the separation of powers in the US is dead. When the executive branch can do what it wants without being held in check by the supreme court, the transformation to a police state is finished.
  • by Jesrad (716567) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:34AM (#15934979) Journal
    the protections due [citizens] was a clear matter of the public's best interests.

    Here you have it: freedom > security.
  • by amigabill (146897)
    To what extent are the service providers expected to know what the NSA is and is not allowed to do? If the NSA comes in and says you must do something, how much right do you have in that situation to say "no", or "let our lawyers approve this first"? With the Patriot Act in place and the fact that no one has ever really read what it actually says, how is anyone expected to stand up and tell the NSA to bugger off, that's unconstitutional? But these companies are not even the victims I'm concerned about.

    What
  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <kirk+slashdot@strauser.com> on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:39AM (#15935021) Homepage Journal
    I have no particular love for the telcos, but I really don't envy them their position. Imagine you're the person in charge of setting up these wiretaps. A government agent, possibly armed, shows up in your office with instructions and hints of the PATRIOT Act and Gitmo. The instructions don't include warrants like you're used to seeing, but a Federally subsidized vacation in Cuba doesn't sound too attractive and, besides, you're rather fond of making your mortgage payment.

    Is there any reason to think that the telcos went along cheerfully? If so, unleash the lawyers^Whounds. However, I can easily imagine them being subject to pressures I'd rather avoid.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:53AM (#15935169) Homepage Journal
    These telcos explicitly participated actively in surveillence that their lawyers should have told them was illegal. But what about CALEA in general? What about all the new VoIP surveillence? "Echelon" [wikipedia.org], or whatever they call it now? If/when these surveillence programs are held accountable, if/when they are proven to violate the law and rights of Americans, what kind of liability will telcos, ISPs, and just nodes on the network hold just for compliance?

    Should we offer users security from surveillence out of our obligation to ourselves for avoiding liability when the government abuses our cooperation? Or even just protecting ourselves from lawsuits which will fail but cost expenses/time, or just the ill will of the market? Qwest communications apparently did not cooperate with the NSA domestic spying program. Did they make the only good business decision of all their competitors?
  • by lawpoop (604919) on Friday August 18, 2006 @11:57AM (#15935214) Homepage Journal
    According to wikipedia, companies do not have to give full and complete accounting of their records if it the president gives them permission in the name of national security.

    "Companies are permitted by US securities law (15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A)) to refrain from properly accounting for their use of assets in matters involving national security, when properly authorized by an agency or department head acting under authorization by the President. This legalese essentially means that companies can falsify their accounting reports and lie about their activities when the President decides that it is in the interests of national security to do so. President Bush issued a presidential memorandum on May 5, 2006 delegating authority to make such a designation to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, just as the NSA call database scandal appeared in the media." [Emphasis mine]
  • by Theovon (109752) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:02PM (#15935274)
    You know there are a lot of well-meaning people who end up getting the shaft when people in authority abuse power. The problem is that if you don't follow orders, you're likely to be arrested. Imagine being a soldier protesting orders on the grounds that they were unethical... in some countries, any such people were quickly removed from the gene pool. My fellow slashdotters, we in the U.S. live in a police state. If the police tell you to do something, you damn well better do it, or you're not going to see the sun shine for a long time after some court somewhere decides that you were told to commit an illegal act. And being, as you are, an "idiot citizen," the government doesn't afford you the right to judge right vs. wrong for yourself.

    So you're damned it you don't (they'll arrest you right away if you refuse), and you're damned if you do (you'll be up on civil or criminal charges later when it's determined that you were asked to do an illegal thing). In this system, you can't win.

    Mind you, companies like AT&T have a lot of lawyers and a lot of power. But even they can't refuse completely. If you refuse to do what the NSA says, they will find a judge to issue an order to close down your business a LOT quicker than you can find another judge to rule their orders illegal. Oh, and then there are the various appeals processes that draw it out, leaving you in legal limbo for years.

    Up until the moment that your orders are found illegal, refusing to follow those orders is the only thing illegal.
  • It's all moot (Score:4, Insightful)

    by exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:16PM (#15935383) Journal
    You know as well as me that the judge's decision will be overturned. There is absolutely no way that the American legal-political system, as it currently exists, could possibly agree, for an extended period of time, that there has been wrongdoing by both the executive and just about every telecom company. What's more, when the decision is overturned we'll be worse off than before because the legality of the status quo as of the day before yesterday will be enshrined as legal precedent and so the government will move on to push the boundaries even further.
  • by plopez (54068) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:22PM (#15935430) Journal
    But not on impeachment. Rather with sweeping legislation clearing the telcos of any civil and/or criminal liabilities. And in fact increasing the power of the telco monopolies while they are at it through a few well hidden amendments.
  • by peterpressure (940132) on Friday August 18, 2006 @12:42PM (#15935558)
    I hope everyone was this angry when all the previous presidents did the same thing, or when this FISA BS was passed.... http://www.dkosopedia.com/wiki/Warrantless_Eavesdr opping_Timeline [dkosopedia.com]
  • by Animats (122034) on Friday August 18, 2006 @01:19PM (#15935829) Homepage

    The Bush administration is in a mess here. Their real problem is that if they'd asked the FISA court for the authority to do what they're doing, they'd have been turned down. If they'd asked Congress for it, some tough questions would have been asked by members of Congress in a position to demand answers. Remember, the conservative right, "Bush's Base", isn't comfortable with wiretapping. Bush can go to Congress for more wiretapping authority, but right now, he probably wouldn't get it. Hence the desperate legal moves.

    And they are desperate. Notice what happened here. The Administration tried to use a secrecy order to prevent this issue from going to trial. That's because they can't win on the merits. But since the Administration had already admitted enough in public to establish that such wiretapping was going on, that didn't prevent the court from addressing the issue.

    At the appeals level, the facts of the case aren't reviewed, just the law. Because, as the district judge pointed out, it is not controverted that such wiretapping occured, that's not a issue. So the secrecy issue isn't really an issue on appeal. This leaves the Administration with only its weak arguments.

    Incidentally, this is a criminal statute. See 50 USC 1811. If you work for NSA, or a telephone company and are involved in illegal wiretapping, you could go to jail for five years. That could happen years in the future, under a future administration.

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