Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
For the out-of-band Slashdot experience (mostly headlines), follow us on Twitter, or Facebook. ×

+ - Why the ruling against NSAs phone records program could have huge implicatitions->

Errorcod3 writes: A federal appeals court ruling that the National Security Agency's collection of millions of Americans’ phone records is illegal could undercut more than just that program.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that the phone records program violated the law used to authorize it, the USA Patriot Act. The program had been approved by the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and was first reported on by USA Today in 2006, but documents from former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed the program continued under President Obama.

The government argued that the huge volume of phone records were relevant to counterterrorism investigations because searching through them later might help discern links to terrorism suspects. But the court didn't buy it, ruling that such an interpretation of "relevance" was "unprecedented and unwarranted." The government's argument, the judges said, boiled down to "the proposition that essentially all telephone records are relevant to essentially all international terrorism investigations.”

Knocking down that interpretation could have consequences that go beyond the program and even the part of the USA Patriot Act used to authorized it, Section 215.

First, it could mean a blow to other programs relying on the same part of the USA Patriot Act, experts said — for example, a potentially ongoing program tracking international money transfers that includes millions of Americans' financial and personal data that was revealed by the Wall Street Journal last year.

And because many laws rely on very similar relevance language, the decision should bring new scrutiny to other programs, experts said. "As I understand it, this ruling should have implications for several surveillance statutes," said Harley Geiger, advocacy director and senior counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology..

Why? Basically that's due to a bit of congressional laziness, said Jonathan Mayer, a lawyer and computer scientist affiliated with Stanford University's Center for Internet and Society. "Most surveillance statutes are copy and paste," he said. "There's certain relevance language that is replicated everywhere."

The court itself noted as much, citing the example of two bills that use the same language to compel the production of information relevant to authorized terrorism investigations — one about telephone tollbilling and another about educational records. (Those bills did not appear to be used for or intended to authorize bulk surveillance.)

But other programs that collected massive amounts of data on Americans relied on similar relevance language. A program that collected information about e-mails until 2011, for example, was set up under a set of legal authorities known as "pen register/trap and trace." And a Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Administration program that harvested records of international calls by Americans to as many as 116 countries for more than two decades since 1992 relied on an administrative subpoena power that required that the information gathered be "relevant or material" to an investigation, USA Today reported.

The court's rejection of the broad interpretation of relevance in this case could make it nearly impossible for the government to argue in favor of domestic bulk collection programs such as these without it being explicitly spelled out in the law, according to Mayer.

That could have significant weight in the legislative debate over the phone records program. Section 215 is set to expire on June 1, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is pushing for a bill that would renew it. But for the phone program to continue after passage, the government would have to convince the Supreme Court to reverse the 2nd Circuit's decision.

And a bill to modify the law so that, supporters argue, the NSA can get access to records while still protecting Americans’ data — called the USA Freedom Acct — has split privacy advocates. One coalition of privacy advocates argues that the bill essentially legalizes mass surveillance and could "eviscerate numerous court challenges" — presumably, challenges like the one just won in the 2nd Circuit.

But one of the key arguments from privacy advocates who support the bill is that it reins in bulk collection by the government, which may have continued under other authorities even if Section 215 is sunset. That argument may be less compelling to some now. "The 2nd Circuit just did a big piece of USA Freedom," Mayer said.

Some members of Congress are already citing the decision as a reason to reject the current version of the USA Freedom Act, including Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who led a campaign to defund the phone records program in 2013.

But supporters of the bill say that other aspects of the legislation, including transparency provisions, still make it worthwhile. "The problem is without the transparency requirements in USA Freedom, we won't know how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court responds to the ruling," said Cato Institute senior fellow Julian Sanchez.

And USA Freedom would not undermine the relevance restrictions included in the 2nd Circuit decision, Geiger argues. Rather, he said, it would build on them by giving more specific parameters for what is relevant and "provide the certainty that both the intelligence community and the Americans concerned about civil liberties deserve."

The 2nd Circuit also declined to place a preliminary injunction on the case due to the current debate and could still be overturned, Sanchez said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the NSA's phone record program was first revealed by Edward Snowden. In fact, it was first revealed by USA Today in 2006 and the Snowden documents showed the program continued under President Obama. We regret the error.

Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:More like a diversion for more H-1B (Score 1) 165 165

The fallacy of a Libertarian believing that a single worker can bargain for their living wage with a UNION of Capitalists. No, the wage that everyone should at least be paid should be enough to live without desperation to feed, clothe and house their family and protect their health and savings.

Comment: I don't know... Seems secure to me (Score 2) 269 269

When I added an AMEX Business card to my ApplePay, it required me to contact AMEX and then be put through the ringer of answering a bunch of obscure questions including responding as to whether I lived at the addresses they proffered. Some from decades ago. It's pretty freaky that a credit card company would know all that about you. There was probably little question that the card I was adding to ApplePay was assigned to me.

Comment: Re:$3500 fine? (Score 5, Interesting) 286 286

Automation of jobs even professional level jobs such as medical or legal is inevitable. The long term prospect is that humans will be superfluous to work. Therefore, our society needs to rethink the purpose of an economy and evolve.

Perhaps ideas like a Universal Basic Income become relevant in a future society devoid of meaningful work.

Perhaps automation makes economic scarcity of essential needs a thing of the past.

Perhaps people become free to seek their own happiness instead of toiling for sustenance.

But that would be monstrously scary to objectivist who might think that society must exploit and privatize everything.

Comment: It's coming (Score 1) 240 240

There is a certification process for Electronic Medical Records systems called "Meaningful use". Stage 2 certification requires vendors to be able to exchange information whether or not the doctor or practitioner is a subscriber to that particular system.

Certification is a critical component as to whether an EMR is certified to use for submitting claims to government. Vendors are going to have to get their "stuff" together if they want to remain viable.

Comment: Re:No comments here yet... (Score 1) 471 471

So lets see, Apple doesn't do their own R&D. Well, it is true that most hardware developers integrate components from a variety of sources. But maybe just maybe Apple has significant skin in the game.

What about:
The Apple S1 single chip architecture
haptic subsystem
magsafe charging system (stolen from themselves)
the UI, the UX, the OS all offer innovative features.

Comment: Re:No comments here yet... (Score 1, Insightful) 471 471

So yes "cunt" is a slang term for Vagina, but as far as I know, only females have them. So, if you referred to a nurse with the term "cunt' then by definition you have defined the nurse as having a specific gender. Coupled with the vulgar and derisive term "cunt", I would classify that as misogyny. So... There IS the misogyny...

Comment: Re: Misleading Headline (Score 2) 246 246

Corporations are legally separate entities. They are to pay taxes. Then when they dividend their earnings, the shareholders pay taxes. Yes, the government may incentivize corporations to do all manner of social good through tax breaks but it has gone too far.

May Euell Gibbons eat your only copy of the manual!