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State and Federal Governents Clash on NSA Snooping 75

An anonymous reader writes "In what could set the stage for an indirect decision over the NSA domestic surveillance program, The Justice Department has threatened the state of Maine with a lawsuit should the state's Public Utilities Commission investigate complaints from Maine customers that Verizon, by cooperating with the NSA without their customers' consent, violated privacy laws. Maine's PUC is expected to make its decision today.

(More from the article below.)
From the linked article: "Verizon may have broken the law, and the Department of Justice is overstepping its bounds in trying to intimidate the state PUC from investigating the potential violation," said Shenna Bellows, executive director of the Maine Civil Liberties Union. "And I do think it sets an extraordinarily dangerous precedent for the federal government to threaten to sue the state, (which is) merely doing its job."
The Maine complaint, filed in May by 22 Verizon customers, is one of several similar cases around the country. The cases were sparked by news reports alleging that phone companies have cooperated with government surveillance efforts by providing the domestic phone call records of millions of Americans.
In Vermont, where state officials are considering whether to open an investigation of Verizon and AT&T, the Justice Department has come down against the idea. The department has filed lawsuits to prevent the disclosure of information in New Jersey and Missouri."
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State and Federal Governents Clash on NSA Snooping

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  • how dare (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrSquirrel ( 976630 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @04:59PM (#15861468)
    How dare the state of Maine prosecute the federal government engaging in illegal activities! Let's hope the U.S. DOJ gets a proper smack-down in the courts... otherwise we're all fscked!
    • Re:how dare (Score:3, Interesting)

      by budgenator ( 254554 )
      It's not the Feds that Maine is investigating it's Verizon, the problem is Maine doesn't care about National Security becuase it's the a federal juridiction not state, the same as the feds don't care about the state laws of Maine. Verizons only has two hopes, first is that the state backs down becuase of the feds, and failing that Verizon closes ranks and just says "I plead the 5th admendment" no matter what they are asked and pray that the investigation stalls due to lack of evidence.
  • by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) * on Monday August 07, 2006 @05:05PM (#15861515)
    Don't worry - States' rights is a major part of the Republican platform.

    You know - along with smaller government and less federal spending.

    Right?

    Whenever I hear a Republican utter the phrase "tax and spend Democrat," I almost bust a gut laughing (and crying inside) thinking about the current deficit.
    • Because the republicans aren't tax and spend- they're cut taxes and spend. How spending without paying for it is better than spending and paying for it I don't know, but apparently in republican minds it is.
    • by failure-man ( 870605 ) <failureman@gmai l . c om> on Monday August 07, 2006 @05:29PM (#15861679)
      Stupid tax-and-spend liberals. The wise Republican party has proven that borrow-and-spend is the way to go. I mean, why tax for things now when you can jack people with it who aren't even born yet . . . . . .
      • I'm old enough to remember how, under Carter, interest rates were sky high (and at the time, while I don't remember it, the deficit was also fairly low).

        When Reagan came in, he really got interest rates down, but he started borrowing money like crazy and the deficit went way, way, way up.

        At the time, everyone except the people living off of interest were very happy with Reagan because of the drop of double-digit interest rates into the single digits.

        But the deal is, because nobody felt the borrowing at the
        • "Myself, I usually vote Libertarian when I have the choice, because for some reason I, as well as a handful of other people, have the ability to see that both the Republicans and the Democrats are screwing us over."

          That is exactly my stance too. It's like you took the words right out of my mouth, uncanny. Eitherway I see both parties as just tring to seperate me from my money, one party does it one way, the other party does it another way. Same crap, different method.
        • When Reagan came in, he really got interest rates down

          I remember people buying houses in 1988, Reagan's last year in office, with 20% mortgages. A lot of people seem to forget that.
          • If that is the case, then it would have been about 28% if Carter was still in office.

            Ummm, but wikipedia shows this:

            -=-=

            During the Reagan presidency, the inflation rate dropped from 13.6% in 1980 (President Carter's final year in office) to 4.1% by 1988

            -=-=-

            Now Reagan still screwed us, saying he wanted less government, but creating a huge deficit. It is just that, the defecit comes out of our children's pockets, so nobody felt it at the time. Taking money out of your pocket = BAD. Taking money out of your c
    • That's because Republicans are "Borrow and Spend". Which would you rather be, poor(democrat), or owned by China(republican)?

      -Rick
      • Self sufficient and unencumbered (libertarian)?
        • I'll agree with you on the Self sufficient part, but isn't being a libertarian by definition encumbering oneself with responsibility?

          -Rick
          • That all depends on whether you see said responsibility as an encumberance, or freedom.
            • Freedom is an encuberance. Unless you mean free in the "nothing left to lose" maner. If we give up some freedoms we can have a government operated police force that can help protect the community. If we keep those freedoms then we are responsible for policing the community. If you live in the hills of Montana, that's all fine and good. But in more densly populated areas, it has some rather nasty implications.

              I could never vote 100% libertarian, but I would much rather have the house/senate split 50/50 democ
              • "If we give up some freedoms we can have a government operated police force that can help protect the community. If we keep those freedoms then we are responsible for policing the community"

                That was exactly my point. Some people view it as an encumberance, some as freedom.
                • Yes you are "free" to provide your own domestic defence. "Free" to provide your own medical care. "Free" to support your self when you are unemployed. etc...

                  I agree that the government (federal government specifically) has way to much control and power, but at the same time I see the value in simple social government programs that can provide (relative) safety, health and human services, and help use to avoid "tragedy of commons" situations. Which is why I see a Libertarian/Democrat 2 party mix as being muc
                  • "I agree that the government (federal government specifically) has way to much control and power, but at the same time I see the value in simple social government programs that can provide (relative) safety, health and human services, and help use to avoid "tragedy of commons" situations."

                    Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing with you, and I agree fully. I *like* having men in missle silos protecting me. I like the police, Fire and EMS staff that could save my rear someday. I like educating the future so that
    • Don't worry - States' rights is a major part of the Republican platform.

      You know - along with smaller government and less federal spending.

      Yeah, right. That's why republicans took the nation from it's biggest budget surplus to it's biggest deficit. And it's also why they created the Department of Fatherland, er Motherland, er Homeland Security.

      Falcon
  • by tansey ( 238786 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @05:06PM (#15861526) Journal
    Amazing how 30 years ago, Nixon knows about some burglary and some audio tapes being stolen, and he is forced to resign. Then 10 years ago, Clinton gets a few BJs and has a 3 year investigation leading to an impeachment and a 3000 page report filed. And now, all these things are going on--most of which are orders of magnitude worse-- and they get hardly any news coverage, the president is under no real pressure about them, and the bulk of Americans couldn't care less.

    All I can think now is that line from V for Vendetta: "There's something terribly wrong with this country."

    • by kcbrown ( 7426 ) <slashdot@sysexperts.com> on Monday August 07, 2006 @05:30PM (#15861688)
      And now, all these things are going on--most of which are orders of magnitude worse-- and they get hardly any news coverage, the president is under no real pressure about them, and the bulk of Americans couldn't care less.

      The bulk of Americans couldn't care less because the bulk of Americans aren't very aware of it. They're not very aware of it because they get their information primarily from the mass media. The mass media isn't covering it because the mass media is in favor of it. Or, more precisely, the owners of the mass media are.

      Fascism is, by definition, very friendly to big business. Friendlier by far than a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. A government in which the ruler(s) stay in power for decades is, to such people, more stable and more predictable, and thus more easily managed and thus more desirable, than one in which the players can change every few years. I dare say that many/most of those who own big businesses like the mass media want fascism and are doing what they can to make it happen, because it promises to give them greater power than what they have right now (whether or not it will do so in the end remains to be seen).

      And, depressingly, the trend towards fascism is happening throughout the world. This, too, isn't surprising, because it promises to benefit those who own the large multinational corporations.

      • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Tuesday August 08, 2006 @12:46AM (#15863898) Homepage
        I dare say that many/most of those who own big businesses like the mass media want fascism and are doing what they can to make it happen, because it promises to give them greater power than what they have right now

        Ironically, this is precisely what we were warned about in the 1980's when Regan did away with the FCC's "fairness doctrine" and began to erode media ownership rules so that media outlets could be consolidated into fewer and fewer large players.

        Very funny - that everything that has come to pass (including 9/11, if you think about it, or if you had read PNAC's website prior to 2001) was pretty much foretold - and discredited as "liberal whining".
      • They're not very aware of it because they get their information primarily from the mass media. The mass media isn't covering it because the mass media is in favor of it.

        This is just not true. When the wiretap story broke, the NYT, WaPo, LAT, Globe, et al ran front page stories, usually multiple days worth, about the story. Our local papers covered it, our regional paper covered it. Our local news covered it, CNN covered it, FNC covered it. Every blog covered it, it was a headline on Yahoo's news page a
        • That may be true, but Karl Rove and his spinmeisters also have nearly unlimited access to media outlets that repeat talking points with no critical analysis, thus allowing them to minimize the story. You've heard the excuses. This is a "terrorist surveillance program" targeted at a few dozen suspects. This is "hot pursuit" of terrorist communications. Oops did I say few dozen? I meant phone records of tens of millions of American citizens. We're doing this for your own good to keep you safe. You can't handl
    • and the bulk of Americans couldn't care less.

      I assume you're basing this on the lack of daily major news coverage. But, in fact, without an accurate poll, there's no way to know that most people don't care. I actually think more than half of the population does care. They just don't know what to do about it until Nov 2008. See Bush's ratings in the polls for some reference.
    • I never saw V for Vendetta but there was on choice tidbit from the previews I think is also very relevant.

      "People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."
  • by PingXao ( 153057 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @05:08PM (#15861550)
    If enough of them band together. I hope that's what they do. Not only propose new ones but to uphold and seek enforcement of the older ones, especially the first 10. The gutless cowards in the Congress are never going to do it, that's for sure. Good luck, Maine. Go for it.
  • Maybe the NSA can figure out who stole the "M" from "Governents"
  • by Spazntwich ( 208070 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @05:20PM (#15861622)
    The feds WILL lose.

    Hopefully this will restir the notion of state's rights, because it's obvious when all of the power is condensed into one entity, the stage is set for massive abuse.

    The founding fathers knew this. Society seems to have forgotten this. We need a clash of the titans like this to hopefully reawaken some interest in maintaining the sanctity of our rights and freedoms.
    • Why is that -1 redundant? And now its +2 insightful, nevermind...

      It is a good point, and the issue needs to be pressed very hard. The government must be reigned in and the proper steps taken to avoid such rampant disregard for the constitution and rights of citizens.
    • by gray code ( 323372 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @06:05PM (#15861982)
      Eh, the states in favor of strong states rights thought the same thing in 1861. I guess 11 isn't "enough".
      • You have a good point, but this is a legal proceeding, rather than a disagreement on an already controversial matter.

        If other states see Maine getting trampled, they'll realize they could be next, and will hopefully band together for a legal solution, not attempt secession.
      • Eh, the states in favor of strong states rights thought the same thing in 1861. I guess 11 isn't "enough".

        That was a case of property rights which violated other more basic rights and, worse, economically threatened all of the other more populous and numerous states. This case is not that much different if you consider the economic risk everyone is under when their communications company treats them like slaves. The risk of economic espionage that comes from this violation of your privacy puts much mor

        • There will not be more than 11 states. In 1861, people thought of themselves as a citizens of a state first, and of a country second. People were willing to fight for their state. The US was a Union of States; more like the EU is a union of countries than how the USA is currently a country divided up into states. Now people think that America is some great country, chosen by God. They aren't willing to fight it, and they sure aren't willing to put their money on their state over the government.*

          People compl
          • ** Solution: Federal government should get all its money from the states. Then it could not withhold money from the states to get more power. As a bonus, the states could stand up to the federal government by withholding money.

            I agree; remove the federal income tax completely, and let the feds get money from the states. The states could then withhold their funding to the federal level, for some aspects (some money MUST be given). The problem with states being able to totally shut down the feds, is that th
    • The feds WILL lose.
      Maine is investigating Verizon for criminal activity not the USG (Unites States Government), the feds are sueing to prevent the disclosure of the information

      "Any document request," Assistant Attorney General Peter Keisler wrote in the letter, ". . . would place Verizon in a position of having to confirm or deny the existence of information that cannot be confirmed or denied without harming national security."

      sounds to me that verizon is between the rock and the hard place. They can refu

  • by posterlogo ( 943853 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @05:31PM (#15861694)
    I'm glad this issue is not going to just "go away" as the Bush administration hopes. The process of continued lawsuit, hushing up, and repeat will have to unfurl as it will. It certainly is the responsibility of every level of government to enforce its laws. When there is a conflict, it will escalate to the Supreme Court. I hope they make a wise decision there -- this is the turning point, we can return to freedom and democracy, or we can head into totalitarianism.
  • by shoma-san ( 739914 ) on Monday August 07, 2006 @06:03PM (#15861962)
    Congrats to the State of Maine for being the first to grow some balls. And for the rest of you - Bite my shiny metal ass!

    Why? The people in this country have something to say about the current state of things but have yet to act upon what the morals that govern them. They talk about how wrong the President is but yet they vote him into office again. They shout " I don't want my phone tapped," but they do it in the comfort of their home where they can't be arrested. They say "let us be moral and leaders of the free world," yet they think "a little bit of torture never hurt anyone as long as its in Cuba." And here we are - you and I paying our taxes and showing our teeth like its all okay.

    We can sit here and piss and moan about this all day long but until smart people like most of the folks here at slashdot do something, it's all yapping and no substance. No one can ever say that anything got accomplished right the first time by a leader who leads from the back of the bus or that a bunch of grumbling average joes got something done. You might as well be telling 'You're Mama's So Fat Jokes' than wasting you're time talking to the TV as you sit on your fat ass eating Salsa Verde Dorritoes.

    So go ahead and mod me down or call me a troll because I don't care. Someone needs to tell America the truth and stand up for whats right. I'm moving to Maine...
    • I have mod points, but I'd rather reply to this...

      The people in this country have something to say about the current state of things but have yet to act upon what the morals that govern them. They talk about how wrong the President is but yet they vote him into office again. They shout " I don't want my phone tapped," but they do it in the comfort of their home where they can't be arrested. They say "let us be moral and leaders of the free world," yet they think "a little bit of torture never hurt anyone
      • Why not just apply the second amendment and remove the current administration?
        • Why not just apply the second amendment and remove the current administration?

          What a load of crap. I've seen many posts recently which advocate that position, but it's pure BS. If you're advocating assassination of government officials, you must be crazy. Aside from the obvious problems of legality, morality, and ethical legitimacy of such action, it would probably only make things worse. The problem isn't just an individual in the administration. And it's not just the executive branch, either; aside fr
          • Aside from the obvious problems of legality, morality, and ethical legitimacy of such action, it would probably only make things worse.

            Actually, the founders would probably argue there's no moral or ethical issues in this action; indeed they may see it as the ethical and moral thing to do. They DID kill the people taking away their freedoms, did they not? As far as legality goes, well, that's a non-issue. Laws which restrict freedoms are immoral anyway. Laws made by a corrupt goverment are not laws to b
          • Oh, I'd also like to point out that during the revolutionary war, there were ALOT of people that DID support Britian as well, and I'm pretty sure it was a pretty bloody war as well too. I guess it depends how bad you want freedom. I'm guessing from your post you'd rather live a slave. Just to make it clear again, I DON'T think we're at a point yet were a revolution is needed, and I'm not advocating that. Just saying that your reasoning isn't really valid, as all those were items were turn at the time of
            • As modern wars go, the Revolutionary war wasn't all that bloody. The armies involved were typically composed of a few thousand (or perhaps low tens of thousands) of personnel, and the casualties were far lower than in the civil war. To be clear: I was talking about morality in regards to actions carried out by an individual, not organized rebellion. Such action would be illegitimate in the absence of popular organized support.
      • Just what am I supposed to do? Go and protest at one of GWB's speeches and get arrested? How will that change anything? How will that help? Will my being in prison make other people more free?

        The answer would be yes, you should. This is how progress was made in the civil rights movement. However, its not feasible today. You get arrested and jailed, and that's all people want to hear. You MUST have done something wrong, criminal. Very sad, really.
    • Someone needs to tell America the truth and stand up for whats right. I'm moving to Maine...

      You're moving to the wrong state though it is near the state you should move to, New Hampshire. Join the Freestate Project [freestateproject.org].

      Falcon
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The story concerning a single doctored photo (directly above this one) has received almost four times the number of replies as this story. Obviously, journalistic integrity lapses by a single individual are more important to the masses than wholesale privacy violations. Sigh.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 07, 2006 @07:38PM (#15862588)
    The question that I have is this: if the Public Utilities Comission asks Verizon point-blank: "did you do this?" and Verizon says "we won't tell you if we did or not," does that response constitute grounds for the Public Utilities Commission to revoke Verizon's charter in Maine?

    That is to say, quite aside from the question of whether or not Verizon is guilty of wrongdoing in the matter of the wiretapping, it seems reasonable that a refusal to cooperate with the Public Utilities Commission investigation would itself be grounds for the commission to rescind Verizon's monopoly privilege in the state.
  • Since I haven't done anything wrong, why are you surveilling my phone and internet traffic?
  • by triclipse ( 702209 ) <.slashdot. .at. .combslaw.cc.> on Monday August 07, 2006 @10:47PM (#15863453) Homepage
    "This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them."

    -- Alexander Hamilton (speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, 17 June 1788)

    Reference: The Works of Alexander Hamilton, Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., vol. 2 (28)

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