Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Government News Your Rights Online

Lawmakers Delay Telco Immunity Vote 102

Posted by kdawson
from the done-wrong-now-what dept.
eweekhickins writes "The US Senate Judiciary Committee delayed a scheduled vote on whether telecommunications carriers should be granted immunity for cooperating with the White House's domestic spying program of telephone wiretapping and e-mail surveillance. The panel hopes to vote on the provision as soon as next week. Senator Pat Leahy said that immunity would make it impossible for Americans to seek redress for 'illegal' violations of their privacy." The article points out the confused state of the immunity measure: the House is considering a version of FISA renewal that has no immunity; in the Senate, two committees are working on different versions, one with immunity, one without.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Lawmakers Delay Telco Immunity Vote

Comments Filter:
  • Other side (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I would like to take side of telcoms. They worked with government agencies. Government agencies said "Help us spying or you will be against law". And now government says "You were helping us spying, you were against law". So is it fault of telcoms or government?
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's the fault of people continuing to make excuses for them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yes its AT&T's fault just as much as the government's fault. AT&T has plenty of lawyers for these kinds of situations. One of the people involved could have gone to their legal department and found out if it was illegal to do this. The US Government can lock individuals away and silence them but its not quite as easy to silence one of the world's largest telecoms companies.

      It should have been obvious that a spying program on this scale wouldn't stay secret too long.
      • by packeteer (566398)
        Remember that if they helped wiretap legally they are already immune. If there was a court order and the government required a wiretap the telco's cannot be sued. The problem here is that the government was breaking the law (allegedly lol) and the telco's helped work out the details of how to break the law.
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You forget that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land.
    • Re:Other side (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dunbal (464142) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:33PM (#21309015)
      People were hanged at Nuremburg despite saying "I was only following orders".

      There comes a time where you have to do what's RIGHT, even if you have to go to jail for it.
      • And since corporations don't go to jail,
        there was really no excuse to not do what's right.

        But, the money blinds them.
      • Wait.. are you saying that the Nuremberg convicts were right to follow the orders they did?
        • by Nullav (1053766)
          It looks more like he was saying that the telcos deserve to be hung (figuratively) for 'just following orders'. Though I can only see this really hurting the employees and customers, rather than the people who actually made the decision to allow this mass wiretapping.
      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by sumdumass (711423)
        Enabling the government to listen to people talking to other people outside the country after a terrorist attack killed almost 3000 people inside the country and having some notion to suspect that at least one of the caller might be a terrorist or someone giving aid to them when the government cal listen to the foreign part of the conversation all they want without reproach as long as they aren't US citizens is entirely different from killing people just because they practice a religion.

        The just following o
    • Wrong (Score:5, Informative)

      by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:40PM (#21309071)
      Why do people fall for this garbage? If telecoms are granted carte blanche immunity now it prevents a more reasonable immunity deal later which would have a chance of exposing what appears to be significant wrongdoing on the part of the government. The motivation behind telecom immunity isn't really to let telecoms off the hook as much as it is to prevent stuff from coming out in court about what the government did. There are many things we'll never find out about if Dianne Feinstein helps usher this crap through. (I phoned her office at 202-224-3841 to complain. That's 202-224-3841. If enough Californians call 202-224-3841 maybe she'll change her mind since her constituents are overwhelmingly against this. But probably not- Feinstein is really horrible and is probably not running for reelection when her term expires years from now.)

      Telecoms don't go to prison like you or I would. At most they incur legal expenses- probably less than a day's operating expenses- it's the cost of doing business. And they could have easily told the government to screw themselves. They were cooperating with these patently illegal requests even before 9/11.

      Telecom immunity is obstruction of justice enshrined into law.
      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Telecoms don't go to prison like you or I would. At most they incur legal expenses- probably less than a day's operating expenses- it's the cost of doing business.

        If the Class Action Suit goes ahead, I bet a loss will cost them a few orders of magnitude more than a lawsuit with the government would have.
    • Re:Other side (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Jawnn (445279) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:44PM (#21309083)
      Bullshit. The law is the law, and that law makes it pretty damn clear that spying on U.S. citizens, without first demonstrating to a judicial authority probable cause for the issue a warrant authorizing such spying, is wrong. Period. This being the case, a business, and/or those responsible for operating that business, is/are responsible for obeying this well-established law, REGARDLESS of who asked them to break it. Their answer SHOULD have been, "No warrant - no wiretap. Sorry."
      • by sumdumass (711423)
        There is a line of defense on the president's part that goes to the point that while he is commander in chief, collecting battlefield inteligence is entirely within the role of commander in chief and congress cannot pass any laws restricting the roles that the constitution places on the president unless the constitution specifically allows them to. In the case of commander in chief, collecting battlefield inteligence, congress has no such ability to limit this. So any existing law that would limit this just
        • by Tancred (3904)

          congress cannot pass any laws restricting the roles that the constitution places on the president unless the constitution specifically allows them to.

          It's even simpler than that. Congress does not need to check if the constitution allows them to pass a law restricting warrantless wiretapping. The constitution itself already makes that illegal, in the 4th Amendment. I'll agree with you about Congress being chicken though. The President has publicly admitted to breaking the law, but the Congress will not act.

          • by sumdumass (711423)
            It isn't really that cut and dry. The fourth amendment says without reasonable (probable) cause. Would someone conspiring with the enemy in order to inflict casualties to your citizens be reasonable or probable cause?

            Remember, these taps were with international calls where on one end was either an American citizen inside or outside the country and on the other end a suspected terrorist outside the country. Congress had said that you only need the warrant when one of the parties is an American citizen or ins
            • by Tancred (3904)
              I'm not a constitutional lawyer, but the probable cause phrase is clearly one of the requirements for issuing a warrant. If I was a judge and was shown probable cause of someone conspiring to inflict casualties, I would certainly issue a warrant.

              Did you mistype that last paragraph? The taps were on American citizens, and you need a warrant when one of the parties is an American citizen?

              Legality aside, have you heard a rational argument against following the FISA statute? Isn't wiretapping important enough t
              • by sumdumass (711423)

                I'm not a constitutional lawyer, but the probable cause phrase is clearly one of the requirements for issuing a warrant. If I was a judge and was shown probable cause of someone conspiring to inflict casualties, I would certainly issue a warrant.

                Law enforcement execute searches without getting an actual warrant every day. This is done because they have probable cause and can do so under the constitution when it (the cop thinks it) becomes necessary. To say no law enforcement agency cannot execute a searc

        • by rpillala (583965)

          The police emergency analogy is interesting in that I've never heard it before. Can you link or point me to more extended presentations of this?

          My main complaint with this approach is that I don't view the world as a battlefield because that renders the term meaningless. It also renders terms like "civilian" meaningless. Or not maybe I have it wrong that's why I'd like to read more.

      • by shentino (1139071)
        What's to stop the FBI from issuing one of those so-called "national security letters"?

        Here, it's illegal to even move to stop, because the fact that you were issued a NSL is itself classified, so you can't even go whining to a judge about the big bad feds without getting locked up.

        Or how about these responses to the "no warrant, no wiretap":

        "No wiretap, you go to jail for obstruction."
        "No wiretap, you're a terrorist and I detain you as long as I damn well please."

        We can all praise the constitution all we l
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rpillala (583965)

      The telecoms are in an awkward position (of their own making) for sure. The same people who said "help us or the terrorists win" aren't the ones who would see them prosecuted. The problem with your argument is that the government we have now is factionalized. While both factions operate under the same title of "US Government" they don't exercise their power in the same way. The executive branch seems to be taking the position of Nixon who famously said "If the President does it, it isn't illegal." They

    • So is it fault of telcoms or government?

      The Executive branch told the telecoms. The telecoms, who have been working with government agencies for years, very clearly knew this was illegal. They went along with it anyway. Congress was not involved in the warrantless surveillance program.

      The rule of law means that the laws apply to everyone. It means that if your government asks you to do something illegal, you have a legal obligation not to obey the government. AT&T, et. al. are used to being sued b


      • They should not be given amnesty, so the courts can determine the extent of their liability.

        I think you forgot to add: and when they are found to liable to the tune of several billions of dollars, they'll be damn sure to be acting within the law in the future, and not just acting on the whim of any single legislator.

        And that'll go for any other organization too, that decides that a permission slip signed by the President himself is good enough. It's not. In fact, that's why we got rid of the King
        • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Sunday November 11, 2007 @01:28PM (#21314397) Homepage Journal

          ... that so many people need to be reminded of this:

          In fact, that's why we got rid of the King in the first place, and replaced him with a three part government, each of which can check the other.

          And odder still that so many people seem to crave a unitary executive, a king by another name. It seems too many Americans take their blessings for granted, and are willing to simply throw them away because it's too much effort to deal with the messiness of governing. Easier to have one guy in charge. That way the voter bears no responsibility, and everyone has a scapegoat when things go wrong. No need to look in the mirror. No need to read up on the issues, or send letters, or protest. Everyone can be smart and smug and self-righteous, while the unitary executive fucks us into the ground.


          • And odder still that so many people seem to crave a unitary executive.

            Even our Founding Fathers preferred a "benevolent dictator", probably because a single individual is just that much more effective and efficient at getting shit done. The problem is that unless you can guarantee the first part, you can't suffer the first.

            And given enough generations of relatively benign government, the populace may eventually forget the risks of a dictator and the necessity that "benevolence" needs to be assured thro
    • by iamwahoo2 (594922)
      Qwest had no problem making the right choice.
  • Barack Obama, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden are all communists^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^hterrorists! They are supporting
    communists^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^hterrorists by not allowing the US government to search all of our records when they please so that they can find the communists^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^hterrorists. That is so un-American. We must find and lock up all the communists^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^hterrorists.

    George Orwell was not wrong, just early.
    • George Orwell was not wrong, just early.

      Not really. This has been going on for a long time. We're only now starting to feel the effects.
      • by homer_ca (144738)
        The feds have always spied secretly on phone calls, but the incident where Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card went to John Ashcroft's hospital bed [washingtonpost.com] to get him to sign off on the spying program points to something much worse. You can either believe a) John Ashcroft is a principled civil libertarian and doesn't believe in spying on Americans or b) the spying program under Bush was so egregiously illegal that it far exceeded any secret spying that we may have conducted previously.
  • Mum?!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by iknownuttin (1099999) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @04:28PM (#21308709)
    FTFA: Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden all oppose granting immunity to the carriers.

    Good for them!

    Other Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, have not stated a position on immunity for telecom carriers. Republican presidential hopefuls have also been mum on the issue.

    You chicken shit sons (and daughter) - of - bitches!

    • by mstahl (701501)

      You chicken shit sons (and daughter) - of - bitches!

      I'm glad someone else had the balls to say that. This isn't the usual sort of grey area political issue that you can see one way or another pretty easily: it's black and white. On one side of that border is a runaway executive branch that has completely forgotten all their responsibilities to the citizens of the United States, the Constitution, and the whole world. On the other side is a population of people who are scared shitless and doesn't even know why anymore.

      When the telcos acquiesced to the gover

    • by iamwahoo2 (594922)
      I always just assume that silence means that they will eventually take a position that is opposite of what is popular with the public. They just want to do it quietly.
  • Rule of Law. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by headkase (533448) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @04:36PM (#21308739)
    If the telecoms are granted immunity by the government then the USA will no longer be under the rule of law. If it comes to pass, some people or organizations will be above the law and in my opinion that is not what the US should be about. What's next Bush, dictator for life?!?
    • by BSAtHome (455370)
      He will declare a national emergency and stay on the presidential post for some more years. He has got good examples in the rest of the world...
      • Hey, some of them are in their seat becaues of US money, the least they can do in return is open the specs and the howtos.
    • Doesn't matter (Score:5, Insightful)

      by foreverdisillusioned (763799) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:37PM (#21309045) Journal
      Even if they aren't granted immunity, I can guarantee you that no one is going to be arrested. No one in a corporation is ever arrested, no matter how many white collar crimes they commit, unless those crimes directly affect the pocketbook of other white collar citizens (e.g. Enron). I realized this the day it came to light that Sony was installing rootkits on people's machines without their permission, and yet no one was even talking about arrests... and yet, if a fourteen year old was installing rootkits on thousands or millions of machines without their owners' permission, he would be arrested in a heartbeat and we'd be subjected to a month of scary and retarded Dateline specials on those evil hackers.

      Similarly, if a fourteen year old phreaker records people's calls without their consent, he is arrested immediately. If a corporation does it, it at best merits a class-action lawsuit (which is the most we're going to see here... IF immunity isn't granted.) The fact that the corporations in this case were doing the bidding of the state certainly doesn't hurt them, but it's foolish to suppose to begin with that corporations are ever held to the same standard of justice as non-affiliated individuals.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        ...No one in a corporation is ever arrested... Give me a break! Corporate executives are arrested, tried, convicted and sent to prison are a regular basis. Its government officials who skate. The UN oil for food scam by itself raked in orders of magnitude more cash for high UN and government officials around the world than Enron, Worldcomm and Global Crossing combined. Of course the head of the DNC made himself rich via Global Crossing so I'm not sure how to count that one, but, in any event no body in
        • Re:Doesn't matter (Score:4, Insightful)

          by foreverdisillusioned (763799) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @08:56PM (#21310105) Journal
          Corporate executives are arrested, tried, convicted and sent to prison are a regular basis.

          Yes. Because they commit crimes against other executives, or the government, or their shareholders. As long as they DON'T cost these people money, they can get away with pretty much any non-violent, non-obviously-fraudulent crime against the public at large. They're occasionally caught and sued, or caught and fined, but almost never actually imprisoned.
      • Even if they aren't granted immunity, I can guarantee you that no one is going to be arrested. No one in a corporation is ever arrested, no matter how many white collar crimes they commit, unless those crimes directly affect the pocketbook of other white collar citizens (e.g. Enron).

        The immunity is not about sending people to jail it is about nulling out the civil lawsuits currently going on. If the Telcoms get immunity then the people that they have helped spy on have no recourse for civil lawsuits or c

        • That's precisely my point. Again, putting aside the fact that they were apparently (illegally) acting on behalf of the government, why ISN'T jail time being considered? If I recorded your phone conversation, I would be imprisoned. AT&T does it, and not only is prison out of the question but they're debating whether or not they're even going to let you sue them.
  • Obvious reason (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Daimanta (1140543)
    The bribes haven't arrived yet.
  • Don't Get It (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Wellington Grey (942717) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:23PM (#21308959) Homepage Journal
    Why would anyone vote for immunity for the telcos when we don't even know what they did wrong? Who in their right mind would excuse someone without knowing the crime?

    -Grey [luminiferous-aether.net]
    • The obvious answer is everybody in Washington *does* know what they Telco's did, but some think the scandal may cause a lot of damage to a lot of politicians.

      Nothing else makes sense.
    • This would be an ugly, ugly case in court. The government will insist at every turn that it would compromise national security to either dismiss the case or deny access to information and people.

      So there would be investigations for years, which ultimately would accomplish nothing, all with the goal of possibly punishing a company who will claim that they thought they were doing the patriotic thing.

      From a political point of view, Republicans think that they were just defending national security (and therefo
    • Who in their right mind would excuse someone without knowing the crime?
      I'm guessing Cardinal Richelieu for a starting point.......

      And obviously GWB as well . . . . .

      Conclusions drawn from these two examples are the property of the concluder, even I agree with them.

      -abs
  • No Suprise (Score:4, Funny)

    by Wellington Grey (942717) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:26PM (#21308969) Homepage Journal
    From the article: Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden all oppose granting immunity to the carriers. Other Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, have not stated a position on immunity for telecom carriers.

    No surprise there, seeing as Clinton won't give us an opinion on anything

    -Grey [luminiferous-aether.net]
  • Either the wiretapping was legal, or it was not.

    That is what must be determined conclusively.

    If it was legal, then there is nothing to grant immunity for.

    If it was not legal, then the telco companies are the least of our problems. They should of course still be nailed for it. Just because it is a government agency that is directing your company to commit a crime, does not mean that you will be protected from the other agencies in our government, or from the consequences of that crime.

    At the end of the day
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AlamedaStone (114462)
      This is the new Limbaugh meme, right? Progressives are really the old school Commie sympathizers, who have weaseled their way into key government positions to undermine REAL Amurricuns? Is it Zionism, or Islamofascists? Or maybe the Mexicans... it's so hard to keep track of all the paranoid, xenophobic rhetoric!

      Want me to top off that kool-aid for you?
      • Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
        • by jefu (53450)

          Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

          But then too :
          Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.

    • Then you have your socialists, gramscian marxists, and a whole slew of other groups and ideologies that can be collectively known as the political left. Not all self-described leftists are of course a part of this swarm, but the majority are. Others are unconsciously working in concert with them without understanding their intentions. These are generally known as "useful idiots."

      These are people who attempt to color everything that the president and his administration are doing as an assault on the American people. There is of course room for honest criticism of this administration, but that isn't what these people are about. They're about weakening our nation from within so that we will be less able to fight our external foes. No nation is ever conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within, and that is exactly what their game plan is.

      This is just the cold war all over again in many ways. In fact it would be more honest to say that the cold war never really ended. The Soviet Union collapsed under its own weight, but its allies here in the states never threw in the towel. Those allies are still hard at work on their long march through our institutions, weakening and destroying from within. Now that a new foe has surfaced, they're working overtime.

      Then you have your fascists, totalitarians, dictators, and a whole slew of other groups and ideologies that can collectively be known as the political right. Not all self-described righties are a part of this swarm, but the majority are. Others are unconsciously working in concert without understanding their intentions. These are generally known as "useful idiots."

      These are the people who attempt to color everything that the president and his administration are doing as "necessary for the sake of securi

      • In actuality, neither side fights and toils for "The People".

        No side advocates for smaller government (although individuals sometimes do).

        No side fights for more freedoms.

        No side cares except for their own.

  • Stupid (Score:4, Informative)

    by phalse phace (454635) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:48PM (#21309105)
    So far, it seems like it's either give the telcos immunity or have taxpayers pay for any legal expenses or damages awarded against the telcos [news.com].

    Specter suggested granting "indemnification" to telephone companies who allegedly cooperated with the government's surveillance regimes in violation of federal privacy laws. That would mean lawsuits could go forward, but taxpayers would be responsible for covering any legal expenses or damage awards against the communications companies. Damages could run into the tens of billions of dollars if the suits are successful, according to Senate Intelligence committee estimates.
    • So far, it seems like it's either give the telcos immunity or have taxpayers pay for any legal expenses or damages awarded against the telcos [news.com].

      Specter suggested granting "indemnification" to telephone companies who allegedly cooperated with the government's surveillance regimes in violation of federal privacy laws. That would mean lawsuits could go forward, but taxpayers would be responsible for covering any legal expenses or damage awards against the communications companies. Damages could run into the tens of billions of dollars if the suits are successful, according to Senate Intelligence committee estimates.

      ... you know, that *almost* makes sense. "Sorry, our bad. Since it's our fault, we'll take any punishments for you." Which might actually be OK, except for the conflict of interest from this being the government saying that and the fact that any punishments will be much less effective deterrents against a government than against a corporation.

    • Re:Stupid (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Skreech (131543) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @06:48PM (#21309421)
      On the other hand, the people are responsible by tolerating a government that does things like this.
  • by H3lldr0p (40304) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:57PM (#21309181) Homepage
    what version is passed by the House or the Senate. It will come down to the conference committee [wikipedia.org] which creates the final bill that is sent to the president to sign. Whatever those people want is what we will get. As the reference says this is an ad-hoc committee so there is no telling who will be seated for it.
  • by rbanzai (596355) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @05:59PM (#21309195)
    I swear that's what I saw when I first looked at the headline!
  • Does it make sense (from government's point of view) to treat corporations as above the law?

    Maybe -- if, from a future perspective, it turns out that corporations are the successors to nation-states.

    -kgj
  • Court vs government (Score:4, Interesting)

    by BlueParrot (965239) on Saturday November 10, 2007 @06:42PM (#21309387)
    The government makes the laws, the police investigate/arrest people suspected of breaking it, and the courts decide if someone should be punished. So why the fuck is the government about to decide if the telcos should be punished or not? Even if they made a law to give them imunity, surely that should apply only to future wrongdoings... Retroactively changing the law is only acceptable under very exceptional circumstances. Of course, these days retroactively raising the income tax could probably be justified as "national security", so it is not as if it is surprising...
  • The whole thing suggest that we have the technology to analyze such a massive amount of constantly renewing information.

    Assume that we do have such computing power, what would be better, more productive, perhaps even disease solving applications of such computing power?
    Now is it possible to extract and identify in such a massive constant flow of information what would be coded communication, coded into normal everyday phrases that only the receiver would recognize the meaning?

    This spying wasn't to find terr
  • It's your responsibility as an American citizen/company to fight taking any measures you feel are unconstitutional or illegal. I'm not even saying that they have to go far as to break a single law. A telco with the insane amount of money they have should have hired lawyers to fight the orders to comply with the government. (If they weren't even orders then the company doesn't even need lawyers, they just shouldn't have given up the info).

    The telcos didn't do this for their own selfish reasons and they sh
    • by backbyter (896397)

      only if Bush doesn't "pardon all individuals who may have committed some type of crime during their action in the U.S. gov." on his last day.
      I don't think he has enough ink or stamina to do all of them on his last day.
    • Re: (Score:1, Flamebait)

      The telcos didn't do this for their own selfish reasons and they should pay the price for doing so.

      I hope you mean that they did do it for their own selfish interest. They got paid $1000 to initiate each tap and $750/month to maintain it. The phone companies raked in a buttload of money by not checking on (or ignoring) what the law is. They deserve everything a court can throw at them (even revocation of their corporate charter). They knew that they were breaking the law and they charged very well for

It is the quality rather than the quantity that matters. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4 B.C. - A.D. 65)

Working...