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US Senate Votes Immunity For Telecoms 623

Posted by kdawson
from the not-even-a-wrist-slap dept.
Ktistec Machine writes to let us know that the telecom companies are one step closer to getting off the hook for their illegal collusion with the US government. Today the US Senate passed, by a filibuster-proof majority of 67 to 31, a revised FISA bill that grants retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that helped the government illegally tap American network traffic. If passed by both houses and signed by the President, this would effectively put an end to the many lawsuits against these companies (about 40 have been filed). The House version of the bill does not presently contain an immunity provision. President Bush has said he will veto any such bill that reaches his desk without the grant of immunity. We've discussed the progress of the immunity provision repeatedly.
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US Senate Votes Immunity For Telecoms

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  • Stunned (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cmefford (810011) <cpm AT well DOT com> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:32PM (#22396596)
    Well, that about wraps it up for (insert whatever right you thought you had).
    • Re:Stunned (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jo42 (227475) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:55PM (#22397062) Homepage
      I keep telling you guys to practice your "Heil Bush!". Yet I keep getting mocked and voted/modded down. One of these days I'll be going "I told you so!".
      • Re:Stunned (Score:4, Funny)

        by veganboyjosh (896761) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:05PM (#22397236)
        One of these days I'll be going "I told you so!".

        That'll stop the downmodding, for certain.
    • Re:Stunned (Score:5, Informative)

      by Shining Celebi (853093) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:59PM (#22397160) Homepage

      Well, that about wraps it up for (insert whatever right you thought you had).

      It's not over yet. It goes back to the House and into conferencing. The House is adamantly against telecom immunity; last week, the House leadership sent a letter to the Senate condemning it. I believe there's a strong chance that telecom immunity won't be able to make it out of the House, but it might be a good thing to call your Representatives (and Senators, since they're on the conferencing committee too.)

      • call your Representatives (and Senators, since they're on the conferencing committee too.)

        I assume it's not the whole House and Senate - so who will actually be making the decision about whether the House or Senate version gets in the final bill?

        • by Red Flayer (890720) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:47PM (#22398016) Journal

          I assume it's not the whole House and Senate - so who will actually be making the decision about whether the House or Senate version gets in the final bill?
          Both. The Senate and House must pass identical versions. E.g., there is no final bill until both Houses pass the same bill.

          At this point, the Senate has kicked the bill back to the House. The House will need to vote on this version, or a new version, to kick back to the Senate. If the House passes, without change, the version the Senate passed (not likely), then it goes to GWB for signature/veto/pocket veto.

          More likely is the House makes a few changes and kicks the bill back to the Senate.

          In short, there is no final bill until the House & Senate compromise and each pass an identical bill; it's likely that neither of the current versions will be the final bill, since each house refused to pass the others' version.
    • Re:Stunned (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mea37 (1201159) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:19PM (#22397478)
      Punishing the telecom companies for cooperating with the government wouldn't actually protect anyone's rights anyway. The grant of immunity is a corollary problem; the root problem is that the government would engage in a warrantless wiretap program to begin with, and until that is addressed we will continue to be short-changed on our rights as citizens.

      Simply withholding immunity really just moves the problem around a bit. Now the shareholders of (for example) AT&T bear the cost of decisions they didn't make, approve, or know about. Perhaps they could turn around and file a shareholder suit (on the grounds that AT&T worked against shareholder interests by cooperating with and being held liable for the wiretap program), though I'm told those types of suits aren't very common these days.

      While we do hold that "just following orders" isn't a suitable defense for war crimes, I wonder if the balance between the moral/ethical breach of compliance vs. pressure applied by the government is the same in this case. (Do we actually know how much pressure or threat, if any, was used to get the telecoms to cooperate?) I'd see some merit to the argument that liability should be pushed back onto the government itself.

      At any rate, I find it surprising that we would expect more backbone out of corporations dealing with the American government than we expect out of them when dealing with, say, the Chinese government. If we tolerate Google "playing by China's rules" when all they stand to lose is their entry into the Chinese market, then why would we expect better of AT&T when they would be running afoul of their home country's government?

      What I'd like to see -- and you'll have to forgive me for any imprecision in the details here, as IANAL -- is a John Doe suit filed against the individual(s) within (for example) AT&T who actually made and authorized the decisions to compromise customers' privacy. Naturally those individuals would try to hide behind the shield of corporate liability; I would hope (though I can't remember if it's the case) that taking actions outside of -- and even contrary to -- the corporation's interests would make a case for PCV.
      • Re:Stunned (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:24PM (#22397582)
        You Sir are a corporate shill.

        At a time where corporate law suits against single citizen's is at an all time high, you suggest that we (the people) should have no recorse against illegal activities of corporations? Just becuase 'someone else' asked them to do it.

        Absolutely not sir.

        Both the government that asked them to commit something illegal and the people that actually commited the illegal act (this is proven they knew it to be illegal, as some companies REFUSED on the grounds of it being illegal).

        Its called a conspiracy sir.

        All parties are at fault.

        (sorry about spelling at work using IE yuck).

      • Re:Stunned (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @06:23PM (#22398650)

        While we do hold that "just following orders" isn't a suitable defense for war crimes

        AG Mukassey does not agree with that. Last night's interview on Lehrer News Hour had him state that no one can be investigated or charged for waterboarding because previous AG Gonzales said it was legal and that absolves anyone who followed that advice of any crime.

        I don't agree with that, but that is the stance of the country's highest law enforcement official.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Chris Burke (6130)
          AG Mukassey does not agree with that. Last night's interview on Lehrer News Hour had him state that no one can be investigated or charged for waterboarding because previous AG Gonzales said it was legal and that absolves anyone who followed that advice of any crime.

          I don't agree with that, but that is the stance of the country's highest law enforcement official.


          Which just means that this AG's DoJ will not start any investigations or bring any charges, because that's the only power the AG has. The AG's opin
      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @06:35PM (#22398822) Homepage
        Punishing the telecom companies for cooperating with the government wouldn't actually protect anyone's rights anyway. The grant of immunity is a corollary problem; the root problem is that the government would engage in a warrantless wiretap program to begin with, and until that is addressed we will continue to be short-changed on our rights as citizens.

        Yes and these lawsuits are in fact the point of the spear aimed at the root of the problem.

        Punishing the telcos and getting damages isn't the important part. It's something that should be done, but it is really just a means to an end. The ultimate point is to find out through discovery what exactly the government did. The aim is to get evidence out into the open, in the public record, of the government's malfeasance.

        Once the spear point has pierced the government's veil of secrecy, then we can drive it deeper into the government itself. With the information revealed in the suits, it may be possible to sue the government, get court rulings about the legality of the administration's practices, and ultimately set up the possibility of future prosecution. If it can create enough of a scandal to cost politicians and bureaucrats their careers, while not optimal, that can still serve as a check to keep the government in line for a while.

        This is also, ultimately, what the immunity provisions are about. It's nothing to do with protecting telcos from having to pay damages, that's just the means to an end. It's all about preventing anyone from discovering what the government really did -- they even admit it when talking about why the provision is necessary, though of course they couch it in "national security secrets" terms. Bush and team are trying to cover their own ass, and cowardly Congress is going along with it.

        By the way, you raise a good point about Google and China. Personally I don't forgive Google, but at the same time I recognize the realities of working with a government like China's, one such reality being that censoring the people is not illegal. At the same time our government is not China's, our government is supposed to respect human rights, and more importantly it is illegal for them not to just as it is illegal for AT&T. And also because our government is not China's, we the people should be able to discover when our government or corporations break the law and demand redress. Which, coming full circle, is exactly what these lawsuits are about.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by n dot l (1099033)

        The grant of immunity is a corollary problem; the root problem is that the government would engage in a warrantless wiretap program to begin with, and until that is addressed we will continue to be short-changed on our rights as citizens.

        AFAIK, power is supposed to be divided in the USA. There are supposed to be many players and they are supposed to check each other. This should extend beyond the government. It's supposed to include the people (and the corporations) questioning government orders and refusing to comply with illegal orders. The problem isn't that some branch of the US government is corrupt - the US system is designed to cope with that sort of situation, it's that 90% of the power holders in the USA are playing along and lett

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I wonder if the balance between the moral/ethical breach of compliance vs. pressure applied by the government is the same in this case. (Do we actually know how much pressure or threat, if any, was used to get the telecoms to cooperate?)

        Well, by giving them immunity, you'll never know, will you?

        In reality, the pressure was probably of the following form: If you cooperate with us , we'll give you lots of money; if you don't, you won't get another Government contract for the next 4-8 years (you do know that

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jellie (949898)

        Now the shareholders of (for example) AT&T bear the cost of decisions they didn't make, approve, or know about.

        ...is a John Doe suit filed against the individual(s) within (for example) AT&T who actually made and authorized the decisions to compromise customers' privacy.

        I would love to see the individuals who made the decision get punished for what they did! But tell me: do you think a low-level manager actually gave the "OK" to allow the NSA to build a secret room at AT&T? Similarly, do you think the receptionists at Enron participated in hiding its losses? Of course not. These things typically go all the way to the top of the ladder. I know that most of the cases are civil lawsuits, but these companies did violate agreements with its customers, as well as some pr

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dr. Hellno (1159307)

        Simply withholding immunity really just moves the problem around a bit. Now the shareholders of (for example) AT&T bear the cost of decisions they didn't make, approve, or know about.

        Responsibility in a corporate situation is kind of a difficult subject, and you certainly have a point; these shareholders are not really at fault, at least not in any tangible way.

        Still, if you're going to to say that shareholders shouldn't bear the cost of decisions they didn't make, doesn't it follow that they shouldn't reap the benefits of decisions they didn't make either? That is to say, why should they profit when the company makes good decisions if they don't lose money when the company makes

    • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @06:50PM (#22399066) Homepage Journal
      The House of Reps passed their version of this bill without amnesty. When the two bills go into "conference", wherein the two chambers negotiate how to change their versions to come up with the single version that will be voted on in each chamber, the House can insist on no amnesty. Which, since amnesty did not pass in the Senate by an overwhelming (just a large) majority, the House might succeed in getting.

      So sign the petition [firedoglake.com] to pressure the House to stand up for keeping amnesty out of the final bill. It's the last chance you have to keep some privacy rights when on the phone (hi, Dick!).
  • by notque (636838) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:35PM (#22396640) Homepage Journal
    Is there any chance the House will stop this? Anyone want to march to the Capitol?!
    • by Shakrai (717556) * on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:43PM (#22396810) Journal

      Is there any chance the House will stop this?

      Pffft, the Senate failed us and you think the House won't? The House has become a rubber stamp for whatever the party leadership wants in the last few years -- under both the Democrats and the Republicans. So no, unless Nancy Pelosi herself is personally opposed to this I would assume that it will pass easily.

      Fucking Republicans impeached Clinton even though they knew full well they couldn't convict him -- and yet the Democrats don't even have the backbone to stand up to a veto threat by the White House before they knuckle over. Isn't there some middle ground between being the White House bitch and impeachment?

    • by TripMaster Monkey (862126) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:48PM (#22396906)
      Protest marches don't work when the media is controlled.

      Last year, there was one big-ass march [unitedforpeace.org] in D.C. protesting the war.

      What media deigned to even report on it put the attendance at 10% of the true number.

      March all you like...it doesn't matter. We lost this country when we lost the independence of the media.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556) *

        We lost this country when we lost the independence of the media.

        Don't tell me that you are naive enough to think that the media was ever independent to begin with. Ever hear about yellow journalism [wikipedia.org]? Ever read about the origins of the Spanish-American war?

        The media has never been independent. That shouldn't stop people from fighting for change.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by WilliamSChips (793741)
          Actually, if you look at the history of the United States from George Washington to now, you'll notice that the media is much more free now than it ever was. It's just that the illusions have been shattered.
      • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:21PM (#22397512)

        Protest marches don't work when the media is controlled.

        That's why I like old school solutions. Marching with pitchforks and torches. Looting and pillaging every Starbucks on the way. Ah, I miss the old country.

    • Pardon me? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by HTH NE1 (675604) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:48PM (#22396914)
      Is the only reason why Bush cares so much that Congress grant this immunity instead of just issuing his own Presidential Pardon for the telecoms that he can't pardon them for ongoing and future violations?
      • Re:Pardon me? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556) * on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:56PM (#22397072) Journal

        just issuing his own Presidential Pardon for the telecoms that he can't pardon them for ongoing and future violations

        Unless I'm completely mistaken, the President has zero authority to issue a "pardon" for a civil action. The teleco's aren't being charged with criminal violations of the law (that would require the Government to actually enforce the laws...), they are being sued by individuals and groups seeking discovery to find out what actually happened and possible monetary reparations.

  • I checked Thomas [loc.gov], the US Library of Congress's website (and possibly the most badly organized website on the internet), and I couldn't find who voted for it. Anyone have a link?
  • by bconway (63464) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:36PM (#22396668) Homepage
    I helped vote in this Democratic congress under the belief they would change things, and the best they could do was come up with 31 votes? Business as usual, I guess.
  • by vitaflo (20507) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:37PM (#22396684) Homepage
    In case you're curious of how the respective candidates for president voted on the amendment to block retroactive immunity:

    McCain: No
    Obama: Yes
    Clinton: Did not vote

    http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/110/senate/2/votes/15/ [washingtonpost.com]
    • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:39PM (#22396736) Homepage Journal
      Well, I guess I have to support Obama. Clinton doesn't have the stones, and McCain's actively antithetical to a free society.
    • by evil agent (918566) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:46PM (#22396864)

      Clinton: Did not vote

      Hillary has been going on and on about the number of times Obama did not vote when he was in the Illinois Senate. Hopefully he'll use this as ammunition.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by UdoKeir (239957)
        I suspect she did this deliberately. She can now still claim to be "tough" on terrorism and pro-freedom.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Lost Engineer (459920)
          Of course she did it deliberately. The only way you could make her any worse on civil liberties is if you changed her name to Bush.
  • Didn't the US just fight a big fucking war with the English a couple hundred years ago along the same lines?

    I'm serious. I know all of you are paying taxes, and shit like this sure as hell means the common guys isn't represented. Time for a few tea parties, methinks.
  • Glimmer of hope (Score:5, Insightful)

    by techpawn (969834) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:40PM (#22396752) Journal
    The provision was not in the house passed bill. So, it has to go to committee for compromise. If we're lucky this can be killed there, and the final bill will be vetoed. They're on the radar of everyone and know what they do shines on their candidate now more than ever. So, who knows they may do what their constituents want.

    But, my pockets aren't as deep as brother bells... So, I'm not betting on it
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:40PM (#22396754) Journal
    Sen Bond said "permitting lawsuits against the companies would ... discourage the private sector from cooperating with the government in the future."

    Yes it would do that. On the flip side, it would encourage them to obey the law. Personally I think that cooperating with the government when the government is breaking the law is something that should, in general, be discouraged*

    *Note: For cultures who miss the point, this is called "understatment"
  • info request (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:43PM (#22396808) Homepage Journal
    Why are retroactive laws even possible in the US system? I'm really wondering about that. Where I come from, the laws at the time of your action count, both for and against you.

    What's next? Retro-actively making something illegal and then putting you in jail for it?
    • Re:info request (Score:4, Informative)

      by plague3106 (71849) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:50PM (#22396954)
      Not quite. If a law is rule unconstitutional, it is null and void. In the eyes of our Constitution, the law never existed to begin with.

      What's next? Retro-actively making something illegal and then putting you in jail for it?

      Again, the Constitution expressely forbids this.. for now.

      More and more I think I may vote for Ron Paul, even if he's inconsistent.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by erroneus (253617)
        Yes. Ron Paul. As far as I can tell, he's not in anyone's pocket. He may come across as a crack-pot, but the reality is that he's as sincere about his convictions as can be imagined. Even if he's elected (and while it would be wonderful, I doubt he will be) I doubt he would be able to make any effective changes... in fact, the best we could hope for is that he blocks as many corrupt, corporate-sponsored bills as possible... the best we could hope for would be for him to prevent too much further damage.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shados (741919)
      Thats the question I have too. If you can make anything retroactive, then you have absolutely zero protection against any kind of government corruption.... they can always screw you over after the fact... that doesn't make any sense.

      Can someone explain to me if this is a weird special case, or if its normal??
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      What's next? Retro-actively making something illegal and then putting you in jail for it?

      I expect to see that within the next 5-10 years, max.

      The US really has started slipping into a hole, and won't be digging out of it any time soon.

      Cheers
    • Re:info request (Score:4, Informative)

      by krlynch (158571) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:11PM (#22397342) Homepage
      Many types of laws can be made retroactive, but not all. The U.S. Constitution says (Article I, Section 9)

      No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
      This has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to apply "only to penal and criminal legislation and not to civil laws that affect private rights adversely." (see next link) This prevents criminalizing activities that were not criminal when they occurred, or increasing the penalty after commission of the crime, or getting in through the back door by calling a change in punishment a change in "procedure". (Cornell has a good discussion here [cornell.edu] and here [cornell.edu] in their annotated Constitution).

      But there isn't a restrictions against reducing or eliminating liability for criminal activity after the fact. For instance, if a criminal defendant was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death, and the Congress subsequently outlaws capital punishment, the death sentence is reduced in accordance with the new law. If they change their mind and reinstate the death penalty, the hypothetical criminal defendant is not eligible for an increase in his sentence. In particular, it is well established that Congress can pass laws in gray areas to clearly specify that something isn't criminal, even after convictions based on the old law, or to eliminate even very broad classes of liability after the commission of the offending action.

      In this case, there is a claim of criminal activity that the Justice Department refuses to prosecute because it does not believe it was illegal. The plaintiffs have chosen to pursue civil cases on a theory of civil liability for those actions, based on Federal law. Congress may choose clarify (or eliminate, depending on your point of view) the law to state that the given behavior was not a crime. In this case, it clearly does not run afoul of Congressional power to do so. If that happens, there is no longer even a colorable argument that the plaintiffs have been been harmed, so the cases will be dismissed.
  • by RobBebop (947356) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:44PM (#22396826) Homepage Journal

    Is there anything to prevent lawsuits against the government officials who authorized illegal wiretapping in the first place? It doesn't even make sense to hold the telecoms responsible for following orders from Uncle Sam. What does make sense is to hold Uncle Sam accountable for his actions to order the illegal taps (instead of following judicial procedure and getting authority/permission).

    Bush even talked about this in the State of the Union last month. He said, "We have to extend the Bill that let's us track terrorists on February 1." As far as I know, that day came and went. But let's get a list of Congressmen who voted for the original illegal wiretapping bill that caused this whole mess. Target those "ENEMIES OF FREEDOM", and make sure people know who they are to prevent them from keeping their seats in Congress during the next election.

    (you know, I never understood why Congress doesn't have terms limits. Poor Ted Kennedy has been there so long that he slept through most of the last State of the Union address).

  • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:51PM (#22396994)
    "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."

    It doesn't get much clearer than that!

    (For those of you who do not know legalese, "ex post facto" means "retroactive".
    • by Jimithing DMB (29796) <<gro.dbwgt> <ta> <efd>> on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:01PM (#22397178) Homepage

      Right. Meaning that the this little retroactive immunity provision is a stupid political statement. The people with open suits now can simply appeal the dismissals (if they even occur at all) on these grounds and the cases will again proceed. Whether or not the cases are eventually ruled for or against the telecoms is another matter. My understanding of things is that the telecoms are claiming that they only actually spied on communications with at least one foreign endpoint even though the equipment necessarily has the ability to spy on any communications.

      Remember that this is the Foreign Intelligence/Surveillance Act. If they did use it to spy on purely domestic communications without a warrant then they are probably guilty because they stepped outside the bounds of the law. Most of the cases though seem to be brought by people who were indeed having an international conversation so I think it may be difficult to win these cases against the telecoms.

    • by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:07PM (#22397262)

      It doesn't get much clearer than that!
      What makes you think one part of the Constitution would stop them when they're voting to ignore another part?
    • Incorrect (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Raul654 (453029) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:08PM (#22397276) Homepage
      This point has already been mentioned on Slashdot before. As I said then [slashdot.org], it is incorrect. The prohibition on ex-post facto laws means something cannot be retroactively made illegal; it can, however, be made retroactively legal.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Chris Burke (6130)
        The classic example being the crime of helping escaped slaves (or being an escaped slave), which retroactively became not a crime.

        However if I'm not mistaken, this bill wouldn't actually make it retroactively legal for the telcos to conduct warrantless wiretaps whenever the government asks, it would only prevent any civil lawsuits from being brought against them for violating the relevant laws.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Dachannien (617929)
      The Supreme Court has made a number of decisions regarding that clause that weaken it substantially. For example, sex offender registration [wikipedia.org] for offenders whose offenses were committed before the registration law was passed are still required to register. Another situation involves misdemeanor domestic violence offenders [wikipedia.org], who can also be barred from possessing firearms even if their offense was committed before the law barring firearm possession was passed.

      Additionally, civil matters are generally not prot
  • What I'd like to see (Score:4, Interesting)

    by causality (777677) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:52PM (#22397010)
    Punish them once for helping the government spy on us.

    Punish them 2x that amount for seeking immunity and generally trying to excuse it. Don't just fine the company (but by all means, do that too). Seize the personal assets of every executive who supported this and put them up for auction; disperse the proceeds to a variety of charities.

    Impeach and imprison for life, on the basis of treason, every politician who supported what they knew to be an unconstitutional law. Isn't it funny how someone who assists our enemies is prosecuted for treason, but the far worse threat of elected officials who knowingly erode civil liberties is generally not even recognized to be a crime? Remember that politicians are generally also lawyers; they know very well what the 4th Amendment says.


    I'd like to see all of the above happen in a court of law. Yes, I can keep dreaming. None of this will ever happen. I know that. But I'd like my country back, please.

    Maybe when we're all marching the goose step we will have some insight and will collectively decide "hmm, maybe a free country IS worth a miniscule risk of dying in a terrorist attack." The politicians of course are happy to increase their power for any reason or no reason at all, but it is DISGUSTING how the public is so cowardly that they always allow this to happen whenever a little more safety is promised to them. This is such a disgrace to anyone familiar with how and why the USA became a nation.
  • by soren100 (63191) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @04:58PM (#22397132)
    This is totally unconstitutional. And I can guarantee you that there are extremely few citizens out there thinking that telecommunications companies should not be held accountable for breaking the law and helping our government subvert the Constitution. Senator Chris Dodd has to filibuster his own party to try to prevent this from happening, and he said he did it because there was so much concern from his constituents.

    Amendment IV of our Constitution:

    The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
    I would make a joke here about not welcoming our corpo-government overlords, but I wish I could find more of a sense of humor about this type of thing. The founders of our country knew this was going to happen, and worked extremely hard to avoid it, and the citizens of our country are sleep-walking right into it.

    Here's Senator Dodd's thoughts about telecom immunity [senate.gov]:

    The President has no right to secretly eavesdrop on the conversations and activities of law abiding American citizens and anyone who has aided and abetted him in these illegal activities should be held accountable, said Dodd. It is unconscionable that such a basic right has been violated, and that the President is the perpetrator. I will do everything in my power to stop Congress from shielding this Presidents agenda of secrecy, deception, and blatant unlawfulness.

  • by corsec67 (627446) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:02PM (#22397198) Homepage Journal
    How can any Ex post facto law [wikipedia.org] be passed at all when Article 1, Section 9 [wikisource.org] of the Constitution says "No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."?

    There aren't any clauses in there that could be interpreted as "unless it legalizes an act", so ANY law that changes the legal ramifications of an act that occurred before that law was passed is unconstitutional.

    Of course, the Constitution is an optional, irrelevant document, so none of it really matters. Just look at (Amendments 1,2,9):
    • Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
    • A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
    • The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
  • by Rinisari (521266) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:08PM (#22397294) Homepage Journal
    Yet another reason why there should either a limit on the number of congressional terms a person can serve, or a complete dissolving every so many years like in parliamentary systems. The former would be more fitting with American politics.

    Senators should serve no more than three terms (18 years) and congresspersons should serve no more than six terms (12 years). If a person wants to remain in congrees, he or she should run for the other half of congress. A person doing that would have served 30 years in congress, perhaps after serving graduating from law school at 25 or 26 years of age and working in a private practice or local government for six years, until 32. 30 years of congressional service puts the person at 62, and they can happily retire (or run for president or serve as a cabinet member or such).
  • Game over (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Deadplant (212273) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:19PM (#22397476)
    It is all over folks.
    The rule of law has now been abandoned completely.

    The US government no longer even pretends to obey the law.

    Your government just dropped its drawers and shat on your constitution.

    Retroactive immunity for violations of the constitution.
    I'd call that high treason.

  • by WillAffleckUW (858324) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:20PM (#22397506) Homepage Journal
    Only 26 US Senators stood up and voted to put a hold on this legislation, including both of Washington State's US Senators and Senator Barack Obama.

    Senator Clinton was ... not present.

    Well, guess that answers who's tech-friendly.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by iamwahoo2 (594922)
      Once again, Clinton chose not to vote on this amendment. That does not mean that she was not present. She was able to vote on the immediately preceeding amendments. She backed out of this one because she lacks integrity and backbone.
  • by Tanman (90298) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @05:42PM (#22397894)
    when I ask, "Do you think the constitution is an outdated, unimportant document now?"

    It amazes me all of his detractors that call him an extremist who is blindly supporting some outdated, irrelevant document -- people who then complain about this stuff being passed. Don't you realize that this is the kind of thing Ron Paul would stop?
  • I tried (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kilodelta (843627) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @06:17PM (#22398548) Homepage
    I had an email exchange with the office of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse regarding this issue. He comes down on the fence in this but I suspect he voted yes which really disappoints me. But then I know which side his bread is buttered on and whose pocket he's in so it comes as no surprise.

    Worst part is I used to work for the guy.
  • by Kenrod (188428) on Tuesday February 12, 2008 @07:00PM (#22399200)
    For those who think they know something about this dispute, quick...answer these questions:

    1. Which telecoms get immunity?
    2. What are the telecoms accused of doing EXACTLY? What actual actions did they take?
    3. Who wants to sue the telecoms? What are their motives?
    4. What is the purpose of the lawsuits? Money, or something else? Remember these are civil lawsuits (you knew that, right?), so no one is going to jail.

    The real purpose of bringing civil lawsuits against the telecoms is to get them to fully reveal what information the government asked them for, and to reveal what was given. Revealing this information publicly would be a great boon to enemies of the US and will help them adjust their operations to elude the authorities.

    It's too bad so many well-meaning libertarians are ignorant of the real dangers in the world, and the dangers brought by technology, and are so quickly willing to be stooges. And not the funny kind.

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