Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy Government The Courts United States News Your Rights Online

Supreme Court Won't Hear ACLU Wiretap Case 323

Posted by kdawson
from the standing-knee-deep-in-paradox dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "The US Supreme Court refused without comment the ACLU's appeal of a lower court ruling that prevented them from suing over the government's warrantless TSP program. The problem was a Catch-22: they lack legal 'standing' to sue over it because they can't prove that they were suspected terrorists, but neither can they find out who was actually suspected, because this is a matter of national security." Update: 02/20 00:17 GMT by KD : Removed an incorrect statement after a reader pointed out that, with the expiration of the Protect America Act this weekend, foreign surveillance will revert to oversight by the FISA court.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Supreme Court Won't Hear ACLU Wiretap Case

Comments Filter:
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:41PM (#22481394)
    If you can sue us, we'll let you know, unless we consider that to be a secret.
    • Re:In other words (Score:5, Informative)

      by cayenne8 (626475) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:02PM (#22481700) Homepage Journal
      I thought this 'catch-22' type thing was the very thing that had been used to overturn laws like this? Wasn't this type of logic used for SCOTUS to overturn the marijuana tax stamp act in the 70's? That one said you couldn't legally sell pot unless you had a tax stamp, but, you couldn't get a tax stamp unless you had some pot to sell...etc. Basically you were breaking the law if you followed the law to get legal. I thought the SCOTUS said this was unconstitutional, and overturned it. (I believe it was Timothy Leary [wikipedia.org] that brought this suit). This pissed of Nixon and then they came up with the 'scheduling' of drugs act...that remains in force today.

      Anyway, why would precedent on this type of law force them to look at this case?

      • Re:In other words (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jmauro (32523) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:35PM (#22482792)
        Nope, the pot stamp laws are still on the books and enforced in many states. It's easier to prosecute someone for tax evasion then pot dealing so they're kept around. The drug scheduling was developed to harminoze and simplify the laws on the books at the time of passage, not due to any overturned laws by the Supreme court.
  • Then proof will exist that there is standing.
  • by Sepiraph (1162995) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:44PM (#22481440)
    Some of these guys are hand-picked by the very same administration, did you expect these shrewd men and women to bite the very hand that feeds them? Don't expect any real change unless there are fundamental changes to the whole administrative.
    • by grahamd0 (1129971) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:04PM (#22481740)

      That hand doesn't feed them. They serve for life. The president has no political power over sitting justices. They ARE loyal cronies, but that won't change with administrations.

    • Not quite (Score:3, Interesting)

      by el_munkie (145510)
      ...did you expect these shrewd men and women to bite the very hand that feeds them?

      The whole point of the lifetime appointment of judges to the Supreme Court is that they wouldn't have to be beholden to whichever powers appointed them. Scalia, Alito, and Thomas could have a change of heart and become flag-burning, dope-smoking, abortion-promoting hippies, and there's really nothing that could be done to punish them. I think they can be impeached by Congress, but that isn't really common.
    • by Artagel (114272) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:27PM (#22482056) Homepage
      It takes 4 justices to grant certiorari to a case, except in certain capital punishment circumstances. http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/index.php/Certiorari [cornell.edu] Therefore, we know that at most 3 justices were interested in hearing the case. None of them felt strongly enough about this to write a dissent from the denial of a grant of certiorari. That has happened in the anti-terrorism context, with Justice Breyer writing and Souter and Ginsburg joining. URL:www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/06pdf/06-1195Breyer.pdf>. President Bush has appointed two out of 9. A full four, enough to grant certiorari, are liberal and often at odds with the president.

      Regardless of your politics, the decision of the trial court was awful.
      http://althouse.blogspot.com/2006/08/shocking-decision-in-aclu-v-nsa.html [blogspot.com] This just puts an ACLU fantasy about its reach to bed.

      Justice is served.
    • by Zordak (123132) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:35PM (#22482136) Homepage Journal

      Some of these guys are hand-picked by the very same administration, did you expect these shrewd men and women to bite the very hand that feeds them? Don't expect any real change unless there are fundamental changes to the whole administrative.
      Yeah, just look at John Paul Stevens and David Souter. Nothing but a couple of lap dogs for the Republicans.
    • by ptbarnett (159784) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:42PM (#22482232)

      Some of these guys are hand-picked by the very same administration, did you expect these shrewd men and women to bite the very hand that feeds them? Don't expect any real change unless there are fundamental changes to the whole administrative.

      This particular legal doctrine has nothing to do with the Bush administration. Despite the Catch-22 of "lack of standing", it's used quite often. Courts have been avoiding Second Amendment challenges for decades, using the same rationale.

      A writ of certiorari requires only four votes among the nine Supreme Court justices. Four justices: Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg and Breyer, are generally thought of as the Court's liberal wing. If they felt strongly about this case, they could have voted to do so.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        It's also worth noting that, contrary to popular belief, denial of certiorari does not mean that the Court "agrees" with the lower court. It could mean, for instance, that this particular case is not conducive to a proper analysis/determination of the issue. It could mean that the four who would vote to hear it think the rest of the Court isn't "ready" to come around and thus will granting cert likely result in the "wrong" outcome. Or it could mean that instead of challenging the wiretapping (of which th
  • by KingSkippus (799657) * on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:45PM (#22481446) Homepage Journal

    What's kind of depressing is how much the general public just doesn't care about this at all.

    I'll admit up front: I have things to hide. Dirty little secrets that are none of your business, and that the government doesn't need to know. Things that are embarrassing, things that could be used to damage my reputation, nothing particularly dangerous, but stuff that should be between me, myself, and I, and no one else.

    I think most people are like that, even the ones who proclaim so loudly that they have nothing to hide. I mean, if you have something to hide, you're a terrorist, right? The government could never use your dirty little secrets in any shape, form, or fashion, right? Because the government never loses our personal information, never has "leaks" that could reveal compromising information, would never do anything seedy for purely political purposes?

    All of those who have "nothing to hide" are really starting to piss off those of us who do.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stoolpigeon (454276) *
      well, unless it is between you and at least one other person, over the phone - wiretapping isn't going to be a problem. not disagreeing that people should be concerned - but this isn't an issue for things that are "stuff that should be between me, myself, and I, and no one else."
      • Uh, it doesn't have to be with a person that knows who you are. How many times have you talked with a person that didn't know your name or could't identify you? So these wiretappinhg issues are also about the right to privacy when you wish the privacy te remain intact. Calling to find out when a certain church is open, calling to ask the location of a certain bookstore, adult vieo rental store, or any other general information conversation can be logged with very real weight but the second person doesn't have the same need for privacy in these cases since they are tied to the location in other fashions. the wiretapping issue completely dissolves the privacy of phone conversations unless there are stopgaps in place to prohibit the misuse of data collection. Namely warrants and limitation scopes of information retrieved. That's why they were put there in the first place. So that people in the future wouldn't abuse the access to this type of information, not so that they could do an end run around the constitutional rights of the citizens and bypass the checks and ballances. The "it makes it harder" line is BS since making it easy isn't the only goal. We're protecting our way of life as well as our lives here. So to all those who claim patriotism without knowing what it means to sacrifice ease of safety for peace of moral mind, go look up the history from where we came and what we've been through to get the rights that are being stripped from us.

        "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

        That's because fear is the only thing that will always lead us to hurt ourselves while we are under its control. The fear of dying will strip us of our rights to live. The threat of anonymous terrorists will allow the domestic terrorists we elected to weild impending doom over our heads and threaten us with more attacks unless we bow to the demands to give them more power. If we do not obey or question that power we are labled enemy combatants and no longer have the rights we were afforded as citizens and we are then shipped away to where the remaining laws we haven't lost cannot even protect us. Torture by any other name, and terror by any guise are both using fear to conquor the will. And we are letting it happen. /rant (got a little carried away there)
    • I'll admit up front: I have things to hide. Dirty little secrets that are none of your business, and that the government doesn't need to know. Things that are embarrassing, things that could be used to damage my reputation, nothing particularly dangerous, but stuff that should be between me, myself, and I, and no one else.

      Unless the government has come up with some way to read your mind I think you're safe.

    • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:01PM (#22481694)

      I'll admit up front: I have things to hide.

      Oooh, are you into BBW too?

    • by garett_spencley (193892) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:08PM (#22481800) Journal
      "I'll admit up front: I have things to hide. Dirty little secrets that are none of your business, and that the government doesn't need to know. Things that are embarrassing, things that could be used to damage my reputation, nothing particularly dangerous, but stuff that should be between me, myself, and I, and no one else."

      Like what ?
    • This was the quote at the bottom of the page as I read this article:

      "paranoia, n.: A healthy understanding of the way the universe works."

      --AC
    • Let's get those skeletons out of the closet. I'll start. I masturbate. I have soiled myself on occasion. And I frequently inhaled in the presence of pot. I drank before I was 21, and I often exceed the speed limit. I regularly roll through a stop sign near my house. And I am greedy when it comes to sweets. Now they've got nothing on me. See how good it makes you..... Wait a minute, someone's at the door, brb.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by huckamania (533052)

      but stuff that should be between me, myself, and I, and no one else

      Then why are you talking about it on the phone? Are you calling yourself?

      The reason why SCOTUS refused the case is because the ACLU doesn't have standing. Those who are performing the wiretaps would be really, really stupid to show the list of those they are tapping to anyone else, especially a group on a fishing expedition to sue them.

      If the wiretappers did show the list to the ACLU, the ACLU would sue them for doing the wiretaps. Then, they would sue them for releasing the information. Can't have

    • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:05PM (#22482500)
      The only problem with the submission?

      TSP no longer exists, and hasn't since 17 January 2007 [nytimes.com].

      ALL surveillance was happening under the guise of the Protect America Act [whitehouse.gov], which was designed exclusively to allow foreign intelligence collection without a warrant when the traffic travelled through the United States, whether incidentally or by design. Foreign intelligence collection is always allowed without court oversight; the changes explicitly allowed such collection on US soil as long as the target was reasonably believed to be a non-US person physically outside of the United States, regardless of the other end of the conversation. The change was absolutely done to make such surveillance easy.

      Now the Protect America Act has expired with its automatic sunset, and ALL surveillance must again happen only via FISA [washingtontimes.com].

      There is no TSP or any warrantless surveillance program. What a horrible summary.

      Of course, I'm sure a bunch of people will respond, "Oh, sure, there is no warrantless surveillance...THAT WE KNOW OF." Oh, how convenient: arguing about something that we can't prove one way or another? Please, let's keep the discussion in the realm of known facts, namely, that TSP no longer exists. The article even says as much. Did the submitter not even RTFA?
  • Quick Summation (Score:4, Insightful)

    by milsoRgen (1016505) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:45PM (#22481458) Homepage

    "It's very disturbing that the president's actions will go unremarked upon by the court," said Jameel Jaffer
    That about sums it up, but it's certainly not the first 'very disturbing' action we the people have had to witness and suffer through during these last 2 terms.
  • Let me get this straight - we will have to rely on a suspected terrorist to sue for this to go forward?
    • by milsoRgen (1016505) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:48PM (#22481522) Homepage

      Let me get this straight - we will have to rely on a suspected terrorist to sue for this to go forward?
      That shouldn't worry you at all, what our government considers a terrorist is so broad I don't think we would have to rely on your atypical camel-riding-cave-dweller to move this forward. Just someone who get the label by our dangerous and overzealous government.
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      No.

      I (and and many others) suspect that the Democratic presidential candidates are those who have been wiretapped illegally.
      • by dpilot (134227)
        It's just that you'll need proof before you can sue.

        Besides, from another perspective, right now we're in the midst of a gigantic conspiracy to unseat and replace the government of the US. They even know the target date - next November and the following January. So it's merely a matter of using the tools of government to foil this heinous attempt at overthrow.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Chris Burke (6130)
      Let me get this straight - we will have to rely on a suspected terrorist to sue for this to go forward?

      Indications are that the government spied on thousands of people, and based on what the AT&T worker who installed the hardware said, it's quite possible that they gathered communications from millions of people in a way that would require a warrant. Ultimately this whole fiasco is due to the fact that the Executive's definition of "suspected terrorist" is so loose and flimsy that not even FISA, a cour
  • by KublaiKhan (522918) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:46PM (#22481476) Homepage Journal
    Something about how no charges shall issue except on a warrant or something like that?

    Wasn't one of the bits in the declaration of independence criticizing King George III about secret trials?

    Bit sad, really, that it's coming to this.
    • by Stanistani (808333) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:58PM (#22481642) Homepage Journal
      Those boxes you use to defend your freedom, we've already failed on soap, ballot, and jury.

      Damn, and I'm out of practice on the last one.
      • Then start practicing again. Better hurry, might not have a lot of time left.

        Sure, there's no way the 2nd will fall. But I'm fairly sure that some backdoor will be found sooner or later (for 'national security reasons') that pretty much makes sure that nobody but a handpicked few can still legally have more than BB guns.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dpilot (134227)
      But then you'll get the argument that the Declaration of Independence is an historical document, and has no legal force like the Constitution. Those will be the same people who tell you that because some individual right is not specifically mentioned in the Constitution or Amendments, you don't have it. (I don't have the patience at the moment to look up the specific contrary language in both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.)
      • by sconeu (64226)
        Contrary language is in the Ninth Amendment [usconstitution.net].

        The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
  • by greenslashpurple (1236792) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:49PM (#22481542)
    And an independent media (e.g. James Risen at the New York Times) to publish some lists of people who have been illegally wire-tapped. Or maybe some technician who works for a major communications network can upload the list of names/numbers they've been tasked to set up monitors on.
    • by jfengel (409917)
      The list you're seeking may not exist. The smoking gun would be some liberal or Democratic organization whose phones were tapped for purely political reasons.

      It's entirely possible that it has never happened. The decision is disturbing because it _enables_ the abuse of power, without actually indicating that the abuse of power has in fact occurred.

      Supporters of the warrantless wiretap are basically trusting that it won't occur, and that all warrantless wiretaps are used against valid terrorist targets. T
      • by Phroggy (441)
        I think you've missed what the grandparent post was trying to suggest: the government says you can't sue them for wiretapping your phone because you don't know they actually did it, because they won't tell you. That's what this decision upholds. But if someone leaks a list, and you're on it, then you know they really did wiretap you, so now you can sue them for doing it.
        • by jfengel (409917)
          Right, but that assumes that such a list exists. There may not actually be such a list, or it may be that the only people on it are non-citizens without the standing to sue.

          There may not actually be anybody with the standing to sue, yet. The Bush administration is essentially telling us that there won't ever actually be one, because they're only wiretapping bad guys. The ACLU wants to know how they can know that's true, and they're especially suspicious because the bar to get a warrant isn't terribly hig
    • by PRMan (959735) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:48PM (#22482300)
      Oh, wait...
  • Olden Times (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sanat (702) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:51PM (#22481566)
    It is interesting to see what the Supreme Court has ruled upon or refused to advise upon from the past... whether the subject was slavery or other free rights... they constantly get it wrong. Example:

    In March of 1857, the United States Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, declared that all blacks -- slaves as well as free -- were not and could never become citizens of the United States. The court also declared the 1820 Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, thus permiting slavery in all of the country's territories.

    The case before the court was that of Dred Scott v. Sanford. Dred Scott, a slave who had lived in the free state of Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin before moving back to the slave state of Missouri, had appealed to the Supreme Court in hopes of being granted his freedom.

    Taney -- a staunch supporter of slavery and intent on protecting southerners from northern aggression -- wrote in the Court's majority opinion that, because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and therefore had no right to sue. The framers of the Constitution, he wrote, believed that blacks "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect; and that the negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit. He was bought and sold and treated as an ordinary article of merchandise and traffic, whenever profit could be made by it."

    Referring to the language in the Declaration of Independence that includes the phrase, "all men are created equal," Taney reasoned that "it is too clear for dispute, that the enslaved African race were not intended to be included, and formed no part of the people who framed and adopted this declaration. . . ."

    props to PBS

    This is the same Catch-22...
  • Catch-22: The U.S. government is too corrupt to investigate corruption.

    Catch-23: Oil and weapons investors Cheney and Bush want the price of oil and weapons to rise, so Iraqis must die.

    Cheney and Bush have killed more Americans than the terrorists, and far more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein.
    • by bendodge (998616)

      Cheney and Bush have killed more Americans than the terrorists, and far more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein.
      I'd like some hard, cited statistics on that. It's true that the Bush administration has done some bad things, but I think you're just postulating here.
      • I don't agree that we killed more Iraqis than Saddam (not even close), but Bush has definitely killed more Americans in his term than terrorists have (referring to our troop casualties).
    • My understanding is that the U.S. Supreme Court hears only about 50 of the 5,000 cases that people try to bring before it.

      That's a perfect work-avoidance scheme: "We just do as much work as we want to do."

      If a case gets all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, that indicates SOMETHING is broken. However, faults in the law generally cannot be fixed because of a conflict of interest. A large part of what lawyers do is work generated by faults in the law. They don't want most of their work taken away from
    • by tgatliff (311583) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:56PM (#22482390)
      So why again does Bush and Cheney want the price of oil to rise? Last time I checked they no longer own any oil assets and would not personally profit for a rise or fall in oil... If they did, no doubt Congress would scream this fact for all to hear.....

      Also, the Oil futures market is much larger than anything going on in Iraq. Oil is rising not because of anything Bush or Cheney or the US is doing, but rather because you have over 2 billion people slowing rising in the middle class in Asia. Not to mention that "easy" oil is getting increasing more difficult to find. The good side is that alternate energy sources are finally getting a chance to prosper and we should be in the next decade finally be able to break our dependence on middle eastern oil sources..

      Finally, just for the record I am certainly no fan of Bush, but I also dislike thoughtless propoganda statements with no logical backing...
      • by Chris Burke (6130) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:53PM (#22482974) Homepage
        So why again does Bush and Cheney want the price of oil to rise? Last time I checked they no longer own any oil assets and would not personally profit for a rise or fall in oil...

        Last I checked they still have plenty of friends in the oil industry, and may want extremely cushy and well paying jobs in a ridiculously profitable industry after they're done running the country. Of course Cheney's Halliburton stock option sales all go to charity, so there's no direct personal conflict of interest. Thus there's no motivation whatsoever and all those no-bid contracts were perfectly fair? Yeah right, making huge bank for all their oil and defense contractor friends is a huge motivation, and one they themselves will ultimately reap the benefit from.

        How much you want to bet Cheney ends up back on the Board of Directors for any number of companies who directly profited from the war in Iraq?


        Also, the Oil futures market is much larger than anything going on in Iraq. Oil is rising not because of anything Bush or Cheney or the US is doing, but rather because you have over 2 billion people slowing rising in the middle class in Asia.


        Uh yeah I'm pretty sure "Middle East insecurity" has a major impact on the futures market, what with the whole thing being speculation on the future (both near and long term) supply, and Middle East sources still being a huge portion of that supply. Prices jumped hugely after 9/11, again after the invasion of Iraq. Yes there has been an otherwise oscillating but upward trend due to general increasing consumption and lessening of reserves, and yes the market is much larger than just Iraq. To conclude that therefore nothing Bush or Cheney has done has affected the price of oil is completely illogical.
      • "So why again does Bush and Cheney want the price of oil to rise?"

        See these stories, for example:

        Cheney's Halliburton Options Up 3,281% Last Year [corpwatch.org]

        Cheney: "I cut all ties to Halliburton years ago." Congressional Research Service: "Cheney made $8,000,000 from Haliburton while in office." [reddit.com]

        Quote from one of the comments in that story: "The Congressional Research Service has concluded that holding stock options while in elective office DOES constitute a "financial interest" whether or not the holder of the options donates the proceeds to charities, and deferred compensation is also a financial interest." [My emphasis]

        Also, in general Cheney and Bush have shown that they don't believe any rules apply to them. So, there may be hidden bank accounts in Dubai [hrw.org], for example, which is where the head office of Halliburton is located [yahoo.com] now.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by localman (111171)
      I agree with the sentiment expressed in your post, but factually I don't believe the Bush/Cheney war has surpassed Saddam's death toll yet. Most famously he massacred around 100,000 Kurds [wikipedia.org] between 1986 and 1989. He did plenty of other awful things too. The Iraqi body count [iraqbodycount.org] has the war approaching 90,000.

      Of course, both of these numbers are absolutely abominable, and this war is not about those killings (the US was buddies with him back then), so it's not like one is the cost of stopping the other. Still,
  • Before the Law (Score:5, Interesting)

    by paulthomas (685756) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @06:59PM (#22481660) Journal
    Recommended reading: Kafka's Before The Law Between this and secret laws for security checkpoints at airports, Kafka's absurd vignette is looking looking unsettlingly normal.
  • Only 95% onerous (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:00PM (#22481678)
    When it comes down to it, this ruling (and the ruling of the lower court) isn't 100% onerous, because a US citizen who is tried using evidence obtained in this manner would finally have standing to contest the government's actions. In such a case, if (or, should I say, when) the government's wiretapping is found to be illegal, the evidence would be suppressed, and if the government's case was otherwise weak, the charges could be dismissed. If a person isn't practically affected in their ability to conduct legal day-to-day activities, then it's a reasonable conclusion (whether or not it's a correct one) that they were not damaged and therefore have no standing to sue.

    Of course, it's still 95% onerous, because there are still people reviewing the wiretap data (recordings, records, etc.) and those people are privy to otherwise private conversations.

    • WRONG! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Tanman (90298)
      No, this is 100% Fed-Certified Grade-A bullshit. Why? Because this is a green light for the crooks in power to continue doing this kind of thing. And what kind of trial do you think you will get with the evidence collected?

      Guess what, you won't be tried. Ever. You will be held so that they can illegally solicit more evidence from you through nefarius means such extradition out-of-country, or just a secret location somewhere in Washington. Did I mention that the illegal solicitation of further evidence
    • by gillbates (106458)

      The problem is that invading one's privacy, even if only a suspected invasion, is damaging to the individual.

      How is this any different from the police coming to visit you every night, and sticking around until you go to bed? When it comes down to it, you'd be hard pressed to show any actual damages from such behavior, yet the thought of this is unsettling to even the most radical neo-cons.

      The problem is that freedom, even if it does not have a monetary equivalent, still has tremendous value. The go

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dachannien (617929)
        Well, the difference between the police hanging out in your house and the feds tapping your phone is that in the latter case, you don't know about it.

    • by vux984 (928602)
      The point of illegal evidence gathering isn't to use in court where it might be found illegal. Its to use it to find suspects upon which to perform legal evidence gathering.

      Phase 1. I illegally monitor and scan all conversations in the us for a keyphrase, and shortlist everyone who uses it.
      Phase 2. I then send out someone to either find or trump up some legitimate evidence.
      Phase 3. I get a warrant, gather enough evidence to make a case, and then charge you.

      The 'illegal evidence gathering' in phase 1 would o
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by IIH (33751)

      When it comes down to it, this ruling (and the ruling of the lower court) isn't 100% onerous, because a US citizen who is tried using evidence obtained in this manner would finally have standing to contest the government's actions.

      Tried? Who said anything about a trial?. From past actions, if they thought they had reason to act against someone due to these wiretaps, the person in question would be declared an enemy combatant, kept in custody without legal access, and if even was innocent, be forced to ta

    • by roystgnr (4015) * <.roystgnr. .at. .ticam.utexas.edu.> on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @11:44PM (#22484178) Homepage
      a US citizen who is tried using evidence obtained in this manner would finally have standing to contest the government's actions

      What makes anyone think that illegal wiretapping is about giving people fair trials? They're not even concerned with convicting suspected terrorists, and the fact that these wiretaps are too dubious to deserve even FISA warrants should make it clear that terrorists aren't the target.

      FISA was created after Nixon's attempts to use espionage for political gain. If Bush is doing the same thing then the illegally obtained results won't be seen by judges. Anything incriminating will be leaked to the media or used to anonymously blackmail the target; anything innocent will be exploited by campaign strategists. Even if the most damaging use of an unwarranted wiretap's results is a prosecution, it won't be done by introducing unconstitutionally obtained evidence in court. They'll use "anonymous tips" to launder the results to get seemingly-legit evidence instead. The "fruit of the poisoned tree" rule won't help when the connection between the evidence and it's original source has been hidden from sight.
  • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:03PM (#22481714)
    Well?
    Well what?
    You're listening to my phone calls and it's not a secret.
    I told you, you're not allowed to sue me unless you know my secret.
    But I do!
    No you don't.
    I DO!
    No you don't.
    Look, I don't want you spying on me.
    Well, that's a secret.
    Aha. If it's a secret, I must be a terrorist, so it's not a secret anymore! I got you!
    No you haven't.
    Yes I have. If it's an official government secret that you're spying on me, I must be a terrorist.
    Not necessarily. I could be listening to your phone calls in my spare time.
  • by gillbates (106458) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:06PM (#22481784) Homepage Journal

    The fact that the government is let off the hook because the victims can't legally show harm - that is, they are prevented from actually knowing if their privacy is invaded - is quite disturbing. A child pornographer could use the same argument; that because his children (err, victims...) aren't old enough to understand the harm done to them, that they have no grounds for objecting to their pictures being taken.

    I think, though, that there's a double standard when it comes to government. Unlike "terrorists" - which are presumed guilty except when there exists incontrovertible exculpatory evidece - the government is presumed innocent, and its evidence and intentions beyond reproach, except when the accused manage, by some legal loophole, to show otherwise.

    Justice at the federal level has completely changed:

    • Instead of being presumed innocent, the accused are presumed guilty, and not even tried, except in cases where their lawyers manage to find some way around the executive branch.
    • Even when the accused do get to trial, they are tried in secret courts, where they are not allowed to see the evidence against them, if they are allowed to attend the trial at all.

    "If you aren't doing anything wrong, what do you have to hide?"

    Indeed, all patriotic Americans need to ask themselves this question of the government, particularly the executive branch. If indeed, they aren't doing anything wrong, why must they keep everything so secret - even from Congress and the Courts? Isn't it more likely that they are using the secrecy to cover up activities that most Americans would consider wrong?

    Most worrisome is the fact that we have gone from an open society which feared nothing ("The only thing we have to fear is fear itself...") to a society where everyone is suspect and fear of what one might do is sufficient to deny anyone and everyone their rights under the law. The justice system has been transformed from an open and transparent process which followed the principles of fairness to a capricious and arbitrary exercise of power.

  • Bah (Score:2, Insightful)

    We need a Congressional hearing plain and simple. The US Congress doesn't have to worry about standing, it's their job to be concerned about the business of the gov't. Too bad they're so lazy.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      "Lazy" is one possible explanation. "In cahoots" is the other. I know which one seems more plausible to me...
  • The Rule of Law (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:14PM (#22481864) Homepage Journal
    ...is over in the US. One basic principle of it is that the law applies to everyone equally, that nobody is "above the law". There can be exceptions and special priviledges as long as they are written into the laws. So in most countries MPs are exempt from prosecution, for good reasons, and that's ok because it's part of the process.

    In the US, the rule of law has been abandoned. You are back to the rule of power: Everyone does whatever he can get away with. Your so-called president leading the way.

  • The problem was a Catch-22: they lack legal 'standing' to sue over it because they can't prove that they were suspected terrorists, but neither can they find out who was actually suspected, because this is a matter of national security.

    ...plus c'est la meme chose. The French used that same crap on Alfred Dreyfus in 1894.

    rj

  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by haakondahl (893488) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:45PM (#22482278)
    I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes: "...no one knows or can know whether they were illegally spied upon."

    Supreme Court writes: "We don't believe in imaginary problems."

  • by Bryansix (761547) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @07:52PM (#22482350) Homepage
    Oh wait, it's not? Darn.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by susano_otter (123650)
      Well, technically the President does have broad powers to wage war as he sees fit.

      What gets me about Slashdot is that it's full of people who have a giant fucking hardon for the Internet and "information wants to be free" and how all this technology changes everything and shifts paradigms and makes collaboration easier and technology transfer faster and all that good stuff, but are willfully ignorant about the major changes to the nature and scope of warfare and the battlefields on which it will be fought.

      Y
  • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:25PM (#22482688)
    The Terrorist Surveillance Program has not existed for over a year, since 17 January 2007 [nytimes.com]. All foreign intelligence collection in the meantime has occurred under the guise of FISA and the temporary and recently-sunset FISA modifications provided by the Protect America Act [whitehouse.gov]. With the expiry of the Protect America Act, ALL foreign SIGINT collection reverts to the 30-year old FISA rules [washingtontimes.com].

    If someone could point out the warrantless surveillance program that is known to exist today, I'd appreciate it. And yes, the burden of proof is on you, as simply asserting that one must exist doesn't quite cut it. Remember how TSP came to light: leaks to the New York Times. The government simply cannot keep such controversial programs secret. There is no evidence of any current, ongoing "warrantless" surveillance.

    The other important thing to remember is that foreign intelligence collection never requires a warrant or court oversight of any kind; the FISA modifications were designed to enable easy foreign intelligence collection via assets on US soil or traffic that may travel physically through the United States. It does not matter in the least if the other end of the conversation is a US person on US soil, as long as they are not the target of such collection.

    Such collection is always legal and allowable without a warrant if the collection occurs outside of the United States and the US person is not the target of such surveillance. Special and very extensive measures are undertaken to conceal the identity of US persons in such collection.

    The main difference with what became known as TSP, and refined in the Protect America Act, was the provision to enable such collection via means to which we have easy and routine access; namely, the massive amounts of communication traffic flowing through equipment under US control. Whether or not you may agree with that is a different issue entirely. The purpose was never to target US citizens without a warrant. The purpose was to collect foreign intelligence via US assets. Currently (after PAA expiration), if traffic travels through the United States, even if BOTH ends are non-US persons physically outside of the United States, the Intelligence Community is prohibited from collection without a warrant. That's the "Intel Gap" [archive.org] we wanted to close.
  • by sigmabody (1099541) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @08:37PM (#22482820)
    There's a pretty simple way out of the catch, although it would be hard to do and potentially open pandora's box: have Congress pass a law which allows legal challenges to the Constitutionality of laws and actions without having to show actual damages. The only reason it's a problem now is because of the technicalities of the laws, which could easily be remedied.

    On the other hand, good luck in getting Congress to do something as blatantly beneficial for the country as that...
  • by Nimey (114278) on Tuesday February 19, 2008 @10:15PM (#22483608) Homepage Journal
    The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants, as Thos. Jefferson told us.

    This tree looks distinctly drought-stricken.

(1) Never draw what you can copy. (2) Never copy what you can trace. (3) Never trace what you can cut out and paste down.

Working...