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EFF Sues To Overturn Telecom Immunity 369

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the not-that-it-will-do-much-good dept.
Mike writes "The title says it all — The EFF is suing to have the unconstitutional telecom immunity overturned. 'In a brief filed in the US District Court [PDF] in San Francisco, the EFF argues that the flawed FISA Amendments Act (FAA) violates the federal government's separation of powers as established in the Constitution and robs innocent telecom customers of their rights without due process of law. [...] "We have overwhelming record evidence that the domestic spying program is operating far outside the bounds of the law," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Intelligence agencies, telecoms, and the Administration want to sweep this case under the rug, but the Constitution won't permit it."'"
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EFF Sues To Overturn Telecom Immunity

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  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday October 17, 2008 @02:58PM (#25416041)

    If we're even that lucky. I'd give 1 in 10 odds that if Obama wins the election W doesn't step down.

    Sound ridiculous? I hope it is. But with all the other crazy non-American stuff W has done...I can't discount it. He's proven time and again that he thinks he's immune to precedent and proper procedure. And that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are more hindrances than blessings.

    I'll bet it's been discussed as an option at least. I really don't put anything past this administration. W scares the absolute living crap out of me. 1/20/09 can't come and go too quickly as far as I'm concerned.

  • Noob questions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by philspear (1142299) on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:03PM (#25416115)

    Right, I understand that the administration does what it wants ignoring the consitution, and I want to see them jailed for it. And I understand that telecoms were complicit in that. That's about all I know about the case right now.

    It seems a bit different from someone driving the getaway car for a bank heist, if nothing else in scale of the crime. Have any laws been broken by the telecos? Is there a law saying that you must obey the constitution even when ordered not to by the government? There is a law against aiding and abetting someone who robs a bank, but I would imagine there's no law against aiding the president when he urinates on the constitution. Is it that they broke privacy laws without a proper warant?

    It seems to me that if I were the owner of a telecom company, and some government agent or the president was telling me to turn over documents, I'd consult my lawyers, sure, but if they came back with "Uh... we really have no clue as to what you should do, there's not much precedent here..." then what? If this was a case of the executive branch saying "We passed this law that says you have to turn over these documents to us or you're going to jail, we don't need a warrant," what is the teleco supposed to do? Claim powers of judicial review, say the president is being unconstitutional, and no?

  • by FireStormZ (1315639) on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:04PM (#25416135)

    And a large chunk of those who can verbalize what we fought for don't care so long as (1) They get sweet tax breaks or (2) The have nanny government take care of them every step along the way. Both sides are equally dangerous to freedom!

  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:06PM (#25416155)

    The republicans are enthusiastic about law and order at the expense of liberty, and the democrats have yet to become vertebrates.

    This describes the problem perfectly. I can't mod you up, I can only agree profusely with you.

    Watching the Democrats fold on the telcom issue after they won a congressional majority is one of the single most disappointing things I've seen in my entire life. I've never felt more betrayed by politicians in my life ever.

  • by mweather (1089505) on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:18PM (#25416301)
    What good is the right to own guns if the gun owners let the government take away all their other rights?
  • by mweather (1089505) on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:22PM (#25416351)
    The national guard doesn't fear your shotgun because they have much more to fear from the guardsmen who defected when they ordered them to take your shotgun. Don't denigrate our men and women in uniform by suggesting they would willingly trample on the rights of the American people.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:23PM (#25416375)

    The difference is that people are, for whatever reason, absolutely terrified of W. A Democratic congress refused to even censure him for anything he's done. And he's done a lot that's wrong - just ask Dennis Kucinich. [washingtonpost.com] You'd think after the whole Bill Clinton impeachment fiasco they'd be dying for some payback. But they didn't go for it. Why?

    Dick Cheney can shoot someone in the face, and what happens? The victim goes on TV and makes a public apology. [msn.com] For being shot in the face.

    This administration is absolutely terrifying. And everyone is afraid of them. That makes a coup possible. Improbable, sure. But not impossible.

    Again, I'm pretty certain I'm worrying over nothing, as you suggest. However I'm not 100% certain. I just want 1/20 to come and go as quickly as possible so I don't have to worry about it anymore.

  • Nixon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Irvu (248207) on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:32PM (#25416525)

    I'll just invoke the American Politics version of Goodwin's Law here (hereafter the Nixon-Goodwin Law) and note that this kind of thinking was what prompted Nixon to push directly or indirectly (it is never quite clear how much he knew in advance) for the Watergate break-in and it's subsequent coverup. For Nixon the idea of losing the election was too much to bear.

    Now W may not be so far gone as to think he can just refuse to leave but the idea that he or overzealous supporters (of the type Nixon had) might go to great lengths to see McCain in, the man Bush said would lead his legacy in Iraq, well that is different.

    Note that I am not claiming McCain would do this or that it is being done. Nor am I claiming that other Republicans might not be horrified by it, There were Republicans who were, arguably, more angry with Nixon than others. Some of them such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had to wait a long time to get back into the Whitehouse (Cheney was then an aide and Rumsfeld a Deputy Secretary of Defense).

    However When Nixon did it, angry as people were no mobs formed and noone swung from trees. Indeed some of the key players such as G. Gordon Liddy [wikipedia.org] are out today and practicing politics once more.

    More likely if nasty things occur and are discovered then some heads will roll but for those at the top they will, like Nixon, merely go home to be pardoned by their successor so that the nation "can heal".

    Lets be honest. Steal small and you go to a supermax. Steal big and you merely go home to live off your ill-gotten gains as Nixon did.

  • by SiriusRegalis (470623) on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:35PM (#25416589)

    Have you experienced the training that a person gets these days. My cousin, a "Take my guns when you pry them from my cold dead hands" bumper sticker type, joined up. A year later, he came back for a brief visit, and he has completely fallen into the "Civilians should not have more than small bolt action hunting rifles" thing. I have seen this with all three freinds/family that have joined.

    There is a trained contempt for the civilian population, we are not smart enough, caring enough, or involved enough to really understand. They, and their commanders, understand.

    It is the same attitude you see in police officers. Civilians are second class cattle to be herded.

    If you really think that in 10-20 years those troops, or police, or whatever we have will not shoot when ordered, then you are in for a big surprise. Though, most likely, by that time, we will have "nickled and dimed" our rights away, and those still defending them will be seen as fringe crazies, so shooting will be "justified".

  • by R2.0 (532027) on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:37PM (#25416629)

    Aside from the fact that I think you've been reading too much Kos, let's assume what you are saying is true, and there is a 10% chance of a coup d'etat? What are you doing to prepare for it? Arming yourself? Making ACTUAL preparations to leave the country? Or is the extent of your patriotism confined to whining "Help! Help! I'm being oppressed" on the internet?

    Hell, I'm a republican and if I thought GWB was planning a coup I'd be preparing right now for the civil war that would inevitably follow. Except I don't know who would be on what side because there's NO WAY the armed forces would follow him.

    That being said, I'm pretty sure Obama's going to be elected and take power. That scares the crap out of me to, only I'm doing a little more about it than I bet you are.

  • by Relic of the Future (118669) <dales@@@digitalfreaks...org> on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:43PM (#25416735)
    I prefer the answer: "So you think a rag-tag band of locals defending their homes and equipped with only small arms would be no match for the U.S. Army? How's Iraq going?"
  • by TheLazySci-FiAuthor (1089561) <thelazyscifiauthor@gmail.com> on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:44PM (#25416747) Homepage Journal

    Valid point.

    I guess my point attempted to say that guns can't create knowledge, but knowledge can create guns.

    In a revolution knowledge is easier to distribute too, and harder to take away.

    Consider today's world, where knowledge has become weaponry of itself; where now is the difference between the two?

    The suppression of one means the suppression of the other, does it not?

  • by steve.howard (988489) on Friday October 17, 2008 @03:56PM (#25416957)
    No, they didn't. When you link articles, at least read the summary. "The ban expired on September 13, 2004, as part of the law's sunset provision."
  • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Friday October 17, 2008 @04:12PM (#25417271)
    Knowledge is also the recipe for homemade explosives. Knowledge is also instructions for building a nailbomb. Knowledge is also what tells you which overland lines to destroy to take down the electrical or telecommunications grid.

    With nothing but knowledge and a population to hide in you can ensure that a region will never see peace for decades. If there ever will be large-scale armed resistance against the US government all the nukes and Joint Strike Fighters in the world won't help them maintain public order. The rebels won't neccessarily win, but they won't neccessarily lose either.

    Yes, it's a rather depressing prospect.
  • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw&yahoo,com> on Friday October 17, 2008 @04:19PM (#25417391) Journal

    Don't denigrate our men and women in uniform by suggesting they would willingly trample on the rights of the American people.

    I'm gonna go ahead and assume you never served in the military. Because if you had, you'd know that there are some seriously crazy mofos running loose in today's military.

    When I was first in the Navy, from '88 to '92, we used to shoot the shit on quiet midwatches, and one of the topics was what would happen if the officers staged a coup? The universal answer was always "We'd have some dead officers." And the JOs who would shoot the shit with us on those lonely vigils would universally agree, they'd be too busy shooting senior officers and admirals to worry whether or not Petty Officer Jones should be arrested for disobeying orders.

    I went back into the Naval Reserve after 9/11, and it was a different world. Some of the folks I worked with still had the same mindset ("Country and Constitution first, orders second"), but not all. A lot of them looked down on civilians as people who were not worthy of the rights they provided. Seriously, there are nutjobs in the military who think our Constitutional rights come from them! Not that these are natural rights that we have just because we're human.

    I don't know what the future holds, but I wouldn't bet my life, or the lives of my family, on some private not shooting into a crowd when ordered to do so. 20 years ago I would've, but things are just too different now.

  • by cawpin (875453) on Friday October 17, 2008 @04:20PM (#25417405)
    I understand what you're trying to say, and I'm not going to deny that freedom of speech is important, but I believe that arms are more important. If it weren't for our free speech we wouldn't even be able to discuss the issue.

    If they say you no longer have the right to free speech, you can convince them otherwise with arms. If they say you no longer have the right to arms, and take them away, you have no recourse but speech. If they then say you no longer have that right, they throw you in jail and you rot away.

    Knowledge IS easier to pass along but it is useless without a goal and to reach certain goals you must have physical tools.

    As I said in my first post, it comes down to force at the end of the day. Diplomacy has its place and should always be our first choice but it can't always get the job done.
  • by svnt (697929) on Friday October 17, 2008 @04:46PM (#25417885)

    Bingo. I'd never given money to a cause within America before. I donate more to support specific endangered species than any form of human.

    When EFF announced this, they gained a member (and I gained a sweet t-shirt). Thank god someone is not taking this lying down.

  • by happyslayer (750738) <david@isisltd.com> on Friday October 17, 2008 @05:18PM (#25418407)

    I was a flight instructor in the Navy during 9/11. Out at the smoke pit, just after, I was talking to some of my JO staff and students, and I told them (basically) the following:

    What you guys are going to have to realize is that it's now a different world. For the first 4-5 years of my military career, it was all Cold War mentality. That affected the every decision made.

    From about 1990 on, the US had a different mentality: We were the biggest, toughest ones on the block, but there wasn't any real strategic direction. That affected the decisions of our politicians and military, and we've been living with the effects ever since.

    You guys, however, are only 1-2 years in your career, and you're going to have an entirely different way of looking at things. It'll be a lot easier to see things in an Us vs. Them mentality, but it'll also be a lot easier to take the shortcuts. You'll find people telling themselves that "it's okay...it's for the good of the country."

    Sad to say, this thread justifies some of my concerns. It's not that the Guard or any other force fears (or doesn't) armed civilians...it's that they may think it's easier to just shoot the bastich than worry over constitutionality vs. some platoon leader yelling to fire.

  • Re:Noob questions (Score:3, Interesting)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday October 17, 2008 @05:51PM (#25418905) Homepage Journal

    Right, I understand that the administration does what it wants ignoring the Constitution, and I want to see them jailed for it.

    The problem is that there's no way for that to happen. IMO, the Founding Fathers made one huge oversight when they wrote the document: They should have outlined the penalties for pols who exceed their constitutional authority. As it is, the most that can happen is that unconstitutional laws are struck down, and maybe there is some restitution awarded to those who were most damaged -- but that money comes from the taxpayers, not the men and women who trashed our liberties.

    Of course, the founders' theory was that the people wouldn't stand for allowing their rights to be trampled.

  • by mikelieman (35628) on Friday October 17, 2008 @07:21PM (#25419955) Homepage

    One US Attorney with Honor and Integrity could have Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld el. al. in custody for felony violations of 18 USC 1001 and 18 USC 371, simply by convening a Grand Jury to hear the evidence.

    If Federal Prison is good enough for Martha Stewart, isn't it good enough for W?

  • by SiriusRegalis (470623) on Friday October 17, 2008 @10:56PM (#25421497)

    That's why the "nickled and dimed" are important. It happened. Nobody complained. Nobody disobeyed orders, forced the issue. Folks who needed the ability to protect themselves, who were leaving town, removing their property from danger, and the chance to have that property stolen and used against others, had it taken. They did the responsible thing, and the government took away their firearms. The fact is, when ordered, they acted without raising a fuss.

    We have a "real emergency" now. The War on Terror. Keeps me awake at night (sarcasm there).

    And look at the rights we have thrown away with it. That is the point. Military personnel are listening to Americans conversations and transcribing them even when unrelated to terrorism, the FBI can raid your home, and never tell you, you can be served with papers that you are not allowed to talk about publicly that order you to do unconstitutional things. The only difference between the amendments we are allowing to be violated and the 2nd is the amount of breath people waste on it.

    The second is being whittled away. And if you think that when the time comes, the military, police, FBI, boy scouts, or your neighbors are going to defend it against the powers that be - then you need to a step back from your personal rose colored allegiances and see the truth of what is already happening.

    Argue that such-and-such a semi-auto weapon is too dangerous for the public, and should be banned, and all you are left with is a growing list of illegal items for the public... Actually, strike "public," replace it with the word powerless.

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