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New "JUSTICE" Act Could Roll Back Telecom Immunity 263

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the little-brother-retaliates dept.
Asmodae writes to tell us about a bill proposed in Congress that could roll back telecom retroactive immunity along with adding other privacy safeguards. The "Judicious Use of Surveillance Tools in Counter-Terrorism Efforts" (JUSTICE) Act advocates the "least intrusive means" of information collection and imposes many limitations on the process. "One of the most significant aspects of the JUSTICE Act is that it will remove the retroactive immunity grants that were given to the telecom companies that participated in the NSA warrantless surveillance program. The companies that cooperated with the surveillance program likely violated several laws, including section 222 of the Communications Act, which prohibits disclosure of network customer information. The immunity grants have prevented the telecommunications companies that voluntarily participated in this program from being held accountable in court."
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New "JUSTICE" Act Could Roll Back Telecom Immunity

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  • by nomadic (141991)
    Finally, an acronym that might be completely the opposite of what it stands for.
    • Re:ooh (Score:4, Informative)

      by nomadic (141991) <nomadicworld@NoSPAm.gmail.com> on Friday September 18, 2009 @06:19PM (#29472191) Homepage
      Oops, meant "might not be completely the opposite of what it stands for."
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by ElKry (1544795)
        So you meant completely the opposite of what your sentence stood for?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by denmarkw00t (892627)

        Actually, you had it right the first time. You see, as pointed out above, this isn't really JUSTICE in any sense: the telecoms were doing what they're gov't asked them in a time of fear and urgency, and the telecoms said "well, we have two choices:"

        1) "Not only is this illegal, but its also wrong to invade privacy like that. No." Government definitely doesn't listen and/or just ignores what the telecoms want from the FCC later down the road. Public gets mad when government is all like "Hey, we asked for he

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by element-o.p. (939033)
          Sometimes it's tough to do the right thing. Life's not fair, Santa Claus is really your mom and dad, etc. News at 11:00.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dgatwood (11270)

          #1: obey the law and require the government to actually take the trivial steps required to get warrants in a FISA court. You protect the public's rights, protect your own backside, and force government to follow its own rules.

          #2: break the law and become criminals. You break the law and encourage the intelligence community to be lazy (get everything and sort through it later).

          How is this a difficult choice again? #2 really doesn't help anyone. The only explanation I can think of for companies bending so

        • "Not only is this illegal, but its also wrong to invade privacy like that. No." Government definitely doesn't listen and/or just ignores what the telecoms want from the FCC later down the road. Public gets mad when government is all like "Hey, we asked for help against these terrorists but [BIG TELCO] said 'No.'" Telcos are bad guys.

          So, when someone might make me look bad if I don't murder someone for them, that absolves me of murder? No. Illegal is illegal, wrong is wrong, despite whatever cost it may have if you uphold those standards. No matter what kind of pressure they were under, the telcos are still responsible for their actions.

        • When asked to perform an act you know to be immoral as well as illegal, all bets are off, no matter who or when you are asked. Stop making excuses for people all of whom should have known better.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by denmarkw00t (892627)

          I just want to say something to everyone who has replied: I'm not saying the telcos shouldn't be held responsible, I'm just saying that if they knew it was illegal and immoral, you better damn believe the government knew it was illegal and immoral too, and we shouldn't let them off the hook so easily just because they introduce legislation to protect themselves.

    • But it is "JUoSTiCTE" or "JUSTCTE". They can't compete with geeks creating acronyms...

  • by Dare nMc (468959) on Friday September 18, 2009 @06:18PM (#29472185)

    hate to suggest it, but aren't retroactive laws mostly unconstitutional? I realize this is simply putting the punishments back into place that were in place when the acts were committed. They can remove the immunity that was inacted to block the EFF's civil lawsuits, but thinking they could be held criminally liable again my just be wishful thinking.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If the TELCOs broke the law by willingly participating in the warrentless wiretapping, then there is NOTHING retroactive about this. What IS unconstitutional is that there was an act passed by congress saying that the TELCOs cannot be punished.

       

      One thing I don't like about this JUSTICE Act is that, if it passes, it gives congress the idea that the prior retroactive immunity act was constitutional.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mpoulton (689851)

        If the TELCOs broke the law by willingly participating in the warrentless wiretapping, then there is NOTHING retroactive about this. What IS unconstitutional is that there was an act passed by congress saying that the TELCOs cannot be punished.

        Care to back that up with a citation? Article 1, Section 9 of the US Constitution prohibits the passage of ex post facto laws, which are those that criminalize an act which has already occurred (or increase the punishment for an act occurring prior to the legislation). The legislature most certainly can decriminalize prior acts, however. To do so is not ex post facto, because it does not impose a penalty on anyone for acts already committed. This occurs frequently. It is not clear, however, that cong

        • How about this:

          Amendment IV [archives.gov]

          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. (emphasis mine)

          No court order was given to search the communications of God and NSA only know how many people, nor was there any description
          • ...parent informative. Ex Post Facto law is prosecuting someone for a crime that was not a crime at the time it was commited, like they did to David Hicks.
      • by shentino (1139071)

        One thing's for sure, you can't take away whatever immunity they may have been granted.

        That IS an ex post facto law.

    • by SlashDev (627697) on Friday September 18, 2009 @06:30PM (#29472305) Homepage
      "but aren't retroactive laws mostly unconstitutional?" So are unconstitutional laws to begin with.
    • by v1 (525388) on Friday September 18, 2009 @06:34PM (#29472349) Homepage Journal

      The durable facts that matter is that they committed an offense at the time it was illegal.

      After the fact, they can be granted immunity, and it can be repealed, repeatedly even. The fact that they broke a a law that existed at the time cannot be changed. Only the present enforcement of the past violation can be changed.

      They cannot of course change the definition of what was illegal in the past, or the scope, or the punishment. THAT would be unconstitutional.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sumdumass (711423)

      Nothing will happen.

      Under existing laws, if the government presented the telecoms with documentation claiming the government had authority to get the information, that documentation would be an affirmative defense against any criminal or civil action against the telecoms. This was in the title 3 provisions of the omnibus crime whatever act passed in 1968 and is still unchanged and in effect today.

      The problem is that the documentation needed to prove the government claimed to have the authority is classified

    • aren't retroactive laws mostly unconstitutional?

      Yes, but that doesn't cover what's going on here. What the telecoms did was already illegal at the time they did it. This doesn't try to prosecute them for acts committed between the time the immunity was granted and now. It will prosecute them for the illegal acts they committed before the immunity was granted. Secondly, the immunity was conditioned on them confessing their sins, so to speak. That hasn't happened, so there is also no breach of contract involved.

    • So what you can't pass is an ex post facto law. What that means is you can't have something that is legal, change it to be illegal, and then prosecute people who did it before it was illegal. So take MDMA as an example. When it was first created, there was nothing illegal about it. The US is basically a "legal by default" nation, if there isn't a law saying you can't do something, you can. So when it was made creating, possessing, and using it were fine. It was then made a scheduled substance and outlawed.

    • by sjames (1099)

      It is only forbidden to prosecute someone for something that wasn't a crime at the time they did it. This WAS at that time a crime, so it's OK.

    • "hate to suggest it, but aren't retroactive laws mostly unconstitutional?"

      I'm a 50yo Aussie who used to think he would never see the US and AU collude at the highest level to prosecute a restrospective law on a political prisoner for domestic propoganda purposes. I was wrong [wikipedia.org]. The fact that Hicks is a dickhead didn't help his case but what bothered me a lot more is that for a few years a large number of people on both sides of the pacific continued to tow the government line long after it became obvious H
  • Their guy got elected president, but has said that he doesn't support legislation like this. In many ways, Obama is only slightly different than Bush. This is fodder for rabid supporters, but doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of actually passing.

    It's also a damned stupid thing for them to do, because pandering to the fringe here only further hampers their party's electoral chances next year.

    But, it's all good, I suppose, because the Administration's actions on the possible prosecution of government

    • by causality (777677)

      In many ways, Obama is only slightly different than Bush.

      Agreed. They all look like marionettes to me.

      It's also a damned stupid thing for them to do, because pandering to the fringe here only further hampers their party's electoral chances next year.

      It's a sad day when people who learn of a corporation illegally conspiring with the federal government to spy on the citizens and don't believe the corporation should do this with impunity are considered members of "the fringe." Really, that's a damned shame

    • by PPH (736903)

      Obama is only slightly different than Bush.

      Bush said we must have this information to fight terrorism. And then he went looking for p0rn downloads.

      Obama says we must have this information to fight terrorism. And then he goes looking for Swiss bank accounts.

      Hey, at least my p0rn collection is safe!

  • Oh, come on (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Friday September 18, 2009 @06:21PM (#29472217) Homepage Journal
    I don't see how that's going to be in the bill when and if it's passed. Obama made it abundantly clear his choice was to "move on", and the Democrats don't quite have the numbers they need to push that through, or the desire. Perhaps it's just a negotiating ploy to get something else out of the right.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      I voted for him, less of two evils and all that jazz, and I must say he does not want to "Move on" he wants to cover up.

      This is just further proof that we really only have one political party in this nation.

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Friday September 18, 2009 @06:41PM (#29472403) Homepage Journal
    The ones that started the problem, from workers of the NSA all up to G.W.Bush, passing for all in the congress that voted for that law, are accountable in any way for that privacy violations?

    Probably those telcos aren't exactly saints, but here the blame is put in the wrong target.
    • Wish I had mod points. Much as I despise the telcos for their complicity, you have raised a really good point.
  • by shentino (1139071)

    Take off every constitution
    You know what you doing
    Move constitution
    For great justice

  • Pardon? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by schwit1 (797399)
    What stops the President from issuing pardons? I'm assuming that if Bush could have he would have.

    I have to wonder if the telcos overheard something compromising and that's why Obama flipped.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Nope, they paid him off. He was at first against it, until he got a nice campaign contribution.

    • by Nyeerrmm (940927)

      As far as I know, pardons are for lifting criminal charges and/or the shortening of punitive measures.

      The immunity provisions, I believe, were targeted at civil suits, not criminal charges, so a presidential pardon wouldn't apply.

  • Telecos usually have EULA's that say voice and data services cannot be used for illegal activities, and are suspect to monitoring for such activities. The Police, FBI, etc usually have a "reasonable cause" loophole that makes it so that they can bypass a warrant if they think someone is doing something illegal and there is no time for a warrant to get issued.

    The problem is that when a warrant is served there is usually a leak in the government that tells the suspect that they are being monitored and they ch

  • So where are the trolls who slagged Obama off after he didn't vote against the immunity bill ?
    Nothing to say ?

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