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EFF Wins Release of Secret Court Opinion: NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional 524

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-it dept.
mspohr writes "For over a year, EFF has been fighting the government in federal court to force the public release of an 86-page opinion of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). Issued in October 2011, the secret court's opinion found that surveillance conducted by the NSA under the FISA Amendments Act was unconstitutional and violated 'the spirit of' federal law."
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EFF Wins Release of Secret Court Opinion: NSA Surveillance Unconstitutional

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  • Shut it down (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:00PM (#44637589)

    Shut it down......Shut it all down NOW!!!

  • Farce royale (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BSAtHome (455370) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:06PM (#44637649)

    You at the other side of the pond have generated a farce beyond fantasy. Create secret court, abuse powers, secret court says "non", ignore, expand and repeat.

    As a tech I'd say your system has found a resonance point where the loop-gain is so much greater than one that it might cause the earth's rotation to change....

  • From TFA (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:07PM (#44637659) Homepage Journal

    The documents showed that the problems were relatively small when compared with the vast scale of N.S.A. surveillance conducted from the United States on noncitizens abroad. The ruling estimated that the agency intercepts more than 250 million communications that way each year. And the N.S.A. fixed the problems to the courtâ(TM)s satisfaction, the documents showed.

    Interesting...

  • Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PerformanceDude (1798324) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:08PM (#44637665)
    So they got a court opinion that said it was unconstitutional, yet they just ignored it. Someone must be accountable for that! Aren't all US federal officers sworn to uphold the constitution of the United States of America - all the way up to the president? At the very least, someone should be tried for contempt of court. No matter the justification and possible reasons for the NSA program, they can't just ignore the highest law of the land. Or can they? It is a very slippery slope.
    • by Virtucon (127420)

      The President. He's the Executive in Chief and the NSA reports to him as does the FBI and the CIA.

      So with a Republican majority in the House, a barely tenable majority in the Senate and members of his own party calling BS. How long before you hear impeachment?

      I can't wait to see the Sunday morning pundit shows. Damn too bad I'm not working in DC this summer it would be great to hang out in the gallery and watch.

      • Re:Accountability (Score:4, Interesting)

        by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:42PM (#44638053)

        How long before you hear impeachment?

        How about right now [whitehouse.gov]?

        (By the way, you do realize the Republican pundit shows are just going to continue whining about Obamacare and other partisan but unimportant bullshit, right? Dealing with an issue like this is really up to us, the Actual Citizens, not the idiots on the radio.)

      • Re:Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

        by PopeRatzo (965947) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @10:54PM (#44639069) Homepage Journal

        The President. He's the Executive in Chief and the NSA reports to him as does the FBI and the CIA.

        But correcting government wrongdoing always has to climb the ladder.

        Clapper, etc need to be brought up on charges first. Then let's see what shakes loose.

        I'm not sure impeachment is even anything like a solution. The next guy and the guy after that are absolutely going to use the secret laws in the same ways.

        We have to start by electing a Congress of people who reject the police state. Right now, there's only a handful, and they're not the ones you think. Someone who thinks hospitals and doctors need to turn over their records of women having abortion are not exactly the model of "small government".

        There are some real civil libertarians in Congress, but they're mostly not the ones who are claiming they believe in "small, limited government". It's not civil liberties when all of the snooping is being turned over to private enterprise, you know.

    • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:31PM (#44637899)
      I've created a petition [whitehouse.gov] demanding that the administration to hold itself accountable (or that Congress should do so if the administration won't).
    • Re:Accountability (Score:5, Informative)

      by darkmeridian (119044) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (gnauhc.mailliw)> on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @10:37PM (#44638945) Homepage

      Did you read the decision? It sounds like you based your comment on a quick read of the summary. The decision focused on a very specific issue:

      The ruling focused on a program under which the N.S.A. has been searching domestic Internet links for communications â" where at least one side is overseas â" in which there are âoestrong selectorsâ indicating insider knowledge of someone who has been targeted for foreign-intelligence collection. One example would be mentioning a personâ(TM)s private e-mail address in the body of an e-mail.

      Most of the time, the system brings up single communications, like an e-mail or text message. But sometimes many messages are packaged and travel in a bundle that the N.S.A. calls âoemulti-communication transactions.â A senior intelligence official gave one example: a Web page for a private e-mail in-box that displays subject lines for dozens of different messages â" each of which is considered a separate communication, and only one of which may discuss the person who has been targeted for intelligence collection.

      While Judge Bates ruled that it was acceptable for the N.S.A. to collect and store such bundled communications, he said the agency was not doing enough to minimize the purely domestic and unrelated messages to protect Americansâ(TM) privacy. In response, the N.S.A. agreed to filter out such communications and store them apart, with greater protections, and to delete them after two years instead of the usual five.

      In short, the court was okay with most of the spying program and the intelligence architecture. The court was not that happy about specific details. That's kind of scary, isn't it, that a court thinks this program is mostly okay?

  • by Cornwallis (1188489) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:12PM (#44637707)

    They'll be put on Double Secret Probation.

  • Yeah Okay... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fustakrakich (1673220) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:15PM (#44637733) Journal

    So now what?

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:15PM (#44637739)

    How exactly does it get out of the FISA court into the Supreme Court and would Roberts have to recuse himself because he appointed most of the FISA judges?

    Time for more popcorn.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Supreme Court Justices don't have to recuse themselves. They should, but the normal rules that govern other judges don't apply. Ultimately for better or for worse, they're appointed for life, so until they die or resign, there's basically nothing that can be done about them.

      Which is why douches like Roberts, Scalia and Thomas are such a problem, none of them have any particularly firm commitment to the rule of law, only to continuing their ideologies, regardless of constitutionality.

  • by dido (9125) <dido@@@imperium...ph> on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:23PM (#44637819)

    The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.

  • Tipping point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:24PM (#44637831)

    This is legitimate prejudice for starting a revolution.
    Your government and leading class has to learn how democracy gets done.
    Everyone shall have this very definition of democracy hardwired in their brains for the centuries to come.

    The evil doers will have to admit it painfully for best results, fear has to change sides.

    The world is watching you USA.

    • Re:Tipping point (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:44PM (#44638079)

      Revolution isn't the answer. The answer is to stop voting for candidates that are promising to destroy the government and fail to even pretend to have plans to improve the situation. Ultimately, unless Grover Norquist is tried for sedition, along with the various GOP candidates that signed his fealty pledge, there's going to be no particular legitimacy for a large number of legislators.

      • by Nerdfest (867930)

        Wide swaths of your government from top to bottom is repeatedly ignoring your constitution in order to act against the people of your country. Revolution is most certainly an acceptable answer.

      • Re:Tipping point (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:14PM (#44638375)

        We have 2 political parties in this country.
        They dictate the issues.
        The write the rules governing how you create a party, how you get on a ballet.
        Nearly everyone in the media belongs to one of the two parties. The parties control the message.
        You basically can not vote for anyone if they do not belong to one of the parties. You can write in a name, but the fact of the matter is it's nearly impossible to co-ordinate a write-in voting effort.

        Our government is controlled by a single party. They appear to be 2 parties, but in reality they both act the same. They have slightly differing goals but they trade and make deals to get what they want in every bill. They are effectively the same party with 2 differing internal factions that argue over details. The Patriot act DID get passed after all... So did Obamacare... It's all a show.

        Prison for praise is not worth thinking
        Sin is still in and our ballots are shrinking
        So unleash the dogs - the only solution
        Forgive and forget, fuck no
        I'm talking about a revolution

        Prison for praise - the obvious answer
        Once had power mad - living disaster
        Don't fuck with me 'cos I'm on a freedom train
        That bears no name - this time
        I'm voting with a bullet

        Bonus points if you know who wrote that without using Google ;-)

        • Re:Tipping point (Score:5, Informative)

          by LourensV (856614) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @02:28AM (#44640009)

          We have 2 political parties in this country. They dictate the issues. The write the rules governing how you create a party, how you get on a ballet. Nearly everyone in the media belongs to one of the two parties. The parties control the message. You basically can not vote for anyone if they do not belong to one of the parties. You can write in a name, but the fact of the matter is it's nearly impossible to co-ordinate a write-in voting effort.

          I'm not from the US, but given all that's happened in the past 15 years it seems to me that at this point voting either Republican or Democrat in any federal election should be considered treason. A vote for either of these parties is a vote for a government of the people, by the elite, for the corporations, and as I understand it, that wasn't quite the idea of your country. Perhaps a write-in or third party vote is a wasted vote, but at least you're not actively voting for this abomination.

          As for alternatives besides your current third parties, in the most recent elections in Italy (which had similar issues) the Five Star Movement [wikipedia.org] got almost a third of the vote in what was previously a two-party (or two-coalition) system, with a strictly online and on-the-streets campaign (they're boycotting the Berlusconi-controlled mainstream media). They're promoting amongst others more direct (e-)democracy, limited terms in both houses of congress filled by ordinary people who take a few years out of their lives to serve the country, and reduction in campaign spending.

          It's certainly not perfect: they are having issues with disagreements within the party, it turns out online voting doesn't work too well technically, and some of their other policy ideas probably wouldn't work in the US. You'd need your own version of such a party for sure, fix some things, and then it still will be a struggle to make it work. But it shows that it's not impossible to break a two-party system even if it controls the mainstream media, and it's worth a try. Even inexperienced and/or somewhat incompetent representatives would be an improvement over what you currently have as long as they're at least honestly trying to represent the people.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jpublic (3023069)

      Our sometimes flagrant disregard of the Constitution has not produced chaos or totalitarianism; on the contrary, it has helped us to grow and prosper.

      We're slipping towards a police state and he says this nonsense? Yes, just ignore the damn thing; we've done so in the past, so it's okay!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What a load of BS. A NYT writer makes an opinion that the government should IGNORE the parts of the Constitution he doesn't like and uphold the parts he does like. You either agree with him, or his new rules allow him to take all your possessions and toss you in jail forever without trial.

      This is your typical liberal thinking. They KNOW their ideas are failures and will never pass the general public, especially as amendments to the Constitution. So instead of that tedious debating ideas and winning supp

      • A NYT writer makes an opinion that the government should IGNORE the parts of the Constitution he doesn't like and uphold the parts he does like. ... This is your typical liberal thinking.

        The author of that op-ed is a conservative. You were saying?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mc6809e (214243)

      Whenever these stories come out, I am uncomfortably reminded of conservative constitution-worship.

      Be grateful.

      Conservative constitution-worship helps protect you from them.

      On the other hand liberals are open-minded enough that they can interpret the constitution as a living document so they're free to pretty much do as they please, like assassinating American citizens without due process, using the NSA to spy on Americans, targeting political opponents with the IRS, etc.

      Because hey, the constitution is just

    • Whenever these stories come out, I am uncomfortably reminded of conservative constitution-worship.

      Why? The point here is that the Constitution has been ignored. With more genuine fealty to it, we wouldn't have this problem. If ever there was an example of why the Constitution should be obeyed, and the dangers of conveniently ignoring the parts someone doesn't like, this is it.

    • by c0lo (1497653) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:25PM (#44638467)

      Sure... throw the constitution over board to gain "fiscal stability". Somehow reminds me Hitler's ascension to power.

  • Accountability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:34PM (#44637939)

    There appears to be no accountability is the US Government any more.
    Laws are only for the “little people” Taxes are only for the “little people”. Profits are only for the “real people”
    Private profit, public bailouts. Money is free speech.
    The question is, “What can we do?” Gerrymandering has made even our votes almost useless.
    Any ideas?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @08:39PM (#44637997)

    Don't worry, they didn't actually violate a law. It was the 'spirit' of the law that was violated.

    Move along people, nothing to see here.

  • Hypothetical (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Esion Modnar (632431) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:18PM (#44638403)
    If the Supreme Court ruled that some Government activity was unconstitutional, and the Government (including executive and legislative branches) just shrugged and continued said activity, what then? Or what if Congress voted to impeach the President, but he ignored this action, what then? Who enforces on the enforcers? Would this be the tipping point to civil war?
  • by mendax (114116) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:30PM (#44638499)

    To quote one of my favorite movie characters, "The shit is about to hit the fan and I want to be here to see it." (Dr. Lazarus in "Outland" in case you're curious.)

    The publication of this court ruling is going to make it much easier for a federal judge and subsequent appellate judges to slam the NSA down hard. I'm not certain about the law on this but it might also make it possible to send certain NSA officials to prison. My prediction: Heads at the NSA are about to roll and I will not be surprised if one of them is Gen. Alexander. Because he is a serving general and this shit happened on active duty, he could be courtmartialed, be stripped of rank, and lose his pension, a just punishment I believe for such a grave violation of the people's civil rights.

    Unfortunately, the heads will not be literally be rolling on the floor, and perhaps that's a good thing. It's nice to contemplate, however. It would have made one hell of a great game of pool on a diabolical billiard table. General Alexander's head would be the cue ball. Some people more evil than myself might possess the belief that a certain other person's [wikipedia.org] head should be the 8-ball but I'm not one of them. But it's hilarious to visualize!

  • EFF (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slashdime (818069) on Wednesday August 21, 2013 @09:41PM (#44638569)
    Donate to the EFF right now. Do not wait. Donate this very minute.
  • by L. J. Beauregard (111334) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @12:02AM (#44639475)

    ELECTRONIC FRONTIER FOUNDATION, Plaintiff.
    versus
    NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY, Defendant.

    [Redacted] [redacted] of the [redacted]. [Redacted] [redacted] and [100 pages of completely blacked out text].

    We rule, therefore that [redacted] [redacted] [redacted].

  • by Tanman (90298) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @01:38AM (#44639861)

    I just want to make sure I have the right series of events here, from the public perspective:

    1. A previous elected official and congress enact some overreaching laws in response to a terrorist attack
    2. A politician who makes a bunch of promises against these programs is elected the new President
    3. The now-elected politician strengthens and enforces those programs rather than shuttering them
    4. There is some kind of a court decision but it is sealed/secret. FOIA requests are made by EFF.
    5. A whistle blower comes forward and exposes the illegal activities to the public because his bosses and the elected official have continued said operations. Since his bosses are the Executive Branch and responsible for enforcing the law, he has nobody to report his findings to other than the public.
    6. The elected official and members of congress declare said whistle blower a traitor for exposing their methods.
    7. It is revealed that the court had previously, as in years ago, ruled that the activities reported on by the whistle blower are illegal. Meaning the whistle blower is not just reporting the activities, but he is reporting that the President of the United States, the heads of major departments, the Attorney General, and a bunch of other People In Power have been knowingly breaking the law to empower the government. Not only, in fact, are they doing something that the court already ruled is illegal, but they sealed the court's decision so that the public would not know about it.

    Did I miss anything?

    Oh yeah,

    8. Snowden is probably still fucked.

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