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Bush Demands Amnesty for Spying Telecoms 420

The Bush administration and the Electronic Frontier Foundation are poised to square off in front of a San Francisco federal judge Tuesday to litigate the constitutionality of legislation immunizing the nation's telecoms from lawsuits accusing them of helping the government spy on Americans without warrants. "'The legislation is an attempt to give the president the authority to terminate claims that the president has violated the people's Fourth Amendment rights,' the EFF's [Cindy] Cohn says. 'You can't do that.'"
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Bush Demands Amnesty for Spying Telecoms

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  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:18PM (#25954403) Journal

    ...why doesn't he just issue a blanket pardon?

    My guess: he doesn't want to take responsibility for getting the telcos off the hook.

    • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:23PM (#25954455) Journal

      ... why doesn't [Bush] just issue a blanket pardon?

      Perhaps because pardons apply to criminal cases (government vs. person-to-be-punished-for-wrongdoing) while these are civil cases (wronged people demanding damages be paid by those who wronged them). I think the pardon power only applies to the former.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by philspear ( 1142299 )

      ...why doesn't he just issue a blanket pardon?

      Maybe because a pardon could be seen as admitting something illegal happened. Bush has always seemed hellbent on elevating the executive branch. Early on I assumed it was because it meant more power for him, but even now he's just out to vindicate another terrible republican president who said "...when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

    • by Fluffeh ( 1273756 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:42PM (#25954629)
      He wants to get himself off the hook for later, but can't be the one to do it. You can't pardon yourself, but if you stop anyone who will end up pointing the finger at you getting in trouble - they won't point the finger now will they?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I would love to see parent modded 'funny', as I really don't think any of Bushes decisions were ever influenced by what people might think of him when it comes to doing the right thing for the country... well at very least not this time. Also, in terms of "getting them off", I don't believe he is of the opinion that they did anything wrong, just that there is some kind of loop-hole that could be interpreted to say that what they were doing something wrong.

      And how could it be wrong? It saved us from the ter
    • by jbeach ( 852844 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @01:24AM (#25955873) Homepage Journal
      I think the hangup there is, someone has to be convicted of a crime before they can be pardoned. And a conviction requires an investigation.

      And Bush et al would much prefer there is no further investigation at all.


      1) I am SURE none of those telcos would have participated in this activity without complete and total assurances from the Bush administration...which these companies will produce if they think for a second they will be convicted.

      2) It seems quite likely that any convictions will occur during the Obama administration - which almost certainly won't pardon the telcos. Why would Obama put his neck out, for things which didn't even occur during his administration?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sumdumass ( 711423 )

        Nixon was pardoned before any crime was charged formally. They didn't even impeach him. So it doesn't look like there has to be a conviction for a pardon to happen.

        1) I am SURE none of those telcos would have participated in this activity without complete and total assurances from the Bush administration...which these companies will produce if they think for a second they will be convicted.

        Current law and the law at the time of the TSP was that if a telecom was presented with a warrant or legal document

  • What could... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by lordsid ( 629982 )
    What could possibly go wrong?
  • You can't do that? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hedronist ( 233240 ) * on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:19PM (#25954419)

    Sure you can!

    Just have Poppy buy you into office so that the people that have the strings attached to important parts of your body can pull what they want, when the want.

    Seriously, we have just witnessed the greatest bald-faced rape of the Constitution since ... forever. The thing (or the most recent thing) that turns my stomach is that there is a very good chance they will get away with it.

    • by JackieBrown ( 987087 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:50PM (#25954693)

      Hoover and the Red scare?

      What we did to the Japanese under Roosevelt after Perl Harbor?

      Hell, what we did to the Germans during the first WW

      This isn't the first time we (Americans) looked and saw the enemy in every corner and it won't be the last.

      People that say Bush is the worst we ever had have no sense of history

      • by Dragonslicer ( 991472 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:58PM (#25954761)

        Perl Harbor

        Only on Slashdot?

      • by rlwhite ( 219604 ) <> on Monday December 01, 2008 @11:51PM (#25955193)

        Actually, Bush has a strong case for worst ever based on the combination of his catastrophes.

        Sure, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, and Nixon each had a hand in a mismanaged war. John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, and FDR each violated civil liberties to stop alleged enemies of the state. Many presidents have overseen the causes of recessions and other economic maladies. How many have been through all 3? (I can't think of any.) How many have polled approval ratings in the low 20s? (Nixon and Harding since polling began almost 90 years ago.) It's pretty easy to objectively put Bush in the bottom 3 presidents now, without judging the extent of the current economic troubles.

        If the predictions that this is the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression are at all accurate (and macro-economic predictions are often self-fulfilling for psychological reasons), and the many ethical allegations against Bush prove true, Bush would have a strong case as the worst president ever, on relatively objective grounds as far as the matter goes.

        That is to say nothing of how far he has departed from the philosophies and policies he and his party campaigned on.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @02:39AM (#25956299)

          In short: Fuck him.

          Fuck everyone involved.

          The immunity needs to be nullified, and nullified now. It's a blatant violation of the constitution. If a bunch of telecom execs and secretive politicians aren't in jail getting gang raped before this is all over, then we might as well just pull the constitution out of its glass case, grab every copy of it and the bill of rights, toss them in pile and toss in a lit match.

          Yes, I really think it's that bad, and fuck anyone that says otherwise. They obviously don't understand (or worse, simply don't care) what's at stake if the precedent of violating the Bill of Rights with absolutely no consequences manages to stand.

          Fuck them all. Take their immunity away and fuck them all like the money-grubbing, self-serving whores that they are.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            The execs did as ordered by the politicians.

            I'd wouldn't mind if Bush was gangraped in prison over his presidency and his crimes to mankind and western civilization. However, the execs only did as they were ordered to do. Is punishing people for failing to stand up against the law a good policy? In a democracy (or republic with general elections), the right thing to do is to expose the laws and the politicians and then hope the public will care when they vote in the next election.

            • by neomunk ( 913773 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @09:54AM (#25958573)

              I'm sorry, I didn't realize that as civilians we were subject to any "orders" other than a proper court order, and even then we have the ability to disregard that court order, but at the expense of punishment. Doing whatever someone with a badge says is exactly how you go from democracy to totalitarianism.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Frosty Piss ( 770223 )

      Just have Poppy buy you into office...

      "Poppy" seems to have stopped talking to "junior" some time ago. He may be regretting his decision to "buy" GWB into office...

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Well, Dad did 'buy' his seat in the big house, though not with cash, with influence, which Dad has been buying, selling, and trading since the 50s or 60s. The guy is a 33rd degree Freemason and sharper than most brand new razor blades.

        The son however, is not quite as sharp as most bowling balls, and thus promptly alienated Dad and refused to listen to any of Dad's brilliant instruction.

    • by thtrgremlin ( 1158085 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @12:45AM (#25955595) Homepage Journal
      I think Lincoln raped our constitution pretty hard with regard to interpretation the voluntary nature of statehood, state sovereignty, 9th & 10th amendments, and eminent domain to just name a few. I am not trying to justify slavery, just that had there been any other means to that end would have been preferable. Also, very little of the civil war had to do with slavery, and much more to do with a federal power grab, to over-simplify the issue. There were also a lot of things that Lincoln did / tried to do that had nothing to do with the civil war or emancipation proclamation that, imho, would have put him as one of the worst presidents ever.

      ok, now flame away about how I have no idea what I am talking about.

      yeah, and others mentioned, that whole Red Scare / McCarthyism was pretty nasty.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Boronx ( 228853 )

        think Lincoln raped our constitution pretty hard with regard to interpretation the voluntary nature of statehood, state sovereignty, 9th & 10th amendments,

        Besides the disaster your interpretation would have created, it's not born out in the Constitution, since Amendments 10 and 9 refer to powers not enumerated in the Constitution, but the power to dispose of US territory is given to Congress in Article 4.

        I am not trying to justify slavery, just that had there been any other means to that end would have

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *

        I think Lincoln raped our constitution pretty hard with regard to interpretation the voluntary nature of statehood, state sovereignty, 9th & 10th amendments, and eminent domain to just name a few.

        I agree -- he and FDR were the worst presidents with regards to federalism/states' rights.

  • by GrpA ( 691294 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:20PM (#25954429)

    Actually he did that. You can't say that "You can't do that", because he did that. The Bush Administration is asking for retrospective immunity - that's a lot worse than asking for permission to do it.

    The rest of the world is watching this one closely as well - it's not just the US that's interested in the outcome of this incident.


    • retroactive

    • by kilgortrout ( 674919 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @11:45PM (#25955141)
      If he did it, he didn't do it by himself. He did it with the aid of a Democratic Congress in passing the requested retroactive immunity legislation and IIRC our president-elect voted for that law as well. Democrat or Republican, big money from big telcos talks very loud. Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.
      • by Maxmin ( 921568 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @01:06AM (#25955731)

        Interestingly, the Bush admin is reported to be tracking American journalists' phonecalls, in an effort to catch leakers from his own team.

        Government Begins Tracking Phone Calls of Journalists []

        That was back in May '06. Fuck knows if this is technically legal, given all the executive orders and constitutionally dodgey laws this decade...

        But the First Amendment seems to want to apply here.

        "Aging constitutional amendment seeks job. Superpowers include: protecting freedoms of speech, press, assembly and religion, occasionally acting as governmental grievance liaison."

        "Work history: 1791-2001 United States, job title: First Amendment. Fired for insubordination, by leader of Republican party."

        Last seen along I-495, holding sign: "Will work for freedom, liberty and democracy."

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @03:34AM (#25956615)

        In all fairness, the immunity was injected into a security bill. The president elect and many dems voted to remove that from the bill in a separate vote, but the repubs lined up to keep it in. Apparently our national security is paramount to the republican agenda, unless you're talking about putting the legal spotlight on their rich buddies in the telco. And that's a fair analysis.

  • Let's Get Serious (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fibrewire ( 1132953 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:25PM (#25954475) Homepage
    All slashdoting aside, how would we deal with this situation? I know we're mainly a bunch of nerds, but aren't we the most influential people on the planet in today's society? What could we seriously do to circumvent this policy? Any ideas? Come on people, we're the brains of the world!
    • by SpiffyMarc ( 590301 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:33PM (#25954551)
      I dunno, I mean I guess we can ... ahhh... fuck dude, I've got a raid tonight, can this wait?
    • by Free the Cowards ( 1280296 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:47PM (#25954677)

      Don't kid yourself. Nerds are good with technology, not politics. These people are as good at bending laws and manipulating courts as the average slashdotter is at recompiling his kernel. Just as the average politician's political expertise doesn't help them at all in the world of technology, our technological expertise doesn't help us at all in their world.

      • Re:Let's Get Serious (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rtconner ( 544309 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @11:18PM (#25954933) Homepage Journal
        I strongly disagree. Nerds are smart people who like to solve hard problems. I have every bit of confidence that is todays nerds were given the power to create a governmental system, it would be completely awesome. If open source and shared information in the technology world are any indication, transparency and security can surely both be achieved.
        • by AmberBlackCat ( 829689 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @01:33AM (#25955931)

          I understand that there are all kinds of open source projects out there, and some better than others. But based on my personal experience with some of the more prominent ones, I seriously believe a government run by open source types would be as terrible as what we have now. The following thoughts are based just on those projects.

          It would respond to complaints about the government with comments like "Go build your own government! Ours is done right! Anybody who is not a constitutional lawyer is an idiot who just doesn't know enough about government!"

          People who want to report potholes, or suggest an amendment to the constitution, would have to check their clocks. Everybody whose name starts with A through K has to file their complaint in the morning, K through P in the afternoon, and the rest have to file their complaint in the evening. Because good user experience is second to efficiency and having the complaints partially sorted as they're filed will make the database sorting algorithm run faster.

          It would have a stupid name. Probably something like UNITED, which is an acronym in which the U stands for "united".

          NASA would get more than 70% of all federal funding. The N would stand for NASA. Eventually it would be replaced with another organization that is exactly the same, except it's called GNASA. And even though it's NASA, the N stands for "Not NASA". Nobody really knows what the ASA stands for. Probably the same thing the NITED stands for.

          The national anthem would be forked into two songs because we'd never agree on whether it should say "O'er the land of the free (as in speech)" or "O'er the land of the free (as in beer)". The pledge of allegience would be the most forked project in the history of the earth.

          Boundary lines would be drawn so that every state has exactly the same number of citizens, so they make a nice Beowulf cluster.

          The military would be the drones from Star Wars. The guy who set them up insists we should not complain about their horrible inaccuracy because they're still in beta.

          The drones would be running android, which is actually working pretty well but none of the drones have bluetooth capability.

          Some guy will come up with the best amendment to the constitution in years but he'll get locked up for killing his wife, so we won't use it.

          The Chewbacca defense will actually work.

          And if it were run by Slashdotters, censorship would be guaranteed by the constitution. Because censorship is basically what moderation is. You take the comments you like and make them more prominent, while taking comments you don't like and making them disappear. So whoever was in power in the beginning will crush anybody who introduces new ideas, resulting in old-boy network groupthink. I'm pretty sure that 24 hours from the time of this post, either it will be at +5 Funny, or only people browsing at -1 will see it.

  • by boxless ( 35756 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:26PM (#25954477)

    Doesn't someone need to be harmed in order to sue? And in order to prove you were harmed, you'd need to have access to state secrets, which can't happen in the new America. Therefore, no harm, no standing to sue, no case.

    I don't think you can sue for a general affront to the Constitution.

    • This is not "suing". It is a challenge to the constitutionality of a law. You don't need to show harm to succeed in that. You just need to show that the proposed law is in conflict with the constitution, in which case the constitution wins.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jtcm ( 452335 ) *

        The GP is correct. You need standing [] in order to bring a consitutional issue to court.

        In the United States, for example, a person cannot bring a suit challenging the constitutionality of a law unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that the plaintiff is (or will be) harmed by the law.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:30PM (#25954513)

    The telecoms involved should be seriously fried for their eager collaboration with unconstitutional, Orwellian no-probable-cause surveillance. I am pleased to know that they overstepped themselves to the point of hacking Obama's old flip-phone account.,2817,2335143,00.asp

    They deserve to have an incoming President on their hands who knows how untrustworthy they can be.

    Vote with your dollars: go over to Credo.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      I would say "must be a troll," but Poe's Law says otherwise.

      You do know it was a few dipshits working for Verizon who have now been fired, right?
  • by Hal_Porter ( 817932 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:44PM (#25954639)

    He'd catch the terrorists first, worry about paperwork and suspensions afterwards.

    I think that's a lesson for all you Fourth Amendment Nazis.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      He'd catch the terrorists first, worry about paperwork and suspensions afterwards.

      And yet FISA already let the government do that.

    • by TechWrite ( 1172477 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @11:06PM (#25954833)

      And as long as he filed his paperwork no later than 72 hours after starting surveillance, there would be no problem under FISA. This "we need every power imaginable with no oversight or you're a pot smoking terrorist loving liberal commie bastard" false dichotomy has just got to stop. FISA was more than enough as it was and this new legislation is a power grab, plain and simple.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @10:56PM (#25954751)

    Obama voted for it too you know.

    If he were really against it as some of the more delusion supporters claim, then he would issue a statement at this time supporting making it unconstitutional. Expect no statement.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 01, 2008 @11:40PM (#25955105)
      Obama made it pretty clear he only voted for it as part of a larger bill, feeling that the benefits of having it pass outweighed the down side. He doesn't support this; however, it just isn't quite as much of an issue for him as many of us would like it to be.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by internic ( 453511 )

      Obama voted for an amendment to strip the immunity provision. IIRC, he also voted against an early version of the Protect America Act that included the immunity provision. When they couldn't strip the immunity and Bush had let months go by refusing to vote on any version not including immunity, only then did he vote for the bill containing the immunity. He stated something to the effect that he opposed the immunity but felt that other portions of the bill continuing/clarifying certain surveillance power

  • by LockeOnLogic ( 723968 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @11:00PM (#25954783)

    The administration also says the immunity is warranted because the lawsuits threaten to expose government secrets.

    This was why immunity should NOT be warranted! And before you start screaming national security, exactly what kind of information that could be brought out in a civil case which would damage national security? Methods? Competent terrorists aren't going to be caught by dragnet style filtering anyway unless its technical prowess is far beyond what most experts agree is currently possible.

    This is either protecting corporate cronies, protecting themselves, or most likely both.

  • If you have not considered getting involved with ACLU, then now it is the perfect time. There is much more at stake here than just a law. From the article:

    SAN FRANCISCO - The Bush administration on Tuesday will try to convince a federal judge to let stand a law granting retroactive legal immunity to the nation's telecoms, which are accused of transmitting Americans' private communications to the National Security Agency without warrants.

    This is retoractive! First of all, it means that the companies canno

  • No where in the constitution is there an express 'right to privacy', this is a fact, if you disagree try reading the document.

    The 'right' to privacy is a right made by the USSC and though we have a long standing tradition of following laws made on the bench there is nothing that the court can do to enforce its own laws.

    If we want to live in a society free of totalitarian style thought policing and information scanning then we need more than simple rulings against warrantless wiretaps. What we must have
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by c4str4t0 ( 1415371 ) the 4th amendment.
    • 9th Amendment Too (Score:5, Informative)

      by maz2331 ( 1104901 ) on Monday December 01, 2008 @11:41PM (#25955121)

      "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

      The 4th specifies the groundwork for it, and the Supreme Court has ruled that it exists.

      Also, the wiretaps can be a violation of the 1st as well, because they could chill protected speech.

      I'd say one good definition of "epic fail" (as they love to say on Digg) is to have an argument beaten, crunched, and steam-rollered by three Bill of Rights amendments.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Legion303 ( 97901 )

      "No where in the constitution is there an express 'right to privacy', this is a fact, if you disagree try reading the document."

      That is indeed a fact. On the other hand, if you *understand* the constitution (as opposed to just skimming over the words while moving your lips), you know that the founders understood that rights are inherent, that no one can take them away, and that it would be impossible to enumerate this infinite number of rights. They revisited this idea in the ninth amendment after listing s

  • by PinchDuck ( 199974 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @12:41AM (#25955579)

    Well, he already voted for FISA, so I guess he won't. Damn.

  • Nixon (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Joebert ( 946227 ) on Tuesday December 02, 2008 @01:24AM (#25955883) Homepage
    How did Nixon say that again ?

    I'm not saying the President is allowed to do illegal things, I'm saying when the President does it, it's not illegal.

"Oh my! An `inflammatory attitude' in alt.flame? Never heard of such a thing..." -- Allen Gwinn, allen@sulaco.Sigma.COM