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Government Privacy Your Rights Online

Senate To Reconsider Wiretap Immunity 222

bughunter passes on a report from Wired Threat Level about the effort by Democratic lawmakers to roll back some provisions of the Patriot Act. Three of its provisions expire at the end of this year, and the reform attempt is expected to be attached to legislation to renew them. "Lawmakers are considering key changes to the Patriot Act and other spy laws — proposals that could give new life to lawsuits accusing the nation's telecommunications companies of turning over Americans' electronic communications to the government without warrants. On Oct. 1, the Senate Judiciary Committee likely will consider revoking that immunity legislation as it works to revise the Patriot Act and other spy laws with radical changes that provide for more government transparency and more privacy protections." Among the other likely goals of reform efforts, according to Wired, are limiting the government's power to issue National Security Letters, and limiting "black bag" searches to cases of spying or terrorism — 65% of past searches were authorized in drug cases.
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Senate To Reconsider Wiretap Immunity

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  • Related: (Score:4, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday September 25, 2009 @09:08AM (#29538593) Homepage Journal

    Senate Democrats propose surveillance law changes [slashdot.org]Wednesday September 23, @08:29AM

    The AP is reporting [yahoo.com] (via yahoo) that Senate Democrats are actually trying to restore some of Americans' rights and freedoms that were lost when government panicked after 9-11.

    In making standards tougher for the government in secret requests to a special foreign surveillance court, the bill would require that the records sought be relevant to an investigation. At a minimum, the records must be linked to a suspected agent of a foreign power.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @09:19AM (#29538693) Homepage

    I thought this was a troll, but it isn't.

    Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions [wired.com]

  • by oyenstikker ( 536040 ) <slashdot@sbyrn e . org> on Friday September 25, 2009 @09:32AM (#29538817) Homepage Journal

    When you have a democracy and your government failed, you failed.

  • Re:Show of Hands (Score:5, Informative)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday September 25, 2009 @09:51AM (#29538975) Homepage Journal

    The thing is, the Democrats are as power hungry as the Republicans. And the PATRIOT act was passed by a nearly unanimous vote.

    A pox on both their houses, I say.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 25, 2009 @10:08AM (#29539163)

    Bypass Wired and NYT's filtering and read the source for yourself: the Administrative Office of the United States Court report on applications for delayed-notice search warrants.

    You want Table 2, on page 6.

    Top categories in order of frequency of report: drugs, fraud, weapons, tax evasion, racketeering, "unspecified," fugitive, theft... terrorism is so far down the list that it doesn't get a percentage to show its proportionality. In terms of raw frequency, there were 843 drug-related reports, and 5 terrorism-related reports.

  • Re:Show of Hands (Score:3, Informative)

    by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @10:26AM (#29539353) Journal

    This is all smoke and mirrors designed to make you think they are doing something about nothing.

    The problem is that the telecom immunity didn't give any immunity that wasn't already there. The Democrats know this, including Obama who not only voted for the immunity, but sent the justice department to court in February to defend it when the EFF attemped to get it shot down.

    Under the 1968 wiretap laws, if the government presented anyone a document stating the legal authority for the wire tap- that they were legally able to obtain the information requested, the people who assisted them would have a complete defense against any civil or criminal actions against them. The 1978 FISA laws amended that to include warantless wire taps not to mention the other warantless provisions outside of FISA. When Bush abused the law on the wiretaps, he marked those documents classified as national security documents which forbids the telecoms from disclosing information about them unless they are wanting to commit a felony that could carry 5 years to life with the possibility of the death sentence.

    The telecom immunity set up a secret court of review that operates under FISA. The only way the telecoms could get immunity under it would be if they had the documents already prescribed by the complete defense provisions already in place. The Court of Review would review the documents, ask the federal agencies if they issued it, then asks them to explain why it's still a national security interest and needs to remain classified. If it isn't legitimate, or it doesn't exist, no immunity happens. If it's legitimate and still needs to be classified, the Court of review instructs the court holding the actions against the telecom that the case needs to be droped and never brought up again. If the secrete classification isn't justified, the document is returned to the telecoms with immunity from prosecution for using it as their complete defense and it's up to the judge holding the action over them whether to keep it classified or not.

    All the telecom immunity does is create a vehicle that existing immunity could be realized without causing exposure to a serious felony opr disclosing national security secrets. Democrats know this, but they also know that the average America does so they are bringing this up for the sole purpose to posture themselves for reelection. The JUSTICE act that was recently discussed was sponsered by at least one person who is up for reelection next year. That's all this is about. Evidently democrats on congress have done little to justify their own reelection and feel the need to run against Bush instead of running on their accomplishments.

    DO not expect anything more to happen with this other then talk and claims of wanting to prosecute the Bush administration for the wiretaps. Better yet, look into exactly how the telecom immunity provides that immunity and you will know first hand that this is nothing more them posturing with smoke and mirrors.

  • by tomkost ( 944194 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @10:50AM (#29539589)
    and later made it permanent.
  • by locallyunscene ( 1000523 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @10:52AM (#29539609)
    The article you link doesn't say what you're saying. In fact it says the administration has the same stance as the summary. They're planning on renewing all three provisions, but including more protections for civil liberties.

    I'd much rather they simply let all three expire, but your implied assertions that the Obama administration is opposed to adding civil liberty protections to the bill and is at odds with congress are both unsupported.
  • Re:ex post facto (Score:3, Informative)

    by bidule ( 173941 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @11:03AM (#29539751) Homepage

    The actions the telecoms took were legal under the PATRIOT act, which was the law of the land at the time. You can't just go back and make them illegal now, that's blatantly unconstitutional (and a much graver assault on all of our liberties than unwarranted wiretaps).

    It was unconstitutional and illegal, until they passed a law to make it retroactively legal. They knew where they were going, they should pay the price.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 25, 2009 @11:11AM (#29539853)


    The truth is out there, don't let you or or your friends do any drug without research.

  • Re: Nonsense (Score:4, Informative)

    by Chris Burke ( 6130 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @11:28AM (#29540059) Homepage

    The actions the telecoms took were legal under the PATRIOT act

    No, they weren't. Not even USAPATRIOT authorizes unlimited spying on domestic sources with no warrant. And nobody in the government has ever even claimed that the actions were legal under USAPATRIOT. The only statutory legal justification for the program would have been FISA and they did not go through FISA. The only claim on legality they ever made was AG Gonzales' legal theory that the President can ignore any law he wants as long as he thinks it's really important for national security that he do so -- a legal theory with what I will generously call "flaws".

    Not even John Ashcroft thought the surveillance program was legal, and he was a huge proponent of USAPATRIOT. Does that not tell you something?

    That's why Congress had to retroactively make those actions legal. That is the ex post facto law. Undoing an ex post facto law is not, itself, ex post facto.

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @12:13PM (#29540579) Journal

    Not at all true.

    The contracts Qwest was locked out of were the contracts to move/route phone lines to central locations to make it easier to tap. In short, that's exactly what they refused to do so why should they keep contracts for work they refused to do. BTW, the moving of the phone lines were covered by the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act so it wasn't some moral protection the CEO was taking.

    In fact, the CEO's dealing were completely separate from this and the jury did not buy his excuses when the evidence was laid on the table. The only reason you are able to bring the idea up is because a criminal attempted to use it as a last resort attempt to stay out of jail. No one bought it.

  • by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Friday September 25, 2009 @03:10PM (#29542627) Homepage

    In what way does the administration have the same stance as the summary?

    The summary says:

    Democratic lawmakers to roll back some provisions of the Patriot Act... revoking that immunity legislation... limiting the government's power to issue "national security letters," and limiting "black bag" searches...

    The original AC says:

    Obama is opposed to watering down the Patriot act.

    The article I linked to says:

    The Obama administration has told Congress it supports renewing three provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire at year's end.

    supports renewing != limiting, rolling back. The only thing that indicates any similarity in thinking is this part:

    might consider "modifications" to the act

    might consider modifications != limiting, rolling back

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