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  (Source: Reuters)
SCOTUS, presidential nominees appear united: sometimes due process is just not convenient

In a ruling that has a deep impact on domestic surveillance in the short term, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) opted not to review a controversial U.S. federal circuit appeals court decision which upheld legal immunity provisions for telecoms who wiretap at the behest of the federal government.

I. President, Romney Unanimous in Support for Warrantless Wiretaps

Removing immunity would essentially leave telecoms unlikely to comply with warrantless requests, as they could be penalized in court by citizen lawsuits for following warrantelss data demands.  The basis of U.S. criminal law for centuries has been cornered on obtaining warrants to investigate persons of interest.  But over the past several decades, both parties have increasingly argued that due process is inconvenient and at times a threat to national security.

The two parties worked hand in hand to grant cooperating telecoms immunity from lawsuits via "Protect America Act" of 2007 (Pub.L. 110-55S. 1927).

Both Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney support throwing out due process (warrants) in cases where national security is viewed to be at risk -- a policy first put in place by Republican President George W. Bush (with bipartisan support from America's two ruling parties) in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Bush and Obama
President Obama and his predecessor President Bush agree on many things, including that the federal government should be granted unregulated spying on its citizens.
[Image Source:]

Mr. Romney expressed a viewpoint narrowly in line with President Obama's plugging warrantless wiretaps in a recent interview (see below), stating, "If it means we have to go into a mosque to wiretap or a church, then that's exactly where we are gonna go, because we are going to do whatever it takes to protect the American people. And I hear from time to time people say, 'Hey, wait a sec, we have civil liberties to worry about', but don't forget... the most important civil liberty I expect from my government is my right to be kept alive."

In a statement on the SCOTUS ruling, President Obama marched in lock-step with his political rival, with his press office writing [PDF]:

Electronic surveillance for law enforcement and intelligence purposes depends in great part on the cooperation of the private companies that operate the nation's telecommunication system.

If litigation were allowed to proceed against those who allegedly assisted in such activities, the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future, and the possible reduction in intelligence that might result is simply unacceptable for the safety of our nation.

The SCOTUS did not explain why it made its decision to punt in this case.  The only evidence that it made the decision at all is a note in the case docket stating the case will not be heard.

That silent nod to the prevailing sentiment on The Hill is a win for America's two ruling parties, who are unanimous in their belief that the right to "be kept alive" (by the government) mandates spying on citizens without due process now and then.

II. Opponents Continue to Fight on

Of course civil liberties advocacies like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and a handful of politicians like Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) disagree.  

He argues that the American political system has been hijacked by zealots, commenting, "The PATRIOT Act was written many, many years before 9/11, [the attacks simply provided] an opportunity for some people to do what they wanted to do..."

"Democracy isn't all that healthy in this country because if you're in a third party... you don't get in the debates... And if you ever come to the conclusion -- heaven forbid -- that the two parties aren't all that different, then what is left really?"

Ron Paul
Ron Paul is one of the few politicians to support keeping due process, even in the face of the nebulous "terrorist" threat.  [Image Source: NBC]

EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl concurs, adding:

By passing the retroactive immunity for the telecoms' complicity in the warrantless wiretapping program, Congress abdicated its duty to the American people.  It is disappointing that... [the courts] endorsed the rights of telecommunications companies over those over their customers.

But in the current political climate voices like the EFF and Rep. Paul's are mere whispers in a sea of shouts of support.  Without saying a word, the punt by America's most powerful federal court in effect adds one of the loudest voices yet in support of warrantless wiretaps, although it leaves the door open for later revision, should America's political climate drastically change.

Source: The SCOTUS

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Situational Awareness
By EricMartello on 10/12/2012 9:10:55 AM , Rating: 2
I think it's quite easy to get carried away with the conspiracy theories and slippery-slope arguments associated with warrantless wiretapping and other legislature that challenges American's civil rights...but I have to wonder - if a person or organization is suspected of terrorism AND there is enough information to provide 'probable cause' then why is obtaining a warrant such a big deal? It seems like it should be quite straight-forward.

When the patriot act was enacted, it was rational and necessary...but it should have been repealed once we had the information we needed to pursue osama and associated terrorists. At the very least, it should have been revised to cut down on its infringement of US civil rights.

RE: Situational Awareness
By tayb on 10/12/2012 10:03:11 AM , Rating: 4
When the patriot act was enacted, it was rational and necessary

Unless we are at a state of war (we aren't) there is absolutely nothing rational or necessary about violating the constitution and the bill of rights.

Fear mongering. When Democrats voted against the Patriot Act Republicans such as John Boehner publicly chastised Democrats as "voting for terrorism." Yes, voting for maintaining our civil rights is voting for terrorism (sarcasm). Fast forward a few years and now all parties are in favor of the Patriot Act. What a sham.

RE: Situational Awareness
By gamerk2 on 10/12/2012 10:16:01 AM , Rating: 3
Because the Patriot Act has enough support, so going against it is bad politics.

See the root problem here? If the voters support something idiotic, so will the politicians.

RE: Situational Awareness
By WinstonSmith on 10/12/2012 11:16:38 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, idiotic voters allow such things. But the people who are supposed to know all of the details of legislation IN DEPTH because that's THEIR JOB have for quite some time now passed laws that are OBVIOUSLY unconstitutional with the attitude that they'll just let the judicial branch (the Supreme Court) challenge it. However, someone must bring a case against the legislation to challenge it, which takes lots of money and time, and the Supreme Court doesn't have the time to hear every case. Thus, all sorts of things that should have been nixed by them aren't; egregious legislation piles up over time and sets precedents that are then used to pass even more egregious legislation.

It used to be that the legislative and executive branch were very careful about what they passed, carefully deciding whether what they were thinking of doing was constitutional, filtering out the bad stuff. NOT any more.

RE: Situational Awareness
By tayb on 10/12/2012 1:21:13 PM , Rating: 2
Fear mongering.

RE: Situational Awareness
By WinstonSmith on 10/12/2012 10:59:36 AM , Rating: 3
"Unless we are at a state of war (we aren't) there is absolutely nothing rational or necessary about violating the constitution and the bill of rights."

You fail to understand the trick they're using. According to them, we ARE in a (phony) state of war, the "war on terrorism." That is then used to "justify" legislation and measures that gradually take us down the slippery slope.

RE: Situational Awareness
By Ringold on 10/13/2012 5:49:59 PM , Rating: 2
I half agree.. We're absolutely in a state of war, whether we admit it or not doesn't matter because our opponents say we are themselves.

But, violating the constitution to win a war is Pyrrhic victory. Why should America bother to be victorious if the point of America's existence is given up in the process? That's the problem I have with Lincoln, the problem I've got with Roosevelt, and the problem with half the laws passed since 2001. We were founded to have a more limited government and individual liberty then Europe. At this rate, we might as well apply for entrance to the EU and forget this entire experiment.

RE: Situational Awareness
By WinstonSmith on 10/12/2012 10:51:54 AM , Rating: 2
"why is obtaining a warrant such a big deal"

It wasn't and isn't. The secret FISA "Court" had a history of rubber stamping virtually everything even prior to 9/11.

"When the patriot act was enacted, it was rational and necessary"

NO, most of it wasn't. EVERY bit of info needed to stop 9/11 cold was known in spades prior to the attack using the laws and intel assets already in existence. It was a failure to connect the obvious dots due to incompetence, bureaucratic infighting and refusal to share data between agencies.

But, of course, every time that happens with our government, the excuse they use is "we didn't have enough money and assets and the laws were too restrictive" and the general public, having not sufficiently investigated the issue on their own, buys into it.

RE: Situational Awareness
By EricMartello on 10/12/2012 12:28:10 PM , Rating: 2
EVERY bit of info needed to stop 9/11 cold was known in spades prior to the attack using the laws and intel assets already in existence.

It's no secret that politicians use fear mongering to dupe people into supporting things that are not in their best interests. That said, I don't necessarily support the continuance of the patriot act for now and I do believe they COULD HAVE done the job without it, but what you're saying here is a far stretch without any real supporting documentation to back it up.

A lot of people have this "hollywood" perception of the FBI & CIA that they're some omnipotent, all-knowing's least not yet.

Much of the information law enforcement and intelligence operatives rely on is not cross-indexed in one master database, meaning that what seems like an obvious correlation can easily go overlooked because the data is there but not accessible to whoever is conducting the investigations. Cross-indexing the vast amounts of information ALREADY AVAILABLE on US citizens and other people living here as residents or aliens, a good portion of it public record, could also be construed as a civil rights violation...but it would make investigations significantly easier to conduct and faster to complete.

I would file something like the patriot act under a highly conditional state of rule like martial law. Congress could invoke martial law, for some reason, and then opt to never revoke it, effectively turning the US into a military police state.

RE: Situational Awareness
By NellyFromMA on 10/12/2012 12:57:24 PM , Rating: 2
I mean, you basically hit it on the head right there. It's not for that situation for the reason you just outlined.

It's not really getting carried away with conspiracy. It's actually 'situational awareness' on the part of the american citizen.

Warrantless wiretap is 100% unconstitutional particularly when applied to American-to-American conversations.

That's not a conspiracy, its an esily determined assessment of our civil liberties being taken away in the name of a situation that is already handled properly without warrantless wire tapping.

Ron Paul
By mattclary on 10/12/2012 1:28:50 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone who didn't support Ron Paul as a candidate has no right to complain about this. If you didn't know this was a fundamental and exceedingly important difference in the candidates, you should have done a little more research.

RE: Ron Paul
By godshatter on 10/12/2012 4:03:51 PM , Rating: 2
I supported Ron Paul on this, although I don't agree with a lot of what he has as a platform. But since he's not going to be on the ballot, I suggest checking out Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson. He is right in line with Paul on this and similar topics, and the rest of his platform is easier to swallow, imho.

The issue of civil liberties is the main issue I'm using to decide who to vote for.

RE: Ron Paul
By mattclary on 10/12/2012 4:13:58 PM , Rating: 2
Let's be realistic a moment. One of these two jokers is going to be president, and I do NOT think they both suck as bad as the other, one distinctly sucks more.

Voting libertarian is a wasted vote and is not "sending a message". The only way to change the way things work is from the inside as Ron Paul has striven to do.

RE: Ron Paul
By ClownPuncher on 10/12/2012 4:41:00 PM , Rating: 2
There are no wasted votes.

RE: Ron Paul
By godshatter on 10/12/2012 4:57:49 PM , Rating: 2
Voting for the best candidate I can find is not wasting my vote. I can't help it if the plurality of people out there vote culturally rather than by selecting the best candidate.

RE: Ron Paul
By Reclaimer77 on 10/12/2012 5:31:08 PM , Rating: 2
Okay great. Now back in the real world, you're wasting a vote.

Let us be clear. Every vote for Johnson or Paul, is a vote for Obama.

I understand that Romney is far far from being a "Libertarian", but Liberal Socialist Democrats are even farther. So I just don't understand why you third partier's year after year feel compelled to help Democrats get in office.

Last time I checked, Johnson wasn't the candidate. He's not on the podium facing Obama in debates. He has, literally, NO chance on Earth. You can tell yourself you aren't wasting your vote, hey, whatever helps you sleep at night.

RE: Ron Paul
By godshatter on 10/12/2012 5:52:25 PM , Rating: 2
I'm no more wasting my vote voting for the Libertarian party candidate than a Democrat is voting for Obama in a typically Red state. I don't want either Obama or Romney in office, so why vote for either one?

RE: Ron Paul
By Reclaimer77 on 10/12/2012 5:58:05 PM , Rating: 2
I don't want either Obama or Romney in office, so why vote for either one?

So right there you are admitting that, essentially, you're throwing your vote away, as a matter of principle.

I respect your principles, but just call it what it is.

The "lesser of two evils" is a reality we've all had to deal with for some time now. Sorry I know it sucks, but time to deal with it. What you're doing is a waste, in the most literal sense.

RE: Ron Paul
By Stuka on 10/14/2012 3:45:16 PM , Rating: 3
You're an idiot. The "lesser of two evils" is an ideology dreamt up by spineless losers who are too afraid to stand out from the crowd. You're a prisoner to your pathology. It's not necessarily your fault, it's human nature, unless you recognize it and choose not to act. Unfortunately, throughout history humans have sought to react as little as possible, regardless of what is going on around them. As long as your life remains unchanged, you will never strive to improve the status quo. You will "religiously" vote red up until the very last second when you realize that it affects you.

"First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me."

People should vote for who's best for the job, not who they think will win. If your Aunt Ada is awesome, write her name in. If people don't think for themselves, why even vote at all?

RE: Ron Paul
By croc on 10/13/2012 11:18:40 PM , Rating: 2
Let us be clear. Every vote for Johnson or Paul, is a vote for Obama.

What??? I used to think that there might be SOME sense between your ears, but now I have to wonder. Did it ever occur to you that "Every vote for Johnson or Paul" might be a vote for Romney? However, using any logic at all, any vote for anyone is just that - a vote for whoever that vote is for.

I think that what you are trying to say is if someone votes for someone that is not 'your guy' then they wasted their vote. Even if 'their guy' wins, they wasted their vote because 'your guy' lost. Am I right?

"Ruling Parties" ???
By mandoman on 10/12/12, Rating: 0
RE: "Ruling Parties" ???
By RufusM on 10/12/2012 11:26:10 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, the US has freely elected officials, but we basically have a two party system, so yes, there are ruling parties (D & R). The public is consumed with the mindset that voting for another party other than D or R is wasting their vote, so it's going to take something big to change their minds.

Both US parties are intent on walling up US citizen liberties brick by brick. If the wall went up all at once there would be outrage, but slowly and surely it's going up. The US Supreme Court was supposed to be one of the checks and balances here but they gave that up back around FDR's presidency for the most part; after the Great Depression hit and public confidence in government was at an all time low.

RE: "Ruling Parties" ???
By Reclaimer77 on 10/12/2012 4:39:14 PM , Rating: 2
The simple fact is millions of Americans have created a conspiracy theory where they convince themselves they have no say in anything, so they can keep going on abdicating their responsibility to someone else.

"Why vote, the corporations control everything"
"Why follow politics? Both sides are the same"
"Our Government is bought and paid for by lobbyists, I don't have the money, so why should I care?"

And the excuses go on and on. Jason Mick clearly knows how to tap into this slacker cynicism that's plagued our nation as more and more people convince themselves life is easier if they just no longer care.

RE: "Ruling Parties" ???
By superstition on 10/13/2012 4:11:36 PM , Rating: 2
You're full of crap as usual. For someone who pretends to always occupy the high ground, why don't you do something that would actually be productive -- like some real work?

Plaguing the comments section of this site hardly establishes you as being anything but an armchair rhetorician. Once in a great while you say something that's sensible, but the pitifully low signal to noise ratio certainly doesn't justify the amount of time you spend here.

Go do some real work. Use that vast intellect (ha!) for something that actually will make some sort of difference.

RE: "Ruling Parties" ???
By stilltrying on 10/13/2012 6:57:56 PM , Rating: 2
You keep voting and nothing changes I refuse to vote for these Muppets put in front of us.

Get your rose colored glasses off that you can change anything because you cant. Your either in the club running the show or your not. I am certain your not in the club so keep on dreaming or spreading your vote pipe dreams. America is finished it is nothing of which it claims.

As for me I am just wanting for CLUB to run itself out due to hyperinflation, the show will last a little while longer but it will end.

RE: "Ruling Parties" ???
By stilltrying on 10/13/2012 7:02:46 PM , Rating: 2
Go study some Cybernetics then maybe you will have a clue. We are cows on a farm being managed with more and stricter rules and regulations.

By Reclaimer77 on 10/11/2012 6:26:53 PM , Rating: 2
Didn't we just read this article weeks ago? Is there some new development that's taken place, because it seems like this is the 4'th article or so on this that repeats the same information. You even used the same Ron Paul quote as the last article.

Not giving you crap Jason, just not sure what's changed/different from a month ago on this issue.

RE: Uhhh
By JasonMick on 10/11/2012 6:37:58 PM , Rating: 2
Not giving you crap Jason, just not sure what's changed/different from a month ago on this issue.
No offense taken, my friend. Please note, if you're ever in doubt about the source of the article (or what the new development is) refer to the source link at the bottom of the article. We added this to our homepage about half a year ago in my recollection, but many regulars are still getting used to it.

If you follow the SCOTUS link, you will see:
No. 11-1200
Tash Hepting, et al., Petitioners
AT&T Corporation, et al.
Oct 9 2012 Petition DENIED. Justice Alito took no part in the consideration or decision of this petition.
So this Tuesday , marked an important new development in the case as the SCOTUS announced its refusal to hear this case, essentially punting it (as the article text states).

As for the repeated information from past pieces, in order to put the decision in context and help readers understand both prevailing views in the political climate (the view held by most federal Democrats and Republicans v. the view of certain civil liberties advocates/third party folks) I do repeat a certain number of quotes I have collected from prominent officials, which are salient to the topic at hand.

My goal is to put forth both side's argument whenever their is an issue in tech politics where different folks have different opinions.

I believe we would agree that present both sides of a debate is requisite to informing interested parties (in this case the readers) and fostering free expression?

Hopefully that clarifies the article and the reason for including Rep. Paul, former Gov. Romney, the U.S. AG's remarks (the Obama admin. quote), etc....

RE: Uhhh
By AskMe4Pars on 10/12/2012 12:32:04 AM , Rating: 2
A good new article and just as equally bad. The government seems hell bent on doing whatever they want under the front of counter terrorism. I would hope any rational American would think this was not okay no matter what party they supported. Obviously terrorism needs to be fought but terrorists sadly do not wear uniforms and say they are against you. They are mothers, fathers, children, who completely disagree with you. So much so they are willing to commit suicide to fight you and kill innocent people. How do you hunt these people down ? Is there actually a logical answer to fighting terrorism other than nuclear devastation ? Even then does this fix anything? Why should we allow our own rights to be compromised in order to counter these magical terrorists who cannot be destroyed ?

RE: Uhhh
By Reclaimer77 on 10/12/2012 4:49:30 PM , Rating: 1
Right Jason, I understand the SCOTUS decision. What I mean is, how does this change anything?

There's one paragraph about the decision, and everything after that is just a recap of the other article. I'm not trying to be a dick here, I just got serious deja-vu reading it.

I would like to know why the decision was made, based on legal facts and SCOTUS procedures. I would like discussion about the lawsuit and it's potential effects. Maybe dialogue on, if in fact, it's fair to sue telecos that were obviously forced into cooperating. I mean let's be real here, it's not like they could tell the Federal Government "no", when they do business here under FCC license.

Unless I'm missing something, how does suing the telecos for something that happened almost a decade ago stop the wiretapping program today? More insight on that would be interesting I think.

But it was a good article. I don't understand repeating Ron Paul, again. I mean I get that you like him, but he's irrelevant as a political figure. But all in all good stuff.

I agree with Paul
By inperfectdarkness on 10/12/2012 2:33:59 AM , Rating: 2
He's absolutely right that the 2-party systems is atrociously bad for the USA. I think Paul is off the deep end on a lot of issues, but it's impossible to entertain any third party candidate's ideas when he/she has no forum to speak in.

It brings up the question of campaign finance because those with potentiall the best ideas have the least amount of financial backing with which to broadcast their message.

RE: I agree with Paul
By PaFromFL on 10/12/2012 8:25:55 AM , Rating: 2
When judges no longer provide quality control on wiretapping, the balance of powers is destroyed. The next logical step is the use of wiretapping by one party to throw the other party in jail. Large corporations and rich campaign donors could also "persuade" politicians that corporate spying is in the best interests of national security.

RE: I agree with Paul
By WinstonSmith on 10/12/2012 11:25:48 AM , Rating: 2
"When judges no longer provide quality control on wiretapping, the balance of powers is destroyed."

It already is. Corporate money has bought the executive and legislative branches. $5.8 BILLION is to be spent in 2012 campaigns with 2.5 BILLION to be spent in the presidential race alone. The only thing left at the federal level is the Supreme Court. At the state level, all branches are compromised since, in most cases, even judges have to be elected to be retained in their jobs.

"The next logical step is the use of wiretapping by one party to throw the other party in jail."

That will NEVER happen. BOTH parties know they'd be TOAST if EITHER allowed that sort of thing since they're BOTH corrupt.

Yes, but
By createcoms on 10/12/2012 4:35:10 AM , Rating: 2
if it's so important in *their* eyes to wiretap citizen x or group z then why do they see convincing the judiciary as such a big ask. Seems to me that they actually just want to go on hypothetical fishing expeditions and know a judge will tell them to GTFO.

terror for terrorism
By stilltrying on 10/13/2012 6:51:55 PM , Rating: 2
Using terror to combat terrorism is what it is. They have become what they are battling. If we don't have this (PATRIOT ACT) my goodness we will all die this must be passed.

Terrorism is the invisible bogeyman. This will go on indefinitely. They can always claim OH lookout for the terrorists to get whatever they want and they will kepp n doing this. WAR IS A RACKET.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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