Print 42 comment(s) - last by Misty Dingos.. on Sep 22 at 8:49 AM

The EFF and NSA will square off in court yet again

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), representing AT&T customers, filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency (NSA) and other government agencies responsible for "massively illegal" warrantless surveillance of internet and telephone communications over the past several years.

Along with the NSA, the EFF is accusing President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and several others in the lawsuit.  The EFF hopes by naming the president, vice president and other high-ranking government officials will help ensure similar action does not take place in the future.

"In addition to suing AT&T, we've now opened a second front in the battle to stop the NSA's illegal surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and hold personally responsible those who authorized or participated in the spying program," EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston said in a statement.  

"For years, the NSA has been engaged in a massive and massively illegal fishing expedition through AT&T's domestic networks and databases of customer records. Our goal in this new case against the government, as in our case against AT&T, is to dismantle this dragnet surveillance program as soon as possible."

The NSA reportedly created a wiretapping center in San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose, Atlanta, and Bridgeton, where the government agency monitored data from millions of phone conversations and internet chat logs by AT&T users, with the phone company's help.

The program was first unveiled by former AT&T technician Mark Klein, who first leaked information about the program two years ago.

There are more than 35 active lawsuits against the U.S. federal government due to its warrantless wire tapping.

In February, the FISA bill passed, which ensured telecommunication conglomerates cannot be held liable from litigation if they provided assistance to the NSA or other government agencies.  But the EFF and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are trying to prove the law is unconstitutional, and want to have it changed so the major telecommunication companies can be held responsible.

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Good Luck EFF
By lifeblood on 9/19/2008 9:16:02 AM , Rating: 5
The government has the right to wiretap any of us, all they need is enough proof to get a judge to sign a search warrant. Blanket wiretapping without a warrant, no way. This isn't China/Iran/Russia.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By FITCamaro on 9/19/2008 9:34:16 AM , Rating: 2
Many countries in the EU have monitoring of the internet and phones in their countries.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By stilltrying on 9/19/2008 9:40:17 AM , Rating: 2
good thing we're not in the EU then and we have a constitution that seems to have been discarded by clinton (echelon) and bush. i wish the EFF the best in this matter

RE: Good Luck EFF
By Don Tonino on 9/19/2008 9:50:55 AM , Rating: 2
Usually that is done with the knowledge and authorization of the judicial system, so there's a check to what the government is rightfully allowed to monitor. True, there have been many cases of illegal wirings and taps, but as far as I've heard illegal was the word defining it.

I do welcome any useful informations on any systematic monitoring going on though, as I readily admit not knowing much about that (and being willing to get to know more)

Anyway, if something is perceived (or it actually is) wrong or illegal, it doesn't make it any better if it's done somewhere else by someone else. If EU countries were to have the same activities going on, to me they would be equally wrong in doing that.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By 1frisbee1 on 9/19/2008 9:35:06 AM , Rating: 5
Except that wiretap is not subject to public and open review, and thus represents a challenge to the central tenets of the system of the republic.

Without open and fair access to the creation and implementation of law and order, this country is closer to those others, than to its own inception.

The exceptional importance of the constitution is being undermined in the name of 'security' - but if we are not all subject to the same laws, there can be no impartial and fair justice - anti-thetical to the concept of the constitution itself.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By Misty Dingos on 9/19/08, Rating: 0
RE: Good Luck EFF
By 1frisbee1 on 9/19/2008 9:56:54 AM , Rating: 1
No, the government has a requirement to uphold the constitution, or dissolve the United States and start up a China/Russia/Iran.

You cannot choose to uphold only the parts of the constitution that you determine to be relevant, or decide that 'security' justifies ignoring the law.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By Misty Dingos on 9/19/08, Rating: 0
RE: Good Luck EFF
By 1frisbee1 on 9/19/2008 10:34:36 AM , Rating: 5
Every time that security has trumped rights, it was either regarded as a mistake, a necessity for upholding the republic, or a temporary measure to ensure a short term objective.

Terrorism is a constant, unyielding and persistent part of the world, it was long before 9/11 and will be long afterward.

Unchecked power is exactly the reason for the creation of the constitution, and while 'security' is being heralded as the reason for these measures enacted upon the populace, it is contrary to the origins of the public contract that the constitution embodies.

As citizens we are the origin of the government's power and ultimately its aim and end. Placing security ahead of the populace is exactly why the constitution was created - Kings who embody the state can act with unchecked power.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By OldProgrammer on 9/19/2008 10:56:17 AM , Rating: 2
The US government can collect and listen in on communications and internet traffic between people in other countries without a warrant, they always have and probably always will. I don't know of anyone on the right or left that wants to stop it.

When the spying involves someone in the US, the government must apply for a search warrant within 48 hours. The court they go to is the FISA court. The court is made up of retired federal judges more than half of them Republicans.

Since the time the FISA court was created they had approved every warrant they were ever presented with until they saw some of the things the Bush Administration wanted to do, and they had to put their foot down.

Once the FISA court had said no, the Bush Admin just stopped asking for warrants, and did what they wanted to without asking.

We still don't know what it was they were doing and probably never will. But it was too much for John Ashcroft and many of his appointees. Ashcroft is no Liberal, he was one of the most conservative Senators before he become Bush's Attorney General.

Both Ashcroft and the FBI director told Bush they would resign and go public if Bush didn't stop whatever it was he was doing. They reached a compromise which is the still illegal program revealed by Klein, who is a hero.

But we may never know what it was they were doing, that even John Ashcroft couldn't stomach.

It is also important to note that 9/11 happened not because we didn't do enough spying. We had significant good intelligence that Bin-Ladin wanted to make a big attack in the US, that radical Muslims were very interested in learning how to fly jet liners, but not to land them, as well as numerous smaller tid-bits that should have been put together. Bush wanted to go fishing.

Similar bits of information led the Clinton Administration to prevent the millennium attacks in LA. The Bush administration ignored the Clinton's administrations warnings about Bin-Ladin, and were asleep at the wheel when 9/11 happened.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By VultureTX on 9/19/2008 11:51:41 AM , Rating: 2
No the Bush administration ignored Richard Clark. Why? Becuase he ranted and raved about this Bin Laden issue, yet would never admit that he failed to pull the trigger himself or take other significant action against Al-Qaeda. He was unwilling to accept blame, so Rice ignored him.

Yep one man, made himself untrustworthy in the eyes of the present administration. Unfortunately he was the "expert" on Al-Qaeda.

And BTW 20/20 hindsight on the targets for 9/11 is a cheap shot. And thanks to Gore , the present Admin could not do Jack about airplane security.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By OldProgrammer on 9/19/2008 3:46:55 PM , Rating: 2
Your first paragraph makes no sense. Rice ignored Clarke because he wouldn't admit that he took no action against Al-Qaeda? Where did you hear that nonsense? Rice didn't listen because she had no interest in Al-Qaeda until after 9/11, and then she tried to claim no one knew they could fly airplanes into buildings. Even if what you say is true, which is doubtful, how does that justify the Bush Admin just ignoring the threats that Clarke told them of?

Cheap shot, but true.

I have no idea what sort of nonsense you are trying to peddle about Gore.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By VultureTX on 9/20/2008 10:25:06 AM , Rating: 2
And you post contains double negatives. so because your other reply was decent I reply.

Rice ignored Clarke because Clarke claimed Al-Qaeda was the boogeyman yet he had taken no action. Clarke refused to take the blame for taking no action. Therefore Rice ignored him on the subject because his argument was not rational with regards to Clarke's actions.

As for Gore, remember that failed piece of air safety legislation he sponsored? Thanks to the bad taste it left, the Bush WH wanted nothing to do with that subject.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By JustTom on 9/19/2008 1:48:58 PM , Rating: 2
The millenium attacks were foiled by an attentive border guard, not the Clinton administration.

If Clinton was aware of the 9-11 planners why did he not arrest them? Much of the planning went on during his administration. The firewall built between the CIA and the FBI was imposed by him. Do I really need to list all the attacks on Americans and American interests around the globe that went ignored during Clinton's administration? Terrorism was a backburner issue for everyone; 9-11 changed that.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By OldProgrammer on 9/19/2008 4:00:48 PM , Rating: 2
The information obtained by the border guard was the trigger that Richard Clarke and others in the Clinton administration used to focus resources and uncover the plot.

If the Bush Admin had been as attentive to the information they were presented with, like that guy who was taking flying lessons in Minnesota, or the other info in the August Presidential briefing, and took similar actions 9/11 might have been prevented.

The firewall nonsense is just one of the Bush Admin excuses that doesn't add up. Firewall or not the information was there if they had been interested. Bush wanted to go fishing.

When did I say Clinton was aware of 9/11 planners? If you want to list all the attacks on Americans and American interests during the Clinton Admin, be sure to do the same for the Bush Admin, you'll be surprised.

Bin-Ladin was not a back burner issue for the Clinton Admin. There were weekly meetings in the White House to review the latest intelligence. Those meetings ended when Bush came in.

Rice was told by the Clinton Admin that Bin-Laden should be her top priority. She didn't think about him again until after 9/11.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By VultureTX on 9/19/2008 10:18:02 AM , Rating: 2
Like the government upheld the second amendment in New York, Chicago, and all those places were guns were denied to minorities. The NRA was around much longer than the EFF yet if you don't get consensus , you don't get constitutionality.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By foolsgambit11 on 9/20/2008 11:24:03 AM , Rating: 2
Well, it was only 40 years ago that it was decided that tapping a phone constituted an unreasonable search, in violation of the 4th Amendment (Katz v. US, 1967). The court has previously (Olmstead v. US, 1928) decided the reverse, that there was not reasonable expectation of privacy on a telephone call over a public network.

Of course, I 100% agree that the administration broke the law in eavesdropping on people within the United States - but I think it may be taking the argument too far to say that it violates the Constitution. It certainly violates the current interpretation of the 4th Amendment, as described in Katz. But that precedent, set by the Warren Court, could be reversed by a future court, while still upholding the Constitution.

RE: Good Luck EFF
By Misty Dingos on 9/22/2008 8:49:30 AM , Rating: 2
First off I apologize for the length of this post but privacy issues are not easily contained or debated in quaint sound bite posts.

Alright I will try one more time here. While many of you would love to live in complete anonymity, it isn’t going to happen. I sympathize with your desire to wander through life leaving no trace as to your wanderings except that which you choose to. But that is not going to happen. I am going to use email, text messaging and social networking sites as examples.

Email has never been a private means of communication. It can be intercepted at any point along its electronic route with little expertise or hardware. Treating email as a private means of communication is a flawed concept. While it nice that scanning an individuals email an act requiring a warrant, it is a bit like requiring a police officer to get a warrant to listen to you shout across the public square to a friend. Unless you take the pains necessary to encrypt your email with sufficient care your email is for the world to see. If you are at work and emailing, even if you don’t use your companies email system all you need do is use their access to the internet, they have the right to see every word and act on what they find. So your private personal email is only private and personal if it transpires from your home from your own PC through your own paid or free email accounts. How many of you go to those lengths to protect your email? And how many of you are not bothered by something scanning your email for code words or possible information of intelligence value? Many of us are not bothered by that. This shows that the very concept of privacy in this area is not clearly defined in the public mind. And just because you scream louder does not make your argument more convincing or compelling.

Text messages. How many of you really think that these are private in anyway? They live forever in the servers of your cell service provider. Cell phones are easily cloned. Once your cell phone is cloned you are an open book to whoever has your clone. This doesn’t even begin to cover the ability to only virtually clone a cell phone. Something that would likely only be in the arena of governmental agencies. Again unless you go to great lengths your cell phone is like a caribou on the tundra waiting the wolves.

As you can see with these two examples I use here the reality of privacy is different than our perceptions of privacy.

How many of you use social networking sites? How many of you have information or data on them that you would not want an employer or possible employer to know? Yet it is becoming common place for employers to monitor and include in background checks into these sites on prospective and current employees. Is that fair for them to do? Is it wise for people to place information or data on a site that might limit your employability? What does that do to your privacy or your perception of your privacy?

If someone walked down your street and started taking pictures of every house would you stop and ask them what they were doing? Could you stop them legally? Typically anything that happens outside your house is fair game. How private is your home now?

The concept of privacy is changing and has always changed throughout history. Many of you railed against my previous posts because you possibly imagined that I support the efforts to monitor these forms of communication by my government. Nothing could be further from the truth. I would love for the government to be curtailed and boxed to a very restricted form. But it is not going to happen. Why? Because most people are sheep and they are very frightened sheep. And our politicians and media spend a great deal of time ensuring that they stay frightened.

So our concept of privacy is going to change and change radically over the upcoming decades. If we are not ready to ask the right questions at the right time we will not be able to meet the challenges our changing technology will bring.

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