U.S. Appeals Court Denies Citizens' Right to Sue Wiretapping Telecoms
January 2, 2012 2:24 PM
comment(s) - last by
(Source: Quick Meme)
But court lifts previous ban on suing the government over warrantless wiretapping campaigns
If you have a problem with federal warrantless wiretapping campaigns, sue the government, not the telecoms.
That was the key message in the Thursday ruling handed down by the
9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
, a federal appeals court that covers high profile cases appealed in nine western states, including California.
I. EFF is Greenlit for Class Action Against the NSA
The decision was still a quasi-victory for the
Electronic Frontier Foundation
(EFF), who was leading the push against the warrantless wiretaps, at it prevents the most sweeping of protections on the domestic surveillance system, giving U.S. citizens at least one avenue to challenge the campaigns in court.
The EFF was less-than-thrilled that the court upheld the immunity for telecoms who served as the government's accomplices, helping federal agents spy on their customers. The telecom immunity was
granted by the "Protect America Act"
of 2007 (
The EFF was seeking class action status for a lawsuit against AT&T, Inc. (
) and the
U.S. National Security Agency
(NSA). The EFF accuses AT&T of conspiring with the NSA to divert its customers voice, SMS, and internet traffic into special secure rooms at its facility across the country, giving the NSA the ability to freely snoop on whatever private communications they pleased.
The operation was called "an unprecedented suspicionless general search" by the EFF, which accused it of being unconstitutional, based on the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (part of the Bill of Rights), which states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
II. Lower Court Ruling is Partially Reversed, Telecom Immunity Restored
A lower court had granted the EFF permission to go ahead with a class action lawsuit against AT&T and NSA, prompting the
U.S. Department of Justice
(DOJ) to appeal to the 9th Circuit.
The 9th Circuit's decision partially reversed the lower court's ruling. Unlike the lower court, it ruled that the government granting immunity to its business accomplices was Constitutional. However, it refused the DOJ's request that the federal government also be made immune on "state secrets" grounds, saying lawsuits against the government were the place to challenge the Constitutionality of such programs.
[Image Source: Minding the Media]
Judge Margaret McKeown
, a member of the three-judge appeals panel,
(PDF; pg. 21589), "The federal courts remain a forum to consider the constitutionality of the wiretapping scheme and other claims."
The differentiation was an interesting one, in that it dealt a partial victory, partial loss to both the DOJ and EFF.
It is important to note that the Appeals Court did not deliver an opinion on the legality of the warrantless wiretaps themselves.
III. Most 2012 Presidential Candidates Support Warrantless Spying
The irony of the Protect America Act was that it modified the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 ("FISA" Pub.L. (Public Law) 95-511, 92 Stat. (Statute at large) 1783, enacted October 25, 1978,
) installing the kind of unregulated surveillance permissions that the FISA was originally designed to
at the time of its post-Watergate passage.
The FISA's original authors recognized the danger of abuse if unregulated wiretaps were granted to federal officials and police. After, all at least one U.S. President -- Richard Nixon (R) -- used such powers to spy on his political rivals.
Despite the strict FISA President George W. Bush (R) openly defied the law in the post 9-11 (2001) era, resuming warrantless wiretapping. President Bush convinced Congress to retroactively legalize the effort by modifying the FISA. With Congress's weight behind the unregulated domestic spying effort the President gained the unregulated spying power that had once led to the impeachment of President Nixon.
When new President Barack Obama took office, he promised reform and to cut back on the warrantless spying, but once elected that
"hope" turned to "nope"
as President Obama proved remarked "Bush-like" and pushed to expand the program and
vigorously defend the immunity
for cooperative telecoms.
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: WhiteHouse.gov]
It appears unlikely that the warrantless monitoring is going anywhere, anytime soon. Aside from President Obama support, most of the leading Republican candidates appear supportive of the practice, with many voting to support President Bush with the Protect America Act. Of the major candidates, the only one who has voiced major concerns about the federal spying is Ron Paul (R).
Minn. Rep and Tea Party chief Michele Bachmann supports unregulated, warrantless federal wiretapping. Ron Paul is the only major presidential candidate to oppose it.
[Image Source: Bachmann.House.gov (left) and RonPaul.com (right)]
It is unknown exactly how many telecoms participated in the government's plot to spy on citizens. However all three of America's largest cellular carriers -- AT&T; Sprint Nextel Corp. (
); and Verizon Wireless, the joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. (
) and Vodafone Group Plc. (
) -- were all listed as defendants in the EFF suit.
They are now free to resume helping President Obama and Congress spy on American citizens without warrant, without having to be legal responsible for their actions.
The EFF is contemplating whether to appeal the decision to restore the immunity provisions to a higher federal court.
9th Circuit Court of Appeals
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
RE: Ron Paul?
1/3/2012 1:49:53 PM
Tom I'm afraid your logic is bouncing right off his tin-foiled hat. We're all being spied on continuously!!!
"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer
Obama Admin. Fights to Renew Warrantless Wiretaps, Block Transparency
July 31, 2011, 1:50 PM
Obama Admin. Council Pushes to Reinforce Domestic Wiretapping
October 21, 2010, 10:01 AM
House Passes Telecom Immunity Bill, Expands Domestic Spying Powers
June 21, 2008, 9:58 AM
Xiaomi Moves Data Out of China to Woo EU, America, Escape Security Concerns
October 23, 2014, 5:11 PM
Android Wear’s First Major Update Brings GPS, Offline Music Support
October 23, 2014, 1:34 PM
Samsung Announces Galaxy S5 Plus with Snapdragon 805 Processor, LTE-A
October 22, 2014, 3:40 PM
Motorola Further Increases Moto 360 Battery Life with New Update
October 22, 2014, 8:08 AM
Apple's iPad Air 2 Features Triple-core A8X Processor, 2GB of RAM
October 21, 2014, 8:32 PM
Toshiba Launches 11”, 2-in-1 Convertible PC for $329
October 21, 2014, 2:11 PM
Most Popular Articles
Chinese Government Declares Digital War Against America's Top Tech Firms
October 20, 2014, 12:07 PM
PS4 "Masamune" Update 2.0 Will Bring New Music and Customization Features
October 17, 2014, 1:05 PM
Report: 2015 Ford Focus Electric MSRP Slashed by $6,000, Will Retail for $29,995
October 18, 2014, 6:23 PM
Cool Science Video of the Day: Carnivorous Leech Eats Giant Jungle Worm
October 16, 2014, 6:44 PM
Update: Motorola Droid Turbo Coming Oct 28, 48-hour Battery Life Confirmed
October 19, 2014, 9:19 PM
Latest Blog Posts
The Surface Mini That Was Never Released Gets "Hands On" Treatment
Sep 26, 2014, 8:22 AM
ISIS Imposes Ban on Teaching Evolution in Iraq
Sep 17, 2014, 5:22 PM
Space Terrorism is a Looming Threat For the United States
Apr 23, 2014, 7:47 PM
Facebook Aims to Provide Internet to "Every Person in the World" with Drones, Satellites
Apr 1, 2014, 10:20 AM
Retail Mobile Sites Experience Outages in Light of Simplexity's Bankruptcy
Mar 14, 2014, 8:48 AM
More Blog Posts
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. -
Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information