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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: WhiteHouse.gov]

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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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

Uhhh
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 (blog) on 10/11/2012 6:37:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
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:
quote:
No. 11-1200
Title:
Tash Hepting, et al., Petitioners
v.
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.


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