Supreme Court Won't Review Case Saying ACLU Has No Right To Sue Over Wiretaps

from the we-could-tell-you-has-standing,-but-we'd-have-to-kill-you dept

In a rather unfortunate ruling, the Supreme Court has decided to let an appeals court ruling stand, saying that the ACLU has no standing to bring a lawsuit over domestic wiretapping activities of the federal government. There's a bit of a catch-22 here. Neither the appeals court nor the Supremes are saying that the wiretapping is illegal. They're just saying that only those actually impacted by the wiretapping can bring suit -- which is tricky since the whole point is that there's no way for those being tapped to actually know they're being tapped. This would appear to be a rather ominous omission in the "checks and balances" our government is supposed to have.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 5:50pm

    Applied to other crimes

    Imagine if this reasoning were applied to murder cases: The courts would refuse to hear murder cases because the victims aren't complaining and refuse to testify against their killers.

    Un-fucking believable.

     

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  2.  
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    Overcast, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 6:54pm

    That's because - what the government says, goes. The sooner people accept that the better, eh?

    I'm sure our rights aren't a concern for them - if this doesn't clearly say that, I'm not sure what would need to happen to convince a person...

     

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  3.  
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    oldman, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 7:59pm

    spooks vs ACLU

    Is anyone surprised that the court is packed with political hacks? Constitution and forth amendment be damned, full speed ahead. When do we start fighting for democracy at home?

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 8:20pm

    "....But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security....."

     

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  5.  
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    Cynic, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:14pm

    OK, I amend my previous comment about why people get upset with flag burning when the law makers figuratively take a leak on the Constitution in the halls of Congress regularly, to now include the Supreme Court figuratively taking a leak on the Constitution as well. Brave new world here we are.

     

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  6.  
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    Anon Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:42pm

    ACLU

    I know this is a rather liberal group, that is pretty anti-establishment, anti-corporation, anti-whatever and will probably bash me to no end for saying this, but the ACLU is a shining example something that we DO NOT NEED more of. The only reason that they brought the suit in the first place was to line their pockets and make the president look bad, they don't give two shits about the ones that may or may not have been tapped and they certainly don't care about American Civil Liberties unless you fall in line with their way of thinking.

     

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  7.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 9:45pm

    Correct Verdict

    To sue someone, no matter how wildly popular the idea, you have to have standing. This means there has to be some damage done to at least one person that can be proven. The court made the correct decision in saying the plaintiffs did not meet this burden.

    Think about this long and hard before you flame back, do you really want the SCOTUS to say it's fine to bring a lawsuit and compel discovery against someone with no evidence of damage whatsoever? That certainly would make the MPAA/RIAA happy but I can't say as I think it's such a great idea.

     

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  8.  
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    Jess, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 10:39pm

    Civil cases have different rules

    Since they were suing the government, which means civil suit, they have to actually be a victim and prove it to claim damages.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 10:47pm

    Re: Correct Verdict

    Think about this long and hard before you flame back, do you really want the SCOTUS to say it's fine to bring a lawsuit and compel discovery against someone with no evidence of damage whatsoever? That certainly would make the MPAA/RIAA happy but I can't say as I think it's such a great idea.

    Would make them happy? Hell, it does make them happy but you don't see SCOTUS stepping to put a stop to that do you? It seems today's SCOTUS loves the MPAA/RIAA while hating the ACLU.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 10:51pm

    Re: Civil cases have different rules

    Since they were suing the government, which means civil suit, they have to actually be a victim and prove it to claim damages.
    They brought civil suit because in the US ordinary private citizens can't bring criminal charges against government officials.

     

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  11.  
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    jeff green, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:16pm

    Victims

    i am pretty sure that these wiretaps were not of american citizens, but on international phone calls that passed though us territory at one point. these were not phone calls of you talking to your grandma or of you talking to the lady you're cheating on your wife with. these were wire taps of suspected terrorists or people with information, all of whom were making their calls in foreign countries.

    so the aclu really has no right to sue. if you want to fly to the middle east or to europe and find one of the people who were tapped and bring them over here then feel free, but we all know that the aclu is just in this cause they hate bush. they don't care about wiretapping, they care about publicity making bush look bad.

     

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  12.  
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    John Duncan Yoyo, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:45pm

    Re: Re: Correct Verdict

    The supreme court will get a crack at this when someone actually gets prosecuted and convicted using evidence obtained from this program. Of course they may never use this evidence in a prosecution.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:46pm

    Re: Victims

    Like Bush needs anyone to make him look bad.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2008 @ 11:54pm

    i am pretty sure that these wiretaps were not of american citizens, but on international phone calls that passed though us territory at one point.

    And you know it how? Divination? Reading tea leaves?

     

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  15.  
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    Sean, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 1:29am

    Get over it...

    The Supreme Court didn't make a ruling either way, it just let the previous judgement stand. That means that the issue is still open to appeal, if all the procedural loops are jumped through.

    I'm sure if the SCOTUS was full of brain-dead right-wing neo-cons, it would have made a definitive ruling and squashed the issue like a bug. If it was full of left-wing liberal commies, it would have struck down the previous ruling and forced the USGOV into open court.

    The fact that it did neither shows that it still retains it's independence.

    Hey what do I care, I'm not even a US citizen!

     

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  16.  
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    Aaron Chambers, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 1:30am

    ...it doesnt matter...

    It doesn't matter how these wiretaps came to be, nor to whom they came to affect. The fact that they exist at all is ground enough for the government to explain how they happened, why they happened, and to whom they happened. The idea of actual damage being done is absolutely irrelevant. I'm a person who voted for Bush... TWICE!... and a person whom very heavily supports the war on terrorism. However, I'm also a libertarian. The government taking steps to counteract terrorist activity and to investigate sources they believe to be of clandestine nature is something I CAN get behind. However, if someone whom has had their privacy invaded due to the government using such powers wants an explanation, I'll ALL for it. Personally, I'm a member of the NRA AND the ACLU... I believe both to be great groups. In this case, I am truly bothered and terrified by the fact that the Supreme Court would say that these actions deserve no explanation. If such things combat those that mean this country harm, I agree utterly. But if someone whom DID NOT mean this country harm DEMANDS to have explained to him/her why their personal, constitutional rights were violated, I see no problem in granting them that. If sufficient cause is presented, no one can/should complain. In this case, however, I see the government saying simply, "Shut up, we did it and it isn't your problem." That, friends, scares the hell out of me.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 2:46am

    Re: Victims

    i am pretty sure that these wiretaps were not of american citizens, but on international phone calls that passed though us territory at one point.

    Did you even bother to read the linked article? The issue is that these wiretaps were of American citizens.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 2:49am

    Re: Get over it...

    The Supreme Court didn't make a ruling either way, it just let the previous judgement stand. That means that the issue is still open to appeal, if all the procedural loops are jumped through.
    The issue is NOT open to appeal. That's what the Supreme Court essentially said.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 2:52am

    Re: ...it doesnt matter...

    You voted for Bush AND you're a member of the ACLU? Man, you must be really confused.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 4:19am

    Re: ...it doesnt matter...


    In this case, I am truly bothered and terrified by the fact that the Supreme Court would say that these actions deserve no explanation.



    The Supreme Courts did NOT say that these actions deserve no explanation. They only claimed that the ACLU, which brought the suit, can not show that it was affected by the wiretaps. In order to bring suit you must be a party directly affected by the actions. The ACLU did not show that they were.

    There are two real problems to this. The first is that those affected can not show or prove that they were affected. The second is that there is no mechanism in place to bring this subject to the courts. Congress can act to rule to stop these wiretaps or even make them explicitly illegal. They won't since it would likely be political suicide.

    The checks and balances are there, at least in theory. It's a sad commentary on freedom, liberty, and justice when what is done is for political gain or advantage instead of what is right.

     

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  21.  
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    gwjones, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 4:22am

    Fight for Democracy

    Who could be surprised that the Supreme Court refuses to uphold the Constitution? After all they failed to intervene when Bush & Co stole a presidential election. The ACLU is only interested in lining their pockets? That is almost as ridiculous as believing that the NSA was only listening to international phone calls that may have terminated with a known terrorist. Rest assured, the biggest terrorists of this world are the ones doing the listening on these calls, not the people placing the calls that are being monitored. The democratic freedoms that generations of Americans fought for and believed sacrosanct are long gone- but it started much earlier than the media would have us believe. Let’s go back to the Anti-Trust legislation at the turn of the last century that was only ever used to bust unions, the Palmer Raids 20 years later, McCarthyism in the 1950’s and then COINTELPRO 20 years after that.

     

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  22.  
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    Todd, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 5:00am

    Lets open the flood gates!!

    This topic drives me absolutely insane!! For all of you who believe this is to make are country a safer place, needs to open their eyes just a little bit & quit being sheep to the Bush admin. Your being fucked in more ways then you know & in more ways than I even know or even want to know.

    Before 911 happened, guess what are govt knew about it & what was going to happen and did NOTHING. In my opinion they actually added to it. Al-qaeda didn't fly a plane into the Pentagon we did (we as in US Govt) & it wasn't a plane but a missile of some sort but thats another topic.

    Illegal wiretapping isn't making us any safer then what we were before. This is just a way of them spying without any type of warrant. Which is absolutely UNCONSTITUTIONAL and before any of you assholes say I'm unpatriotic, I think this is one of the most patriotic things to say & its also constitutional:

    "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."

     

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  23.  
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    skydude, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 5:50am

    disagree - the ACLU is a pain in the @$$

    The ACLU is not interested in protecting civil liberties, they are interested in "protecting" civil rights which is a completely different thing.

    The ACLU has demonstrated it is not worth any good deeds they perform. F-em.

     

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  24.  
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    AJ, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 6:01am

    Secret?

    All for telling all our National secrets to the enemy, raise your hands!! We live in an open society. Let's give the ones who vow to wipe us off the planet our defense plans, our nuclear secrets. Let's let them know when we want to listen in on their conversations to plan another 9-11. I'm SURE they'll cooperate! Wouldn't that be a great world? And exactly HOW long do you think we'd last? Are you under the illusion that our enemy is at the same level of civilization we're at? That they play by any rules? If I remember correctly, they feed people into plastic shredders alive, haul people off in the middle of the night and behead them, force vaginal mutilation on their women, strap bombs on their children to blow up innocent civilians. Yeah, they'll go along. And Obama thinks he can sit at a table and be rational with these people? He should scare you more than the Supreme Court.

     

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  25.  
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    skydude, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 6:25am

    Todd: they **stole** the election?!?

    Todd wrote: "...they failed to intervene when Bush & Co stole a presidential election"

    c'mon think about it. They **stole** the election? Gore lost. He sued because voters in Florida proved that they could not read a ballot. Typical liberal, sue to get the results you want or feel you deserve.

    The Florida Supreme Court agreed that there should be a recount but only in the most democratic 4 counties which went against Florida state law. The US Supremes overrode that and said that a recount could go forward but it must include ALL counties in the state.

    Learn your history you douchebag.

     

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  26.  
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    Genny Pershing, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 6:34am

    Lowest Constitutional Review

    It's not a catch-22. Outside whether or not the ACLU has standing is the issue of how does the Supreme Court resolve matters before it. There is very sound jurisprudence that supreme court review is resolved on the lowest constitutional grounds. In other words, to rule something unconstitutional is a high review. To rule something should not be before the court on procedural grounds is a low review. If there is some low legal issue on how to resolve a case, that's how it will be resolved.

    The result is that constitutional reviews are only done when an issue is fully "ripe," fully developed, with a clear conflict before the court - with lots of legal analysis being done in the lower courts. When the high review is done, hopefully the analysis is mature and the court get's it right.

    So it's not a catch-22.

    That's not to say I agree with the ruling. It was resolved on the lower analysis of procedural standing. Where the injured party is uncertain and when the attack is constitutional, facial attacks that a law is unconstitutional as it applies to any and all of us do work and do have standing. It's clear the court simply wants to toe the loyalist Bush-Cheney line.

     

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  27.  
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    Todd, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 6:38am

    Re: Todd: they **stole** the election?!?

    Hey asshole before you call me a douchebag. Why don't you read first. I know my history, you can't even get my comment right. Do you think I'm going to listen to you.

    I didn't say they stole the election that was "gwjones". I said our govt was in on 911 & knew everything before it happened & still let it happen. Guess what you're not going to find that in any history book.

     

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  28.  
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    AJ, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 6:43am

    Discourse

    Wow... what intelligent, civilized discourse here... 'douchebag', 'asshole'... come on now... let's do the liberal dance, hold hands and all sing kumbaya!!

     

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  29.  
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    Todd, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 7:07am

    Re: Discourse

    I get what you're trying to say but sometimes you need to use "expressive" words to get your point across. This is how adults speak in the real world. If you want to hear vaginal cleaning bag & poophole instead of what I said go back to your campfire & talk to your goody two-shoe religious friends.

     

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  30.  
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    AJ, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 7:16am

    Discourse

    Ah, the true mark of a Liberal... name calling when you can't find substantive arguement to support your position.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 7:20am

    Re: Applied to other crimes

    It does apply to other crimes. I can' go and sue someone for murdering the a homeless guy downtown, but I can sue someone for murdering a close relative.

    That isn't to say this is a good decision.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Todd, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 7:40am

    Re: Discourse

    AJ what name did I call you? Are you pissed cause I basically called you a right-wing conservative bible banger. I don't mean to sound childish but you're the one name calling where do you get calling me "Liberal"? I might have some anger issues but far from liberal. If anything, you're the liberal, by buttin your head into buisness that is not yours. This was a comment I made to skydude not you.

    If you want to hear clean words I think you belong in "Bibledirt".

     

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  33.  
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    The Mighty Buzzard, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 8:37am

    Big sigh

    Look, the courts did not say "YAY WIRETAPPING" in their ruling. They rightly said that unless there has been actual harm that can be proven, the courts are the wrong venue for the ACLU's complaints. The proper venue would of course be Congress. The court isn't there to deal with every theoretical problem we might have down the line, they're there to deal with real problems.

    Want an example? Texas, for example, could pass a law tomorrow saying all people of Mexican decent should be arrested on sight, duct taped to rockets, and shot into space. The courts could not legally even hear a case regarding that law though until it's actually enforced for the first time. Until then it's just the legislature being retarded and if they had to get involved every time that happened they'd never get any sleep.

     

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  34.  
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    Anonymous, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 9:24am

    Re: Applied to other crimes

    The point of a murder investigation is that Murder is illegal... Murder is a crime it is not a Civil suit... Little different.

     

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  35.  
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    none, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 9:25am

    Re:

    Once again... get a life... go to a different country if you do not like this one. there are a lot of places that you could go

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 9:39am

    Nice unbiased article there. You can get your neighbors together and do a class action suit yourself if your rights have been infringed upon, but you won't have any luck unless you can prove damages. Pay attention closely here... if you can't prove damages, that means there probably aren't any damages.

    Bigger fish to fry people...

     

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  37.  
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    Trooper42, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 10:58am

    ACLU

    Maybe the same kind of divination and tea leaves used to know that it's Americans who are being bugged?

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 20th, 2008 @ 3:25pm

    Re: Big sigh

    The court isn't there to deal with every theoretical problem we might have down the line, they're there to deal with real problems.

    So, if you've been unfairly sentenced to death, the court shouldn't consider your case until AFTER you've actually been executed, come back from the dead, and then filed the proper claims? After all, until the execution is actually carried out it's just a theoretical threat.

    Texas, for example, could pass a law tomorrow saying all people of Mexican decent should be arrested on sight, duct taped to rockets, and shot into space. The courts could not legally even hear a case regarding that law though until it's actually enforced for the first time.

    And by your theory, probably not even then because the actual person shot into space could only file a complaint after the fact. Dead people don't file complaints.

    The fact of the matter is, you are just plain wrong about the law. It is entirely within the law to file a legal complaint over a threat even before such threat is carried out.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 22nd, 2008 @ 1:18am

    Re: Re: Applied to other crimes

    The point of a murder investigation is that Murder is illegal... Murder is a crime it is not a Civil suit... Little different.

    No kidding genius. Nobody said they were the same.

     

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