Congress Thinking About 'Compromise' That Would Move Telco Immunity Questions To Secret Court

from the what's-so-secret-here? dept

There's been an ongoing battle in Congress over whether or not telcos that helped the gov't with warrantless wiretaps should get retroactive immunity for their actions. No one has given any good reason why companies should be granted immunity for any sort of illegal actions, and there are plenty of reasons why they should not. The fact that the administration "asked" them to administer the wiretaps is no excuse. The president is not above the law. Basically, the only reason to demand immunity is because it's clear that someone (or, more likely, multiple people and companies) broke the law.

The latest move in this process is a so-called "compromise" bill that would move these disputes into a secret court, who could then dismiss the lawsuits without giving any explanation whatsoever. And, yet, no one has explained why these trials should happen in secret either. Either the companies followed the procedures that are clearly stated in the law, or they did not. You can determine if they followed the procedure without giving up state secrets. This whole thing seems to be involving an awful lot of smoke and mirrors coming out of DC, with people making all sorts of ridiculous statements about "security" and "terrorism." Those statements are all meaningless distractions. There is a clear legal procedure for wiretapping that even allows for going back after the fact to get approval. There is no excuse that the process was too cumbersome or slow, because of that ability to go back. The question here has nothing to do with security and safety. It has to do with whether or not the legal process was followed -- and it's hard to see why that should remain secret.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    some old guy, May 30th, 2008 @ 3:34pm

    dear god

    dear god, we're totally fucked.

    Hello 1984! uh, why are you 24 years late?

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    magscanner, May 30th, 2008 @ 4:03pm

    Hidden Elephant

    The elephant that's hiding in the room, rather large and hard to ignore, is that a large number of people in our government had a hand in breaking the law. Not just the Administration, though it's the primary offender. A lot of people in Congress and the bureaucracy winked and nodded at this. Plenty of culpability to pass around!

    It's time the perps got frog-marched off to prison. How it will warm my heart to see some justice meted out!

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2008 @ 5:00pm

    Couldn't this be considered a "Nuremberg Defense"? If an individual is asked by the government he trusts to do something to disobey the governments own law, can't he just assume there is good reason? Particularly when he'd have no way of knowing why he was asked.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2008 @ 5:27pm

    There - I said it

    The Emperor has no clothes.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, May 30th, 2008 @ 6:55pm

    The president is not above the law.


    Has anyone ever told him that?

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2008 @ 8:21pm

    Anthony Pellicano

    Next maybe they'll give Anthony Pellicano retroactive immunity for all his illegal wiretapping too. Or maybe just a presidential pardon.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2008 @ 9:24pm

    compromise?

    How is this a compromise? Compromise entails give and take. I don't hear any give.

    Anyone have a link to the actual draft bill? Or is Sen. Bond keeping the actual text under wraps until right before the vote?

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 31st, 2008 @ 6:48am

    Shadow Government

    Why do they not want the proceedings to be public ?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    SC, May 31st, 2008 @ 7:21am

    Let's debate FISA and other gov't/privacy policy with vigor. But I worry this side issue, lawsuits against the telco's for cooperating with certain federal requests (however right or wrong they were), is fraught with huge unintended consequences. And while it sounds like I'm supporting the telco's here, I'm not. But let's not use this issue as a backdoor lever to the real debate. It'll come back to bite us in the ass.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Dan Lewis, May 31st, 2008 @ 9:13am

    Hell to pay

    Here's the real deal: the government was doing wholesale, non-particularized surveillance of the internet and telephone systems. It was not targeted and there is no way to write or get approved, even by a rubber-stamping court, individual warrants for every American on the internet.

    So they just pretended they didn't have to. They got caught by whistleblowers, and there will be hell to pay if this gets out. We're talking about felonies, of the sort that allow murderers to walk on cop shows (even now some of our terrorists are challenging their detention based on fruit-of-the-poison-tree arguments), ordered by the president of the United States multiple times over the course of years.

    Their only hope to avoid prison time, and a trip to the Evil section of the history books, is that it doesn't get out. That's why all the demands for secrecy and premature dismissal.

    I hope to God that they fail. There are ongoing efforts to stop these immunity deals. Find one, tell your Congressman what you think, and act on the situation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Dan Lewis, May 31st, 2008 @ 9:13am

    Hell to pay

    Here's the real deal: the government was doing wholesale, non-particularized surveillance of the internet and telephone systems. It was not targeted and there is no way to write or get approved, even by a rubber-stamping court, individual warrants for every American on the internet.

    So they just pretended they didn't have to. They got caught by whistleblowers, and there will be hell to pay if this gets out. We're talking about felonies, of the sort that allow murderers to walk on cop shows (even now some of our terrorists are challenging their detention based on fruit-of-the-poison-tree arguments), ordered by the president of the United States multiple times over the course of years.

    Their only hope to avoid prison time, and a trip to the Evil section of the history books, is that it doesn't get out. That's why all the demands for secrecy and premature dismissal.

    I hope to God that they fail. There are ongoing efforts to stop these immunity deals. Find one, tell your Congressman what you think, and act on the situation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Dan Lewis, May 31st, 2008 @ 9:15am

    sorry about the double post, I don't think I hit anything twice

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Hulser, May 31st, 2008 @ 10:23am

    Re:

    >lawsuits against the telco's for cooperating with certain
    >federal requests (however right or wrong they were), is
    >fraught with huge unintended consequences
    If you're going to warn us about being bitten in the ass by unintented consequences, you might want to tell us what they are or actually give some examples.

    The first thing that comes to mind when reading about this story isn't about what would happen if the telcos are sued, but if they're not! The consequence of not suing them is that companies won't feel an obligation to uphold the law if some government agency asks them to break it. What possible unintended consequence is more potentially dangerous than this kind of bald faced corruption of justice?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    NSA, May 31st, 2008 @ 1:31pm

    Re:

    sorry about the double post, I don't think I hit anything twice
    Dan,

    We're sorry about the double post. We've been having a little trouble with some of our Secret Capture And Record Y-splitter (SCARY) devices since a recent software update. What happens is the SCARY sometimes fails to properly capture a packet. When this happens the SCARY then impersonates the intended receiver and requests that the packet be resent (so that the SCARY can try again to capture it). This has the side effect of causing the packet to be received twice by the intended receiver and hence the double post. Note that this problem only occurs with messages small enough (with headers) to fit entirely within a 1500 byte Internet packet (as yours was). We're working a solution but of course it will be secret so please be patient.

    NSA

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    pegr, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 7:15am

    Re: Re:

    Good god, that was funny... (and SCARY too!)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    mobiGeek, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 7:46am

    Re:

    Or maybe more of an Oliver North defense?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    NovaLounge, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 1:56pm

    There can be no compromise between poison and food.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 2nd, 2008 @ 8:32pm

    What?

    A secret court? Fuck, this is sounding like the USSR or China. I thought this country was opposed to that sort of behavior?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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