Gov't Needs To Reveal Who Lobbied For Telco Immunity On Warrantless Wiretaps

from the this-shouldn't-be-a-surprise dept

The EFF has announced that a judge has sided with them in saying the federal government must reveal the records of who lobbied to get telco immunity from any warrantless wiretapping charges in last year's FISA bill. There is simply no credible explanation for granting telco immunity except to cover up illegal activity. It's a clear "get out of jail free" card. Still, I doubt that the lobbying records will turn up very much surprising. I'm sure the big telcos lobbied for it, as you would have expected.


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    Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 4:08am

    Right

    "The EFF has announced that a judge has sided with them in saying the federal government must reveal the records of who lobbied to get telco immunity from any warrantless wiretapping charges in last year's FISA bill"

    Well, hey, that's just great....except that the government will ignore most or all requests on this matter, claiming executive privilege in matters of nat'l security, then when challenged some OTHER judge will decide that going after the government on this case wouldn't best serve the people and then it'll all go the way of Lily Allen's blog: *Poof!*

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 5:05am

      Re: Right

      Even if we did get the list, it won't resolve anything. The immunity is already there and we can't legally do anything to the lobbyists.

       

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        chris (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:26am

        Re: Re: Right

        Even if we did get the list, it won't resolve anything. The immunity is already there and we can't legally do anything to the lobbyists.

        no, but we would know who lobbied for it, and those who oppose retroactive immunity can boycott any corporation that lobbied for it.

         

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          Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:42am

          Re: Re: Re: Right

          "no, but we would know who lobbied for it, and those who oppose retroactive immunity can boycott any corporation that lobbied for it."

          ....and likely never make a phone call or access the internet again.

          Ah, monopoly...

           

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            Chargone (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 3:05pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Right

            that's easily fixed:

            move to New Zealand.

            we actually have multiple national level providers of internet, telephone, and television services.

            there's only one Cable provider, mind you... who're also one of the telcos... and basicly just provide satalite tv by another delivery method... [and are also the ones who basically killed that stupid copyright reform there was that big deal about a while back by refusing to go along with the silly]

            yeah, cable never took off here :)

             

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 4:52am

    EFF

    What I like about the EFF is their commitement they are like a dog with a bone that don't let go and that is just great I wish there where an EFF in each country of the world.

     

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    identicon
    ..., Sep 25th, 2009 @ 5:10am

    On the Horizon

    What's next, immunity for those who lobby ?

     

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    Elohssa (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 5:18am

    I don't beleive there was a lobby in the normal sense. I believe that some combination of the White House and the intelligence community decided this would be worthwhile, and the telco's demanded this as the price of cooperation. This was cloak and dangersecret executive order stuff.

    I hate the telcos in general, but I don't see them as the culprit on this one, and I don't see the new administration dedicating the next couple years to untangling a mess that will only embarrass the Bush White House, regardless of how unpopular, incompetent, illegal, and dangerous their policies may have been.

     

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      silentsteel (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 5:35am

      Re:

      Of course the current administration will not untangle this. It is not in President Obama's best interest to remove a policy that benefits him, also. As long as the telco's have immunity from lawsuits they will continue to provide access to their networks, for gov't surveillance purposes, of course. I do not care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, having that kind of access to information is....useful.

       

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    jsl4980 (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:24am

    Woah back up

    I can't believe Mike wrote "There is simply no credible explanation for granting telco immunity except to cover up illegal activity."

    Mike seems to be taking the "if you want privacy you're obviously guilty" approach that he's fought against time and time again for personal liberties. Every reader here would be outraged if someone wrote that about a person, so how is it ok when it's about a company?

    Please do not sue my teleco for money. I hate them - they suck. But if you sue them and they get fined they're only going to pass that fine on to customers in the way of new fees or reduced services. Businesses don't take losses or just pay fines, they work those losses into next year's prices.

     

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      chris (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:45am

      Re: Woah back up

      Mike seems to be taking the "if you want privacy you're obviously guilty" approach that he's fought against time and time again for personal liberties. Every reader here would be outraged if someone wrote that about a person, so how is it ok when it's about a company?

      woah back up yourself. immunity is not privacy.

      immunity is exemption from criminal prosecution or legal liability or punishment on certain conditions. privacy is the the state of being free from intrusion or disturbance in one's private life or affairs.

      everyone needs privacy as a matter of course. you only need immunity if you have done or are about to do something illegal.

       

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        Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:49am

        Re: Re: Woah back up

        "you only need immunity if you have done or are about to do something illegal"

        ....correct.

        To be granted immunity, you have to need to be immune from something, in legal use meaning immune from prosecution of illegal activity.

        Privacy is an absolutely awful comparison.

         

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        Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:49am

        Re: Re: Woah back up

        "you only need immunity if you have done or are about to do something illegal"

        ....correct.

        To be granted immunity, you have to need to be immune from something, in legal use meaning immune from prosecution of illegal activity.

        Privacy is an absolutely awful comparison.

         

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        jsl4980 (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:54am

        Re: Re: Woah back up

        So you're claiming that teleco's are obviously guilty before having a trial? And guilt is the only excuse - they couldn't want to avoid an expensive long trial?

        You can't claim that someone is guilty because they don't want to go to court.

        I hate my teleco as much as the next guy, but I'm happy if they don't go to court, spend millions, and raise prices next year. The lawsuits are trying to continually tarnish the Bush administration which has already admitted to illegal surveillance. Why continue to waste tax payer money attacking companies that will only result in raised prices for consumers? I don't want to pay for both ends of this lawsuit that won't change illegal intrusions that already happened.

         

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          Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 7:16am

          Re: Re: Re: Woah back up

          "So you're claiming that teleco's are obviously guilty before having a trial? And guilt is the only excuse - they couldn't want to avoid an expensive long trial?"

          Admitedly I am not a lawyer, but I believe you're confusing immunity with a settlement. The first is the exemption from prosecution of what is known to be a crime, either premptively or as a result of a plea agreement. The other is an agreement not to go to trial, which admits no guilt.

          "You can't claim that someone is guilty because they don't want to go to court."

          I didn't. I said that to require immunity, you need to be immune from something, and in legal cases that is prosecution for whatever crime you have or are going to be committing.

          "The lawsuits are trying to continually tarnish the Bush administration which has already admitted to illegal surveillance."

          Agreed, which is why they are required to be judged by our judicial system. What they are doing is preventing that, and it's illegal. Obama not pursuing legal action against a crime against the people of the United States is a failing of his chief charge as President: To protect the people of our country.

          "Why continue to waste tax payer money attacking companies that will only result in raised prices for consumers?"

          Because it's a means to an end, and that end is the prosecution of eleted and unelected officials that have committed crimes against the people they represent: you and me, amongst others. That's more important than your telephone bill.

           

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            jsl4980 (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 7:39am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Woah back up

            The telecom companies were given immunity from lawsuits. This is not an admission of guilt on anyone's part. There was a pending lawsuit by the EFF against AT&T, it was allowed to go forward, then the government granted immunity to the telecom companies to avoid details of the plans from becoming public.

            It's shady for sure, but it's not fair or correct to assume guilt. We have a judicial system in which you're innocent until proven guilty, and that applies to every one - even people/companies you really really don't like.

            I was trying to make two points (and I did it poorly). First - you can't assume guilt on the part of telecom companies. Second - you should go after the people who instructed them to violate our rights, not the companies.

             

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              Dark Helmet (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 7:52am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Woah back up

              "There was a pending lawsuit by the EFF against AT&T, it was allowed to go forward, then the government granted immunity to the telecom companies to avoid details of the plans from becoming public."

              Correct, and from what I understand, that is not the proper application of immunity. The States Secrets excuse is being used in an overbroad and arguably illegal manner.

              "We have a judicial system in which you're innocent until proven guilty, and that applies to every one - even people/companies you really really don't like."

              It's not a matter of what I like or don't like. Immunity from prosecution is the AVOIDANCE of the trial system and the States Secrets defense is being used to PREVENT proving guilt. They're gaming the system, and I think it's reasonable to assume guilt based on immunity. If you are vaccinated against a virus, doesn't that virus by definition exist? An arguably weak analogy, yes, but the point remains: if you're being granted immunity it follows that there is something to be immune from.

              "First - you can't assume guilt on the part of telecom companies. Second - you should go after the people who instructed them to violate our rights, not the companies."

              I think you can, in the first point because of the way that immunity is traditionally used. You use it to get one person in a crime to speak against ANOTHER in that same crime, and that seems to follow logically with what's going on here.

              To your second point, the whole idea behind the trial against the telcos was to open the door to prosecuting the Bush administration, or parts of it. They prevented that by claiming State Secrets over the EVIDENCE in the telecom trial. That's illegal, in that they're preventing the Constitutionally granted power of the Judical branch to prosecute a federal crime. Not resisting, not suggesting they don't, PREVENTING.

               

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          chris (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 8:37am

          Re: Re: Re: Woah back up

          So you're claiming that teleco's are obviously guilty before having a trial? And guilt is the only excuse - they couldn't want to avoid an expensive long trial?

          obviously guilty, no. but we don't know the whole story, which is the point of the EFF's litigation: getting the whole story.

          i think asking for immunity is a clear indicator that you are afraid of being found out that are guilty of, or at least complicit in, an illegal act. i think that's pretty suspicious and warrants further investigation by a third party such as the EFF.

          You can't claim that someone is guilty because they don't want to go to court.

          yes i can. i just did. you have every right to apologize for the telcos if that's what you want to do.

          I hate my teleco as much as the next guy, but I'm happy if they don't go to court, spend millions, and raise prices next year.

          they'll raise their prices next year anyway and you know it. i know noting about your service, your service provider, or your geographic location, and yet i can still say with absolute certainty that your bill will go up.

          The lawsuits are trying to continually tarnish the Bush administration which has already admitted to illegal surveillance. Why continue to waste tax payer money attacking companies that will only result in raised prices for consumers?

          there is more to this than the bush administration or your phone bill. when obama was still a senator, he voted for retroactive immunity for the telcos. this cuts across party lines, which is why we need to hear the whole story.

          if one administration can conduct illegal wiretaps in the name of fighting terrorism, what's to stop another administration from doing the same in the name of some other administration appropriate boogeyman? we need to tap your phone calls to make sure you aren't talking to global warming!

          I don't want to pay for both ends of this lawsuit that won't change illegal intrusions that already happened.

          and what about the illegal intrusions that haven't happened yet? the telcos broke the law at the behest of the government and neither the telcos, nor the government have been punished. that is a travesty.

          the governement and the telcos need to fess up to what really happened and then fix the problem so it doesn't happen again, or they need to sack up and make it clear that they're not going to tell us what happened and that the problem won't be fixed.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:48am

      Re: Woah back up

      Businesses don't take losses or just pay fines, they work those losses into next year's prices.

      Yeah, that's why all businesses and their owners should be above the law.

       

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        jsl4980 (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 7:16am

        Re: Re: Woah back up

        My understanding of the case is that the businesses were directed to give up our data, conversations, e-mails, etc to the government. They didn't offer it up willingly. If you're going to go after someone then go after the person who told them to turn the data over.

         

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          dorp, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 9:31am

          Re: Re: Re: Woah back up

          My understanding of the case is that the businesses were directed to give up our data, conversations, e-mails, etc to the government. They didn't offer it up willingly.

          Your understanding is wrong. They could and SHOULD have not given up the data as it was well within their legal rights. They did willingly give up the data and that's the reason they are under fire as well as why they demanded immunity. You are misinformed on the matter.

          The telecom companies were given immunity from lawsuits. This is not an admission of guilt on anyone's part. There was a pending lawsuit by the EFF against AT&T, it was allowed to go forward, then the government granted immunity to the telecom companies to avoid details of the plans from becoming public.

          You are betting on the wrong horse here. There are many constitutional questions raised about the whole affair and just because Supreme Court did not get to it yet, does not make it "legal" or "constitutional." Companies going along with a request of the government are not intrinsically protected from prosecution, since they have the legal tools to combat illegal requests from the government. Asking for immunity *might not* mean they've done something illegal, but the overwhelming evidence is that it's not true. You are just fighting semantics when the real question is: how to proceed in exposing what really happened.

           

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      Raybone (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:50am

      Re: Woah back up

      NOT the same at all buddy...try again


      This is not about privacy for the Telcos, but about the overt disintegration of whats left of our Republic. I care not what the "law" states ...a corp is NOT a person in any sense and these criminals deserve exposure, ridicule and a loss of their corp. charter. Period. We need to get back to the pre-Robber Baron days when it comes to legal corp power. corporate destruction of the republic that millions have died for is treason in any definition of the word which caries a death sentence. When we start publicly hanging a few bankers and corrupt politicians along Wall St and K St, you will get REAL change.

       

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 7:33am

      Re: Woah back up

      Mike seems to be taking the "if you want privacy you're obviously guilty" approach that he's fought against time and time again for personal liberties. Every reader here would be outraged if someone wrote that about a person, so how is it ok when it's about a company?

      Um, protecting someone's privacy is entirely different than granting them full immunity from past criminal actions.

      Please do not sue my teleco for money. I hate them - they suck. But if you sue them and they get fined they're only going to pass that fine on to customers in the way of new fees or reduced services. Businesses don't take losses or just pay fines, they work those losses into next year's prices.

      So you'd rather that telcos have no problem revealing all your info to the gov't? Just as long as they keep their bills low?

       

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        jsl4980 (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 10:11am

        Re: Re: Woah back up

        "So you'd rather that telcos have no problem revealing all your info to the gov't? Just as long as they keep their bills low?"

        I said don't sue the telecoms for money. I didn't say that what they did is ok. If someone broke the law throw them in jail. But if you fine the company they're just going to pass those fines on to the customers. Most telecoms have virtual monopolies in their markets, any fines will be passed directly on to consumers (further harming already violated citizens).

        I also do not think you can assume that because they were granted immunity from lawsuits that they are guilty. I don't support granting them immunity, but assuming that they are guilty is incorrect.

         

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          Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 25th, 2009 @ 1:17pm

          Re: Re: Re: Woah back up

          I also do not think you can assume that because they were granted immunity from lawsuits that they are guilty. I don't support granting them immunity, but assuming that they are guilty is incorrect.

          It's not the telcos who I'm assuming are guilty, but the politicians. The only reason for *them* to grant immunity to the telcos is to avoid an investigation into their own activities.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 6:50am

    Still, I doubt that the lobbying records will turn up very much surprising.

    It'll just make it a little more difficult for them to deny it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2009 @ 7:33am

    So you really believe that this started with and ended with GWB? Our government has been tapped into our phone system for many many years. Guess what, Obama didn't stop that practice.

    Oh, and they also are tapped into Hotmail, Yahoo Mail and yes, even Google mail.

     

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