Judge Makes Feds Pay Pocket Change To Two Lawyers It Wiretapped Without A Warrant

from the well-that-will-stop-them dept

Earlier this year, when a judge ruled against the US government for wiretapping some lawyers working with the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation without getting a warrant, some people pointed out that the US government's best response might just be to say "okay" and go on with its life. The court has now made that an even easier decision by effectively slapping the wrist of the government, ordering it to pay $20,400 to each of the two lawyers.

Yes, if you share a a few songs you love with others, you may get fined millions of dollars, but if you're the US government, and you violate the 4th Amendment by spying on people without a warrant, you get fined $100 per day. And only for the two people who were able to bring a lawsuit because you screwed up and sent them the details of how you wiretapped them without a warrant. For everyone else who was wiretapped (or is still being wiretapped) without a warrant, you're out of luck, unless the government makes the same mistake with you, and then you go through years of trials to get $100 per day of wiretapping for your troubles. That said, the court did also require the government to pay these guys' legal fees, which amounted to about $2.5 million. But, still, the whole thing suggests it's unlikely that there will be any other legal challenges, and the US government can and will continue to break the law in the way it handles its wiretaps.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    NullOp, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 5:26am

    Tapped

    There are laws governing how much someone can be fined for an offense. They even apply to our government. It just "looks" like someone is playing favorites...

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Michael, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 5:43am

    Re: Tapped

    Yeah, but if it were a citizen, it wouldn't be a fine, it would be prison.

     

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

  3.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 5:48am

    Re: Tapped

    It doesn't look like favoritism to me, it looks like we have a vary lopsided legal system. Someone has to pay $1.9mill for downloading a few song, these two get $20k each for having their privacy violated, and the lawyers get $2.5mill.

     

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  4.  
    icon
    VoicesInMyHead (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 5:59am

    Re: Re: Tapped

    "t doesn't look like favoritism to me, it looks like we have a vary lopsided legal system."

    I don't think it's a lopsided issue... it's the fact we have evolved a legal system and pushed aside any form of a justice system. (IMHO)

     

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  5.  
    icon
    anymouse (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 6:02am

    Wait a minute here... was there any 'music' recorded in these illegal wiretaps?

    Based on the fine and daily amount the feds were recording these guys for 204 days, I think we can safely assume (just like the RIAA/MPAA do) that in that time frame the Feds recorded some music in their wiretaps.

    So while they may only be on the hook for $100 per day to the lawyers, we should be expecting to see a lawsuit by the RIAA against the federal government for copyright infringement for every piece of a song that was recorded on any of those 204 day's recordings. This could open the Feds up to some huge fines based on what consumers would have to pay if they did the same thing (remember folks, recording music IS THE DEVIL, and you have to give the devil his due....).

    Seriously though, lets say I setup a recording device in public near an area where lots of people play music (radios, CD's, car stereo's, etc) and recorded all the 'sounds' for 204 days. Lets assume that I only recorded one 'song' per day in my perfectly legal public recordings, how much would the fine be if I was taken to court and the recordings were presented as proof of my 'copyright infringement'? $10,000? $100,000? $2,040,000?

    I think it's only fair that the Feds should be sued by the RIAA for any piece of music that they happened to record in their illegal wiretapping. Furthermore I think they should be slapped with Murder charges under the 'felony murder rule' since they are committing a crime related to killing someone, since 'Home recording is killing the music industry'.......

    yeah, I'm serious.... now where did I leave that tinfoil hat

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 6:10am

    Unfortunately, the appellate court might alleviate the damages.

     

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

  7.  
    icon
    Andy D (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 6:14am

    Lazyness

    Whats really silly is how unnecessary warrantless wiretaps are. Would it really be that hard for the government to get a tame judge to sign a few warrants? It might still be a mockery of justice, but at least it would be through proper channels.

     

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

  8.  
    icon
    kevjohn (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 6:25am

    dreadful

    "I'm not above the law, I AM THE LAW!"

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 6:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Tapped

    Ah, that's where my mistake was. I was thinking of it as a justice system.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 6:57am

    Re: dreadful

    You almost got it.

    I'm not above the law, I AM THE LAW!
    I decide what is legal and illegal by whim!
    And if you do not like that off to jail with you.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 7:07am

    Where do you think that money comes from? Us the taxpayers, save us money by not doing illegal stuff then getting fined because they were caught with their pants down.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 7:23am

    Re:

    ...or bring copyright laws to bear some resemblance to really serious matter and cut that ridiculous amount of money that is asked today for frivolous copyright infringement.

    Unless you think copyright infringement is more of a serious issue then being spy upon your own government.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 7:24am

    Judge Dred would be proud.

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    dev, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 7:33am

    copyright

    what if I register a copyright on my phone calls then I can I have millions from the government? Thats my IP, and if the gov is going to steal it I have no incentive to create.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 8:16am

    Re: Wait a minute here... was there any 'music' recorded in these illegal wiretaps?

    The money would go to the RIAA, not to the people being wiretapped. and the government has no problems handing money over to big corporations, don't give them any more excuses.

     

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  16.  
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    DOlz (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 10:14am

    The Real Problem

    Even if the fine had been lets say a million dollars a day for each person violated it would be meaningless. The real problem is that the people who made this decision are not being held accountable or punished in any way, so there is no disincentive for them not to do it again and again and ...

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 1:11pm

    Re: The Real Problem

    Ah, but if the fine were higher the ones who manage the budget would put some pressure on the ones making the mistakes.

    Way more indirect than it should be, of course, but still some effect.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    herbert, Dec 23rd, 2010 @ 1:50pm

    obviously, it's a much more serious offense to share music than to break the 4th amendment and invade privacy etc. at least in this judge's eyes it is. what an absolute joke!

     

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


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