Supreme Court Won't Hear Case On Legality Of Retroactive Immunity For Telcos

from the another-brick-in-the-wall dept

Well, this is unfortunate. Late last year, the 9th Circuit appeals court — as part of a series of cases concerning warrantless spying on Americans — decided that the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) passed by Congress in 2008 was not unconstitutional in granting telcos retroactive immunity for carrying out government orders to spy on Americans. This is quite troubling for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the government is more or less admitting that it teamed up with telcos to violate the law. Why else would you grant retroactive immunity to telcos if you didn’t know they’d already broken the law in the past.

Unfortunately, it appears that the Supreme Court has now refused to hear the appeal on the case, effectively killing off the EFF and ACLU’s legal challenge to the legality of giving telcos retroactive immunity.

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Comments on “Supreme Court Won't Hear Case On Legality Of Retroactive Immunity For Telcos”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Not that it is necessarily a legitimate legal defense has the amendment not been passed, but when I place myself in the position of a telco I have to ask if I was being requested to cooperate or if I was being politically coerced? In some ways it reminds me of the request made by the current administration that defense contractors not issue layoff notices mandated by law in anticipation of sequestration should Congress fail to act before the end of this year. “Yes, Mr. President, I am going to follow the law. Uh, what is that you have to say? If I proceed I just might find myself in a wringer because my existing contracts will be examined with a fine tooth comb, and my prospective contracts might not be so prospective at all? Well, I guess I can wait if you put it that way.”

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

It would be surprising only if they DID hear the appeal.

Hearing this case would be tantamount to the US government admitting that they were once so scared of a small bunch of hillbillies that they ran roughshod over the rights of every single american.

I imagine the Supremes looked at each other and said “Let’s not stick our dicks in this particular hornets’ nest.”

Edward Teach says:

Re: Supreme Court of the United States

Aye, mate, I’ve wondered this me self. The SCOTUS seems to have more than a whiff of external influence around it lately. See: for one possibility. Mayhaps Justice Thomas should be thankin the Obamacare Controversy for his continued seat on the court, shiver me sides. The “Citizens United” case, and last year’s GPS ruling (on trespassing grounds!) also really make me wonder what influences the SCOTUS outside of the formal arguments, and their internal deliberations.

Anonymous Coward says:

As bad the ruling is, it unfortunately makes sense.

Prosecutors grant immunity all the time to people in criminal cases, including murder cases, to get the biggest criminal off the street. Often there’s no other way to get such people to testify because they refuse to take a plea deal, and even if found guilty in court they’ll still refuse to talk because talking and saying “yeah I stole $10,000 from this guy I saw that other guy brutally murder” could ruin all hope of them winning an appeal.

How can you grand immunity in such a situation that ISN’T retroactive? You don’t just go up to a prosecutor and say “I’d like to rob some people, but I think my partners are going to murder my robbing victims, so if you give me immunity for robbery I’ll speak against my partners in court for the crime of murder”.

Undercover police agents don’t get immunity, because they record everything they do for the purpose of catching a criminal, they don’t break the laws.

That said, giving the telcos immunity doesn’t farther the conviction of any law breaker, it just stifles everyone else’s right to privacy.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

it just stifles everyone else’s right to privacy.

It’s WAY bigger than that. Giving the telcos immunity sets a dangerous precedent: it tells powerful corporations who are not restrained by the Constitution that they can break the law freely without regards to consequences when the government asks them to.

This effectively lets the the government use corporations as proxies, giving it power unfettered by the Constitution. Not just about privacy issues, but about all issues.

Bengie says:


Just as government officials can pass and enforce judgement against citizens, groups of citizens should be allowed to pass judgement against government officials.

Essentially trial by jury against public officials. No illegal activity required, just a democratic vote of the citizens to say “I don’t like what they’re doing”.

My main point is there needs to be a punishment worse than “we won’t vote for you again”.

Anonymous Coward says:

It would be nice it this was just about granting immunity but it is not. The U.S. gov didn’t want this anywhere near a supreme court room b/c then the telecommunication companies would have to tell the court (public) exactly what the government had them do, how often they did it, to how many people they did it to, etc. If the public knew how much crap their ‘beloved’ government does for them…

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