Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

EFF Says Ma Bell Broke The Law In Opening Up Data To NSA

from the broke-the-law?--they-make-the-law dept

The ACLU has already filed a lawsuit against the NSA for its wiretapping-without-warrants effort -- so the question of how legal the program is will eventually get settled in court. However, the EFF is looking at another aspect of the program: how did the NSA get access to that data? With that in mind, the group is now suing AT&T, saying it violated the first and fourth amendments by allowing the NSA open access to its databases. This could be a fascinating lawsuit to watch from the legal standpoint, though, as some are pointing out, the government is likely to step in and derail the lawsuit by claiming "state secrets" are involved.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Posterlogo, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 4:53pm

    something must be done...

    ...but i'm not sure what that could be. the nsa obviously asked for the records in secret and made at&t keep it a secret under threat. i'm not sure what at&t could have done? gone public and face criminal charges? i don't think anyone should be snooping warrantlessly on citizens, but what should at&t have done? if someone is holding a gun to MY head and asking for some data from my computer, i'm going to say take it and don't hurt me. at&t had no recourse precisely because it was a state secrets issue. google is defending their search data against government intrusion because it's all out in the open. if the government has already taken from google in secret, we just wouldn't know about it. when we find out, should we then sue google? there were no courts involved with the at&t case, so again, who could at&t complain to?

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

  2. identicon
    haggie, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 5:09pm

    No Subject Given

    So, I could show up at ATT's offices and demand customer records and when confronted say that I work for a top secret government agency that doesn't need a search warrant or subpoena. And ATT's response would essentially be, "oh, if that's the case, take whatever customer information you need..."

    That is, essentially, what happened.

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

  3. identicon
    Remo Williams, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 5:35pm

    NSA's Credentials

    Since when did the NSA ever need search warrants or subpoenas to get exactly what they wanted? If you show the "correct" credentials, you have far greater access than that of a person who does not show those credentials (or at least more than that of those who show lesser credentials).

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

  4. identicon
    Posterlogo, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 5:49pm

    Re: No Subject Given

    Are you serious? You think all they had to do was show up? Maybe in a black suit with sunglasses? Come on, talk facts, not movies. Why don't you go try it and see if that's how it happened? I think AT&T was faced with a verifiable and genuine request from the government. These are all fellow human beings we are talking about and I for one don't think AT&T is stupid enough to be just giving stuff away without any confirmation of authenticity. But really, go put on your black suit and sunglasses and fake badge and try to get some phone records. Sheesh.

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

  5. identicon
    Tyshaun, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 6:27pm

    Class action anyone?

    Sems like the main issue will be the agreement between AT&T and its customers, and relevant state/federal law. I know that if presented a warrant, public utilities in NJ are required to give up consumer information. However, without a warrant, the business I guess could ignore the request or say no. Now, AT&T may have acquiesed and given the NSA the information anyway without a warrant, but I wonder how long before some type of class action suit is attempted by some AT&T customers and some attorney somewhere.

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

  6. identicon
    Professor HighBrow, Jan 31st, 2006 @ 7:30pm

    Too many questions, too few Answers

    This will be interesting to see unfold, that's for sure.

    The outcome will ENTIRELY depend on the scope of the NSA's power to demand records without warrant. I'd predict that the ACLU will lose, considering the following factors:

    #1 As stated, the Government can always derail the entire case, black out any documents suppeoned, and basically claim "Executive order" on anything that could be used against them, since (correct me if I'm wrong) the NSA is a creation of the executive branch, under executive order.

    Thats like trying to sue the Secret Service for punching you in the head because you came too close to a protected politician.

    It just plain won't work unless it gets taken all the way to the Supreme Court, and even then, it's doubtful that it would hold up there, either, considering our last two Appointments.

    Also, it would set a precedent that would undermine the ability of the NSA to operate above the law (which they basically can already do) and render it ineffective.

    There's no way that the ACLU can pull this one off, IMHO.

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous, Feb 1st, 2006 @ 1:37am

    Just a thought

    Since when is AT&T able to make a law for a violation of the 1st Ammendment to apply? I have to say this is highly amusing to me because unless they are counting lobbiests AT&T doesn't make laws at all. They merely attempt to follow them like the rest of us.

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

  8. identicon
    CloakedMirror, Feb 1st, 2006 @ 6:12am

    Whose rights are violated?

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the writer of the summary was making the statements with regards to the NSA violating first and fourth amendment rights. However, since it was AT&T that gave up the information it would be up to AT&T to bring any legal action as it pertains to illegal searches and seizures. I can't see how any of the actions that I have heard about are violating peoples' right to free expression, or the freedom to practice whatever faith they choose.

    The customers of AT&T could possibly try to sue AT&T for breach of privacy, but this has nothing to do with the first and fourth amendments.

    Finally, for all of you that carry on about how your fourth amendment rights are trampled by the NSA actions, you need to learn how the amendment works. It does not protect you from searches and seizures by the government. Its purpose is to guarantee that the outcome of warrantless searches cannot be used against you; and that you have a legal remedy for recovering that which may have been seized without warrant and/or due process.

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

  9. identicon
    Ron, Feb 1st, 2006 @ 4:12pm

    Track record

    Has the EFF ever won a single case? I mean a really important case, one where the outcome actually matters to society.

    Just curious.. as I can't think of one, try as I may.

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

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 1st, 2006 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Track record

    I'm start to think that the EFF is really a front organization whose real purpose is to purposely loose strategic cases.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 6th, 2006 @ 1:05pm

    Re: Whose rights are violated?

    No the 4th amendment is written to prevent you from being searched without a warrent. The part about throwing out evidence is only to discourage the LEO from doing so.

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

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