Feds Appealing Ruling That Said Warrantless Wiretapping Was Illegal; Will This Backfire?

from the thought-they'd-let-it-drop dept

A year ago, a lot of folks were quite surprised when a court ruled that the federal government had violated wiretapping laws with its warrantless wiretapping campaign. The government had fought hard against the lawsuit at every turn, and went to ridiculous lengths to stall and even ignore the judge. The whole case revolved around the one situation in which the government revealed that it was wiretapping some people without the required warrant. Previous lawsuits over the program had been dropped, because without specific evidence from someone being spied on, no one actually had standing to sue. Yes, this is a bit Kafkaesque when you think about it. Basically, so long as the government keeps its illegal spying activity secret from those it's spying on, no one can take legal action to stop it.

However, in this one case, the government accidentally sent the proof to some lawyers, but then tried to pretend that the document was still "secret" and claimed "national security" reasons for why the proof could not be shown in court. The whole thing was yet another silly game of coverup. So it was big news last March when the government lost the case.

However, soon after that ruling, people started pointing out that the government might not appeal the case, because it could just "accept" the ruling, pay whatever fines, and then just go on doing what it was doing, since no one else could sue and there was nothing else to stop them. This thinking was given even more weight when the judge finally announced the awards to those who were spied on, and it amounted to pocket change.

So consider us surprised that the federal government has indicated it plans to appeal the ruling. It's entirely possible that it's only appealing on very specific and narrow grounds, but it does seem like an odd decision, and it makes me wonder if the government might not regret it if it ends up losing the appeal, and getting a more serious punishment.

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  1. identicon
    DCX2, 23 Feb 2011 @ 6:39am

    Re: A More Serious Punishment

    I can't wait for third world dictators to start justifying their assaults on civil liberties by comparing themselves favorably to the US when it comes to things like warrantless wiretaps etc.

    FYI, the deficit was never multi-trillion. The debt is. While the whole debt thing is a problem, I think a lot of people tend to overstate the problem due to confirmation bias, ignoring statistics like debt/GDP that don't fit an alarmist perspective.

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