NSA Boss Asks Congress For Blanket Immunity For Companies That Help NSA Spy On Everyone

from the but-of-course dept

This will come as no surprise to anyone, but NSA boss General Keith Alexander is pestering Congress for a new law which would provide blanket immunity for companies helping the NSA collect data on everyone.
Gen. Keith Alexander has petitioned Capitol Hill for months to give Internet service providers and other firms new cover from lawsuits when they rely on government data to thwart emerging cyberthreats.
Basically, he's arguing that if the NSA orders companies to do something illegal, the companies shouldn't be liable for that. There's some logic behind that, because when you get an order from the government, you often feel compelled to obey. But, of course, the reality is that this will give blanket cover for companies voluntarily violating all sorts of privacy laws in giving the NSA data. And, theoretically you could then sue the government over those violations, but we've seen in the past how well that goes over. First, the courts won't give you "standing" if you can't prove absolutely that your data was included. Then, if you get past that hurdle, the government will claim "national security" or sovereign immunity to try to get out of the case. And, even if it gets past all of that, and you win against the government, the feds shrug their shoulders and say "now what are you going to do?"

And, of course, rather than narrowly target this immunity, it appears that Alexander would like it as broad as possible.
One former White House aide told POLITICO that Alexander has been asking members of Congress for some time to adopt bill language on countermeasures that’s “as ill-defined as possible” — with the goal of giving the Pentagon great flexibility in taking action alongside Internet providers. Telecom companies, the former aide said, also have been asking Alexander for those very legal protections.
Given the revelations of the past few weeks, this seems like the exact wrong direction for Congress to be heading. We should want companies to push back against overaggressive demands from the government for information. Giving them blanket immunity would be a huge mistake and only enable greater privacy violations.

Filed Under: blanket immunity, immunity, keith alexander, nsa, nsa surveillance, spying, tech companies


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jun 2013 @ 6:25pm

    UPCOMING TOMORROW: House Intelligence Committee Hearing

    NSA Director Keith Alexander to Testify at Open House Intelligence Committee Hearing
    Media Advisory

    WASHINGTON, D.C. National Security Agency (NSA) Director Keith Alexander will testify Tuesday in an open hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). The hearing is part of the continuing oversight the HPSCI conducts of the NSA, and an opportunity to discuss how the disclosed NSA programs protect Americans from terror attacks on US soil, and why the disclosure of that classified information aids our adversaries.

    Date: June 18, 2013 (Tuesday)
    Topic: How Disclosed NSA Programs Protect Americans, and Why Disclosure Aids Our Adversaries
    Time: 10:00am 12:00pm ET


    United States House of Representatives, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence: webpage for hearing.


    (H/T Fox News )

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