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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. icon
    Jay (profile), 18 Jun 2013 @ 2:32am

    Re: Re: Godwins' Law

    Do not make the mistake of comparing this time with that.

    Ok... But let's do the exact opposite and see if there are parallels.

    Germany was in the grip of a devastating depression, with civil anarchy as a theme.

    How is that different from the US being gripped with punishing austerity in their sixth year while we give more money to the rich and leave the scraps for the rest of the nation?

    There were no good leaders, no cohesive groups or mindset.

    Communists were banned from influencing the government and their exclusion lead to extreme conservatism by the libertarians of the time. I try to keep partisanry out of the example, but it still explains the basic gist of corporatism that is currently going on in our country today.

    The reparations the country made to the Allies were crippling the economy to the point of utter exhaustion.

    No question. But look at our economy sputtering along when the rich could be taxed to provide better public services. Look at the demagoguery between liberals and conservatives in keeping a corrupt and unequal system of governance that is exhausting the people itself.

    Hitler was 'selected' by the people because they were desperate for a leader who would lead them out of a economic misry so vast that the money would change value in hours.

    True. And that's why austerity is so dangerous even in the country now. It makes people desperate to find blame with the weakest people of a nation and works to find scapegoats and con artists in positions of power.

    Add to that the substrata of hatred towards one select group as the reason for their misery, and you have a country that was ready to give any man who had their hearts and minds in his speeches.

    And how is that any different from the US and their degradation of blacks in the Drug War, the peonage system we've used since the Civil War, or the fact that we have plenty of people that have felt the effects of influential speakers in making life harder for people all around?

    There are no Gestapo agents busting down doors to find the nearest Jew to put into concentration camps.

    Try being black and having law enforcement break down your door with no-knock warrants. We have more people killed by police officers every day than were ever killed by terrorism.

    There are no detention centers for intellectuals.

    Aaron Schwartz' prosecution says otherwise. We don't detain the financially wealthy. We detain and subject everyone else to harsher fates for doing nothing other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    The NSA does have too much power, and true, it has been used recklessly and without checks on it.

    And all I've done is show the history of the 30s, which others have not learned. I stand by the view that if we move further to extreme conservatism, we will see fascism arise in the US. And that will be the utter end of the democratic experiment that began in 1776. Personally, I believe that there can be a new democratic experiment. It just means that our institutions will have to be changed considerably to allow more democracy than what the Founders ever intended. No electoral college. No 3/5th Compromise. No loss of votes for all American citizens.

    But to pander to the view that we're going to turn into Nazi Germany because of it is sheer utter intellectual posturing and false straw man argument.

    Nope. Just as we can learn about history to prevent it, so too can we learn to avoid the mistakes of even Germany and its bout with fascism. I stand firm that this was created to show how our history has progressed for the past 40 years. Maybe you don't agree. But with parallels in how we treat minority groups, it's time to recognize that we are dangerously close to the brink of our own destruction and that's difficult to accept but a desperate conversation needed right now.

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