EFF sues to overturn telcom immunity

Remember when the Electronic Frontier Foundation discovered that the NSA had been wiretapping the entire Internet, illegally, with collaboration from the nation's phone companies? Remember when they sued the phone companies in order to discover the full extent of this illegal, warrantless domestic spying?

Remember when Congress -- including both presidential candidates -- voted to give the phone companies immunity from prosecution, even though they had clearly broken the law, on the grounds that the president had asked them to? (If the president asked you to shoot someone, would Congress let you off the hook, too?)

Well now EFF is suing to have the immunity -- the unconstitutional immunity -- overturned. Go EFF!

"The immunity law puts the fox in charge of the hen house, letting the Attorney General decide whether or not telecoms like AT&T can be sued for participating in the government's illegal warrantless surveillance," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "In our constitutional system, it is the judiciary's role as a co-equal branch of government to determine the scope of the surveillance and rule on whether it is legal, not the executive's. The Attorney General should not be allowed to unconstitutionally play judge and jury in these cases, which affect the privacy of millions of Americans."

In the public version of his certification to the court, Attorney General Mukasey asserted that the government had no "content-dragnet" program that searched for keywords in the body of communications. However, the government did not deny the dragnet acquisition of the content of communications. In support of its opposition, EFF provided the court with a summary of thousands of pages of documents demonstrating the broad dragnet surveillance of millions of innocent Americans' communications. Eight volumes of exhibits accompanied the detailed summary, including eyewitness accounts and testimony under oath.

"We have overwhelming record evidence that the domestic spying program is operating far outside the bounds of the law," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "Intelligence agencies, telecoms, and the Administration want to sweep this case under the rug, but the Constitution won't permit it."

EFF Challenges Constitutionality of Telecom Immunity in Federal Court, Donate to EFF

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  1. “If the president asked you to shoot someone, would Congress let you off the hook, too?”

    Of course, they do it all the time. The people doing the shooting are called soldiers.

  2. “If the president asked you to shoot someone, would Congress let you off the hook, too?”

    @1 I thought they were referring to cheney :P

    They let him off the hook didn’t they?

  3. I just joined EFF because of this story. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while, but this served as a timely reminder.

    @1. I agree, that quote isn’t quite as instructive as the author might have hoped, since government-authorized force is in evidence since the beginnings of civilization. Perhaps we could rewrite?

    “If the president told your neighbor to shoot your daughter and told the police and the courts not to interfere, would you want Congress to protect your neighbor from the law?”

    The intent of “neighbor” and “your daughter” is to identify these actors as being not agents of the state, but private citizens, theoretically equal before the law. In theory at least, telecom companies should have also been private citizens, bound by law to respect the rights of other citizens, and not retroactive agents of the state.

  4. I see the Cult of Cory is alive and well today!

    >>If the president asked you to shoot someone, would Congress let you off the hook, too?

    Really bad analogy, Cory. How can anyone in their right mind compare killing someone with wiretapping someone?

    >>Remember when the Electronic Frontier Foundation discovered that the NSA had been wiretapping the entire Internet, illegally

    This is a bit of an exaggeration. The internet is a public place. How can it be illegal to keep an eye on something that’s in plain sight?

    Normally I’m with you on this stuff, but this time you are way off-base.

    1. How can anyone in their right mind compare killing someone with wiretapping someone?

      If you look at the last eight years, the Bush administration has been bundling its political malware. Is it really productive to separate the Iraq war from the war on constitutional rights? Don’t they all stem from the same sense of imperial entitlement?

  5. I made my donation as soon as I saw this story in my RSS reader.

    Same as with the Bush/Cheney/NSA suit the EFF started last month.

    Thank you EFF for taking on these fights!

  6. I’ve long been meaning to do so, but I also finally went ahead and joined the EFF after reading this story.

    A++ WOULD DO BUSINESS AGAIN

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