Archive for the ‘civil liberties’ Category.

Retroactive Pardon for the Telecoms?

As tech/legal blog Ars Technica reports, it seems that the Bush administration is trying to retroactively pardon the telecoms for violating the privacy and Fourth Amendment rights of their customers. Remember back in 2005 when it was revealed that the NSA uses warrantless wiretaps of most phone lines? Well, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, bastion of freedom that they are, continue to battle AT&T and the government over it. They have fought past the State Secrets issues, and have continued to advocate for the privacy of US citizens.

Well, now it seems that there is an appropriations request sent to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that would retroactively pardon the telecoms of all wrongdoing concerning the warrantless wiretaps. If passed, it will kill the EFF’s case dead in its tracks. I strongly suspect that if Congress read this legislation it would not pass, but it’s been pretty well established at this point that very few lawmakers actually read the legislation they vote on. As always, you can write to your Congresspeople about the issue (though the default text in that link is only about the warrantless wiretaps in general, not this latest development). We’ll see what happens…

Support the EFF!

For those of you who are not familiar with it, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is a small group of lawyers and techies who are sort of like the ACLU, but only for technology-type stuff. Because the EFF is so small, they don’t have the resources to take on every case that comes along the way the ACLU does. Consquently, they wait for the perfect case, and then kick ass. The EFF was behind the class action lawsuit over Sony BMG’s rootkits (I don’t think I ever posted the resolution of that, but the EFF won and if you bought one of these CDs, you can get some money and a way to remove them from your machine and stuff). The EFF was behind the landmark case about the broadcast flag that finally gave you the right to record what you want on your TiVo or VCR (again). They were the ones who got the electronic voting company Diebold kicked out of North Carolina for their unethical business practices and intentional security problems. The EFF are all-around awesome people!

Anyways, they’re now battling AT&T over the warrantless wiretapping thing (the ACLU is also suing AT&T, but the two cases are, at least for now, separate). At DEFCON, I got to see a panel of 5 EFF people discuss this case with the audience. AT&T has been completely assy about every point, arguing ludicrous things, such as the claim that the address of their main datacenter is a trade secret (despite the fact that it’s registered with the city of San Francisco and is in the phone book). Time after time, the judge has come down on the EFF’s side. The EFF has even managed to work around the State Secrets issues that right-wing pundits expected would bring the entire trial to a standstill (the EFF’s arguments here were amazingly clever. Post a comment if you’re interested in hearing more). Earlier this week, the judge in the ACLU’s suit ruled that AT&T must stop their practices, though they plan to appeal this to the 9th circuit court of appeals (though knowing the 9th circuit, the decision should stand). The EFF’s judge has already made a similar ruling, and by now should have decided whether AT&T can continue the wiretapping while they appeal (though I don’t know the outcome of that edit: they can continue re-edit: that was for the ACLU case. I still don’t know what happened to the motion to stay in the EFF case). As usual, Fox “News” is using intimidation and straw-man arguments to say that the ruling is the work of a foolish, activist, outsider judge. The Washington Post is taking a more reasonable, moderate stance.

In the meantime, there’s a scary bill looming on the horizon. This bill, if passed into law, would specifically legalize warrantless wiretapping, thereby stripping away all congressional oversight. Personally, I feel this is ridiculous, because FISA (the secret court that is supposed to oversee wiretaps) has never once in its entire 30-year history turned down a wiretap application. Moreover, the Arlen-Cheney bill would move the ACLU’s and EFF’s legal battles from the normal courts over to FISA, where no one would ever be able to find out what occurred or why. If you want to keep your Fourth Amendment rights and not have a chilling effect set over all of America, please, please call or write to your Congresspeople (note that that link is secure and any data you put in that form will be encrypted; yet another good thing the EFF does).

A couple minor points about the EFF: EFF’s stance on net neutrality →

UN vs. American torture

The UN is getting pretty upset with all of the USA’s torture and human rights violations. There have been many complaints over the years, but this one is pretty serious. However, I can’t think of a way to easily resolve this sort of thing. The reasonable people of the world say that this violates US law, the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture treaty, etc. However, the people in charge of Guantanamo Bay and other US international prisons disagree and do not intend to change their ways. Is there any course of action to stop them outside of war/revolution/assassination? To the best of my knowledge, there’s nothing the UN can do besides whine a bunch, and there’s nothing the US citizens can do besides protest a lot. This administration has already shown that it will not listen to either of the above methods of lobbying. Any thoughts on what else we can do?