With the majority of the Democrats caving in to the Bush administration's demands for full immunity for the telecom companies for-profit collusion in the NSA's illegal wiretapping program, it seems to be clear that the Fourth Amendment and federal antiwiretapping laws are no longer enough to keep our communications secure. Laws stating that "thou shalt not listen to your customers phone calls" no longer seem to have any bite. Or at least, they don't as long as teleco lobbying coupled with massive political contributions can turn once critical senators into kindly old men willing to … Read more
In the face of a presidential veto threat, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives pushed off a scheduled vote Wednesday on legislation designed to limit warrantless wiretapping.
The Democratic acquiescence was a victory for President Bush, who said last week that the proposal was unacceptable to him.
Opposition had come from both sides. Republicans had savaged the proposal as harmful to national security. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said on Wednesday that the delay was "bad news for Osama bin Laden and other terrorists," thereby illustrating McCullagh's Law in action. Meanwhile, privacy advocates, including the American … Read more
The Bush administration's remarks about retroactive legal protection for telecommunications companies show Washington has become an even more surreal place than usual.
First, President Bush said on Wednesday that federal law "must grant liability protection to companies who are facing multi-billion-dollar lawsuits only because they are believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend our nation following the 9/11 attacks."
Then Ken Wainstein, the Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division, waxed eloquent with a surfeit of "allegedlys":
Here you have allegedly companies that stepped up and answered the government's request … Read more
More than a year has passed since reports surfaced that certain major U.S. telephone companies had granted government spies access to customer records as part of a Bush administration warrantless wiretapping program. Now a congressional committee has decided to investigate those claims.
The Democratic leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters on Tuesday to AT&T, Verizon and Qwest Communications International posing a detailed set of questions about their procedures for supplying records in response to government demands. Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), telecommunications subcommittee Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and oversight … Read more
The FBI is replacing the Microsoft Access software it uses to track National Security Letter (NSL) wiretap cases with a new, automated, database management system sporting a Java Enterprise Edition application server using Oracle software.
The agency wants to eliminate manual entry of "cumbersome and error-prone" data on its eavesdropping cases. The way it stands now, the databases are not even connected to each other. Instead, an employee must manually enter every NSL lead sent to the Office of General Counsel (OGC)--a process that could take up to a dozen fields including a 15-digit alphanumeric identifier. The … Read more
President Bush this week ventured by helicopter to the National Security Agency's Maryland headquarters, where he made a public, photographed, 6-minute plea to Congress: Make expanded Internet and phone surveillance powers permanent.
Without an extension of the "tools" provided by the Protect America Act, which is set to expire February 1, "our country will be much more vulnerable to attack," Bush said Wednesday, according to the White House's transcript of his remarks.
The president said Congress must heed the repeated statements by Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell about the importance of the temporary … Read more
A federal appeals court on Friday threw out a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and others against the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program.
In a 2-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati reversed a federal district court ruling last summer that found the National Security Agency surveillance program violated the U.S. Constitution.
The majority ruled that the ACLU and the collection of journalists, scholars, attorneys and national nonprofit organizations it represented did not have legal standing to bring their case. They had argued that the NSA program was trampling on federal laws … Read more
Proposed expansions to criminal copyright law put forth by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Monday aren't exactly getting rave reviews from some inside-the-Beltway groups.
The Computer & Communications Industry Association on Tuesday blasted the sweeping proposal as "outlandish" and argued it would undermine the legitimacy of the nation's intellectual property laws.
"Will office workers be wiretapped for lingering too long near the photocopier?" CCIA president and CEO Ed Black asked in a statement. "Will music fans be sent to prison if they fail to secure their digital devices to the satisfaction of the … Read more
MONTREAL -- President Bush is backing a proposed law that would pull the plug on lawsuits alleging telephone companies illegally cooperated with the National Security Agency in its warrantless wiretap program.
We've written about this before, such as when the House Judiciary committee approved the measure last year as part of a bill to rework the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
At the time, last September, one backer of the measure said it would effectively "eliminate the 60 or more lawsuits filed because companies complied with government orders," such as the one brought by the Electronic Frontier … Read more