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AT&T Says Spying Is Too Secret For Courts 312

Posted by kdawson
from the i-didn't-do-it-nobody-saw-me-you-can't-prove-a-thing dept.
The Wired blog 26B Stroke 6 reports on the arguments AT&T and the US government made to an appeals court hearing motions in the case the EFF brought against the phone giant for their presumed part in the government's program(s) to spy on Americans. In essence AT&T seems to have argued that the case against the telecom for allegedly helping the government spy on Americans is too secret for any court, despite the Administration's admission it did spy on Americans without warrants.
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AT&T Says Spying Is Too Secret For Courts

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  • Sssssh! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tesen (858022) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @07:58AM (#18330171)
    Ssssh! This is to secret to report on! Ohhhh great! Now the terrorists have won! Thanks alot Slashdot!

    • Re:Sssssh! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by frp001 (227227) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:01AM (#18330189)
      >> Now the terrorists have won!
      As a matter of fact, they have. It is not about destroying a country, or individuals, it is a about destroying a lifestyle and beliefs (.i.e democracy) AFAIK they have won.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        it is a about destroying a lifestyle and beliefs (.i.e democracy)

        Uhm... No it's not. It's about getting political power.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Uhm... No it's not. It's about getting political power.

          Well then, considering they make Georgie Boy jump whenever they want, maybe they have it after all?

          Come to think of it, maybe that's not such a bad idea: Get a few AQ guys some congressional seats. After a month, they'll be so deep in pork, lobbyists and high-class prostitutes that the last thing they'll want to do is blow stuff up.
        • by Vegeta99 (219501)
          dude, what the hell do you think they're going to do with that politicial power?

          And I swear, the captcha reads minds, mine is "defiant".
      • Re:Sssssh! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @09:09AM (#18330769) Homepage

        As a matter of fact, they have. It is not about destroying a country, or individuals, it is a about destroying a lifestyle and beliefs (.i.e democracy) AFAIK they have won.

        Nonsense. The Islamist goal is not simple destruction of certain features of Western society, but the replacement of its lifestyle and beliefs with sharia. Islamists could probably care less about the average American's loss of civil liberties--in fact, this change makes life more difficult for some would-be terrorists--while things like tolerance of homosexuality, equality of men and women under the law, and religious diversity continue just as before.

        • by mpe (36238)
          The Islamist goal is not simple destruction of certain features of Western society, but the replacement of its lifestyle and beliefs with sharia.

          At least so say the conspiracy theoriests. On possible reason for not wanting a case to be heard by a court would be if the entire accusation were nothing but unsubstatiated conspiracy theory. (Judges tend to require prosecutors to present reasonable proof of their claims.)
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by CRCulver (715279)
            No, so say the Islamists themselves. I guess you missed e.g. the recent scandal around several UK mosques after their imams were busted calling for the overthrow of British society and its replacement with sharia, or the Australian imam last year who said women who don't cover up to Muslim norms are inviting rape. The most vocal strata of Muslim leaders are embarassing themselves so regularly that one cannot reasonably claim it's just a conspiracy theory.
      • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @09:12AM (#18330801) Journal

        I think the west has gotten to lax, not enough people remember anymore what freedom and democracy are REALLY about. This will change, it has before and it will again. Dictatorship just don't work, it ain't the natural state of affairs.

        BUT neither is freedom. The result is that you have a constant seesaw motion between the two extremes, the best you can hope for is that you happen to live during one of the quiet moments BUT you will only be able to do so thanks to the efforts of people who have come before.

        The sad fact is the seventies generation has done shit for freedom, they shouted a lot but haven't actually acomplished a single thing. It was the WW2 generation that has formed what we like to think of as our free society. They had to, WW2 forced change. Equality of the sexes and races is a direct result of the allied efforts to turn the tide of war.

        But whatever they achieved the natural state of affairs is to take back every hard won liberty for the practical day to day running of the world. Just as WW2 saw the injust internment of the japanese this war two has its miscarriages of justice.

        but it ain't gone over the edge, the proof? We can still report on it, the story of this and other mistakes is getting out and is getting attention. If the dictators had won, you wouldn't even know about it until you were taken off the street and never heard from again.

        As much as these stories may shock you they fact that they come out are proof that the system is still working.Not well, but then we get the system we voted for and Bush was re-elected.

        • by Stooshie (993666) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @09:41AM (#18331137) Journal

          ... Dictatorship just don't work, it ain't the natural state of affairs ...

          What is interesting is that, in fact, dictators are only kept in power by the will of the people (or at least the lack of the will to get rid of them). Under Hitler, for instance, the majority of the German population were quite well off and ignored the fact that their wealth came from the belongings stolen from those in concentration camps and alot of the work was done by slave labour (ie those in the concentration camps).

          It was only when Germany started loosing the war that Hitler decided to take his own life as he knew it was over and he wouldn't have the support of the people any more.

          I was the same with Saddam Hussain. He was in power for so long because the majority were, in fact, ok. They had an excellent education system (the most liberal in the middle east (women were granted an equal education)) and electricity and hospitals.

          I'm not condoning either of those rulers, but it is interesting that the main backbone democracy (ie the people choose those in power) is, in fact, the same reason that dictators stay in power.

          p.s. don't confuse democracy and freedom.

          Democracy is the process of choosing those in power.

          Freedom is the ability to say what we want, however truthful, stupid, offensive, funny etc... as long as we don't incite violence or hatred (as in Voltaire's quote "I disagree with everything you say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.").

          • by jackbird (721605)
            So communist East Germany and Czechoslovakia enjoyed majority popular support? Iraq wasn't propped up by the US to contain Iran? Pinochet was such a nice guy he was simply invited to rule? The majority of the Saudi population are well-off under the rule of the Saud family? The North Korean population?

            Your thesis only makes sense if countries are totally isolated from one another, and access to the financial/military levers of power are equally available to all.

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              Pinochet was such a nice guy he was simply invited to rule?

              I'd agree with most of your comments except for Chile. Pinochet actually WAS asked to stage the coup, and VOLUNTARILY stepped down when no longer needed. I know it's not a popular position, but if you talk with many Chileans in Chile (and for the record, I actually ran a company and lived in Chile for a few years) and look at the historical record, you'll find this is the truth. If only the news would carry it.

              I'd ask that you read Robert Mos

          • What is interesting is that, in fact, dictators are only kept in power by the will of the people (or at least the lack of the will to get rid of them). Under Hitler, for instance, the majority of the German population were quite well off and ignored the fact that their wealth came from the belongings stolen from those in concentration camps and alot of the work was done by slave labour (ie those in the concentration camps).

            And for those who are missing the connection to modern life in the USA, consider the plight of the migrant worker. Because they are illegal, they must hide. They frequently live five or six people to a room, more if it's a big room. Because they know they will be deported if they complain, they typically care for their own work-related injuries. By the same token, if they are unjustly fired, they have no recourse.

            In other words, illegal immigrants are the new slaves. It's actually a better situation to just pay them because you don't have to take care of them, there's no investment to lose if they die or get sick. You don't even lose work, because you pick up a new one. And they typically work harder and are frequently better trained for the jobs to which we put them than the locals.

            Enjoy your lunch today! The food it's made from was grown, effectively, with slave labor.

            Those who forget history, etc etc.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by vertinox (846076)
          We can still report on it, the story of this and other mistakes is getting out and is getting attention. If the dictators had won, you wouldn't even know about it until you were taken off the street and never heard from again.

          Are you so sure this matters? Even if you can still report about and protest, what difference does it make it if you can't affect government.

          In fact, I would argue a dictatorship could use free press and other freedoms to bleed off dissent as long as the government machine is so comple
        • by u8i9o0 (1057154)
          I have to disagree, dictatorships do work.

          When you consider all of human civilization, most governments can be labeled as dictatorships. Ancient Egypt may have eventually failed, but it lasted for thousands of years while modern democracy has only existed for one quarter of one thousand.

          Dictatorships are the most basic form of government and should be viewed as such. Essentially, the dictatorship is the natural state of affairs. Other forms can be seen as improvements upon that foundation meaning that an
        • Perhaps, or perhaps we're too lost in hot button nonsense issues that we can't choose politicians based on anything other than their stated stance on our favorite issue (i.e. religion, abortion, environment etc.). While we're distracted with the fluff, real harm is being done to our freedom, finances and infrastructure.
        • by btarval (874919) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:29AM (#18332945)
          "This will change, it has before and it will again. Dictatorship just don't work, it ain't the natural state of affairs."

          That's basically what was said back when the Roman Republic fell. The Roman Imperial rule lasted for about 400-500 years. Though there were brief thoughts and talk of returning to the Republic, it never happed.

          Those who forget History are doomed to repeat it.

          While you might argue that "We're different now", I would also point out that we're really not. We've been passing laws to strip away rights for decades, and the Supreme Court has been upholding them. Take, for example, the Japanese internment during WWII. Although there was lip service paid to how wrong it was much later, the Supreme Court upheld the decision. More importantly, Congress has never put in place new laws to prevent it from happening again.

          You can expect this to take place in the future when we've had yet another panic attack. The laws are all set up for this. Only now it can be done in secret. Indeed, there are Prisons being built in the mid-west right now which have this as their optional charter.

          I'd like to share your optimism. But I see nothing which supports it except some political lipservice.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jafac (1449)
          A see-saw equilibrium between tyranny and freedom is a nice model and I'm sure you'd like reality to fit that.

          But there's another factor that is making these see-saw swings more and more radical with each cycle, and each swings' peak, whether to the political left, or the political right, brings us closer and closer to a sustainable fascism. This has been happening since humans first became civilized, and with every cycle, we plunge deeper and deeper, and the damage becomes more and more permanent.

          Orwell's
      • Get Fycking Real, No Ficking Change, all is right with the world of US, EU, and ....

        FYI: US, EU ... it is horrible to have our beliefs destroyed by reality, but we all live in totalitarian nations. Fortunately for US, EU and some others it has allowed US and EU to maintain a delusional believe that we have enough cake and can eat cake forever. Let's not blame terrorist for US and EU citizens being fools.

        I refer you and all political/religious dogmatist to "http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/P._T._Barnum" for a fe
      • by EnglishTim (9662)
        >> Now the terrorists have won!
        > As a matter of fact, they have... [terrorism] is a about destroying a lifestyle and beliefs..

        No it's not. As far as I can tell, the aims of terrorists are:

        a) To change the foreign policy of their target state
        b) To take revenge for the previous foreign policy actions of the target state

        The whole 'they hate us because of our freedom / they want to destroy our way of life' red herring is just a way of dehumanising them, and an attempt to make their motives seem so ali
    • I probably shouldn't even be telling you this, but... this is so secret that you shouldn't even scold Slashdot for posting about it!
  • by VirusEqualsVeryYes (981719) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @07:58AM (#18330173)
    So let me get this straight. AT&T says it can't defend itself because it would endanger national security (basically, AT&T is guilty), and because of this, the case should be throw out (a win for AT&T)?

    But I guess logic like that is adequate for government work.
    • by jcr (53032) <jcr@nOspAm.mac.com> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:03AM (#18330203) Journal
      Don't forget that the court is part of the government, too.

      AT&T is basically asking the court to rule itself incapable of doing its job. There aren't a lot of judges who'll go along with that, and this is precisely why the constitution separates the judiciary from the legislature and the executive.

      -jcr

      • by kalirion (728907)
        There aren't a lot of judges who'll go along with that, and this is precisely why the constitution separates the judiciary from the legislature and the executive.

        IIRC, last time this was tried, the judge did [google.com] go along with that.
    • by greenguy (162630) <[estebandido] [at] [gmail.com]> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:45AM (#18330539) Homepage Journal
      There is only one catch, and that is Catch-22, which specifies that a concern for national security in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was a process that has to be kept secret. AT&T has the public interest in mind, therefore it cannot tell the public what it does. If it told the public what it does, it would no longer be working for the public. If it's good for us, they can't tell us why; if they told us why, it wouldn't be good for us.

      Because it does not exist there is no way it can be repealed, undone, overthrown, or denounced.
    • by krlynch (158571) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @11:08AM (#18332549) Homepage

      That's not what they're claiming at all. From their brief, starting bottom of page 1:

      In light of [the Government's] invocation of the state secrets privilege, Plaintiffs will not
      have access to the evidence necessary to establish standing, and, just as important,
      AT&T will be prevented from tendering any evidence that would disprove it.
      Firmly established precedent mandates that a case must be dismissed whenever it
      becomes clear that the state secrets privilege will prevent a plaintiff from proving a
      necessary element of his case or a defendant from defending itself fully on an
      issue. In cases such as this one, where there is "no hope of a complete record and
      adversarial development of the issue," the only proper result is to dismiss the
      complaint.

      where the quotes are from previous cases.

      Contrary to the blog's claims, AT&T is NOT saying that national security prevents them from litigating ... they are saying that the Government's actions prevent both the plaintiffs AND themselves from litigating: the plaintiffs can't show they have standing without access to information AT&T doesn't have and hence can't produce, and AT&T can't obtain material is needs to defend itself. The Government, not AT&T, has claimed the state secret privilege. It's the same result perhaps, but for a very different set of reasons than the blog post claims. I'm not going to take a position on the state secrets privilege here, but a full debate on the issue needs to correctly state the facts.

  • Take your pick (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MikeRT (947531) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:01AM (#18330191) Homepage
    You either have the rule of law, or you have "national security." They are mutually exclusive. Anything too secret to be brought before the law is too secret to be judged by it. Therefore it is outside the law, making the government a law unto itself, unaccountable to the public.

    Funny how that works. It's pretty much always the case that, paraphrasing parts of the Bible here, when men give up obedience to law and order, good rules and the ethic of accountability, that moral decline in the population begins. What? Bush's supporters didn't realize that the rule of law is just about the keystone of public morality?
    • Re:Take your pick (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DaMattster (977781) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:33AM (#18330441)
      National Security is the antithesis of rule of law. National security, when overdone, bears a scary resemblance to say, North Korea. I believe Thomas Jefferson was well ahead of his time when he stated, "Those that would give a little liberty for security get none and deserve neither." It is very sobering to consider the wisdom and insight his words offered over two centuries ago. Even more sobering is that his imparted wisdom falls on deaf and ignorant ears.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by wframe9109 (899486) *
        I'm pretty sure that was Ben Franklin :) But still, a very valid quote in todays world.
        • by 26199 (577806) *

          Maybe they both said it :p

        • Re:Take your pick (Score:4, Insightful)

          by geoffspear (692508) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:41AM (#18330507) Homepage
          No, Jefferson was just as good as misquoting Franklin as any idiot on Slashdot today, thank you very much. I believe it was George Washington who said "a penny saved is a penny you can spend later."
        • Re:Take your pick (Score:4, Informative)

          by Fnkmaster (89084) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @09:50AM (#18331265)
          Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

                  * Benjamin Franklin, "Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor", November 11, 1755; as cited in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 6, p. 242, Leonard W. Labaree, ed. (1963)

          Yup.
          • by EngMedic (604629)
            I prefer Adams:

            If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go now from us in peace. We ask not your counsels nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were ever our countrymen.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Dachannien (617929)
          It was indeed Ben Franklin, and for all his usual wisdom, he was full of crap when he said that. We trade freedom for safety every day. Traffic regulations make it safer to be on the roads, but we have to stay below the speed limit and stop at all those pesky traffic lights. We go through security at airports to detect all those bombs that none of us are carrying, in the hopes that nobody will carry a bomb onto a plane. We limit the firearms we can use and the situations we can use them in, in hopes tha
          • I don't believe anyone has a natural right to use a plane, a gun or a car. They don't exist in nature. Poor examples. Aside from the fact that the plane is a private business' asset - not government; i.e. they can refuse anyone for any reason, pretty much.

            I have no desire to be killed when your leaky gas tap is left on after your home improvements. Buildings inspections are a societal must.

            Guns and cars are regulated for different reasons - such as not harming those around you (that includes the societal fi
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rob the Bold (788862)

      Bush's supporters didn't realize that the rule of law is just about the keystone of public morality?

      Their not ignorant of that, just hypocritical. They still want to hold "rule of law" over our heads.

      Seems to me it's about time that individual citizens start exempting themselves from laws they don't care to follow. Just declare that it's our constitutional right. There's precedent for that now.

      If I ever get called to jury duty, I know I'll vote to acquit. Anything. The president doesn't follow the

      • by HUADPE (903765)
        If I ever get called to jury duty, I know I'll vote to acquit. Anything. The president doesn't follow the law, so what does it matter if a shoplifter does?

        Knowing several lawyers, that would be the kind of statement that would keep you off any criminal jury. Wait! *scribbles down statement* Now what about civil cases, got anything for me there?

      • I have always said that extreme examples provide some of the clearest examples [codemonkeyramblings.com], so here's one for you. Let's say that President Bush got away with raping and murdering a teenage girl in the oval office. Then President Hillary Clinton in 2008 did the same thing with a teenage male staffer. Should we not still try to prosecute President Clinton out of the principle that "a crime, is a crime, and all violent crime should be prosecuted?" By your standards, no we shouldn't. In fact by your standards all crime sh
        • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @09:21AM (#18330879)

          Dear God, do you realize what you are advocating by saying that you would automatically vote to acquit? You would allow a serial child molester go to make a statement against Bush. That is, pardon my French, fucking sick.

          Let me get this straight. The President declares himself above the law. Government agencies routinely violate the constitution in the name of national security. Habeus Corpus is effectively suspended (just by saying "he's a terrorist"). AT&T won't resists testifying in spy cases because its info is too secret for courts. Our citizens and treasure are squandered in an unprovoked war of adventurism. And the thing that really gets your panties in a bunch is that some guy calls for a jury revolt? Think of the children!!!!1!

          • by dave1791 (315728)
            I also have a serious problem with the grandparent's philosophy. I have a major problem with the current administration's ways. I also have a small daughter. If she were to be molested and the GP aquitted the attacker to make a political statement, I'd be forced to commit TWO murders afterwards.
        • Maybe making things get worse faster is the quickest, best way to blow it all up and get a clean start?
    • by hey! (33014)
      I'm glad you put the phrase "national security" in quotes.

      Political equality of citizens cannot exist outside a framework of laws superior to the will of any powerful individual or group. Otherwise power belongs to those who can sieze it and exercise it. In a system where "national security" is outside the rule of law, then "national security" is no longer the security of the people of the nation; it is merely the security of the state apparatus. In terms of cybernetics, law provies the feedback which ke
    • by mpe (36238)
      You either have the rule of law, or you have "national security." They are mutually exclusive.

      Actually without rule of law your nation is unlikely to be that secure in the first place.

      All too often "national security" is code for "CYA for someone associated with government". Most of the time actual "national security" would require showing him or her for the fool that they are.
  • by UnixSphere (820423) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:01AM (#18330197)
    They're hiding behind "national security" for an excuse not to go forward with the case, the Supreme Court needs to step in and do its job.

    It's mind boggling how just about anything that the Federal Government Agencies don't want the public to see, hide behind this excuse and usually get their way..

    The ability to call upon such protection should be regulated and restricted, but when's the last time Congress did anything positive for us citizens?

    • by jcr (53032)
      when's the last time Congress did anything positive for us citizens?

      Let's see... There was the Voting Rights Act in 1964. I would like to give them credit for various tax cuts that happened during and since the Reagan administration, but since the congress also enacted those taxes in the first place, it's a wash.

      -jcr

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Scudsucker (17617)
        I would like to give them credit for various tax cuts that happened during and since the Reagan administration, but since the congress also enacted those taxes in the first place, it's a wash.

        Too bad those tax cuts gave us national debt in the trillions, and thus the largest tax increase in history. It's just a matter of when it goes into effect.
    • The ability to call upon such protection should be regulated and restricted

      No, that ability should be abolished entirely because it is fundamentally incompatible with a free society. I don't care it it's spying, military strategy, or even Roswell aliens, nothing the government does should be secret!

  • by physicsboy500 (645835) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:04AM (#18330213)

    "Spying is such a harsh word...

    We like to call it passive call attendance.

  • by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:05AM (#18330229) Homepage Journal
    "We are scared like hell for our butts"
  • 27B Stroke 6 (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Famous Brett Wat (12688) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:11AM (#18330267) Homepage Journal
    Get it right: the blog name is "27B Stroke 6" which is a beautiful reference to the out-of-control bureaucracy in Terry Gilliam's movie "Brazil" [wikipedia.org].
    • Re:27B Stroke 6 (Score:5, Informative)

      by Tim C (15259) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @09:00AM (#18330665)
      For those not in the know (as the wiki article doesn't seem to mention it), a "27B stroke 6" is a form that Harry Tuttle says he'd have to fill in before he could do anything to help, even if your apartment is on fire. (I forget the exact quote, but it's something like "I couldn't even give you a glass of water if your apartment was on fire without filling in a 27B/6 first")
    • Get it right: the blog name is "27B Stroke 6" which is a beautiful reference to the out-of-control bureaucracy in Terry Gilliam's movie "Brazil".

      I've always thought "tubes" jokes would be a lot funnier if more people, including a certain senator from Alaska, had seen this movie.
  • by mwilliamson (672411) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:31AM (#18330431) Homepage Journal
    A government that is not accountable to its population is by default invalid and unjust, and needs to be delt with accordingly. Thank God we have the soap box and ballot box in this Great Country and have options to bring about change in a constructive manner. In other places, the ammo box is the only option available.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Arclight17 (812976)
      I agree. But voting hardly seems to be a viable option, as less than half the population could be bothered at the last presidential, let alone senate or house races. Then again, the only candidates who have a decent chance at election are incumbents (already corrupt) or those rich enough to buy the media time to secure a seat.
      Is anyone else terrified of their government?
      More to the point, is anyone else confused about how their fellow citizens can be so stupid sometimes?
    • by dido (9125)

      I hope that remains true. The sobering reality is that these two cherished boxes are gradually diminishing in their effectiveness with what's going on these days. These warrantless wiretaps and other infringements of Constitutional guarantees, unreliable electronic voting machines, and so forth are all conspiring to weaken the effectiveness of the soap and ballot boxes in your great country... Soon enough, only the ammo box will help, and God help us all if it ever comes to that.

  • by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:33AM (#18330445)
    AT&T is between a rock and a hard place. If they continue to say the case should be thrown out, the public will ridicule them. If they actually present evidence in their defense, the government can prosecute them for divulging state secrets. (Anyone who has a security clearance can testify to the penalties for the unauthorized release of classified information.) There really are no good options for AT&T.

    • I would be very surprised if you could be prosecuted for a necessary action taken to comply with a court order. (The court order in this case being, 'answer the question'). Mostly because it would be the same courts who would have to convict you. On the other hand, it wouldn't stop you being disappeared to gitmo.
      • by geoffspear (692508) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:52AM (#18330595) Homepage
        Well, I've never heard of a court ordering someone to provide evidence that they're not guilty, but it's unbelievable to me that there are state secrets that can be trusted to AT&T that can't be trusted to a federal judge. Surely they could have a closed trial before one of the FISA Court judges? Oh wait, I forgot... the whole reason they're under investigation is that the FISA court judges' security clearances weren't good enough to let them oversee this perfectly legal but so supersecret we can't tell the judges about it program. Clearly the FISA judges aren't vetted well enough for us to be absolutely sure they're not working for al Qaeda.
        • by russ1337 (938915)
          >>> "..the FISA court judges' security clearances weren't good enough to let them oversee this perfectly legal but so supersecret we can't tell the judges about it program...

          It seems all too obvious that the judges just need to have their clearances increased to the level that does allow them to hear the case. If they're a FISA judge they'll already have some reasonable clearance so it shouldn't be 'impossible' like some would try to have us believe. And it also shouldn't take forever. If they
        • Well, I've never heard of a court ordering someone to provide evidence that they're not guilty

          What about this woman: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Miller_(journ a list) [wikipedia.org] ?

          Court: Help us prosecute this guy
          Reporter: No
          Court: Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200.

          It looks like "contempt of court" isn't even a charge. If the judge says you did it, that's it -- you go to jail. No trial. How did this happen?
          • The court did not order Miller to produce evidence that she was not guilty. Not the same thing at all. GP claims AT&T would be under a "court order" to provide evidence for or against themselves. The first is ridiculous and the second is protected by the 5th amendment. Being ordered to testify against someone else is a whole other issue.
            • It sounds awfully like they were threatening her with jail unless she produced evidence to effect her own release. The courts' whole interpretation of the issue (that they hold their own keys) only strengthens the idea that they are being forced to provide evidence "for themselves" -- IE, for their own benefit.
              • Um, that a retarded way of looking at it. She was held on a charge of Contempt of Court. She was never asked to produce evidence that she was not, in fact, in contempt of court, she was asked to reveal who told her about Valerie Plame.
        • by mpe (36238)
          Surely they could have a closed trial before one of the FISA Court judges? Oh wait, I forgot... the whole reason they're under investigation is that the FISA court judges' security clearances weren't good enough to let them oversee this perfectly legal but so supersecret we can't tell the judges about it program.

          Presumably this list of judges is kept with the list of people so dangerous they cannot be allowed near an aircraft, whilst being so innocent they can't be arrested...

          learly the FISA judges aren
      • I think rather than prosecute, he should have said persecute.

    • And that's our problem how? Perhaps AT&T should have thought of that before it decided to aid and abet illegal spying!

      If the whole company goes out of business and all the execs hang for treason, it'll be too good for them!

  • My money's too secret for AT&T, then.
  • by sherpajohn (113531) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @08:59AM (#18330659) Homepage
    If what they were doing is both legal and a State Secret, they should be able to at least prove this to a Judge "in camera" (?). Otherwise is it not possible that what is it being allegged the government requested and what they carried out are illegal acts for which both AT&T and the government should be held accountable?

  • by mwilliamson (672411) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @09:00AM (#18330663) Homepage Journal

    We need a good end-to-end hardware crypto solution for voice traffic, 100% open-source and published and buildable on cheap commodity hardware. (I'm thinking PIC processors and FPGA's). We basically need a hardware-based telephone equivilent to PGP that everyone could afford, that doesn't require me to use a PC as a telephone. Phil Zimmerman's PGPhone is pretty cool and a step in the right direction. It just needs to shrink ;-)

    The government should fear its population, its creator.

    • I think what is really needed is a system for setting up secure conversations. Even if they are just text. So if you want to chat to your friends without fear of eavesdropping, you can just do it. Of course, you can do it right now if you and they are crypto geeks - but most people wouldn't know the difference between PGP and SSL.

      I think the software requirements are:
      1. Must be secure against both criminals and government officials,
      2. Must be usable by any computer user - no understanding of crypto required
  • that AT&T is on double super secret probation?
  • Also from Wired (Courtesy of TMBG):

    http://downloads.wired.com/downloads/Audio15_03/Ca ll_NSA.mp3 [wired.com]

    Too bad my phone doesn't like MP3 or AMR ringtones.

  • A court should always, in any case, be able to get all information from any company. If a company is not willing to provide data to a court, they should be prosecuted for obstruction. Especially in cases concerning the common good, like in this case.

    If this case is really too secret for a court, it proves that the government is commiting illegal activities, which puts them on the same line with terrorists regarding being a threat to the society.

    In a democracy, people always have the right to know wha
  • From the AT&T brief:

    Moreover, as this Court has explained, although a dismissal in contexts like this one may appear "harsh" for the individual plaintiffs, the "greater public good," and "ultimately the less harsh remedy," is the protection of military and intelligence secrets the release of which could harm the public's safety.

    My favorite part is that AT&T's lawyers feel that the terms "harsh," "greater public good," and "ultimately the less harsh remedy" all need to be put in quotes, as though

    • by krlynch (158571)

      Those things are in quotes because they are in fact quotes. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know if I'm interpreting the footnotes correctly, but they appear to be a direct quotation as referenced in Footnote 2 of the AT&T brief: Kasza v. Browner, 133 F.3d 1159, 1166 (9th Cir. 1998).

  • If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.
  • Truth? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <sherwinNO@SPAMamiran.us> on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @10:38AM (#18331985) Homepage Journal
    AT&T is evil, and is a willing participant with the government factions that want to throw us, head first, into an Orwellian nightmare.

    Furthermore, if you continue to do business with them *you* are a willing participant, and should grow some balls.

    Now, Comcast and their ilk are pretty evil, but they aren't nearly as bad as AT&T. Neither are the other major telecoms, and most certainly the RBOCs.

    If you _really_ want to make a difference in whatever small way you can, get off Slashdot, research an alternative phone company, ISP, or wireless company, and *switch*.

    Don't buy service from Cingular.
    Don't buy service from SBC/Ameritech/AT&T/whatever else the monster has eaten up.

    Turn off your DSL and switch to cable. Turn off your long-distance service and get VOIP or an RBOC's POTS unlimited plan.

    RBOCs are still out there; there just hurting for business. But many of these companies will guarantee that none of their records will go to the government (and in my area, TDS Metrocom is advertising this). There's still some leak over to AT&Ts systems, as they use AT&Ts local loops, but the more people that switch away from paying into AT&Ts pockets, the better.

    This is particularly relevant for Cingular. If you have Cingular, you should wise up. Sprint's SERO plans are cheaper, T-mobile is somewhat cheaper, and has vastly better customer service, and Verizon's footprint is larger and more reliable. Not to mention the regional carriers, which beat up Cingular market-by-market.

    There is no reason to do business with this devil of a company. While the government empowers them to do evil, the $$ they use for their transactions come from consumers, and you all need to wise up.
  • "The government, which says it has inherent constitutional powers to wiretap in the time of war..."

    The government is saying that being in a war overrides the fourth amendment. But America is an empire now, and is always in a state of war. That is especially so when it's not a "War on Germany" or a "War on North Vietnam" but a "War on Terror". "Terror" is a tactic, and will never be defeated. So the government has given us notice that the fourth amendment is a dead letter.

    Liberals never complained

  • NOT AT&Ts fault! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gone.fishing (213219) on Tuesday March 13, 2007 @05:58PM (#18339337) Journal
    At first I thought that I was going to write a sort of general reply of why I thought that
    AT&T was wrong but then I thought about it for a while and actually realized what a
    precarious position AT&T (and perhaps the entire telecom industry) is in. While I still
    think that AT&T can be blamed for not having enough backbone to stand up to the
    government, I think the reality is that this is the government's mess and the government's
    fault.

    Instead of blaming AT&T, I think we should lay the blame at the feet of the United
    States Government. Traditionally we have been a government that allowed a lot of
    freedom and bestowed a great deal of rights on our citizens and even on non-citizen
    residents (even to some degree on illegal aliens which I personally find a little difficult to
    accept).

    The current administration will tell us times have changed. They will say that happened
    on September 11th 2001. They say that they need additional powers to protect us from
    terrorists and other enemies. They say that they need the ability to spy domestically so
    that they can ferret out terrorist cells operating within the United States.

    On the surface all of this sounds reasonable. Even congress agreed and passed bills like
    The Patriot Act and permitted the creation of the Department of Homeland Security
    (which for those of you who may be critical, I understand is a cabinet position under the
    control of the Executive branch but the money still needs to be appropriated by
    congress). As a nation we have spent untold billions on defense most of which has been
    spent on a war that many question in Iraq. The government will argue that we have had
    success, that there has not been a successful terrorist attack since 2001 so they must be
    doing something right.

    Good government does sometimes need to have secrets. Nobody is saying that our
    government should be so open that they could not plan military actions in secret. Still, in
    general good government does need some transparency and does need to be held
    accountable for the things it has done. We can not accept an opaque government where
    everything is done in secret or where we are mislead into providing support (like the Iraq
    WMD mess).

    Our current administration may not be opaque but they are getting so dark that it is hard
    to see behind the veil that they have set up. Even when they are told "no" they just try
    another end-run and try to accomplish the same thing in a different way.

    I have no special knowledge of what happened between AT&T and the FBI or Homeland
    Security (or whoever it was) but I would imagine that they were squeezed very tightly
    and were put in a terribly uncomfortable position before they agreed to provide
    surveillance assistance. Considering the current climate in the telecom industry, I would
    not be surprised if they were also promised a few favors too.

    We are supposed to be a nation by the people, of the people, and for the people. I take
    this to mean that the government is obliged to do the will of the people. I don't think that
    this means spying on us, invading our privacy, and taking our freedoms a bit and a piece
    at a time.

    I am so disgusted that I just want to puke.

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