back to article NSA beats warrantless wiretap rap

A Federal judge has dismissed a complaint against the National Security Agency's (NSA) Bush-era warrantless wiretapping programme, prompting suggestions the US government is now able to mount mass surveillance operations unhindered by the courts or constitution. Five AT&T customers sued the NSA after it emerged it had …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    This suit should never have been filed

    It is an example of a tendency the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has to waste donors money on cases any competent Law Student could tell has no standing.

    1. Steven Knox

      Not about the case.

      And any competent poli sci/public relations student could tell you that the EFF filed the suit not because they thought they could win, but because they knew they could use it to highlight the broader issue. For the EFF, the benefits of keeping this matter in the public eye are much higher than the costs of losing the lawsuit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Doomed but useful

      Of course it was deemed to fail. But it highlights what the "anti-terr'rist" law actually is. It gives gov agencies (and, to a smaller extent, telcos) the right to scrutinize absolutely everything any citizen does or says, without any warrant or pre-existing suspicion of any kind.

      Doomed lawsuit but good wake-up call. Hardly wasted money.

    3. The Original Ash

      Quite the opposite, Mr Coward

      What the judge has said is that the entire United States of America population should sue the NSA, as it was against all of them that the damage has been done.

      You can clearly see him state it in the quote. "the harm alleged is a generalized grievance shared in substantially equal measure by all or a large class of citizens"

    4. darrin allen

      anybody can do that

      I could do that since I was 12

  2. cagaregras

    You don't need NSA

    You already have GOOGLE!

  3. Anonymous Coward


    Another example of Government(s) mandating, "do as I say not as I do"

  4. Paul Smith

    New, more efficient, approach to justice

    Victim: "That bastard nicked my wallet"

    Judge: "Are you the only person to have had your wallet nicked?"


    Judge:"Case dismissed"

  5. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Nothing new here

    Kill 5 people and you are a murderer. Kill 5 million and you are emperor.

  6. Alan Esworthy
    Big Brother

    Thieves and thugs

    Why would anyone expect the government to judge impartially the government? The government is simply a gang of thieves and thugs writ large.

  7. Joe User
    Big Brother

    Won't get fooled again?

    Meet the new boss, same as the old boss....

  8. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    A good example of the law is now whatever they want it to be...

    It shows the law is no longer about right and wrong. Its whatever they want it to be, to suit their goals. Its hardly surprising the judge was on the side of the spies and government. They all want to spy without any limits. This case would have gone against them in the future if they had lost it.

    As for this, "Judge Vaughn Walker ruled that because the internet traffic of millions of Americans had been caught up in the dragnet, the harm alleged in the complaint was not specific to the plaintiffs, so the case should not proceed."

    WTF?!, so because they spy on millions its ok to spy on 5?!

    Ok so by that twisted logic, if the families of 5 victims bring a case to court after a crazy gunman machine guns a crowd of people and kills 100 of them, then because the "complaint was not specific to the plaintiffs, so the case should not proceed.""

    Also if someone robs millions of people, does that also become invalid because its not specific to the plaintiffs!

    This Judge should be fired. He is clearly in the pocket of the ones who are behind this mass spying. :(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      That's the government's job!

      Also if someone robs millions of people, does that also become invalid because its not specific to the plaintiffs!

      Nope, it becomes invalid because it's the government that's done it and they call it taxes! (And then they give it all away to their buddies in the banks).

  9. Captain Save-a-ho

    Another lawsuit to come...

    It's pretty clear from the judge's comments that the expectation for a better case exists if the suit is brought as a class-action suit. There's certainly an open door for it, and I for one won't be surprised when we see this...

    Anything involving lawyers is (virtually) an automatic fail.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    they should all be in jail

    Everyone in federal government, nsa, telco who participated or ok'd this at any and every step of the way should be locked up forever.

  11. Eduard Coli

    The fit hit the shan

    Sounds like the judge was reaching a little.

    It's okay yer honor, it's only the Constitution, we have plenty of amendments left to tear up.

    Do you suppose the alphabet mafia had pics of hiss'oner and a page?

  12. pAnoNymous

    i.e. gov immune from prosecution?

    so basically if the US government does anything that affects a big enough number of people they're immune from prosecution. and there was me thinking this was just the thing a constitution was supposed to protect you from. oh well. land of the free no more me thinks.

  13. Rob Dobs

    This is Bad

    What is worse than the ignorant viewpoint that just because this happened to a few its ok, is the overall viewpoint that nothing wrong was done to these people. There basic rights have been violated, they were spied on by the US government illegally.

    Everyone who is for this Nazi crap always rolls out the adage, "oh why are worried if you have nothing to hide". This is a bullshit line you don't have to put up with. My response:

    "I have viewpoints and opinions that I have the right to posses, express, and keep private. This is a basic foundation of our system of law that we all choose to live by. Privacy is necessary to protect the public from oppression. I have the right to protect myself from those in power who may exclude or persecute me based on my opposing opinions or beliefs."

    History has shown that persons in power will abuse these privileges. If a government can know everything about you, it can also know the people who are against those presently in power.

    From older examples of the Jews being round up in WWII Germany, or dissidents being rounded up in China today. Even our own government has copious news stories in just the last few years of civil right demonstrators, and activists being targeted by the US government.

    The U.S. went more nuts during the red-scare McCarthy era, where people were being asked to sign loyalty oaths, and politicians were ruining peoples livelihoods and careers on hearsay and innuendo.

    You don't have to be a criminal to fear oppression, who only need to have feelings and opinions. Someone somewhere in the government will by nature not feel your opinion is valid, and if this flame is allowed to burn out of control you get censorship or even genocide.

    I have the right to protect myself from those who find me valueless or dangerous simply based on my beliefs.

    1. Trygve

      You need to work on your examples...

      Jews in Europe? Dissidents in China? Red scares? How about the tens of thousands of US citizens imprisoned for years without redress due to having suspiciously slanty eyes?

      Here you go - Land of The Free, Home of The Brave etc. last time it got seriously frightened of Johnny Foreigner....

  14. bell

    Missed: One point

    This is not a criminal prosecution, it is a civil liability (tort) case. The question of being "sufficiently particular to the plaintiffs" is relevant and sensible here.

    Tort cases are about extracting damages. Under the US civil suit model these are often quite ridiculous numbers since compensation and penalty amounts are both paid to the plaintiffs. As such they need checks and balances beyond just determining right and wrong.

    Knowing what the size of the affected group is, and what range of damage they suffered is is important to making informed award decisions. A representative disbursment of an reward (far more important where penalties are paid to the plaintiff), is also dependent on a meaningful portion of the affected group being represented.

    It may well be the most effective way for the EFF to raise the profile of the issue, but with that few committed plaintiffs they're unlikely to be able to make Uncle Sam pay. For a good reason, even if its is bit annoying this case.

  15. Frumious Bandersnatch

    One human death is a tragedy

    A million is merely a statistic.

    Obvious analogy is obvious.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Sure, when the government does it....

    its bad, but when Google does it, no one cares

  17. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Larger class action?

    "It is an example of a tendency the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has to waste donors money on cases any competent Law Student could tell has no standing."

    Sure it has standing. AT&T illegally gave out confidential information without "them" going through the proper legal procedures to get it.

    So, is the EFF going to refile as a class action with a class of 250 million? I'm in! The CEO of Qwest (my local phone carrier), told the NSA, Bush, etc. that their warrantless wiretapping was illegal and refused to along with it (the ONLY one of the big telecoms to refuse.) I'm sure some of my data passed through AT&T though. After the CEO of Qwest refused to break the law, the feds cancelled contracts with Qwest and dug for dirt until they could find some trumped-up charge to charge the CEO of Qwest with -- so even worse than AT&T not being punished, the ONE company who followed the law was punished! Verizon was in between, they broke the law as well. But AT&T was the worst, they not only cooperated but (based on public information) developed a data mining programming language whose only purpose would be to help the NSA sift through the data they illegally obtained. AT&T, Verizon, etc. have GOT to be taken down a peg, and preferably some of the money should go to Qwest as compensation for their improperly terminated contracts. I do hope there are some firings at a minimum (preferably arrests) within the NSA too -- they KNEW what they were doing was illegal.

    And the state secrets argument is flat-out bull. Information on this system the NSA installed (with AT&T's FULL cooperation!) is public, and some info was even in the New York Times! Not a secret! This rule has a sordid history though -- the first use of state secrets (in the 1950s) was to cover up a air force plane crash to avoid paying the widow proper compensation.

    This won't happen, though, the Republicans and Democrats both favor a huge, expensive, intrusive government, and just squabble over WHY they want Big Brother. Don't blame me, I voted libertarian.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      And I Do Have Stuff to Hide

      "Sure it has standing. AT&T illegally gave out confidential information without 'them' going through the proper legal procedures to get it."

      And this is the best rebuttal against those who argue, "If you have nothing to hide..."

      I do have something to hide. Nothing criminal mind you, just my SSN, birthdate, place of birth, doctor appointments, etc.

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