NSA, wire tapping surveillance, and retroactive laws; but we mustn’t complain…
The ‘warrantless wire tap’ law suit in the US rumbles on, and is rather disturbing (details from CourthouseNews). The plaintiffs (ie, Joe Phone User) are suing some of the leading US telephone companies and the National Security Agency (NSA) for illegal surveillance.
U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco had tossed lawsuits against the NSA for lack of standing and dismissed claims against the telephone companies because a 2008 federal law gave retroactive immunity to telecommunication firms that helped in the dragnet surveillance.
But the plaintiffs, supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) want to appeal. ‘Lack of standing’ and ‘retroactive immunity’ are more than a bit disturbing.
EFF’s Kevin Brankston said that the court had been mistaken in “basically concluding that so long as everyone is being surveilled, no one has standing to sue.” That is worrying enough: if governments behave illegally to everyone equally, then no-one can object. Really?
But the retroactive immunity is equally worrying. If this is allowed to stand (Co-counsel Bruce Afran commented: “No precedent allows Congress to give the attorney general authority to declare lawful today what was unlawful the week before.”) then a government can get away with doing anything simply by making it legal later.
An inability to complain and retroactive immunity are hallmarks of dictatorship, not democracy.