Blog Post

Wiretapping Debate: Stop the Spying

As Congress resumes the debate on wiretapping legislation, People for the American Way and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have put together Stop the Spying, a site aimed at drawing attention to legislation that would grant immunity to the telecoms for complying with illegal, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens.

People are being asked to upload photos, videos or simply to make their feelings known the old-fashioned way — by contacting their senator. AT&T and other network providers are currently facing legal action for their role in helping the National Security Agency tap communications networks (the EFF is providing legal support to the plaintiffs).

The provision to grant immunity from prosecution for previous transgressions on the part of telecoms, from the House Intelligence Committee version of the bill, is seen by Republicans and President Bush as a deal breaker. “The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America,” Bush declared in Monday night’s State of the Union Address.

11 Responses to “Wiretapping Debate: Stop the Spying”

  1. The telecoms must be stopped in their illegal activities. They eavesdrop on law abiding citizens’ conversations, and they have tried to block innocent people and Christians from their work and from their communications.
    There should be no immunity for their illegal activities.

  2. Since the telecom spying and wiretapping law went into effect; my phone line is bugged and my computers have been put on a local “workgroup” which has denied me access to my own programs.
    This laws enables unethical and even criminal people to commit illegal activities with impunity.

    Please stop this violation of the rights of American citizens.

  3. It is truly surprising how little concern there is over this issue. I can’t understand why an illegal wiretapping like this isn’t leading to criminal charges. Can anyone say impeach? I know, as if…

  4. Search and seizure laws do not apply when crossing borders. You can be searched and your property seized coming in or going out. Try taking a supercomputer to Iran if you don’t believe me. Phone calls are not any different, neither is web traffic.

    I also don’t think you have proven that the NSA is doing anything outside of FISA or the law. They have at least the right to determine whether traffic (voice or data) is domestic or not.

    Sorry that you guys have a financial interest in all of this, but I really hope the telcos get full immunity. Did I mention I hate lawyers?

    Heard the one about the terrorist they were tracking who managed to cross the border, so they had to stop monitoring him? No? Well, that’s probably a good thing.

  5. Quote (from noel): The core technique is essentially listening and decoding on the public airways, not wiretapping. Something legal for everyone to do.

    With all due respect noel, I call “b.s.” on that.

    I work for a small, rural telco and this is not about the government intercepting and decrypting/decoding radio signals. CALEA, among other laws, requires that telcos install software and hardware as appropriate to allow the government to copy data streams — including Internet and voice traffic — in the course of an investigation. This is a tap. Provided the law enforcement agency(ies) requesting the tap have followed due process of law, I am okay with that — that’s the way things are supposed to work in a free society.

    However, in the NSA wiretapping case, from what few details I have seen, it appears that NSA was doing the same thing — diverting a data stream to a monitoring system from within AT&T (among others’) network — only without judicial oversight. This is ILLEGAL by the 4th amendment to the Constitution — no search and seizure without due process of law.

    Okay, let’s assume that I’m wrong on the argument above. Did you know that there was an executive order prohibiting NSA from conducting domestic surveillance? As I recall, that was executive order 12333, but that information is 20 years old, so I could be mistaken on the executive order. NSA’s domestic wiretapping program was in direct violation of this executive order.

    This is not a matter of “confusing and hyping…[the] issue.” This is our government leaders willfully and deliberately ignoring the Constitution. How much more serious can an issue possibly get???

  6. Burke and Tom

    What I broadcast on the publically owned spectrum is owned by the people, not any telecom company. I could argue that it is invasive. It IS legal to listen to anything put on our spectrum.

    I want privacy too, but it is not wiretapping to listen to what is broadcast. Frankly I am not too pleased by the willingness of the government to allow every possible signal in the spectrum to be modulated (ok, different subject.)

    Listening to digital streams off switches is ANOTHER issue.

    What we have here is a prvacy issue that is not covered by current laws. whethee you like it or not, the telecoms went along with the government on this to defend American security. The evidence is that it worked.

    Now we have a lot of political hypsters who see an advantage to creating hysteria and confusing and lying about the issue for short term gain.

    I think we ought to deal with the reality of the legal freedom and privacy issues and punish those confusing these issues for their own short term gains.

    Tom this “illegal snooping by the government” IS NOT ILLEGAL. Your neighbor can do it legally.

    Should it be illegal. Maybe, but get specific about WHAT is illegal.

    Should the government not do it but it is OK for GOOGLE and China to do it? I don’t know, but it is deserving of debate in the public.

    Do you want the only entity under some (not good) public control to be forbidden to, while every other government and every corporation in the the business does it? I note their has been NO allegation of abuse of an American by the government exercising this power.

    I hate the confusing and hyping of this issue.

    Oh yeah, how many cookies do you guys have out there?


  7. I appreciate noel’s cool handed approach to this. However I do believe when you sign a contract with your telecom company it should include some provision of privacy. Sure calls may be transmitted through “public” telephone lines or digital airwaves but that doesn’t mean the public should simply be able to listen.

    From your argument noel, it sounds as if you think all telephone calls that use ‘public’ airways (“traveling through you and your property”) should be available for you to listen to?

    So you want something akin to a police scanner that simply listens in on everyone’s phone calls around you? That should be legal? I really don’t see how snooping through people’s private conversations is anyone’s business especially not our governments. This type of illegal snooping by the government is akin to warrantless raid on your home. It’s a breech of freedom.

  8. Noel,
    I understand what you are saying and I do think that people should be more informed about “the law that is being cited”. But to my knowledge the signals are not on public property, if they were I would not have to pay a company to provide me with phone, internet, and cell service. The only thing public about it is that the companies have to lease the airwaves from us. And as far as your right to “know exactly what is in it and use it as I see fit” if something goes through your property, that is just bogus logic. If a piece of mail addressed to me mistakenly get sent to you on your property you do not have the “right” to open it, it is still a federal offence. And I don’t think that AT&T or the FBI would take kindly to you taping into one of AT&T’t cables and decoding the signals yourself. You are right that much of what people are labeling as wiretapping is not covered under current laws, but the spirit of what has been done is the same as wiretapping. If I send an email I expect it to be read only by those I sent it to, and if I want it private I ask them to not share what I wrote. If I call someone I expect to be heard only by the person I called. Electronic information as a telephone call should be private unless a judge is presented with enough cause to grant law enforcement a warrant. Privacy is not the polar opposite of homeland security. Law enforcement should work hard to protect us and have so in the past, but they, and the government, should not be given free reign to as the please. They are here to serve and protect us. Not strip us of the rights our Founding Fathers worked so hard to grand us.

  9. Electronic eavesdropping on the American people by the government is truely worthy of debate, BUT; it would be really helpful if it was done based on reality rather than in the language of electioneering issue mongers.

    It would be helpful if you didn’t use the term “wiretapping”, since that is not what is going on. You ought to read the law that is being cited and the find out what a wiretap is.

    The core technique is essentially listening and decoding on the public airways, not wiretapping. Something legal for everyone to do.

    I personally think that if you are sending signals through public property, it isn’t private property. Further, if it goes through me and my property, I have a right to know exactly what is in it and use it as I see fit. The EFF ought to support that.

    Another one is listening to and recording contents of a digital pipeline at a switch and descrambling the packets and decoding them. Maybe this ought to require a court order, like a wiretap, but it isn’t covered by the current law.

    Neither one of these things is addressed in the law, but the hypsters and uninformed are trying to get this activity criminalized as wiretapping. No wonder the telecoms are worried about criminalization after the fact. No doubt it will get some lying power mongering hypsters elected.

  10. The odd thing about this issue is that the President and Congress are using the terms immunity and “liability protection”. To me these terms (especially immunity) imply that the law was already broken, and at the behest of the lawmakers. I think we should be asking ourselves why isn’t there any criminal investigations or impeachment, oh wait that would mean that both congress and the president are guilty.