Tuesday, January 31, 2006

at&t sued for conspiring with Bush/NSA surveillance

EFF filed a class action suit against AT&T for helping President Bush and the NSA engage in their warrantless surveillance of individuals, including US citizens. AT& T is alleged to have given, in violation of federal statute, the NSA access to their customer information database and contents of their communications. (See Wired article).

I haven't read the complaint, but, if Bush's NSA's warrantless surveillance is later found to be constitutional, I don't think private companies could be found in violation of federal law. The more thorny question arises if Bush's surveillance is deemed to be unconstutional.

3 Comments:

Blogger limewash said...

I like the phrase "everytime the President asks them to." But if the President doesn't merely ask, then isn't responsibility still on the President/NSA? I don't know any of the circumstances, but if AT&T had reason to believe that this was a legit government operation, and the NSA represented it in such a way as to make AT&T believe so, even if it turns out to be illegal, wouldn't AT&T be able to claim reliance on the NSA's misrepresentation and shift the blame?

The end result, unfortunately, is if AT&T loses the class action, it could sue the NSA for the same $$, potentially. Anyone wanna enlighten me?

12:35 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

I don't think AT&T can claim ignorance concerning the potential illegality of the situation. The are a very large corporation - probably with a large number of in-house counsel. I would be interested to know if AT&T received any compensation for this? The article does not make that clear. I think that AT&T and the govt. should both be liable - but injunction should be more important than damages. I don't understand how this could possibly be legal. But, I have mixed feelings - because I think we should be able to monitor terrorists without a warrant - the question is if we allow this on such a large scale, how do we know the government is successfully differentiating. Maybe even more important than the invasion of privacy - is the fact that innocent people may be incriminated through a misunderstanding - just as the issue with terrorist no-fly lists.

7:52 AM  
Blogger joemama said...

While you might be correct about private companies being shielded from liability should the wiretapping be found constitutional, I pose this counterargument:

Why should private companies, for-profit corporations in the business to make money, be afforded the same immunities as the federal government? This would create an obliteration between free enterprise and the State--although this doesn't seem that impossible, given the Bush administration's movement towards totalitarianism.

Even if the President can get away with spying on Americans (and I'm NOT saying that he should), that should not vitiate liability of corporate entities who have fiduciary duties to their customers and clients (i.e., those who allow them to stay in business).

10:34 AM  

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