Sunday, July 26, 2009

Barack Obama is the Same as George Bush on Wiretapping

But the world looks just the same
And history ain't changed
'Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

Looks like AT&T can relax. Back in 2006, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a class action lawsuit, Hepting v. AT&T, against the communications giant. The suit accused AT&T of,

violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive, illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.

That case was dismissed in June of 2009 after a federal judge ruled that AT&T and other telecommunications companies were free of liability under the FISA Amendments Act, signed by George W. Bush in September of 2008.

In response, the EFF filed Jewel v. NSA stating that,

In Jewel v. NSA, EFF is suing the NSA and other government agencies on behalf of AT&T customers to stop the illegal, unconstitutional, and ongoing dragnet surveillance of their communications and communications records.

Although not the subject of this suit, you could understand if AT&T felt a bit nervous about the outcome: the Bush era wiretapping program is still in effect, a succesful lawsuit will put their past and current activities under scrutiny, and they had no reason to expect the new adminstration would have their back. (As a candidate, President Obama promised "no more wiretapping of American citizens.")

Not to worry, though. In a San Franciso courtroom last Wednesday, the Obama administration moved to dismiss the lawsuit using essentially the same arguments marshalled by the Bush administration. They even kicked the defense up a notch with a claim of "sovereign immunity." Judge Vaughn Walker will rule on the case in coming months. But for now, telcos can rest easy knowing that - at least when it comes to surveillance - the new boss is the same as the old boss.

(Crossposted from Business Security Blog.)

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