Whole lotta spyin' goin' on
September 4, 2007 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Since the revelation that the telecommunications companies assisted in illegal spying on domestic phone calls, a host of lawsuits have sprung up seeking damages for civil liberties violations. The Bush administration has responded by seeking the power to grant blanket immunity to criminal and civil action to the companies involved. The claim that the suits could bankrupt the companies indicates that the spying was even more widespread than previously believed; If Verizon is worth $120,000,000,000, then given the estimate of $1000 per violation, one hundred and twenty million calls were spied upon.
posted by Pope Guilty (43 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
I don't know about your accounting there, Your Holiness...
posted by mr_roboto at 11:20 AM on September 4, 2007


A hundred and twenty billion divided by a thousand isn't a hundred and twenty million?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:22 AM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


The whole situation is disgusting, spoken from a man who was involved.
posted by Addiction at 11:27 AM on September 4, 2007


The whole situation is disgusting, spoken from a man who was involved.

I hate to repeatedly comment in my own post, but please elaborate if you could- an insider's viewpoint would be awesome.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:28 AM on September 4, 2007


Addiction - The whole situation is disgusting, spoken from a man who was involved.

Intervention, anyone?
posted by Poolio at 11:30 AM on September 4, 2007


Or it could be that the Bush administration is engaged in hyperbole. Not that that has ever happened before of course.

Besides, you don't have to take every single dollar a company is worth in order to bankrupt them. That is their market capitalization that you listed, not how much money they have. If a verdict was returned saying that they owed, say, 100 million dollars, their stock price would probably plummet and they would be worth billions less all of a sudden. So what happens to your calculation then?

Regardless, the Bush administration is evil, the telco companies were complicit in spying on their customers and everything is pretty fucked up. I agree with all of that. No need to try and use specious calculations to come up with numbers that have little or no bearing on reality and thereby make the situation look foolish.
posted by afflatus at 11:31 AM on September 4, 2007


Probable cause: Facts or evidence that would lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
An alternative to proabale cause, which seems to be in play, is Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

How many degrees removed from terrorism are you?
posted by ahimsakid at 11:33 AM on September 4, 2007


If you think this is bad, wait for the law of unintended consequences to rear its ugly head.

If this lawsuit proceeds, Verizon will be forced to define in precise terms what spying on a call is and what it isn't in order to minimize their damages. If His Emminence is correct that a 120M calls were "spied on", what is spying?

Regardless of your or their definition, if the fines are only levied on a subset of that 120M, that will mean that it is possible for the NSA to monitor or otherwise analyse the content of your call without running afoul of the law.

Worse, this "legal eavesdropping" will no longer be called spying by the press or pro-govt pundits, because that term will be reserved only for the illegal wiretapping.

The unintended consequence of this case is that there will be some from of warrantless govt monitoring of your telephone calls that is not defined as spying, and not considered illegal.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:41 AM on September 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


Maybe mr_roboto is pointing out that it would take a lot less than a $120b liability to bankrupt a $120b company.
posted by found missing at 11:48 AM on September 4, 2007


The unintended consequence of this case is that there will be some from of warrantless govt monitoring of your telephone calls that is not defined as spying, and not considered illegal.

We have that now and it was fully intended.
posted by DU at 11:56 AM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Bankrupt them, imprison those responsible, sell the infrastructure to the highest bidder. You wouldn't see a moment's interruption in phone service.
posted by 2sheets at 12:05 PM on September 4, 2007 [5 favorites]


Executive privilege for whole corporations now???
posted by Big_B at 12:11 PM on September 4, 2007


Good post, however, I think engaging in the numbers game really only plays into the Bush administration's hands: really, it shouldn't matter what the damages are going to be; it shouldn't matter whether it's enough to bankrupt Verizon or not. Those are inconsequential details compared to the fact that it actually happened. Arguing over whether the damages are $120B or something else is a distraction, as is the effect that the damages would have on an obviously-corrupt company in general.

The numbers are a red herring; what's offensive is the idea that we should let the behavior slide because it would be fatal to the perpetrator if punished.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:11 PM on September 4, 2007 [4 favorites]


I'm a bit more upset about the torture and such. If you want security use encryption.
posted by delmoi at 12:22 PM on September 4, 2007


Remember when the Democrats ended up with a majority in Congress and everything was going to be different?

Neither do I.
posted by tommasz at 12:24 PM on September 4, 2007


tommasz
The difference? You're hearing about it.

Want it fixed? Maybe democrats won't. But the alternative is more won't and less maybe.
posted by hexatron at 12:30 PM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


*picks up ear piece of phone, gives it a crank* Sarah, can you connect me to the President? I've got a bone to pick with him.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:40 PM on September 4, 2007


The difference? You're hearing about it. Which makes knowing nothing will get done all that more frustrating.
posted by tommasz at 12:53 PM on September 4, 2007


So being in the telecom business now means you need to have a Constitutional scholar on staff?
posted by bra1n at 1:22 PM on September 4, 2007


If Verizon is worth $120,000,000,000

Why would you link to a seven-year-old BW article that values Verizon Wireless using a comp multiple?

Accounting (and you would have added VZ debt, and backed out VZW, for which Vodafone would make a payme... ah, fuck it. You're on your own. Try harder next time.
posted by Kwantsar at 1:26 PM on September 4, 2007


America, you need to revolt.
posted by radgardener at 1:26 PM on September 4, 2007


America, you need to revolt.

According to some of you, we've been revolting for well over 200 years, now.

one hundred and twenty million calls were spied upon.

Not that big a deal, then. That's basically the yearly call log of one teenage girl's 5.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:31 PM on September 4, 2007


According to some of you, we've been revolting for well over 200 years, now.

What meaning of revolting are we using here?
posted by radgardener at 1:33 PM on September 4, 2007


What a revolting development.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:34 PM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


In related news --

Former Bush Official: “We’re One Bomb Away from Getting Rid of That Obnoxious [FISA] Court”
posted by ericb at 1:44 PM on September 4, 2007


Feds Tell Secret Spying Court to Keep Opinions Secret
posted by homunculus at 1:47 PM on September 4, 2007


The Bush administration has responded by seeking the power to grant blanket immunity to criminal and civil action to the companies involved.

No doubt the dems will stop this one.
posted by telstar at 1:55 PM on September 4, 2007


Pope Guilty writes "A hundred and twenty billion divided by a thousand isn't a hundred and twenty million?"

It is, but so what? That has little to do with how much liability the company would need to take on in order to be bankrupted. You'd need to know lots of things about its revenue stream, its current debt, and its credit line, too.

Kwantsar writes "Why would you link to a seven-year-old BW article that values Verizon Wireless using a comp multiple?"

Oddly enough, VZ's current market cap is..... $120B. Weird, huh?
posted by mr_roboto at 2:00 PM on September 4, 2007


We shouldn't even be talking about this. Threads like this kill Americans!
posted by homunculus at 2:13 PM on September 4, 2007


Dear US mefites,
I've been reading your "surely this ..." complaining about your government for at least 4 yrs now.

Let me propose this question to you:

At what point do you think that you should take action about the deeds of your government? And what should those actions be?
posted by jouke at 2:26 PM on September 4, 2007


in related news, america sucks more every day.
posted by quarter waters and a bag of chips at 2:27 PM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


At what point do you think that you should take action about the deeds of your government? And what should those actions be?

Get shot for organising an uprising? What do you expect us to do?
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:28 PM on September 4, 2007


Former Bush Official: “We’re One Bomb Away from Getting Rid of That Obnoxious [FISA] Court”

Feds Tell Secret Spying Court to Keep Opinions Secret


This stuff is the real damage, not the dollars.

Secret courts. A fourth pseudobranch of government. Unaccountable representation. Corporate-government collusion.

It's Fascism in all but name at this point.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:43 PM on September 4, 2007


Impeachment inquiry first, ask questions later.

"Impeachment precedents fortified by the original intent of the Constitution's makers provide ample justification for a House judiciary committee impeachment inquiry targeting President Bush for—among other things—multiple criminal violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and frustration of legitimate congressional oversight with preposterous claims of executive privilege."
posted by homunculus at 2:47 PM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


At what point do you think that you should take action about the deeds of your government? And what should those actions be?

I was planning on voting in November '08.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:51 PM on September 4, 2007


I myself am taking various kinds of actions (and preparation) against a variety of governmental deeds (and future expected deeds) - in this case though you have direct suppression of the response.
That is, these folks brought a lawsuit over illegal violation of their civil liberties. Bushco wants to grant them immunity so those folks can’t sue them.
The beef isn’t that or rather isn’t just that the companies in question will go under, it’s that presidential orders were given to those companies ostensibly to fight terrorists.
So - is it a corporations responsibility to make sure orders from the highest levels of government are legal - given that they haven’t been run through the courts yet?
Or should they comply with the executive branch when the country appears to be under duress and give the benefit of the doubt that the orders coming from the executive branch are legal?
It sort of boils down to the “I was just following orders” defense.

But I’d have to split the difference between Wyden and Bond - you can’t grant blanket immunity because that destroys any chance of investigation into whether the original orders were legal or not and what the actual permutations were (who knew what, when?)
By the same token you can’t hold those companies liable for a crime when they reasonably believe they’re complying with what is essentially a law enforcing body.
If a cop tells you “Hey, help me pick this up, it’s evidence” and you help him load something into his police car and it later turns out you just helped him steal something, that’s a big problem.
It gets knotty if, at the time you helped him, it was in fact evidence and he only later decided to steal it.
And more tangled still if prior to this it was legal for him to take the thing home with him because the law was changed shortly before you helped him but now everyone realizes this ‘cops can take people’s stuff home with them whenever they want’ law might not be in the best interest of society.

What needs to be done here is, apart from support of the ACLU, to make sure the laws that created this situation are rescinded. That takes contact with your local senator, organization devoted to such a focus, lobbying perhaps, etc. etc. not the least of which is contact with the companies involved - obviously the change in the law would protect them from future lawsuits and, more importantly, ill will and bad pr and possible boycott by you and your group(s) etc. so I’m sure their people would want to know about that angle instead of taking it in the keister in the press and they might even help with their lobbiests.
The key is to get the momentum going that way no matter how the ball is rolling now or how big and heavy it looks.
Money, support, all that, easy as pie if you’re willing to examine all the elements rather than just get angry or partisan.

Or, y’know, you could just go at ‘em with guns and stuff.

(But hell, the time for that comes it’s crystal clear. It’s like knowing when you’re going to sneeze or have an orgasm, pretty unmistakable usually.)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:08 PM on September 4, 2007


(It almost goes without saying prosecution for the wiretapping program is also needed, as is recognition of the right to pursue damages when civil liberties are violated - ultimately that cost would be borne by the tax payer which is either fitting or unjust depending on your POV - but still doesn’t get to the heart of the matter which is the need for systemic change, not just policy, so certain constitutional guarantees are inviolate unless there’s actual martial law)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:13 PM on September 4, 2007


(But hell, the time for that comes it’s crystal clear. It’s like knowing when you’re going to sneeze or have an orgasm, pretty unmistakable usually.)

But what if it happens and goes by and we don't see it right then. Seriously, what are we going to do about this? We need an actual solution.
posted by !Jim at 7:08 PM on September 4, 2007


At what point do you think that you should take action [...]
Although it sounded snarky my question was completely serious.

Pope Guilty: Get shot for organising an uprising? What do you expect us to do?

Try to influence the political process by rallying the public opinion? Most people are not political activists. I'm not one f.i. But if our government went about acting really outrageously I'd for sure become politically active. In the Netherlands that would probably be by organising or partaking in a huge political march.

I guess my question is: at what point should one become politically active not be morally complicit.
posted by jouke at 4:34 AM on September 5, 2007


jouke, I think you're terribly naive about the degree to which J. Random Americaner can be roused to care.

Given that it's J. Random Americaner who has to care for things to change, we are fucked fucked fucked.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:48 PM on September 5, 2007


If you truly believe that partaking in a huge political march = taking action then I'd say that J. Random Americaner is not the naive one in the house.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:57 PM on September 5, 2007


J. Random Americaner probably doesn't even understand how a wiretap functions, much less the implications for his privacy. I think that this is a pretty significant factor in ensuring public apathy - people don't understand a threat, they won't react to it.
posted by Anduruna at 9:06 PM on September 5, 2007


Judge Strikes Down Part of Patriot Act
posted by homunculus at 9:26 AM on September 6, 2007


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