Federal Appeals Court Has Decided That Warrantless Wiretapping is OK

Federal Appeals Court Has Decided That Warrantless Wiretapping is OKWarrantless wiretapping, among other intrusive forms of surveillance used to “combat terrorism,” should be a subject that draws your attention. After all, you’d think that in the USA we’d be protected by some legal document from unwarranted intrusion into our private lives by the very government we, as a people, employ to protect our rights. Sadly, that isn’t the case in our current political climate.

“Every man should know that his conversations, his correspondence, and his personal life are private.” — Lyndon B. Johnson

A federal appeals court in the 9th Circuit has ruled to overturn a warrantless wiretap ruling previously made involving an Islamic group that claimed that its members’ rights were violated by the warrantless wiretapping program started during the George W. Bush administration. The ruling was made simply because the government itself is immune (by some interpretation) to lawsuits waged by private individuals and groups. Essentially, our only recourse as citizens is to vote on election day.

This immunity can only be lifted if Congress specifically inserts a waiver of sovereign immunity to the bill. Congress didn’t, and generally doesn’t make such an act. Hence, the government’s actions are more difficult for the average citizen (or victim of warrantless wiretapping) to fight back.

What About You?

Did you know that the National Security Agency (NSA) may be watching you already? Actually, two whistleblowers from the agency have already come forward with claims that the agency (intended to protect our citizens from terrorists and other enemies that wish to do us harm) is already spying on every American citizen using powers given to it courtesy of legislation such as the Patriot Act. This surveillance includes your actions, communications, and even whatever it is you do while you’re online.

If you want to get a better idea of just how badly you’re being surveiled here in the US, just do a search for companies like Acxiom, initiatives like those that encourage ISPs to keep an eye on your download habits, and let’s not forget our own government’s odd plans to use home appliances for data mining.

Even though the government itself might be protected against damages for lawsuits involving passed legislation, this ruling is just another sign that perhaps we’ve given too much leeway to our government. I, for one, feel safer knowing that I control my own privacy.

I spent years writing and reporting on politics and privacy news, and the one thing I learned doing so is that what you don’t know can really hurt you down the road.

Article Written by

Ryan Matthew Pierson has worked as a broadcaster, writer, and producer for media outlets ranging from local radio stations to internationally syndicated programs. His experience includes every aspect of media production. He has over a decade of experience in terrestrial radio, Internet multimedia, and commercial video production.

  • Kyle Kimberlin

    I just read the decision, and I don’t reach the same conclusion as Ryan does. The decision is on vacating judgement for liability of government officials under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. But I don’t see, on just one read-through, where it says that warrantless wiretapping is OK.

    What am I missing here?

    “The threshold issue in this appeal is whether the district
    court erred in predicating the United States’ liability for
    money damages on an implied waiver of sovereign immunity
    under § 1810. It is well understood that any waiver of sovereign
    immunity must be unequivocally expressed. Section
    1810 does not include an explicit waiver of immunity, nor is
    it appropriate to imply such a waiver. Consequently, we
    reverse the district court’s judgment awarding damages and
    attorney’s fees to Al-Haramain under § 1810. We also affirm
    the dismissal of Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI, in his
    personal capacity.”

    • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Ryan Matthew Pierson

      What the decision means to me is that the system is tilted in a way that gives the government zero accountability for doing things like this. It doesn’t bother most people because they don’t know exactly what this type of activity means.

      • Raymond Combs

        “Let’s say you were having a business transaction. The government, and
        any decent private investigator could intercept your communications
        without your knowledge or consent, then sell the information to his
        client or worse.”
        Where does any of this bill refer to “private investigator”? Try reading the bill – and pay attention to what is there… not just in your paranoia!

        • https://plus.google.com/112301869379652563135/posts Ryan Matthew Pierson

          My own paranoia… ouch. I reported on a story and provided links to actual projects currently underway that stretch the limits of search and seizure law. As for reading the bill… which 700+ page bill are you referring to? As several congressmen and women have admitted, they don’t read the bills themselves. In fact, many bills (including the Patriot Act) were passed faster than even the world’s fastest speed readers have time to read.

  • http://twitter.com/gargorl Grayce Ezarik

    It appears to be a war of the media against the citizens. Thanks for gnome, we are informed.

  • http://twitter.com/RCToyPalace Dennis Coble

    At this time, do you still believe that we are free?

    • Mika Douglas

      Took me 55 years to figure out how much evil is being perpetrated in the U.S. The enemy is within.

  • zolar

    Even though they are immune to lawsuits, that doesn’t mean they will stop at violating the law.
    Let’s say you were having a business transaction. The government, and any decent private investigator could intercept your communications without your knowledge or consent, then sell the information to his client or worse.

    Anything that remotely resembles a violation of privacy should be against the law. And strictly enforced.

    Yes, terrorism is a bad thing. But there should be other ways to establish someone as a suspect THEN wiretap.

    Now, if they wiretapped you and you were doing some sort of non terrorist criminal activity like asking someone if they want to come over for a poker night with the ante of $5 (gambling like that is illegal, but done by many), could the government use that to prosecute you? Answer is YES. And a direct violation of the 4th amendment. The purpose of the patriot act was to stop terrorism, not give blanket permission for anyone to snoop into your private life then arrest and prosecute you.

    About ISP logging your downloads. If you use an offshore proxy in a country that does not honor US laws, the ISP can only record that data was transferred. But not what it was.

    Prosecuting a US Citizen for doing something in another country that their laws say is 100% legal is an illegal act by our government.

    Where is it written that US Laws follow the citizen outside of the US?

    The end of the world is nigh. It is like the leaves on a tree turning int he fall just before winter.

    Ever wonder WHY we are the target of terrorists? Anyone got a clue?

    I surmise that US is trying to force their policies on other countries and they won’t stand for it.

    Terrorism started back in the 1970′s if I remember correctly. What happened right before all those hijackings?

    One of our past presidents once said ” those that give up freedom for security deserve neither freedom nor security”

    Unless we all band together and vote to change the laws, out politicians, and judges we deserve what we get.

    Speaking of judges – no one should be guaranteed a job for life. Judges should not be immune to lawsuits either. The people should vote in a supreme court judge, not be appointed by a biased president.

    For me, I don’t plan on downloading anything illegal. Or questionable.
    I just read, surf, and play a few games.

    I find that no matter how honorable the intent of the law is, the government will abuse it whenever they desire.

    • Ben

      “For me, I don’t plan on downloading anything illegal. Or questionable.”
      Sounds like a plan . . . until the gov’t suddenly declares it to be illegal or questionable. Your last sentence says it all: “… the government will abuse it whenever they desire.”

    • http://netsperience.org decibel_places

      Those who hate the USA because of our “Freedom” – if they only knew

  • http://www.facebook.com/max.raven2 Max Raven

    there is no right to privacy given in the Constitution. The entire concept of a right to privacy is based on unwarranted searches and seizures which is protected by the Constitution. I for one am sick of people complaining about intrusion into their “privacy” and will then go and post all kinds of crap on the web about their personal lives.

  • http://www.facebook.com/max.raven2 Max Raven

    there is no right to privacy given in the Constitution. The entire concept of a right to privacy is based on unwarranted searches and seizures which is protected by the Constitution. I for one am sick of people complaining about intrusion into their “privacy” and will then go and post all kinds of crap on the web about their personal lives.

  • Tinman57

    I feel so totally helpless, and you all should too. The only way we are going to be able to take back our country is to fill the gov’t offices with libertarians and independents, and that’s never going to happen with everyone voting for their favorite superpac.
    We are being destroyed from the inside by the very people that you voted to put in office. Until you start voting for the person instead of his/her party affiliation, this is going to continue until we are a total police state…. Isn’t it about time we put an independent in office?

  • http://www.caseyfrennier.com/ Casey Frennier

    Step 1: Make it legal… Check…
    Step 2: Make a government agency monitor everyone… Check?…
    Step 3: Say government doesn’t have the resources to properly monitor it
    Step 4: Outsource to Halliburton
    Step 5: Halliburton sells info to corporations
    Step 6: If public finds out then Halliburton “anonymizes” info they sell to corporations