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Ahh, but the US Govt is an Equal Opportunity Illegal Eavesdropper . . .

January 28, 2010

That’s right.  The NSA has been illegally monitoring Internet and telephone communications of millions of Americans.  That’s right – your phone may be bugged and your rantings logged.  That’s right, AT&T is immune for helping the good ol’ USofA spy on us. And the best bit? You ain’t got standing to sue unless you were particularly targeted.

That’s right.  The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) brought lawsuits on behalf of various parties – but basically all of us, to get the USofA to knock it off.  I’m all for that.  But the District Court up in San Francisco dismissed the lawsuit for lack of standing.

[Plaintiffs] neither allege facts nor proffer evidence sufficient to establish a prima facie case that would differentiate them from the mass of telephone and internet users in the United States and thus make their injury “concrete and particularized” consonant with the principles articulated in Lujan v Defenders of Wildlife, 504 US 555, 560 (1992).  [18:7-12]

Notwithstanding that standing is standing in the way of standing up for your privacy rights, the ruling appears to stand on solid footing.

For the reasons stated herein, the court has determined that neither group of plaintiffs/purported class representatives has alleged an injury that is sufficiently particular to those plaintiffs or to a distinct group to which those plaintiffs belong; rather, the harm alleged is a generalized grievance shared in substantially equal measure by all or a large class of citizens. “[I]njuries that are shared and generalized —— such as the right to have the government act in accordance with the law —— are not sufficient to support standing.” Seegers v Gonzales, 396 F3d 1248, 1253 (DC Cir 2005). Accordingly, these actions must be, and hereby are, DISMISSED with prejudice.  [2:21-3:7]

The Court goes on to point out the obvious – or at least oft-cited reasoning behind the standing standing rule:

The courts do not want to be viewed as a panacea of all of society’s ills, a task too large and often inappropriate for them to handle. If an injury is far-reaching, it is likely that a better solution would come from a political forum.” [Citations, 15:21-24]

Yeah.  And the political forum … uh, they’re the ones spying on us.  But at least they do so indiscriminately.


“We’re deeply disappointed in the judge’s ruling,” said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. “This ruling robs innocent telecom customers of their privacy rights without due process of law. Setting limits on Executive power is one of the most important elements of America’s system of government, and judicial oversight is a critical part of that.”

I have a serious issue with this whole Big Brother thing we’ve got going nowadays anyway, but what really bugs me is wondering whether authorities picked up any of that stuff I said over the last 5 years — not just sociopolitical ravings, but actually important stuff like privileged attorney-client communications.   That’s a bit unsettling.

And where am I gonna find a pay phone to try to avoid the eavesdropping?  It’s the decas!  I’ve got to keep on top of my smuggling operation bringing Coca-Cola in glass bottles and made with real sugar up from Mexico.  Believe me, it’s worth it.

Here’s EFF’s pdf of the Court’s Order (actually a pretty good read) and their take on the lawsuits (w/lotsa links).

Here’s the San Francisco Chronicle piece with some back story: Judge dumps suit over Bush-era wiretapping.

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