After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the government began to implement programs that would “protect” the country and its citizens from future attacks. One of those plans was an amendment to FISA that would allow warrantless wiretapping of American citizens. Lawsuits popped up demanding billions in damages, but Congress passed a retroactive immunity law. Now the last hope of having the immunity law destroyed has been squashed.
Ars Technica reports that Hepting v. AT&T – a class-action lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of the immunity provision – has been rejected by the Supreme Court. This knocks the ruling back down to the Appeals Court who ruled in favor of the government’s right to protect telecoms from legal action over their wiretapping program.
It’s important to note that this particular case was about the immunity provision. All this ruling means is that telecoms have immunity when it comes to handing over your data to the feds. The Obama administration argued that allowing lawsuits to go forward would imperil national security. How? Telecoms would be unwilling to hand over customer data if they could be sued for it. It’s apparently imperative that the U.S. government know your late night drunk texts if they’re going to stop terrorism.
There’s still one more chance to kill off FISA’s warrantless wiretapping provisions. The EFF will be proceeding with Jewel v. NSA shortly. This particular case goes after FISA’s jugular by fighting to prove that the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens is unconstitutional. It also targets those responsible for signing the FISA amendments into law, including former President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and other members of the former administration.
Unfortunately, Jewel v. NSA is probably going to be shot down by the Supreme Court as well. The consensus among those in government is that your privacy can be completely destroyed in the name of your safety. Never mind the possibility that hackers could easily gain access to this information and destroy countless lives before terrorists even have a chance to act. In an increasingly digital world, we need laws that protect privacy. Eroding privacy in the name of physical safety only opens us up to far more devastating cyber attacks.