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Podcast Episode: Antitrust/Pro-Internet

EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 28 - Call Congress Now - Specter Rushing Thursday Vote on Surveillance Bill


EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 28 - Call Congress Now - Specter Rushing Thursday Vote on Surveillance Bill

EFFector Vol. 19, No. 28 July, 2006

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424

In the 389th Issue of EFFector:

effector: n, Computer Sci. A device for producing a desired change.

Call Congress Now - Specter Rushing Thursday Vote on Surveillance Bill

Because of phone calls and letters from constituents like you, Senator Arlen Specter is feeling the heat. Having previously delayed a vote on his dangerous surveillance bill, he is now intent on moving it out of committee on Thursday. This sham "compromise" bill will help the government continue to break the law, vastly expanding the president's power to spy on you without any meaningful oversight from Congress or the courts. If you haven't already, please use our Action Center and call your Senator immediately and stop this dangerous bill.

Your friends and family could be constituents of Judiciary Committee members -- spread the word and urge them to call Congress now. If you're a blogger, post a "Stop the Surveillance Bills" button.

Alternatives to Specter's Bill

While Sen. Arlen Specter continued to defend his dangerous surveillance bill, he also declared his willingness to consider alternatives in a hearing last week as well as in recent press reports. That's welcome news. From the moment the NSA's massive and illegal spying program was first disclosed, Specter has tirelessly called for meaningful limits and judicial review. To fulfill those laudable intentions, we hope Specter will consider amending the bill so that it reaffirms statutory limitations on surveillance and allows legal challenges like ours to proceed in the traditional court system.

In a Washington Post op-ed published Sunday, Specter asserted that "President Bush's electronic surveillance program has been a festering sore on our body politic" and "If someone has a better idea for legislation that would resolve the program's legality ... I will be glad to listen." Specter conceded in a recent Baltimore Sun article, as he did yesterday, that his bill "would not provide as much judicial oversight as either he or his critics would like."

In that article and at the hearing, Specter specifically pointed out the court's decision in our case last week denying the government's and AT&T's motions to dismiss. He hoped that our case and others related to illegal spying would be allowed to proceed.

We agree, and, for that reason, ask Congress to allow the courts to continue to assess the legality of the warrantless wiretapping program through litigation like ours. With Judge Walker and others continuing to address pending motions, Congress can simply hold off on Specter's or any other FISA bill until the courts have an opportunity to issue decisions. After reviewing the courts' decisions, Congress is in a better position to assess what, if any, legislative action need be taken.

If any legislative action is required, we humbly suggest that Congress clarify that all cases dealing with purportedly secret surveillance can be litigated in the regular district courts pursuant to established security procedures for handling sensitive evidence, as in our case against AT&T. If the administration has a legitimate concern about divulging highly classified evidence, Congress could enhance existing measures to balance the importance of security with the need for allowing a court to test the government's extreme theories of executive power. Congress should also explicitly clarify that these procedures preempt the government's often misused state secrets privilege and reaffirm FISA as the exclusive means of electronic surveillance.

We commend Specter for his willingness to consider alternatives, and we hope he reconsiders the bill as drafted. For now, it's still critical to stop his surveillance bill and others like it.

For Specter's op-ed:

For the Washington Post's response:

For the referenced Baltimore Sun article:,0,401580.story?coll=bal-nationworld-headlines

For more about the surveillance bills:

For more about our case:

Keep DOPA Out of Schools

Recently passed by the House, the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) would require public schools and libraries to block access to social networking sites and other communication tools as a condition for receiving certain government funding. Protecting children online is important, but letting federal bureaucrats arbitrarily censor legitimate speech is the wrong way to go.

Cutting off social networking's legitimate uses is bad enough, but DOPA also gives the FCC wide latitude to define the block-list. It potentially covers IM, blogs, wikis, discussion forums, and other sites far beyond MySpace. Despite its limited exceptions, DOPA would restrict children's and adults' online research, distance learning, and use of community forums, among other activities.

Two Congressionally-commissioned studies say education, not blocking access, is a more effective way to keep kids safe online. In fact, by hampering educators' ability to teach Internet safety skills, DOPA may put children more at risk.

This isn't the first time Congress has meddled with school and library computers. EFF fought hard against the Children's Internet Protection Act, which required use of Web filtering. If DOPA passes, where might this slippery censorware slope lead next?

DOPA has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee and is unlikely to move forward until after the August recess. We'll keep you updated on the status and on how you can help fight to keep DOPA out of schools.

For a copy of the bill:

For more on censorware:

For this post:

Administration Laughs at CALEA, Proposes to Eviscerate Law's Compromise

After a petition from the FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies, the FCC ruled last year that companies like Vonage and private institutions that provide Net access must redesign their networks to facilitate wiretaps. By forcing broadband Internet and interconnected voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to abide by the controversial Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), the FCC ignored the statute's plain language and threatened privacy, security, and innovation.

The FCC ruling has been challenged in court by EFF and others and may end up before the Supreme Court. But the DOJ -- apparently tired of our lawsuits and hoping to avoid such suits in the future -- has now proposed draft legislation to codify and expand the FCC ruling.

Learn more about how you may soon be forced to finance this unnecessary expansion of government surveillance:

Learn more about CALEA:

Open Letter Responding to Songwriters Guild Prez

Earlier this month, we published "Frequently Awkward Questions for the Entertainment Industry" -- a sample list of tough questions you can ask RIAA or MPAA representatives at conferences or public speeches. Songwriters Guild President Rick Carnes sent us an email in response entitled "Aways [sic] Awkward Questions for EFF." EFF's Fred von Lohmann responds:

For our Frequently Awkward Questions:

Come Visit EFF at DefCon and Nonprofit Bootcamp

EFF will head down to DefCon in Las Vegas, Nevada, on August 4-6. Along with hanging out at our booth, EFFers will present two panels, including a special presentation about our case against AT&T:

Prior to DefCon, Vegas 2.0 will once again host a fundraiser for EFF on August 3, from 9 PM until midnight. More details to follow here:

On August 19, the Craiglist Foundation will host a bootcamp about how to run your own nonprofit. EFF will be participating:


miniLinks features noteworthy news items from around the Internet.

Welcome to Telco Land
An instructive essay on telcos' inability to innovate.

California's Copyright Curriculum
Ars Tecnica reports on our efforts to clarify a local copyright education bill.

New GPL v3 Draft Released
DRM sections clarified.

Kazaa Settlement Has Merely "Symbolic Importance"
Biz analyst Jonathan Arber also concludes, "in terms of actually reducing piracy, people migrated to other file- sharing networks a long time ago." Carr on Web Pro-Ams

Carr on Web Pro-Ams
Nick Carr offers some meta-commentary on the blogosphere and the shifting roles of amateurs.

The Other OSS
Scientists employ the open source model.

India's Overbroad Content Blocking
Indian official says, "Because of a technological error, the Internet providers went beyond what was expected of them, which in turn resulted in the unfortunate blocking of all blogs."


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Derek Slater, Activist

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