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EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 42 - Don't Let Lame Duck Congress Pass NSA Spying Bills!


EFFector - Volume 19, Issue 42 - Don't Let Lame Duck Congress Pass NSA Spying Bills!

A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation ISSN 1062-9424

In the 403rd Issue of EFFector:

  • Don't Let Lame Duck Congress Pass NSA Spying Bills!
  • Judge to Consider Next Steps in AT&T Case
  • Lowering DRM Flags in Lame Duck?
  • E-Voting Problems in Tight Florida Race
  • Brief Urges Supreme Court to Tackle Secret Law
  • Landmark Education DMCA Case Update
  • Help Bust Two Bad Patents!
  • Homeland Security to "Target" Millions in Data-Mining System
  • Sun Releases Java Under GPL
  • Nominate a Pioneer for EFF's 2007 Pioneer Awards!
  • miniLinks (8): Universal CEO: Pirates Are to Pirate Ships, as Fans Are to iPods
  • Administrivia

For more information on EFF activities & alerts:

Make a donation and become an EFF member today!

Tell a friend about EFF:

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

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* Don't Let Lame Duck Congress Pass NSA Spying Bills!

On Election Day, Americans fired many members of Congress who wanted to rubberstamp the NSA's illegal surveillance program. But before newly-elected representatives can take office and defend your rights, the president wants to sneak through spying legislation -- including a proposal that could threaten cases like EFF's lawsuit against AT&T. Your representatives are among the key decision makers on this issue, and it's critical that you take action now to block these bills:

Lawsuits against the telephone providers may provide the best chance to stop the spying program, and no one should be let off the hook for such blatant violation of the law. Yet members of Congress are now pushing legislation that purports to immunize telephone companies and other corporations that illegally collaborated with the government's spying program.

Instead of letting the next Congress and the American public have a real debate about this issue, lame duck representatives may try to attach these proposals to a variety of bills. Don't let them get away with it -- visit our Action Center, and voice your opposition now:

For more on EFF's case against AT&T:

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* Judge to Consider Next Steps in AT&T Case

EFF to Fight Against Spying Case Delays in Friday Hearing

San Francisco - On Friday, September 17, at 10:30 a.m., a federal judge in San Francisco will consider the next steps in EFF's class-action lawsuit against AT&T.

EFF's suit accuses the telecom giant of collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in illegal spying on millions of ordinary Americans. Other cases recently transferred to U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker's courtroom include similar allegations.

The U.S. government has intervened in EFF's case, contending that even if the NSA program is illegal, the lawsuit should be dismissed because it might expose state secrets. Last week, the U.S. government asked the judge to halt all proceedings until the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules on motions to dismiss the case.

Friday's case management conference will address how EFF's suit and the other class-action cases might go forward without implicating the state secrets privilege and what discovery should proceed during the appeals process.

For more information about attending the hearing, please contact

WHAT: Hepting v. AT&T and other NSA telecommunications records lawsuits

WHEN: Friday, November 17, 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: 450 Golden Gate Ave., Courtroom 6 San Francisco, CA 94102

For more on EFF's case against AT&T:

For this release:

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* Lowering DRM Flags in Lame Duck?

Variety's Multichannel News reports that the telecommunications reform bill hangs in limbo after last week's election and is unlikely to be at the forefront in the next Congress. The Senate's version had been home to the broadcast and audio flag digital rights management (DRM) mandates, so Hollywood and the recording industry may have to seek new ways to sneak through restrictions on your digital television and radio devices next year.

But this year's fight isn't over yet -- there might be one last push for these proposals in the lame duck session, as Public Knowledge's Gigi Sohn points out in a recent blog post. If the entertainment industry tries attaching the proposals to appropriations bills, it won't be the first time.

Regardless, we can expect these dangerous DRM mandates to rear their ugly heads in some form next year.

For this post and more related links:

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* E-Voting Problems in Tight Florida Race

According to vote tallies, more than one in eight voters did not select a candidate in Sarasota County, Florida's Congressional race. Seems fishy, no? Sadly, problems with electronic voting machines may be responsible for the undervote, and, in a race separated by a mere 373 votes, design flaws might be the difference maker. Voters in that county chose last week to scrap the machines in favor of paper ballots by 2008, but that can't remove the shadow e- voting machines cast over this election.

For our initial report on this race:

For the Orlando Sentinel's recent update on the race:,...

Of course, Sarasota isn't the only close race impacted by e- voting machines. Down over 7,000 votes to Democratic challenger Jim Webb, Virginia Senator George Allen conceded the race without a recount, but the fact remains that a full and thorough recount wasn't even possible. The majority of Virginia counties use touchscreen voting machines, and most of those counties use machines that do not generate voter- verified paper ballots. Instead of creating anything truly useful for officials to recount, the machines simply reproduce data that is already in memory, in effect reprinting the results rather than recounting ballots in any meaningful sense.

Read more about e-voting in Virginia:

Those are just some of the many e-voting problems in Election 2006. Hopefully, they demonstrate once and for all that reform is needed to make sure every vote counts -- take action now to protect your right to vote:

For more on e-voting in this election:

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* Brief Urges Supreme Court to Tackle Secret Law

Americans Have the Right to See Laws They Must Follow

San Francisco - EFF and a coalition of non-profit organizations asked the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to hear a case challenging a secret law governing travelers in American airports.

The case centers on the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) requirement that travelers show identification before boarding commercial aircraft. So far, the TSA has refused to disclose the terms of the identification requirement to the public, claiming that they are "sensitive security information." In the amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to hear Gilmore v. Gonzales, EFF demonstrates that Congress never intended agencies to have unfettered discretion to impose requirements upon the public without allowing the public to review them.

"The TSA is allowed to withhold some information from the public, but only in cases where transportation security is at risk," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Simply showing Americans the rules they must follow can't possibly compromise security. The real danger here is meaningless secrecy, which can hide security flaws, frustrate the justice system, create confusion, and undermine government accountability."

The Constitution and laws like the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) prohibit the government from imposing secret laws on the public. But if the lower court decision permitting the secrecy is allowed to stand, it opens the door to other government agencies creating undisclosed rules and regulations without oversight.

"'Security' shouldn't be a magic password allowing the government to escape accountability," said Hofmann. "The Supreme Court should hear this case and review why the TSA insists on keeping this basic information secret."

The amicus brief was also signed by the American Association of Law Libraries, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Center for Democracy and Technology, National Security Archive, Project on Government Secrecy of the Federation of American Scientists, and Special Libraries Association.

For the full amicus brief:

For this release:

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* Landmark Education DMCA Case Update

EFF recently announced that it was fighting against Landmark Education's campaign to identify individuals who posted a French documentary, entitled Voyage Au Pays Des Nouveaux Gourous (Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus), that was critical of the Landmark program and included hidden camera footage from inside a Landmark Forum event in France.

EFF is currently talking with Landmark in an attempt to reach an amicable resolution about Landmark's Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) subpoena to Google. In the hope that we can resolve this without need of litigation, EFF has held off on filing its motion to quash that subpoena.

In the mean time, Landmark responded to our press release, according to Red Herring magazine:

"While we appreciate the work of the EFF, the allegation that our copyright claim is bogus is entirely inaccurate," [Art Schreiber, general counsel for Landmark Education] said. "The facts are clear that the Landmark Forum program has for many years been copyrighted. Materials covered by this copyright registration were included throughout the video."

While we appreciate the kind words, we disagree with Mr. Schreiber's copyright analysis. To the extent that the documentary includes any materials copyrighted by Landmark, that use is clearly for purposes of criticism and commentary, i.e., a non-infringing fair use. Yesterday we released a draft of our motion to quash, which explains in detail why Landmark's copyright claim does not hold water. Indeed, it's not even a close call. Sorry, Landmark, but your claim is still bogus.

For this post and related links:

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* Help Bust Two Bad Patents!

EFF's Patent Busting Project fights back against bad patents by filing requests for reexamination against the worst offenders. We've successfully pushed the Patent and Trademark Office to reexamine patents held by Clear Channel and, and now we need your help to bust a few more.

A company called NeoMedia has a patent on reading an "index" (e.g, a bar code) off a product, matching it with information in a database, and then connecting to a remote computer (e.g., a website). In other words, NeoMedia claims to have invented the basic concept of any technology that could, say, scan a product on a supermarket shelf and then connect you to a price-comparison website. To bust this overly broad patent, we need to find prior art that describes a product made before 1995 that might be something like a UPC scanner, but which also connects the user to a remote computer or database. Take a look at the description and please forward it to anyone you know who might have special knowledge in this area:

You can send your prior art tips in here:

Also in our sights is a patent on personalized subdomains from Ideaflood. For example, a student named Alice might have personalized URL "" that redirects to a personal directory at "" Ideaflood says that it has a patent on a key mechanism that makes this possible. We need prior art that describes such a method being used before 1999, specifically using DNS wildcards, html frames, and virtual hosting. Prior art systems might have existed in foreign ISPs, universities, or other ISPs with web-hosting services. You can find the prior art description here:

And please send tips in here:

For more on the Patent Busting Project:

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* Homeland Security to "Target" Millions in Data-Mining System

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently published a notice in the Federal Register disclosing the existence of a "new system of records" -- the Automated Targeting System (ATS) -- that assigns "risk assessments" to millions of U.S. citizens who seek "to enter or exit the United States" or whose work involves international trade. The system appears to involve the data-mining of massive amounts of information derived from a wide variety of sources, including Passenger Name Record (PNR) data obtained from commercial air carriers.

The "risk assessments" generated by the system will be retained for "up to forty years," according to DHS, in order to "cover the potential lifespan of individuals associated with terrorism or other criminal activity." But wait -- just because you're currently innocent, that doesn't mean you get a free pass. As the notice goes on to explain:

"All risk assessments need to be maintained because the risk assessment for individuals who are deemed low risk will be relevant if their risk profile changes in the future, for example, if terrorist associations are identified."

DHS has exempted all of the data contained in the ATS from the "access" and "correction" requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974, which means that citizens have no right to learn about their own "risk assessments" or to challenge them. Franz Kafka, call your office.

For this post and related links:

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* Sun Releases Java Under GPL

This week, Sun Microsystems announced that it is releasing the Java source code under the GPL free software license, meaning anyone is free to copy, redistribute, modify, and make many other uses of the code. Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman hailed the release as one of the most significant software contributions by any company to the free software community. ZDNet and Sun's site have more details:

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* Nominate a Pioneer for EFF's 2007 Pioneer Awards!

EFF established the Pioneer Awards to recognize leaders on the electronic frontier who are extending freedom and innovation in the realm of information technology. This is your opportunity to nominate a deserving individual or group to receive a Pioneer Award for 2007.

The International Pioneer Awards nominations are open both to individuals and organizations from any country. Nominations are reviewed by a panel of judges chosen for their knowledge of the technical, legal, and social issues associated with information technology.

How to Nominate Someone for a 2007 Pioneer Award:

You may send as many nominations as you wish, but please use one email per nomination. Please submit your entries via email to We will accept nominations until January 15, 2007.

Simply tell us:

1. The name of the nominee,

2. The phone number or email address or website by which the nominee can be reached, and, most importantly,

3. Why you feel the nominee deserves the award.

Nominee Criteria:

There are no specific categories for the EFF Pioneer Awards, but the following guidelines apply:

1. The nominees must have contributed substantially to the health, growth, accessibility, or freedom of computer-based communications.

2. To be valid, all nominations must contain your reason, however brief, for nominating the individual or organization and a means of contacting the nominee. In addition, while anonymous nominations will be accepted, ideally we'd like to contact the nominating parties in case we need further information.

3. The contribution may be technical, social, economic, or cultural.

4. Nominations may be of individuals, systems, or organizations in the private or public sectors.

5. Nominations are open to all (other than current members of EFF's staff and board or this year's award judges), and you may nominate more than one recipient. You may also nominate yourself or your organization.

6. Persons or representatives of organizations receiving an EFF Pioneer Award will be invited to attend the ceremony at EFF's expense.

More on the EFF Pioneer Awards:

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* miniLinks The week's noteworthy news, compressed.

~ Universal CEO: Pirates Are to Pirate Ships, as Fans Are to iPods "These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it," Doug Morris says.

~ RIAA Explodes at Claim That It's Unfriendly to Fair Use Cary Sherman claims consumer electronics industry is "extremist."

~ Europe-based Legal Advice for Free Software Developers New "Freedom Task Force" will be based in Zurich, Switzerland, advising and enforcing the GPL.

~ Crimson Tide of Litigation University of Alabama asks court to forbid artist from using "famous crimson and white color scheme."

~ GNU's Not Anti-trust Full judicial opinion and commentary on Daniel Wallace's attempt to have the GPL declared anti-competitive.

~ Does Opt-Out Copyright Violate First Amendment? Larry Lessig's Kahle v. Gonzales is heard by the Ninth Circuit.

~ ITU Makes Bid to Control "Security in Cyberspace" The new secretary general of the UN's ITU Telecoms Development Bureau, Hamadoun Toure, wants to take the lead in governing security issues online.

~ Who's Censoring Whom? State Net censorship monitors the OpenNet Initiative talks to Wired News.,72104-0.html

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* Administrivia

EFFector is published by:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation 454 Shotwell Street San Francisco CA 94110-1914 USA +1 415 436 9333 (voice) +1 415 436 9993 (fax)

Editor: Derek Slater, Activist

Membership & donation queries:

General EFF, legal, policy, or online resources queries:

Reproduction of this publication in electronic media is encouraged. Signed articles do not necessarily represent the views of EFF. To reproduce signed articles individually, please contact the authors for their express permission. Press releases and EFF announcements & articles may be reproduced individually at will.

Current and back issues of EFFector are available via the Web at:

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