back to article FBI's PRISM slurping is 'unconstitutional' – and America's secret spy court is OK with that

Hopes that reform to the US government's mass surveillance infrastructure would yield real results have been dealt a blow after the opinion of a public advocate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was rejected. Amy Jeffress was asked to give her opinion on the FBI searching in the vast PRISM database for …

  1. DougS Silver badge

    And this is why

    Apple is making it so even they can't access iPhone data. The government has shown they have no respect for the law, so Apple wants to disambiguate itself out of the conflict between citizen (i.e. suspect) and government. Let it be their problem how to get at the data.

    1. noj

      Re: And this is why

      Meanwhile, encryption itself is under attack in the US. If the FBI is successful in its continual attempts to get back doors into operating systems, encryption is a moot point.

      Upvoted anyway because I would like Apple to fully encrypt all their devices too.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: And this is why

        The tech industry beat Clipper in the 90s and will beat this too. The US economy is quite dependent on the tech industry for all its growth, and while politicians want to be seen to be doing "stuff" to stop terrorists, they aren't going to do something that the whole tech industry says will hurt US competitiveness and cause the center of the industry to leave Silicon Valley for a country with less crazy lawmakers.

  2. Sebastian A

    Those of us in other countries

    may laugh now, but you can bet your hide every government on the planet is doing similar things if they have the technical ability.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: Those of us in other countries

      Firstly no one is laughing secondly technical ability comes a poor second when already have a secret society who think act and are supported in their actions that they are for all intents and purposes totally beyond the reach of laws and decency.

      Whilst the database makes this an El Reg story the actual implications for the respect of the rule of law are much more frightening.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Those of us in other countries

        > the rule of law

        It's only for utter arseholes on the business end of state-mandated exploitation. Deal with it.

        Better do some getting and start mucking shit up for fun.

    2. Oengus Silver badge

      Re: Those of us in other countries

      if they have the technical ability

      and you can bet your hide that if they don't have the technical ability they are working towards achieving the necessary technical ability.

      Lately it seems that the only things the government are protecting are their jobs.

    3. Crazy Operations Guy

      Those of us in other countries may laugh now

      Well, unless you happen to live in China, France, UK, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon, Myanmar, Iran, Cuba, Haiti, and so on, and so on.... Far too many governments out there have similar, if not worse, courts / governments. By no means am I condoning the US's actions, just pointing out that blatant violations of our human rights is much more wide-spread.

      1. DeKrow
        Unhappy

        Re: Those of us in other countries may laugh now

        How sad is it that we have to resort to a "yeah, but we're still better than them" argument. I might have failed maths but I didn't fail as bad as that guy!

        It's a race to 2nd to bottom. And with North Korea behaving as it does, there's still a lot of scope for slippage.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Those of us in other countries

      Those of us in other countries may laugh now, but you can bet your hide every government on the planet is doing similar things if they have the technical ability.

      Technical ability has less to do with it than having a legal system that allows blatantly undemocratic (or, in the US case, unconstitutional) practices to continue unabated.

      That's why I keep urging people to educate themselves about the laws applicable to their work. You don't have to become a lawyer, but for God's sake, educate yourself about the pitfalls in legislation or you will be caught out if you get between the State or law enforcement and data it wants, and they have no compunction to walk right over you if they think they can get away with it (or not, but take a chance anyway).

      There is nothing wrong with law enforcement having powers, but they MUST go together with accountability and transparency or you should stop calling it democracy.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Those of us in other countries

        Technical ability has less to do with it than having a legal system that allows blatantly undemocratic (or, in the US case, unconstitutional) practices to continue unabated.

        If you're referring to:

        there was no statutory requirement that PRISM data only be used for foreign intelligence

        Then I expect this is a feature, not a bug.

      2. larrylevine01

        Re: Those of us in other countries

        lol....democracy...the worst form of government...except for all the others. Should we resent the fact that the "government is spying on its own citizens"? Our tax dollars paid for the internet (DARPANET), and in essence, it's government property. If you choose to use it, you do so at your own risk, like I'm doing right now. I understand the arguments against a "Gestapo-state" - that's where this seems to be headed, "Minority Report", "1984", etc. "Hey, you paid my brother (DARPA) all this money to develop this amazing technology that allows you to communicate instantaneously over thousands of miles to people around the world, but I (US Government) reserve the right to know what you're doing with that technology." If you don't like the idea of the USG "overseeing" your activity using technology they developed (even if it was with your money), you may want to consider going back to snail mail. PS...they're watching that too. I hear a lot of this whinging about the invasion of privacy, and the fourth amendment. Be warned - expecting "privacy" in your use of the internet (specifically the web) is like expecting that the cops aren't going to be on public roads, checking license plates with expired tags.

        Love, mom

  3. Graham Marsden
    Devil

    "Jeffress is not allowed to appeal the decision"

    Of course not. It's their ball and it's their back yard and *they* make the rules!

    She's just lucky she hasn't suffered an unfortunate "accident"...

    1. Intractable Potsherd

      Re: "Jeffress is not allowed to appeal the decision" @ Graham

      ... yet.

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    "The government has shown they have no respect for the law"

    What law?

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: "The government has shown they have no respect for the law"

      Plenty of laws. I suspect you might be asking 'which law'?

    2. james 68

      Re: "The government has shown they have no respect for the law"

      I'll just leave this here..... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FO5MYUajrzo

  5. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Simple solution...

    Only do things on the Internet that you have no real interest in.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Simple solution...

      Like wanking and voting.

  6. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Big Brother

    So much for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court being a check on the 3 letter agencies

    The FISC's "proud" record as a near-rubber-stamp for the alphabet agencies stands, as always.

  7. 404 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Damn...

    So the bottom line is that the 2nd Amendment will be required to enforce the 4th Amendment in order to stop the fucking secret courts then.

    Nice.

    oh and YEAH, I SAID IT! NSA/FBI/etc be damned.

    1. twiss97

      Re: Damn...

      Bingo! Such a shame that mammals with "advanced" neo cortexes must keep relearning the same lessons, century after century:

      The first casualty of tyranny is privacy. The loss of liberty inevitably ensues...

    2. Ole Juul Silver badge

      Re: Damn...

      "So the bottom line is that the 2nd Amendment will be required to enforce the 4th"

      The second says the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed, and since strong encryption is classed as munitions, it looks like that may soon be a gonner too.

  8. ma1010 Silver badge
    Big Brother

    WHAT Constitution?

    Icon says it all. Welcome to Oceania. Long live Big Brother and INGSOC!

    1. Tomato42 Silver badge
      Big Brother

      Re: WHAT Constitution?

      well Oceania, pardon, USA, has always been "at war". Just look at the homicide rates, it's a literal war zone.

  9. scrubber
    Holmes

    What's the worst that could happen?

    Secret courts, private rulings, no appeals, state interest overriding the public's rights, appointed judges...

    Who could ever imagine anything would go wrong?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: What's the worst that could happen?

      The only thing missing is Room 101.... or so they would lead us to believe.

    2. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: What's the worst that could happen?

      Trump becomes president and has access to all this data. Disagree with him and you are off for some enhanced interrogation. Read "The Gulag Archipelago" for details. Soon you will be confessing to being a terrorist or pervert.

      1. james 68

        Re: What's the worst that could happen?

        Trump becomes president and all his businesses have access to that data... Every damn phone in the USA will be ringing 24/7 with obnoxious telemarketers, and it wont be long before blocking them will be made illegal or simply unpatriotic (unpatriotic according to the Don basicly means, you disagree with him so you have no rights or citizenship).

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: What's the worst that could happen?

        Up vote for the Solzhenitsyn reference.

  10. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    All data are equal

    Some more than others.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    *FOREIGN*

    "Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court"

    So a *Foreign* surveillance court is authorizing *domestic* surveillance and somehow it can do that?

    I think FISA says the court can authorize surveillance of *Foreign* governments and agents of the *Foreign* government in the USA. So the FISC court itself has no standing to authorize purely domestic surveillance. Surely! Any appeals process it has, likewise is worthless side show.

    It's not even a court, its an office of the executive that doesn't hear or cross examine evidence, it hears generic cases. More like a legal advisor to the president than a court. The sort of trick Theresa May is trying to use to bypass the right to judicial process, and the TPP lot are trying to give corporations sovereign law making powers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: *FOREIGN*

      Hoisted by their own petard but too far up their own intestines to realise it.

      Unless, of course, "Foreign" just means "not one of us". Non-government, non-military = Foreign. The US "ruling elite" have created their own country located within the US although not the US. Like the Vatican to Italy. Except the Vatican has a distinct physical boundary.

      1. 404 Silver badge

        Re: *FOREIGN*

        Pretty damn stupid, don't you think?

        'Those that don't learn from history, repeat the French Revolution as necessary'.

    2. hayzoos

      Re: *FOREIGN*

      So then everyone must be a suspected agent of a foreign government. Paranoia runs in many directions. Tin foil hats for all!

  12. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    And the FBI wonders why they have problems recruitng tech talent...

  13. Christoph Silver badge
    Facepalm

    La la la, I can't hear you!

    The courts are refusing to hear any arguments against their position and then saying that they are in the right because there are no valid arguments against their position.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Land of the Plebs

    Well when you have a country set up with the express purpose of making money, what do you expect from the rich and powerful.

    The US was founded by slave traders and Scottish tobacco merchants hell bent on making money. All that crap about "land of the free, home of the brave" is spin designed to convince the labrourers to head the new colonies when they were first founded. The traders and tobacco merchants put the workers they convinced to head out there in search of a new life, plus the millions of poor, unfortunate Africans who had no choice in going there, to get into debt to the merchants. You need tools and you want the nice things that are only available from back home? Well you can have it on tick and work it off. The rich and powerful don't like we plebs and they need a way to ensure we're doing as we're told and stay put. Thus Prism is simply the latest in a long line of variations of keeping we plebs in line and beholden to our masters. Surfdom never really did die, it simply evolved.

  15. codejunky Silver badge

    Interesting

    Bush wasnt considered too bright and started off a lot of this with good intentions. Obama is considered better yet with will and purpose he allows and expands all of this. Someone has already pointed out that Trump may win and considers that to be bad, and look what he will have in his hands (personally I dont care who becomes president, this is too much regardless).

    Then there are the usual rantings against gun ownership which often extends beyond keeping them out of the hands of criminals to accusing everyone of insane paranoia. Yet they seem to be on the ball when they distrust the very gov breaking their constitutional rights put in place to stop a gov from breaking their constitutional rights.

    the US government was required to retain any data that may be evidence of a crime.

    He then argued that as a result, it didn't make sense for the US government to be required to retain information on a crime and then not be able to search that database.

    Any data could be evidence of a crime. Anything without any exclusion until sufficient time has passed to be useless information.

    Most interestingly was the first comment about businesses trying to protect the people from the gov, yet seems at odds with people supporting the govs attacking business to steal more money the gov is not entitled to.

    1. Bob Dole (tm)

      Re: Interesting

      >>Any data could be evidence of a crime.

      You catch on quick.

  16. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Joke

    "US govt was required to retain any data that may be evidence of a crime"?

    Well, anything could be evidence of a crime, couldn't it? Every humorous video of a kitten might have hidden information concerning some heinous terrorist plot. Storing only part of the information on the interwebs is really not enough! We should demand that the US government retain ALL data generated anywhere. There might be a slight storage problem, of course ......

  17. IPVanish VPN

    We will continue to stand against this kind of invasive government decision making and hope Amy Jeffress will continue to make her point known. The Court may not want to hear it, but we will continue to voice the need for digital rights until they have no choice but to listen.

  18. DerekCurrie
    FAIL

    UNCONSTITUTIONAL

    So how do we put the FISC on trial?

    #MyStupidGovernment no longer cares about the US Constitution it has sworn to protect and defend. This is called TOTALITARIANISM.

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