Technology and Business Law Blog

Surveillance and the Warrantless Wiretapping Bill

President Bush after signing the surveillance and the warrantless wiretapping bill, said the bill gives the government anti-terror tools it needs without compromising Americans’ civil liberties.

I don’t understand how the bill does not compromises Americans’ civil liberties. In fact it has shut the door on any possibilities for civil liberties that are so fundamental in the Constitution. It is just a political game to which the Democrats have succumbed. I am real disappointed that Obama for all that he said that he was against the war on Iraq and was going to CHANGE things in Washington, voted for the bill and just joined forces with Washington.

ACLU’s has filed a lawsuit on behalf of several civil rights groups. It wants a federal judge in New York to rule that the law is an unconstitutional violation of free speech and the right against unlawful search and seizure. It also asks that the judge permanently block intelligence officials from conducting surveillance under the law.

“The new law gives the government the power to conduct dragnet surveillance that has no connection to terrorism or criminal activity of any kind,” said Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, in a conference call to reporters.

I hope the court decides that the bill is unconstitutional and preserves the sanctity of the judicial process just as the Supreme Court decided that holding the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely without a trial was unconstitutional and that the prisoners had a right to a civil trial.

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July 11, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Law on Claiming Lottery Prize Money

If you buy a lottery ticket keep it safe and most importantly if you are the winner of millions of dollars, make sure that you don’t lose the ticket till you claim the prize money. According to the law anyone who brings in the actual ticket will be declared the winner, or you will have to wait for a year and if no one else brings in the actual ticket then you will be awarded the prize money. So if are the winner and lose your ticket and someone else finds it then they are the winner.

Here is an very interesting story about an immigrant who won a lottery for about 70 million, lost the ticket and had to wait for a year holding his breath hoping that nobody else finds the ticket and claims the money. Well nobody else claimed the money and so he was declared the winner after a year!

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

FISA Amendment Act Passed

President Bush got his way, Congress did pass the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (also called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 Amendments Act of 2008, H.R. 6304) is a bill passed by the United States Congress on July 9, 2008 to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The bill provides immunity for AT&T, Verizon Communications and other U.S. telecommunications companies against 40 lawsuits alleging that they violated customers’ privacy rights by helping the government’s NSA electronic surveillance program conduct a warrantless spying program after the September 11th attacks.

The bill also:

  • Permits the government to not keep records of searches, and destroy existing records.
  • Requires FISA court permission to wiretap Americans who are overseas.
  • Prohibits targeting a foreigner to secretly eavesdrop on an American’s calls or e-mails without court approval.
  • Allows the FISA court 30 days to review existing but expiring surveillance orders before renewing them.
  • Allows eavesdropping in emergencies without court approval, provided the government files required papers within a week.
  • Prohibits the government from invoking war powers or other authorities to supersede surveillance rules in the future.

The bill broadly expands the president’s warrantless surveillance authority and unconstitutionally grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the president’s illegal domestic wiretapping program. Also the Justice Department is considering allowing the FBI to investigate Americans without any evidence of wrongdoing, relying instead on a terrorist profile that could single out Muslims, Arabs or other racial and ethnic groups. Currently, FBI agents need specific reasons — such as evidence or allegations that a law probably has been violated — to investigate U.S. citizens and legal residents. The new policy, law enforcement officials told the Associated Press, would let agents open preliminary terrorism investigations after mining public records and intelligence to build a profile of traits that, taken together, were deemed suspicious. Read here.

The combination of both of the above is a lethal weapon for the government to totally take over the lives of Americans and crush the dreams of our founding fathers who envisioned a country where freedom was a birth right of every person who came to the shores of U.S. Anyone of us can become a victim with no reasons given and no right to ask and no justice rendered. The fears of invasion of online privacy, identity theft or anything else pales in comparison with what is yet to come….

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Economic Espionage Act

Please Note: The information shared below is from a newsletter of the law firm of Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel, Inc. Their web site is http://www.hogefenton.com/ip.html. None of it is contributed by me.

First Sentencing for Violation of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996

Last week a software engineer in Cupertino became the first person to be sentenced under the Economic Espionage Act enacted by Congress in 1996 (EEA). In a federal court in San Jose, Xiaodong Sheldon Meng pled guilty to two counts:  one for violating the EEA and one for violating the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).  He was sentenced to prison for 24 months.  The EEA provides for a maximum sentence of 15 years.

Upon leaving his former employer, Quantum 3D of San Jose, Meng failed to erase some source code from his computer which contained trade secrets, including software used for training fighter plane pilots.  Meng then used some of that software in a demonstration to Chinese naval personnel.

Meng admitted he (1) attempted to sell fighter pilot training software to the Chinese Navy, (2) misappropriated trade secrets from Quantum 3D with the intent to benefit a foreign government, and (3) knowingly and willfully exported to China software described on the U.S. government’s Munitions List.

Overview of the Economic Espionage Act

The EEA applies to acts committed both within and outside the United States, and contains two provisions:  one addresses economic espionage directed by foreign governments (18 U.S.C. §1831), while the other prohibits the commercial theft of trade secrets carried out for economic or commercial advantage (18 U.S.C. §1832).

Under section 1831, the government must prove that the defendant stole, obtained without authorization, destroyed, or conveyed information the defendant knew was a trade secret and would benefit a foreign government.

Under section 1832, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that: (1) the defendant stole, obtained without authorization, sent, destroyed, or conveyed information he knew was a trade secret; (2) the defendant intended to convert the trade secret to the economic benefit of someone other than its owner; (3) he knew that the owner of the trade secret would be injured; and (4) the trade secret was related to a product that involved interstate or foreign commerce.  There is no “benefit a foreign government” requirement, as with section 1831.

The AECA generally covers disclosures to foreign nationals located within the United States, regardless of whether the restricted information or product is actually transmitted overseas.  The AECA also could apply to information e-mailed to an individual overseas or to a foreign national within the United States.

Why This is Important

There is a common perception that someone who misappropriates trade secrets is subject to claims and liability under state civil and criminal laws only.  As the Meng case demonstrates, such misappropriation also may be subject to federal criminal laws.

It is significant that the EEA’s scope includes attempts to engage in specified behavior, regardless of whether the behavior is successful.  By comparison, a civil action for trade secret misappropriation generally is actionable only if the defendant actually engages in specified behavior and the plaintiff suffers actual damage or faces a risk of imminent harm.

The Bottom Line

1.    Despite its name, the EEA’s coverage is not limited to activities involving foreign espionage.

2.    An employee leaving a job should be extremely careful not to walk away with any confidential information belonging to the former employer.

3.    Even the attempt to disclose certain trade secrets may expose employees to federal criminal prosecution and prison time.

July 3, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment