I agree that it is good for someone to stand up to the NSA, though I am
also very sympathetic to the point that taking legal action may require the
WMF to devote considerable time and money to this project, and distract
from other goals.  Perhaps the ACLU and the other plaintiffs are going to
shoulder a significant part of that burden?  After all, we may have the
public clout but other organizations have more lawyers and more experience
fighting the government in court than we do.

On that tack, I find it somewhat surprising that there are no other
technology organizations as partners to the suit.  The same Snowden-leaked
slide that mentioned Wikipedia also mentioned Google, Facebook, Yahoo,
etc.  While NSA snooping may have some chilling scenarios for Wikipedia
editors living in certain countries, I would expect that NSA snooping
through email and social networks would seem like a much more severe
intrusion for the typical reader than capturing their Wikipedia activity.
Thus it would seem that many of the big tech companies would have more to
fear, and be in a better position to argue the potential harm caused by
pervasive surveillance than Wikimedia.  At the same time, many tech
companies also have more financial resources and larger legal departments
than WMF.

I suppose other tech companies might have been invited to participate but
declined for various reasons.  Or there might be non-obvious arguments for
thinking this suit will do better without large corporations being
involved.  I can imagine there might be many good reasons for choosing
certain partners and excluding other possible partners.  Though, it does
seem somewhat surprising to me that WMF would be lead plaintiff on a case
like this.

I don't really expect that the WMF is going to explain their legal strategy
or provide much detail on how they expect to share the cost / time burden
associated with pursuing this suit.  So let me just say that I hope that
everyone at the WMF has thought through the logistics of this endeavor and
is doing it for all the right reasons with an eye towards maximizing the
chance of success (ideally in court, though possibly though the court of
public opinion and political action).  Fighting the government is not a
small thing, so let's hope the ideological motivations aren't causing
people to lose sight of the practical concerns.

Anyway, the die is cast, so good luck with it.

-Robert Rohde

On Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 10:03 PM, MZMcBride <z...@mzmcbride.com> wrote:

> Hi.
> I'm of two minds here. I would love for mass surveillance to stop; the
> revelations of the past few years are disgusting. However, this lawsuit
> has the appearance of being the start of a completely un-winnable case
> that's merely an expensive political stunt. Perhaps especially due to the
> SOPA protests, I'm very wary of the Wikimedia Foundation engaging in
> stunts like this. I have a few questions.
> Has the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees passed a resolution
> authorizing the Wikimedia Foundation general counsel and executive
> director to pursue this lawsuit? I understand that one board member
> (Jimmy) is involved, of course, but something of this scale seems like it
> would require explicit authorization.
> What's the projected financial cost of this lawsuit for the Wikimedia
> Foundation?
> What's the projected length of time that this lawsuit will take to resolve?
> What specifically is the Wikimedia Foundation hoping to accomplish with
> this lawsuit? I read about "filing this suit [...] to end this mass
> surveillance program in order to protect the rights of our users around
> the world," but what's a best-case scenario here? What could a federal
> judge do here?
> How does the Wikimedia Foundation intend to protect the rights of users
> around the world when it will have a nearly impossible time of protecting
> Americans, much less non-Americans? U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress have
> made it very clear that spying on non-Americans is completely acceptable,
> so when I read that the aim is to protect users worldwide, I'm pretty
> skeptical.
> Is there any indication from prior court cases that this lawsuit will be
> successful? Reading <https://www.eff.org/node/84572> about Jewel v. NSA
> leads to me to think that we already know almost exactly what's likeliest
> to happen here.
> Aside from standing, U.S. government agencies (even outside of
> intelligence agencies) have broad immunity from lawsuits. How does the
> Wikimedia Foundation intend to penetrate immunity here? It seems very
> unlikely that a single slide in a classified presentation, which honestly
> references Wikipedia only in passing as an example of a site using HTTP,
> will convince any judge that there's enough to establish standing and
> penetrate immunity.
> My concern is that this will be an expensive, decade-long lawsuit that
> will eat donor money and ultimately accomplish nothing.
> Nearly all of the "surveillance" that takes place on our projects comes
> from our users. We're radically transparent and we make it trivial to
> track and audit any user's actions. This is by design, as it allows us to
> prevent vandalism and other harm to the projects. Given Wikimedia's
> particular setup, including the fact that we, for example, willfully
> expose IP addresses if a user chooses to not log in, it seems that the
> Wikimedia Foundation would have an even higher bar to clear in order to
> establish harm.
> But more to the point: even if by some miracle, this case were resolved in
> 2015 with a very explicit federal court order instructing the National
> Security Agency to cease mass surveillance, is there anyone who believes
> that this will end mass surveillance?
> Our mission is to try to bring free educational content to the world.
> Wouldn't it be a much smarter investment of donor resources to focus on
> building Wikimedia? Surely there's plenty to do in that arena without us
> needing to fight a battle we can't win in the courtroom.
> MZMcBride
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