Wiretapping before 9/11: AT&T, NSA, Verizon, Level 3

kleincropped-tbn.jpg Why would an administration that currently has access to all data going over the Internet want more competition in the ISP market?

Mark Klein going to Washington to blow the whistle some more on AT&T on giving NSA unfettered access to AT&T’s network:

“If they’ve done something massively illegal and unconstitutional — well, they should suffer the consequences,” Klein said. “It’s not my place to feel bad for them. They made their bed, they have to lie in it. The ones who did [anything wrong], you can be sure, are high up in the company. Not the average Joes, who I enjoyed working with.”

A Story of Surveillance, Former Technician ‘Turning In’ AT&T Over NSA Program, By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, November 7, 2007; Page D01

While the Washington Post, for example, does get at one main point:
Contrary to the government’s depiction of its surveillance program as aimed at overseas terrorists, Klein said, much of the data sent through AT&T to the NSA was purely domestic. Klein said he believes that the NSA was analyzing the records for usage patterns as well as for content.
It neglects to mention an even bigger point:
The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.

The allegation is part of a court filing adding AT&T, the nation’s largest telephone company, as a defendant in a breach of privacy case filed earlier this month on behalf of Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. customers. The suit alleges that the three carriers, the NSA and President George W. Bush violated the Telecommunications Act of 1934 and the U.S. Constitution, and seeks money damages.

“The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11,” plaintiff’s lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview. “This undermines that assertion.”

Spy Agency Sought U.S. Call Records Before 9/11, Lawyers Say, By Andrew Harris, Bloomberg, 30 June 2007

The Bush administration was already planning this in 2001:

In its “Transition 2001” report, the NSA said that the ever-changing world of global communication means that “American communication and targeted adversary communication will coexist.”

“Make no mistake, NSA can and will perform its missions consistent with the Fourth Amendment and all applicable laws,” the document says.

However, it adds that “senior leadership must understand that the NSA’s mission will demand a ‘powerful, permanent presence’ on global telecommunications networks that host both ‘protected’ communications of Americans and the communications of adversaries the agency wants to target.”

Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11, By Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Perspective, Friday 13 January 2006

Read the plan yourself.

Incidentally, while the major press such as Washington Post and Bloomberg are carrying this story, the best source of links I’ve found is a blog, the Seminal.

Why would a U.S. administration want to vacuum up all domestic telecommunications?

These installations only make sense if they’re doing a huge, massive domestic dragnet on everybody, in the United States.

AT&T Whistleblower Speaks Out Against Retroactive Immunity, by Mark Klein, posted by Chris Dodd, YouTube, November 2007

The massive illegal wiretapping alleged against AT&T, Verizon, Level 3,and other ISPs (but not Qwest, because former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio declined and apparently is being made to pay a price. Meanwhile, the telcos are lobbying for retroactive immunity. That’s not good for anybody, not even them.

What the telcos ought to do is ‘fess up, take their medicine, and stop doing this, just like what happened after Vietnam and Watergate.

Sure, some CEOs and other CxOs will get the sack. So what? They’ve got golden parachutes; big risks are why they get the big bucks. Maybe a few of them will wind up in jail. Better them than a CEO like Nacchio who did not cooperate in illegal wiretapping. Sure, the participating companies will have to spend some money on lawyers and fines. So what? That’s why they have stables of lawyers and D&O insurance.

And this time let’s put in some real safeguards against it happening again. Starting with real competition and net neutrality.


One thought on “Wiretapping before 9/11: AT&T, NSA, Verizon, Level 3

  1. J-Ro

    Thanks for the link. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that a blog has better links than the mainstream media, but I still am.
    The Nacchio case is extremely interesting. I think we’ll see ripples of it as the immunity discussion heats up. As I recall, there was a lot about that case that turned on “state secrets” and i suspect we’ll see that card come into play in the Senate as they write FISA as well.

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