Thursday, May 11, 2006

Now You Know Your Phone Was Tapped

If you had service with one of the big three, they turned over YOUR information without a warrant and it has been going on for years. - NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls: "'It's the largest database ever assembled in the world,' said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is 'to create a database of every call ever made' within the nation's borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made - across town or across the country - to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.
Of course listening in on teenagers calls was informative, I know mine sure were. They know how many times the school called to let you know one of your kids was in trouble, they know all your doctors (there goes HIPAA), if you call a certain person more often than others (KPIG) did a great riff on that one!), whether you belong to organizations and clubs, and the list goes on and on. Seems like they have been secretly amassing data since 9/11. They might as well print the Bill of Rights on toilet paper, since that is about all it has been good for since the Great Decider took office.
Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.

Don Weber, a senior spokesman for the NSA, declined to discuss the agency's operations. "Given the nature of the work we do, it would be irresponsible to comment on actual or alleged operational issues; therefore, we have no information to provide," he said. "However, it is important to note that NSA takes its legal responsibilities seriously and operates within the law."
Not the law of the United States of America. My American Government teacher from high school was a staunch conservative (he gave us points for throwing darts at Warren Burger) and he tested us on the Bill of Rights repeatedly.
The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated Monday by President Bush to become the director of the CIA, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. In that post, Hayden would have overseen the agency's domestic call-tracking program. Hayden declined to comment about the program."
That's ok, Amurika will just overlook this just like they have overlooked every other conflict of interest. They will be convinced that it is only the "terrorists" that have to worry. Until they find out that you have been visiting a psychiatrist and are taking antidepressants which really means you are unstable and should not be in your sensitive position, which happens to be as a midlevel manager for some parts company, and now it is important that your calls were tracked.
The three carriers control vast networks with the latest communications technologies. They provide an array of services: local and long-distance calling, wireless and high-speed broadband, including video. Their direct access to millions of homes and businesses has them uniquely positioned to help the government keep tabs on the calling habits of Americans.

Among the big telecommunications companies, only Qwest has refused to help the NSA, the sources said. According to multiple sources, Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.

Qwest's refusal to participate has left the NSA with a hole in its database. Based in Denver, Qwest provides local phone service to 14 million customers in 14 states in the West and Northwest. But AT&T and Verizon also provide some services - primarily long-distance and wireless - to people who live in Qwest's region. Therefore, they can provide the NSA with at least some access in that area.
Makes me wish I had supported Qwest in some way.
The agency told the companies that it wanted them to turn over their "call-detail records," a complete listing of the calling histories of their millions of customers. In addition, the NSA wanted the carriers to provide updates, which would enable the agency to keep tabs on the nation's calling habits.

The sources said the NSA made clear that it was willing to pay for the cooperation. AT&T, which at the time was headed by C. Michael Armstrong, agreed to help the NSA. So did BellSouth, headed by F. Duane Ackerman; SBC, headed by Ed Whitacre; and Verizon, headed by Ivan Seidenberg.

With that, the NSA's domestic program began in earnest.

AT&T, when asked about the program, replied with a comment prepared for USA TODAY: "We do not comment on matters of national security, except to say that we only assist law enforcement and government agencies charged with protecting national security in strict accordance with the law."

In another prepared comment, BellSouth said: "BellSouth does not provide any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority."

Verizon, the USA's No. 2 telecommunications company behind AT&T, gave this statement: "We do not comment on national security matters, we act in full compliance with the law and we are committed to safeguarding our customers' privacy."

Qwest spokesman Robert Charlton said: "We can't talk about this. It's a classified situation."
Why not? Everybody else is.

I really wished I had supported Qwest more.
One major telecommunications company declined to participate in the program: Qwest.

According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that Qwest didn't need a court order or approval under FISA to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers' information and how that information might be used.

Financial implications were also a concern, the sources said. Carriers that illegally divulge calling information can be subjected to heavy fines. The NSA was asking Qwest to turn over millions of records. The fines, in the aggregate, could have been substantial.

The NSA told Qwest that other government agencies, including the FBI, CIA and DEA, also might have access to the database, the sources said. As a matter of practice, the NSA regularly shares its information - known as "product" in intelligence circles - with other intelligence groups. Even so, Qwest's lawyers were troubled by the expansiveness of the NSA request, the sources said.

The NSA, which needed Qwest's participation to completely cover the country, pushed back hard.

Trying to put pressure on Qwest, NSA representatives pointedly told Qwest that it was the lone holdout among the big telecommunications companies. It also tried appealing to Qwest's patriotic side: In one meeting, an NSA representative suggested that Qwest's refusal to contribute to the database could compromise national security, one person recalled.

In addition, the agency suggested that Qwest's foot-dragging might affect its ability to get future classified work with the government. Like other big telecommunications companies, Qwest already had classified contracts and hoped to get more.
That's my government, she says not so fondly. Threats and blackmail to force a company to cooperate in an illegal operation. Nice. I may be almost 50, but I don't remember this country resembling Stalinist Russia so well. When will the protests start? Are we so lazy and dependent on the other guy to do it that we will slide into obscurity, a nation that promised to be the land of the free and the home of the brave? We aren't free from illegal government interference and the brave are the focus of governmental intimidation.

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