Phone Companies Violate Privacy Rights

11/08/07
US Senate wants to let phone companies violate American’s privacy rights.

Remember TIA? The Total Information Awareness program that Congress rejected several years ago was a plan to have DARPA develop highly sophisticated software running on supercomputers to spy on Americans. The electronic dragnet was intended to gather data from an enormous number of private and government sources including banks, airlines, the IRS, credit card companies, phone companies, internet providers…just about every source imaginable.

The plan was so outrageous, that even a post 9/11 Congress rejected it. When the NSA launched it’s now famous illegal wiretapping program, it revived a piece of TIA. Many other chunks of the project also exist in segregated systems. Wide scale internet and telephone eavesdropping can not be performed without the help of the telcom companies.

Now the senate is debating changes in the law to give immunity to telcoms for breaking the law. The government ordered these companies to violate their customer’s privacy, and all complied with the illegal requests except one. The refusal of Qwest Communications to cooperate with the NSA’s illegal surveillance program illustrates that these companies know full well that they were criminally negligent in supporting the illegal wiretapping.

AZ senator John Kyle, who sits on the Judiciary Committee deciding the rules, is among those who want to provide liability immunity to the phone company conspirators who “fulfill their patriotic duty and do what the government asks”. He falsely frames the issue solely around foreign intelligence gathering in this NPR story. PATRIOTIC! What could be less patriotic then supporting stomping on the fourth amendment?

How ridiculous it is that lawmakers are actually discussing letting telecommunications companies off the hook for cooperating with illegal government wiretapping. Shouldn’t they be going after the Bush administration for committing these crimes? In 1974 impeachment charges were approved by the House Judiciary Committee against Richard Nixon for ordering wire taps against 17 people, and today the President gets away with eavesdropping on millions!

The mainstream news media bears responsibility here too. Few realize that the New York Times sat on the warrantless wiretapping story for a full year before it was shared with the public.

Had it not been for an AT&T. employee named Mark Klein, we may never have found out. Read more about the hero who blew the whistle in the Electronic Frontier Foundation article.