Thursday, May 18, 2006

Dispute Over Documents On NSA Domestic Program

The Justice Department is well on it's way to getting a lawsuit dismissed against AT&T for allegedly assisting the NSA's extra-legal warrantless domestic spying program.

A federal judge yesterday rejected a privacy group's request to release documents that it claims show AT&T Inc. helped the National Security Agency spy on Americans by providing access to customers' phone calls.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker said at a hearing in San Francisco that the documents may contain AT&T trade secrets. The judge also ruled against an AT&T request to have the privacy group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, return the documents to the company on the grounds that they were stolen...

The documents at issue in the case came from Mark Klein, a retired AT&T technician, who said in April that cables and equipment installed at an AT&T office in San Francisco in 2003 for the NSA "were tapping into" circuits carrying customers' dial-in services. He supplied documents to EFF to support his assertions, which were filed under seal.

The deck is certainly stacked against the Electronic Frontier Foundation in this case:

The Justice Department has asked Walker to dismiss the case because it could compromise national security. Such requests are rarely rejected, said William Weaver, a law professor at the University of Texas at El Paso, and author of a book about law and presidential secrecy.

"The case is going away. Courts almost never challenge the government on this," Weaver said. "It is the most deferred-to principle in law and a judge will not touch it."

In the separate matter of the data-mining by the NSA of the transactional data from most Americans phone calls, both Bell South and Verizon have now denied participating in the program.

However, their pleas of innocence must be taken with a grain of salt because President Bush has now signed a Presidential Memorandum allowing companies to bypass SEC regulations requiring full and truthful public statements when "national security" concerns are involved.

Ordinarily, a company that conceals their transactions and activities from the public would violate securities law. But a presidential memorandum signed by the President on May 5 allows the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, to authorize a company to conceal activities related to national security. (See 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A))

The New York Times is reporting this morning that cell phone calls may have been included in the wide net cast by the SIGINT agency.

The long-distance networks are sizable data pipes that sit in the middle of most telephone calls that leave local and sometimes regional call areas. The information yielded by long-distance call records can be vast, said Lisa Pierce, a telecommunications analyst with Forrester Research. "Any call that transits a long-distance network, regardless of whether it's an international or domestic, wireless or wire line, will have a call detail record," she said.

Ms. Pierce said that the network infrastructure was known as Signaling System 7 and that it created an automatic record of such things as the two numbers that are connected, and the time and duration of a call. This architecture also creates a record when a call is delivered onto a domestic long-distance network from overseas or from a cellphone. In some instances, when a cellphone caller places a long-distance call, the transmission originates on a cell network, then is delivered to a long-distance network that carries it across the country, where it might be connected to another cell network.

Anyone wishing to delve deeper into the labyrinth of the CATCH ALL program is well advised to refer to the reports by M1 on SMC, which have been scooping the entire rest of the media on this story for months.


Blogger DrewL said...

The two words that have become, arguably, the most powerful and most important in modern history: National Security. These two, seemingly harmless words give the government carte blanche to do anything they damn well please. Anything. Bar none.

Sadly, we seem to have little to fight back with.

5/18/2006 11:32 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...


The Justice Department is also now invoking those two words at an unprecedented rate in order to get lawsuits against the government thrown out.

Once you find a winner, ya gotta run with it.

5/19/2006 9:01 AM  

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