April 13, 2006


Documents Show Link Between AT&T and Agency in Eavesdropping Case (JOHN MARKOFF and SCOTT SHANE, 4/13/06, NY Times)

Mark Klein was a veteran AT&T technician in 2002 when he began to see what he thought were suspicious connections between that telecommunications giant and the National Security Agency.

But he kept quiet about it until news broke late last year that President Bush had approved an N.S.A. program to eavesdrop without court warrants on Americans suspected of ties to Al Qaeda.

Now Mr. Klein and a few company documents he saved have emerged as key elements in a class-action lawsuit filed against AT&T on Jan. 31 by a civil liberties group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The suit accuses the company of helping the security agency invade its customers' privacy.

Mr. Klein's account and the documents provide new details about how the agency works with the private sector in intercepting communications for intelligence purposes.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 13, 2006 7:59 AM

Looks like the EFF has jumped the shark. Sigh.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 13, 2006 8:40 AM


Posted by: erp at April 13, 2006 10:18 AM

Electronic Freedom Foundation. The ACLU for computer nerds.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at April 13, 2006 10:39 AM

AOG: EFF was never under the shark.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 13, 2006 11:09 AM

I am proud to relate that I had no idea what the expression, "jump the shark," meant until I ran it on Ask Jeeves. I congratulate David on similar innocence.

Posted by: Lou Gots at April 13, 2006 11:34 AM

AOG, David

So now I can assume my phone calls will be monitored by AT&T, and shared with the government, without a warrant. I don't know what shark you're referring to.

Posted by: h-man at April 13, 2006 11:35 AM

Someone needs to leak the names of the people who were surveilled.

Posted by: b at April 13, 2006 11:50 AM

H: How does that follow?

Posted by: David Cohen at April 13, 2006 11:55 AM

Isn't the assumption in the article that everyone is? I doubt that is what is occurring but it is described as data mining, which implies all communication is being filtered.

The assumption of a user of AT&T, is that they are communicating with one person when it fact without any requirement of warrant, AT&T is voluntarily allowing other listeners.

Posted by: h-man at April 13, 2006 12:15 PM

After we switched long distance service from AT&T to Bellsouth, we received a little card in the mail telling us they were doing something unintelligible and if we didn't want them to, we should call to stop it.

I wish I had kept the card. When we called the number, we played around the world in 90 minutes with recorded messages and although we complied with all the requests to say something or press a button, we never heard the message we were supposed to hear, i.e., that the deed was done.

Since we cancelled service on that line completely shortly after that, I guess they won't be able to do whatever it is they were doing anymore.

In order to insure privacy in the modern world, we'll need to resort to old time methods like writing stuff in invisible ink and then holding it over the light to see the message like we did when we were in grammar school followed by tearing the paper into little bits and them swallowing them.

Posted by: erp at April 13, 2006 12:45 PM

You don't need privacy if you aren't doing anything wrong.

Posted by: oj at April 13, 2006 12:48 PM

h: Pardon me if I don't share much of any of the same "assumptions" as the New York Times.

Do you use a cell phone?

Posted by: b at April 13, 2006 12:53 PM

h: Unless I'm missing something, the article says the following: according to a former ATT employee, and some documents he stole, there is a room at an ATT facility in San Francisco to which he doesn't have access. According to the stolen documents, there is equipment in the room which is capable of searching Internet traffic for keywords, or to sort it by address of origin or destination, and then to send it somewhere else. Neither the employee nor the documents say what the machinery is actually doing, although other experts say that it is capable of doing what the president has said is being done in a program that the Times assumes, but cannot prove, involves this machinery.

None of this even inferentially involves ATT telephone calls, other than that some of the equipment is made by a company that also provides federally mandated equipment allowing wiretapping. That equipment is required by the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act of 1994. (Hmmm, which party controlled the Presidency, House and Senate in 1994. Somehow the Times doesn't say.)

Posted by: David Cohen at April 13, 2006 1:22 PM

"You don't need privacy if you aren't doing anything wrong"

Then I probably need privacy.

Don't use a cell phone, and yes it was my assumption that I might be talking to one person instead of a mob of jack-booted thugs.

Yes, the 1994 law is what I would expect of Democrats. I suppose the purpose of the lawsuit is to definitively find out if AT&T is doing what is asserted in the complaint. If AT&T has a policy of sharing information with the government WITHOUT valid court orders, then yes I think that should be clearly noted to their customers.

Posted by: h-man at April 13, 2006 2:41 PM

seems like it would be simple to encrypt/decrypt phone conversations on the fly.

companies need to keep quite a lot of conversations private from their competitors.

Posted by: toe at April 13, 2006 2:54 PM

Since your the lawyer.

Zacarias Moussaoui was duly convicted of conspiracy to murder a US Govt. Employee (presumably that was one of the charges enabling the case to be tried in Federal Courts)

I understand that carries the death penalty, but in the prolonged phase of determining whether he was "eligible" for the death penalty evidence and/or argument was given that his failure to "inform" investigators of the 9/11 plot justified his receiving the death penalty.

Doesn't this amount to compelling his giving evidence against himself as prohibited by the 5th Amendment? Remembering that if he had given such evidence to the investigators before 9/11, he would be giving evidence of his part in the conspiracy.

Posted by: h-man at April 13, 2006 3:10 PM

Mr. Judd;

You wrote

You don't need privacy if you aren't doing anything wrong.
I had not expected such a ringing endorsement of personal privacy from you. After all, we are all sinners, i.e. doing something wrong, therefore we all need privacy. Thank you for summing that up so pithily.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 13, 2006 3:32 PM

exactly, and we need to let the sun shine in so that the sin is exposed.

Posted by: oj at April 13, 2006 3:36 PM

ARGGH! I had a devasting riposte all set but didn't notice until now that was written by Mr. Cohen. Curses, foiled again!

On the other hand, Mr. Judd, you might ponder why God set things up so that people wore clothes after the Original Sin, if privacy is so irrelevant.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 13, 2006 4:51 PM

Because nakedness is a temptation, just like privacy.

Posted by: oj at April 13, 2006 4:54 PM

a nude helen thomas (see her now) would do quite a bit to temper temptation.

Posted by: toe at April 13, 2006 5:34 PM

h: Moussaoi is not a great case to try to draw conclusions from, mostly because Moussaoi has made a farce of the trial. Remember that he plead guilty and was not "convicted." That shouldn't make a difference, but I get the sense that the judge is giving the defense more lee-way to, in effect, try to show that he wasn't guilty than would normally be the case.

"Terrorism" is a federal crime, and so the government doesn't have to charge him with the death of a federal agent.

As for what he has to have done to be guilty, remember that he plead guilty. Generally, for charges of conspiracy, the accused must have taken some action in furtherance of the crime, although the action taken need not be a crime itself. In effect, if you agree to be a part of a criminal conspiracy and then do anything whatsoever to help it along, you share the criminal guilt for the entire conspiracy. The jury has already found that Massoui's actions caused at least one death.


Posted by: David Cohen at April 13, 2006 6:40 PM

someone should tell h-man that a cell phone is a radio communication and not subject wiretap rules...

Posted by: ~hman at April 13, 2006 10:44 PM