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March 20, 2007 10:23 PM   Subscribe

AT&T and Verizon obey FBI emergency requests, even if they're of dubious legality, and they get paid for it. But AT&T can't be sued, they say, because that would endanger national security.
posted by homunculus (42 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love that modern fascism uses obscure and indirect methods for control and suppresion. With a media and information obsessed society control it's even easier - people have an uncontrolable desire to 'share' themselves to the world and therefore to public observation.
posted by homodigitalis at 10:30 PM on March 20, 2007 [2 favorites]


I still miss the img tag.
posted by homunculus at 10:39 PM on March 20, 2007


I've been following this issue for awhile now because I've been an AT&T customer for my entire life... My dad worked for SBC/AT&T for his entire adult life, and I feel like I should be a "loyal customer," but their capitulation to Big Brother is scary.
posted by amyms at 10:42 PM on March 20, 2007


fun fact: the phone in that photo is an Ericofon; it's a sort of odd choice for an illustration.
posted by jessamyn at 11:03 PM on March 20, 2007


Sowing the Seeds of Surveillance
posted by homunculus at 11:06 PM on March 20, 2007


it's a sort of odd choice for an illustration.

You like your Macintosh better than me, don't you Dave?
posted by phaedon at 11:12 PM on March 20, 2007


@amyms: Companies are only loyal to their shareholders at best. Why do you think they deserve yours? For them you are literally only a number ...
posted by homodigitalis at 11:12 PM on March 20, 2007


You must've missed the part where she said her dad worked for AT&T for his entire adult life.
posted by phaedon at 11:19 PM on March 20, 2007


Rethinking National Security Letters
posted by homunculus at 11:52 PM on March 20, 2007


homodigitalis: Yes, I know I mean nothing to them... I have a misplaced sense of "loyalty" because my dad was an "AT&T man" for so many years, and it saddens me that they are now such a stooge for Big Brother.
posted by amyms at 11:54 PM on March 20, 2007


A government brief filed simultaneously backed AT&T's claims and said a lower court judge had exceeded his authority by not dismissing the suit outright.

Well of course the (unusually grasping) government would argue that, I'd think.

The core of this seems to be this "state secrets privilege," which seems like it'd be ripe for abuse. Does anyone lawyerly here know its origins/past uses?
posted by JHarris at 1:34 AM on March 21, 2007


The greatest danger to national security is the use of "national security" as an excuse to justify acts that have nothing whatsoever to do with national security.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 2:54 AM on March 21, 2007 [13 favorites]


the state secrets privilege originated in the supreme court case of united states v. reynolds, early 1950s:

an air force plane crashed, killing the crew. widows sued the government for information. government invoked privilege, said national security would be compromised, supreme court bought this.
much, much later when the "state secrets" were declassified, it turned out that...(hold on to your hats here, this is a shocker) the government had lied! imagine that! there was nothing there to compromise national security, just embarrassing stuff about deferred maintenance on the aircraft.
posted by bruce at 2:59 AM on March 21, 2007 [3 favorites]


fun fact: the phone in that photo is an Ericofon;

I'm >< that close to wanting one.
posted by eriko at 3:50 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


To bring you up to date on national security:
In China, the govt keeps out that which they don't want you to see. In America, you can see what you want and the government keeps track of what you are seeing.

You are not likely to have a third "option."
posted by Postroad at 4:30 AM on March 21, 2007


In America, you can see what you want and the government keeps track of what you are seeing.

Revised: In America, you can see what the government doesn't redact and the government keeps track of what you are seeing anyway, because, well, they can.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 5:42 AM on March 21, 2007


Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:27 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


I liked the little snark that ended the first article:

The phone companies could not be reached for comment by phone yesterday afternoon.
posted by srt19170 at 6:27 AM on March 21, 2007


Please keep in mind that as of right now, iPhones will only work with Cingular (ie. AT&T).
posted by drezdn at 6:55 AM on March 21, 2007


"You must've missed the part where she said her dad worked for AT&T for his entire adult life."

Nope. But the same story: big companies hire and fire people if it serves them at Wall Street. I still see no reason for loyalty.
posted by homodigitalis at 7:25 AM on March 21, 2007


Actually, I don't have a problem with the phone companies providing information in the event of an emergency. That is the point of exigent letters; where the clock is ticking and someone could die if the investigators have to wait for a subpoena. It's a promise on the part of the investigators that the proper documentation will be forthcoming.

What I do have a real problem with is: But the FBI used the exigent letters in non-emergency situations and often failed to get subpoenas. This is, quite frankly, bullshit. If the feds are obtaining information based on a promise that they are failing to deliver on, they themselves need to be investigated.

And I can't even begin to speak to the idea that the FBI is paying them for this information. I've worked in two environments now where we had to provide customer data to investigating authorities, and the idea that it's being done so because money is being exchanged? That just reeks of corruption.
posted by quin at 10:35 AM on March 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


The US is so fubar.

This "state secrets privilege" has no place in an open government--i.e., one by, of, and for the people. That we have such a doctrine in the US and the people don't seem to care is further proof that we do not have an accountable government. Contrary to our national myth, we are not the epitome of freedom. We are no more free than a herd of cows grazing in a large green pasture, whose electrified fence lies just over the horizon, out of sight but for a short walk towards the sun.

We all must now make a choice: cry, fight, continue grazing.
posted by oncogenesis at 10:44 AM on March 21, 2007


cry, fight, continue grazing.

America responds: "Baaaa..."
posted by empath at 11:16 AM on March 21, 2007


America responds: "Baaaa..."

yes Americans are all sheep. Excellent observation. Very true, current, nuanced, and not cliched in the slightest.

That explains why the republican Congress is not launching any investigations into anything, and the popularity of Bush and the war are at an all-time high.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:48 AM on March 21, 2007


Speaking of abuses of the State Secrets Privilege: Let Sibel Edmonds Speak!
posted by homunculus at 1:07 PM on March 21, 2007


This "state secrets privilege" has no place in an open government--i.e., one by, of, and for the people. - oncogenesis

While I completely understand this sentiment, being a civil libertarian that works for a civil liberties organization, I really can't agree. There is a place for a states secret privilege in an open society. Occasionally the government must keep things secret in order to protect its interests. This has been and always will be true, and I don't think anything much is to be gained by saying outright that nothing should ever be kept secret. What is constructive is decrying abuses of that state secrets privilege, and attempting to keep its use to a suitable minimum.
posted by Inkoate at 1:37 PM on March 21, 2007


I don't think anything much is to be gained by saying outright that nothing should ever be kept secret.

Not much to be lost either:

Nothing should ever be kept secret.

Seriously, if the continued existence of a political system depends on any portion of the operation of that system being obscured from the public beneficiaries of that system, then the continued existence of that political system is not a desirable goal.

Or, at the very least, it's not a democracy. It's something else. Maybe that something else has a lot going for it, and you have reasons to defend it. Just don't call it a democracy. Call it something else.

yes Americans are all sheep. Excellent observation. Very true, current, nuanced, and not cliched in the slightest.

That explains why the republican Congress is not launching any investigations into anything, and the popularity of Bush and the war are at an all-time high.


You're right.

Half of all Americans are sheep.
posted by poweredbybeard at 2:55 PM on March 21, 2007


Just don't call it a democracy. Call it something else.

Fair enough, why don't we call it a "republic" which is what it is? All that means, by the way, is that the citizens of the nation vote for their representatives in government. Since that's what happens (usually, for the most part, but that's a different discussion) in the United States, I'll continue to call it such.

Portions of the operation of our government need to be kept secret, not necessarily from its own citizens, but from those outside of it who wish to cause it harm. Again, I believe that times at which the government keeps secrets from its citizens should be kept to the minimum possible, I don't think it's tenable to claim it should never ever happen.
posted by Inkoate at 3:48 PM on March 21, 2007


<irony> "Dictators must have enemies. They must have internal enemies to justify their secret police and external enemies to justify their military forces." - Richard Perle </irony>

Meanwhile Federal Government seen as Increasingly Secretive by Americans while state and local governments are seen as more open.

"Using contractors to perform sensitive intelligence or counterintelligence work, whether it's prisoner interrogation in Iraq or data mining in D.C., is always problematic, because their activities are much harder to oversee," Aftergood says. "Unlike government agencies, contractors are not answerable to Congress. And the secrecy of most intelligence work makes them all but impervious to independent oversight. If they broke or bent the law, we might never find out."
posted by infowar at 4:32 PM on March 21, 2007


Obey. They must obey. Obey. You must Obey.... Obey.....obey.....you must....obey. Obey.....obey......obey.....
posted by Smedleyman at 4:41 PM on March 21, 2007


FBI Response To Subpoena Rule Breaking? Remove Rules
posted by homunculus at 5:41 PM on March 21, 2007


Congressional Republicans suddenly discover the need for oversight
posted by homunculus at 5:48 PM on March 21, 2007


Goddamn, I hope you people get it right this next election. Your branches of government are in desperate need of purging. The corruption is astounding.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:29 PM on March 21, 2007


Actually, I don't have a problem with the phone companies providing information in the event of an emergency. That is the point of exigent letters; where the clock is ticking and someone could die if the investigators have to wait for a subpoena. It's a promise on the part of the investigators that the proper documentation will be forthcoming.

The scenario you describe is often repeated. It does not exist. There is never a case where law enforcement have to wait for a warrant to tap a phone. Once they start the tap, they do have a time limit within which to get a warrant, however.

I'm not an expert, by any means, but I have been following this type of stuff as well as I can, and I know this particular suggestion comes up often enough that it's worth pointing out the reality.
posted by odinsdream at 9:05 PM on March 21, 2007


With regard to tapping, I don't disagree with you odinsdream, but I was under the impression that it was a records request. Seeing who called a specific number and the like. (as opposed to actively monitoring the line) It's not inconceivable that they could have had a kidnapping or something and needed to know what number the kidnapper called from.

Though I very much doubt this is the kind of crime they are looking into. Since they are circumventing a perfectly good system that has been in place for years, I suspect they are looking into records that they know they wouldn't get permission to access.

My point was that I believe that, while not common, there could realistically be a situation where they need calling records now. But I'm also willing to bet that not one of the over 700 calls that they looked into fit that simple description.
posted by quin at 9:27 PM on March 21, 2007


FBI illegal use of eavesdropping powers: not just national security letters
posted by homunculus at 1:07 PM on March 22, 2007


Coleen Rowley: When Will We Ever Learn? The Green Light Always Goes Out.
posted by homunculus at 7:29 PM on March 22, 2007


Living Under a National Security Letter Sucks
posted by homunculus at 1:44 PM on March 23, 2007


I keep having this conversation with myself.

- These people work for me and all US citizens.
- If I was in charge, a lot of these people would be fired and the rules would be fixed.
- I am in charge.
- *Brain explodes*
posted by VulcanMike at 3:39 PM on March 23, 2007


Under Communism, you know you have no rights. Under the democratic system, you find out you have none.

"What is constructive is decrying abuses of that state secrets privilege, and attempting to keep its use to a suitable minimum."inkoate
Pray tell, what exactly is a 'suitable minimum'.

"Portions of the operation of our government need to be kept secret, not necessarily from its own citizens, but from those outside of it who wish to cause it harm"inchoate
You aren't noticing that the harm is coming from within, in this case.

Tell me about this disconnect, the FBI and Defense Dept., hire ChoicePoint to provide what the FBI 'legally' can't obtain themselves. "' Exclusive' data-searching system"—GovExec.com from ChoicePoint, the toady gas chamber operators administering the cyclon-B, right. Can we just call them a division of the FBI and Defense Dept., and stop bullshitting me¿ "Although it has generally been known that the FBI and intelligence agencies use ChoicePoint's people-tracking skills, federal and company officials have refused to discuss the particulars of their arrangements."—Shane Harris, National Journal. Great link infowar.

Who introduced that piece of Communist 'law'. That's a joke.
To think my grandfather fought in WWII while his country was occupied by the Nazis — escapes Communism, to have it land on these shores. The same shit he escaped from. I swear he's rising from his grave and tapping me on the shoulder asking me, co do cholery jasnej tu sie dzieje, te Stany komunisci¿ ]WTF, the USA are under Communism¿[

I'm not going to be smug or so naive to believe that this doesn't affect me here in Canada. That toad Prime Minister Harper would love to be joined at the hip with Bush and his cabal.
posted by alicesshoe at 8:55 PM on March 23, 2007


Telecoms Cash In on Record Government Contract
posted by homunculus at 6:10 PM on March 29, 2007


Intelligence Chiefs Want to Free Spying Telcos
posted by homunculus at 7:59 PM on April 19, 2007


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