All forms of communication are suspect now to government scrutiny. Our government is using every form of capitalist based systems to establish a form of information gathering that is the lifeblood of information sharing. And most of the people who run these enterprises are in full agreement with it. If it affects their right to national security then they are willing to protect their right to make money and continue to do so. It is the one flaw with capitalism that few see- anything can be bought and sold- anything and anyone. Everything has a price and so does freedom and democracy. This is the price we pay for our freedoms and security. Lets call our secret society Corpitalism- a form of corporate elitist capitalism that is the real force that controls us and our governments lives and decisions. No conspiracy here- just a group of pirates that knows where its interests truly lie. It is the small percentage at the top that manufacture consent by swindles deals and payoffs; that manufactures dreams and obedience to authority. We are unaware of it because it is right in front of us all the time, our most trusted and important utilities/commodities we use and depend on every day. As one scholor once wrote- Bullshit Baffles Billions- The BBB formula. And we're dumbstruck.
Starting in December, the New York Times wrote the story that the NSA was eavesdropping on international calls that came in and out of the country, where one end of the conversation was ostensibly to someone that had ties to al-Qaeda or was suspected of ties to al-Qaeda.
Following that, the L.A. Times reported right before Christmas that AT&T had allowed the NSA access to a massive database system of its phone calls, a database it calls “Hawkeye,” which, according to public information, contains something along the lines of 1.88 trillion calls
, just the records of the phone calls. So then, with the recent USA Today piece, we learned that Verizon and Bellsouth had also given ongoing access to their phone records to the NSA, though Qwest, interestingly, asked the NSA to go and get either a subpoena or a letter from the Attorney General before they would turn over their records, which the NSA declined to do.
The significance of this is it kind of fills out the picture of what the administration is likely trying to do. Call records are sensitive data, but they're not nearly as sensitive as the contents of your communication, so you sort of see the call records as maybe the top of the funnel. So, it's very unclear how they're kind of funneling down. They might be starting with, say, all the phone numbers they know from people who are on the terrorist watch list. So, take the 300,000 people on the terrorist watch list, take their phone numbers, see who they are calling and look for some patterns. Then, as you go through, when you see something interesting, you might then start to look at their overseas phone calls, and then from there, if you actually get something good, the administration might go to the FISA court, which would allow them to get not only the international phone calls, but also the contents of their domestic calls and their domestic e-mails and so forth.
Retired AT&T technician Mark Klein, who worked for the company for 22 years, came up to the LA Times offices and says, “I have some documents,”- and those documents remain under seal. But from what Mark Klein has said publicly when he was working there, he saw AT&T build a secret room in its switching center in San Francisco, where they took portions of the fiber optic cable that carry internet traffic and shunted it into a private little secret room that supposedly had a large data bank with some secret data mining hardware. He had also heard that this had happened in other switching locations, and ostensibly the documents he turned over to EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and which have been filed with the court, he wants those to be unsealed. We won't know if that's going to happen until Wednesday next week.
He said that it was a secret room on the fifth floor of a switching center in downtown San Francisco. Fiber optic cable is not particularly easy to wiretap or eavesdrop on, as compared to the telephone network, which telephone networks have built in wiretapping capabilities. That's something the federal law requires. Fiber optic cables, it’s laser shooting through a little cable. He saw the diagrams of how they switch things in.
And it wasn't just AT&T's internet
connections, according to his statement. What he said he saw was that where AT&T's internet network connected up with other networks, say, Qwest’s,
for example, where you trade your traffic
, that those links also got put into the cabinet. So it's not a huge room. You don't need quite the data bank of computers that you would need for the phone records when you're trying to keep 1.9 trillion phone records, you need a data center that's about as big as Google's. So the room is not particularly big. It wouldn't be a facility that would record things there or if from there there's an uplink to the NSA, where they themselves would be able to do more data mining, but that room is particularly about internet traffic
. Mark Klein did not say he saw anything about phone records or phone tapping.
If you thought you were safe with Qwest, think again.What are the legal implications of these companies working with the government? I mean, obviously, they have a choice. Qwest said no. But they have ways of getting even that information.
It's unclear, but federal law sets limits on what phone companies can do with your records. There are very hefty fines and even criminal penalties for turning over the contents of your communications or even records of your communications in terms of turning it over to the government – if you don't have a subpoena or a letter from the Attorney General saying, “This is an approved program.” So these fines could reach millions of dollars if, in fact, they didn't get a letter or they didn't have some other sort of authorization. So they may be on shaky grounds, and that was definitely a concern of Qwest. They explicitly asked the NSA: “We want some legal justification,” and according to the USA Today story, the NSA did not want to go through those procedures. But hey, to these people it is only money, and they use it as they need to to pay off any eventuality. There's plenty more where that came from. Taxpayers- and since they print it anyway, money is only a game to them.
Since the end of World War II, since the NSA was founded, they've been doing this kind of surveillance of calls by American citizens, and back in the ‘50s, ‘60s and even into the ‘70s, when they did it, it wasn't that difficult to do it, because there was just a couple of companies, AT&T, ITT, Western Union. They went to those companies. They went to senior executives
when they decided to do this, and they said, you know, “We'd like to listen to the phone calls that are going through your system. We’d like to read the cables that are going through Western Union,” and that’s exactly what they did. They went to high level people in the corporation, and then that person, that top executive,
would talk to someone lower down in the chain, and the NSA would do the listening, would do the surveillance.
What the USA Today reported yesterday was that they're turning this awesome system they have worldwide to listen in on calls, and they're turning that whole system on to the United States. These are United States citizens within the United States they are putting into this database. This is what's really dangerous about this,
and what the New York Times reported back in December was that they were listening to United States citizens talking to foreigners. Now, they're building a database out of U.S. citizens talking to U.S. citizens.
The whole purpose of data mining is to build profiles of people that you use for later surveillance. They might build a record on someone and then go to the FISA court and tap their phone, after they decide that this person is a terrorist suspect or something that they're talking to. I think the record of mendacity of this Bush administration on any number of issues, particularly this war, is great, and it's very difficult to believe what they say on this.
They build these databases to create profiles. They use them to predict future activities, future calls people might make
, future relationships people might make, and then they use that for other kinds of information, and, of course, the U.S. government, other databases have plenty of information on us as U.S. citizens of buying habits. They can go to credit card records, see what you buy, all this kind of thing. And so, they can plug all this in, build profiles,
- I think that's what's got Republicans and Democrats, people of all stripes upset about this- it's a violation of FISA, it's a violation of our privacy laws and it's a violation of the Constitution.
When this was first done, the telecom system wasn't like it is today, and so now we have an explosion of telecom companies like AT&T, a whole number of companies, including companies like Cingular Wireless that provide wireless services. Then we have these fiber optic cable companies that operate cables that go under the sea, which was just explained a few minutes ago are much more difficult to tap. That's where you need the cooperation of these companies.
For the last ten years or so there's been quite a close relationship growing between telecom industry people and the government. There's a kind of murky organization called the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee which meets twice a year with people at the White House – the last meeting, Dick Cheney was at their meeting – where they discuss, you know, issues of national security involving the telecom system.
Go on their website. Anybody can go onto it. It's ncs.gov, and you can go to the President’s Committee part of the thing, and you can see who's on this committee. Right now the Chair happens to be Mr. F. Duane Ackerman, the President, Chairman and C.E.O. of Bellsouth, which was the company named in the USA Today report. And so, you have executives from all these telecom companies around this, as well as other high-tech companies that are involved in telecom. Of course, the committee says they don't discuss surveillance or these kinds of issues, but they do meet, and they talk about national security.
Sprint Nextel is top-loaded with executives with long experience in national security and defense. Chairman and CEO Gary Forsee is a member of Bush’s telecom council, as is Lawrence Babbio, the vice chairman and president of Verizon. Various testimony that some of these companies have given, and they all contract with the intelligence community to do various kinds of work, and they brag about it in their testimony. They say, “We have a long record of cooperation with intelligence,” and so on. So, these relationships go back many, many years, and I think what we have now is a group of people that meet, and they all have high security clearances to do this. It so happens that Qwest also has a seat on this board.
There's also a lot of other contractors outside of telecom that we should be concerned about. These are the companies that actually do the data mining, that provide the software and technology that the NSA uses for their surveillance programs and for their analytical programs.
Remember that the NSA is just an awesome organization in terms of the power it has. Remember Colin Powell's infamous testimony to the U.N. when he actually played intercepts that the U.S. had picked up of Iraqis talking about so-called weapons of mass destruction. Bob Woodward talked about that incident, and when people at the NSA were watching Colin Powell's live testimony and those intercepts came on, they all applauded because their work was being recognized. You can pick up a tiny bit of conversation and figure out the words that you're going to use out of thousands and thousands and thousands of words that are out there. That's how powerful this software is, and now they're using this to listen in on conversations, to monitor our calls, and that's what's dangerous.
Thank you corporatocracies for deciding what is important for the people in America to believe in. Thanks to the few that look out for the many and decide what is to be. Basing our lives, safety and security on Corporatocratic decision making, takes the power out of the peoples hands and puts it squarely in the hands of the elite, who have decided that business is the only thing that matters in America, so why shouldn't all decisions be made by the few for the many. After all, they think capitalism is good for them, so why do they care. The little people are more concerned with important things like family and money, who won the game, shopping, eating, surviving etc.- pitiful little matters that entertain their limited worldviews. Leave the rest to us and we promise we'll take care of things. What's a constitution for anyway but to amend when needed. Just ignore what's going on and who runs the country.We're just the secret society that is right in front of your face. We don't need to hide for you not to see us. You just don't see it because you don't want to and really, you don't have time to notice it anyway.