TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Tapping Into AT&T

Re: Tapping Into AT&T

Lisa Hancock (
6 Feb 2006 07:40:05 -0800

Mike Riddle wrote:

> AT&T, which isn't commenting on the suit, may have felt it had no
> choice but to comply with the NSA's requests. Federal law requires
> telephone companies to cooperate with law enforcement demands if they
> are supported by a court order or, in emergencies, certification from
> the U.S. attorney general that no court order is necessary. The
> surveillance program was almost certainly backed by just such a
> certification, and that could stop the lawsuit in its tracks.

The above is a very important point. If true, it means that EFF
wasted the time and money of AT&T and hurt its own credibility.

> Ideally, the lawsuit will stop AT&T from cooperating in the NSA
> program, or at least prod it to put up more resistance.

I object to that approach. If the government is doing something
wrong, focus on the government; don't harass a private organization
that may not have a choice in the matter.

On principle, I object to lawsuits such as this because they are a
backhanded way of creating social policy outside of the normal
democratic means. Right now Congress is taking a hard look at this
particular situation (this morning's paper had a front page headline
on it), which is how it is supposed to work.

> More practically, the lawsuit may also reveal how the spying program
> works and what types of information it collects. But the
> administration views such details as sensitive national security
> secrets, and it is likely the government will try to have the lawsuit
> thrown out before any such disclosures are made.

Spying on enemy communications is a critical method of defense and
must be kept secret, lest the enemy learn and change its codes.

> In the mid-1970s, the late Sen. Frank Church, an Idaho Democrat, led a
> Senate investigation into domestic spying and other abuses of power by
> the NSA and federal agencies.

As a result of those hearings laws were passed limiting the FBI and
CIA and information sharing. IMHO, these restrictions may have
contributed to 9/11; perhaps there would've been better tracking of
potential terrorists within the U.S.

I also believe some of the domestic spying work of the 1960s and 1970s
was justified because of efforts by some groups to disrupt and attack
domestic targets in those years.

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