Someone Doesn’t Want the Telecoms to Get Immunity

Because they’re leaking–and leaking big–to James Risen, Eric Lichtblau (and Scott Shane) again. Almost two years to the day since their first big scoop.

For months, the Bush administration has waged a high-profile campaign, including personal lobbying by President Bush and closed-door briefings by top officials, to persuade Congress to pass legislation protecting companies from lawsuits for aiding the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program.

But the battle is really about something much bigger. At stake is the federal government’s extensive but uneasy partnership with industry to conduct a wide range of secret surveillance operations in fighting terrorism and crime. The N.S.A.’s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before, according to government and industry officials, yet that alliance is strained by legal worries and the fear of public exposure.

To detect narcotics trafficking, for example, the government has been collecting the phone records of thousands of Americans and others inside the United States who call people in Latin America, according to several government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program remains classified. But in 2004, one major phone carrier balked at turning over its customers’ records. Worried about possible privacy violations or public relations problems, company executives declined to help the operation, which has not been previously disclosed.

In a separate N.S.A. project, executives at a Denver phone carrier, Qwest, refused in early 2001 to give the agency access to their most localized communications switches, which primarily carry domestic calls, according to people aware of the request, which has not been previously reported. They say the arrangement could have permitted neighborhood-by-neighborhood surveillance of phone traffic without a court order, which alarmed them.

I need to go hang at FDL for the book salon thread (come meet Bob Drogin!). Afterwards, I’ll come back and fill this thread out some.

One comment though: this story says the change came bc everyone went on fiber. David Kris has shown pretty persuasively that’s not true–the wire/air split wasn’t that different in 1978 when FISA was written. The difference, I suspect, is that now everything is digital. 

  1. Stephen Parrish says:

    “The difference, I suspect, is that now everything is digital.”

    Not only that, how much easier is it to attempt to construct neural networks with the plethora of data accumulated by those surveillance programs?

    • marksb says:

      True enough.
      Everything changed in the early 2000’s.
      (1) Packets won over ATM cells for network traffic, and both IP packets and ATM on the backbone network became vulnerable to analysis–even real time analysis–because the analysis equipment advanced enough to do the capture in real time, or near-real time.
      (2) Computing equipment, especially huge parallel processing ‘farms’, became “off the shelf” and enabled massive traffic tracking and real time, or near-real time content-driven analysis. Also, network system software advanced to the point were people could write this stuff and have it work reliably.
      (3) Legal requirements forced all new switch installations and any retrofit upgrades at all telecoms to allow “legal intercept”, a nice word for tapping.

      As I’ve said before, in certain cafeterias and bars frequented by engineers in Sweden in 2001 we sat around and figured that our traffic privacy from Big Brother was toast. It had to be; the technology gave Big Brother the keys to the network–did any of us expect them to keep their grubby greedy little hands off? Not bloody likely.

  2. LS says:

    The difference, I suspect, is that now everything is illegal!! ;>

    “the fear of public exposure”


  3. LS says:

    Re: Narcotics trafficking…CIA/Columbia/Afghanistan…Geesh…maybe that’s how they do their banking, by tracking all the money they generated!!!

    • Escoffier says:

      This began well before 9/11. It had nothing to do with national security or narcotics. It is all for business, politics and payback. I think George’s luck has run out. Harry’s too.

      • LS says:

        I agree totally, I was referring to this, “To detect narcotics trafficking, for example, the government has been collecting the phone records of thousands of Americans and others inside the United States who call people in Latin America, according to several government officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the program remains classified.”

    • NCDem says:

      There is a obvious reason for this. They simply want to send Christmas cards to those families that support the efforts of the CIA to bring drugs into America. Of course those traffic lines that aren’t sourced by our CIA will suddenly face angry DEA agents on their front and back doorsteps. Life is a bitch if you don’t follow the rules.

  4. sojourner says:

    This might be a moral or legal question that others have pondered (and maybe even resolved!), but I keep returning to it.

    If a “state secret” is used to conceal criminal conduct, doesn’t that then make someone with knowledge of it complicit? It is all fine and good if I swear someone to secrecy, declare activities to be “top secret,” or “classified,” but if I break the law and try to conceal the activities and you know about it, doesn’t that make you culpable?

    Several months ago I pondered the concept of “patriotism” and what makes a “patriot.” Is it the person who keeps all the national secrets secret despite the laws that are violated, or the one who stands up and says, “Bullshit!” to abuses and reveals what he knows. Personally, I tend to think it is the latter — the person who will stand up for the principles that we, as a nation, purport to believe in.

    I have to wonder what I would do personally if I were in that situation. The personal consequences could be great, although if the information were particularly damning, I doubt there would be any prosecution. I think we are rapidly approaching a time where the dam is going to break (if it has not already) and the truth will be revealed to all. We can only hope!

    For those who stand up for the truth in spite of the consequences, you are a bright shining light to those of us who want to believe in what we stand for.

    As for Chimpy and the Big Dick and their crews, I can only hope to live to see the day that they are put on trial for what they have done.

  5. JohnJ says:

    The last thing the Rethugs need is for the telcoms to stop giving them the communications between the Dems before the election.

  6. pseudonymousinnc says:

    Let’s just call it DOMECHELON and be done with it. There have been a few ongoing conversations about this. The tech conversation has identified the technology, the spook conversation has identified the global model, the legal conversation has identified the attempt to cover corporate and governmental arses.

    I suspect that the historians’ perspective will show that shoddy data protection in the Glorious Free Market was the smugglers’ cove for importing a surveillance system long conducted outside the borders.

  7. wavpeac says:


    I am always interested in the parallel process. That is how the macro parallels with the micro. Of interest to me in your observation is the fact that when dealing with a dysfunctional family, where addiction, or abuse are present, the kids are put into this very same dilemma. Loyalty or truth? The kid acting out is often the “healthiest” kid in that, this is the kid that knows that his family is screwy and is acting accordingly in a way that draws attention to “the secret”. That child is then scapegoated and discredited by the family. “I don’t know how he turned out that way, we taught him how to behave and look what’s he’s doing?”

    The truth is not validated as long as the family scapegoats the child without accepting responsibility for creating the conditions in which the child would need to act out. This is exactly the same dialectical dilemma. Truth or loyality.

    One characteristic of dysfunctional systems is invalidation. That is the mentally ill have been invalidated in some way, and have invalid cognitions or delusions. They have a break with reality that has often been facilitated by the family. (not always family…sometimes society).

    So for me the answer is truth. It is the only way that we can find valid solutions to valid problems. Loyalty to truth, facts, scientific inquiry, awareness, self awareness. But loyality to anything else, is a false god, and will lead all of humanity down paths of ineffectiveness. Loyalty for loyalty sake just discourages the search for validity.

    Just my opinion…

    • sojourner says:

      Precisely! Everyone grows up in some form of dysfunction — it is just a matter of degree. My father was alcoholic, but was also extremely well-known in my home town. Our family was not supposed to have “issues.”

      Bush et al have the reins right now, at least in theory, but if we scream the truth at them enough maybe they will go away. We can only hope.

      In the meantime, I hope more true patriots come forth and shed light on what they know — and particularly about why our Congress is more interested in placating a morally corrupt administration.

  8. Rayne says:

    There’s another option, and we should deploy it no matter whether hammering on Reid and Pelosi about telco immunity is successful or not.

    These bastard telcos have financial incentives to keep the status quo; they would DIE if it weren’t for our current lock-in to their business model and technology.

    I say we find every way possible to cut them out and build a new communications system that completely bypasses the telcos, once that far more competitive in terms of price for both voice and data traffic and far more responsive to customers.

    If we kill them DEAD, believe me we will be far better off in a number of different ways. We might actually catch up to the rest of the world in technology, for example.

    • marksb says:

      That’s exactly why the greedy f**ks want to control the Internet. They want to control what kind of content you are allowed to send, and at least have you pay for it. Again, in 2001 we were discussing a “micro-penny-per-packet” business model to the telecos. But you have to control the traffic to get there.

      • Rayne says:

        Yes — they are blackmailing the White House, blackmailing Congress, and to save their asses. And then they blackmail us since they are the only game in town, forcing us to limit our content or consume only their content.

        They have eliminated competition that would have changed this dynamic, too.

        The telco industry needs to be put down like truly sick animal it is; this is NOT a free market.

  9. marksb says:

    All I know is when we responded to telco switch bids in Europe and the U.S., “legal intercept” was required by the telco. No intercept capability. proven in the lab, no bid. We had to change our switch hardware and software to meet the requirements.
    I don’t have any documentation, I’ve been out of the industry since 2002.
    Sigh. I miss having lunch with some of the smartest people in the world. Until I found the crew that posts here. I learn so much! Have I told you-all how much I love you?

      • MadDog says:

        Just wondering… What model(s) of switches provide that functionality?

        The basic switch that AT&T designed, built and sold to many of its Baby Bells is the 5ESS.

        And CALEA is not just for Telcos anymore. I’m fairly confident that most IP network stuff, such as the big packet routers made by Cisco, is under the very same mandate.

    • MadDog says:

      Hey, since you’re a former telco employee, marksb, can you take a look at something for me?

      I have a theory this kind of technology could eventually help us bypass our problem children…

      Sorry to “Rayne” on your parade (I do luv a pun *g*), but there is a tidal wave among Telcos (both domestic and foreign) to “block” VoIP using technology like that provided by Narus.

      Their rationale is that VoIP is “stealing” the voice revenue, particularly long-distance, that they have a doG-given right to steal obtain themselves.

      My bet? Independent VoIP will have an extremely short life except for the Telco’s own costly VoIP service.

  10. marksb says:

    All traffic backbone routers and switches must provide the capability or they cannot be bid. Once you are out of the local network, there ain’t no difference between data, media, and voice traffic, except for Quality Of Service requirements to allow voice to be somewhat lossy, but video to be a higher quality priority. But it’s all still packets and cells and therefore,

    All your traffic belong to us…

  11. marksb says:

    Seems they have changed the modulation technology, but the system still uses wireless networks and switched wire or fiber networks between wireless base stations. And you would probably use IP packets or ATM cells between the stations and onto the backbone…so no, I don’t think this changes anything.
    Too bad.
    And I’ll agree with MadDog, VoIP pisses Telcos off. It’s THEIR voice call, how DARE you go around them? That’s the main reason they want to control your traffic access by content–they want to block your voice calls over your Net link, unless you pay them for the calls, but let you download porn. Of course, you might end up paying by the megabit for that porn. 1984, anyone?

  12. JohnLopresti says:

    Try looking up the spectrum of vendors that developed pair gain, the technology, for Pacific Telesis. There are about five board vendors, digital gear that plugs into the neighborhood hub. There is a company which has the same name as the technology pg, but google for the technology as a relatively open source concept. I exited the field long before its rollout; pg helped telcos duplex a few pairs during the market inroads experienced when cablecos were so vibrant in mid dotcom years. Although viewed from various perspectives in other comments, depending on where dpi would occur; the essence of many of the applications is basically a handy port for any authorized person at neighborhood level. I would imagine the net management dashboard can do all these things from many locations, nocs, innocuous white vans; name it.

  13. MadDog says:

    And Rayne,

    I too spent many years (15+) working in the networking biz. Unlike marksb, I worked on the data side of networking for a leading vendor.

    And similar to marksb, our largest customers were Telcos. I’ve been “inside” doing data networking stuff for many Telcos’ sites including AT&T, New York Tel (NYC and White Plains centers), Michigan Bell, C&P Tel (which mostly owns all the telco stuff in Washington DC). Southern Bell, Indiana Bell, Ameritech, Pacific Bell, and more.

    And like others have commented, “one” of the reasons that immunity is still supported by politicos that one would think would be against it, is the simple fact that politicos bow to power.

    And power is exactly what Telcos have had for decades by designing, building, running and owning the very “nervous system” that wires our nation.

    Almost all of the Comint/Sigint breakthroughs that NSA “owns” were as a result of very smart EE-types who lived in the bowels of AT&T’s Bell Labs.

    And don’t even thing of “winning” World War II without AT&T. Might not have happened.

      • MadDog says:

        And yet IBM assisted the Nazis.

        Corporations have no soul nor consciences. And because of this, corporations by their very nature encourage the rise of human beings into leadership positions who find this acceptable, and even rewarding.

        • Rayne says:

          Au contraire, MadDog. Corporations are collectives, like the Borg. They have an esprit de corp, dictated by the original owners prior to spin-off, maintained by the directors and the management team selected ultimately by the board, and encouraged by the shareholders who invest in that aggregate spirit realized in a corporation.

          It is not a singular soul, but that manifest of a group.

          And yes, shareholders are part and parcel of this aggregate entity; were shareholders to rebel and demand something different of these organizations, they could also take them down and remake them.

  14. Rayne says:

    MadDog — being a good corporate citizen during WWII is NOT an excuse that justifies 1) spying on customers, 2) holding our government hostage, 3) holding a nation’s technological development hostage. This quid pro quo is costing us serious money.

    marksb — let’s go out one step further. Let’s say we could carry data over the last mile on unlicensed 900Mhz systems…what if we could carry the first miles over 700Mhz?


    • MadDog says:

      MadDog — being a good corporate citizen during WWII is NOT an excuse that justifies 1) spying on customers, 2) holding our government hostage, 3) holding a nation’s technological development hostage. This quid pro quo is costing us serious money.

      Yup, you are right about past acts not justifying present lawbreaking, and I would never suggest such. *g*

      I would say that, as in many instances of human activity, one does the stuff one does because that is what one knows how to do.

      That is never to be accepted as an excuse!

      Like what Bill Clinton said about his “improper” behavior in the WH, he did it because he could.

      Similarly, a lot of bad stuff that the Telcos have done, are doing, and if allowed, will do in the future, comes about because they can.

      Again, that is no excuse for illegal behavior. It is merely the “doctor” diagnosing as best as one can, some of the origins of the disease.

      Add to the mix, unscrupulous, paranoid, “everywhere and everyone is the enemy” Cheney world-view lackeys and acolytes, you get criminal acts as state policy.

  15. marksb says:

    Somebody will own the radio network that is disseminating the 700Mhz signals out to the towers. And own the towers. And buy the backbone commitment to carry the packet traffic to the 700Mhz disseminating points. Lotsa’ money.
    There’s where most ideas crash and burn–ya’ gotta’ find some serious money to build it, and a viable business plan to repay the build out investment.

    I got all excited by the idea of freenets in communities, but most of those plans were wrecked on the rocks of “how do you pay for the investment”, in addition of course to legal challenges from local cable and telcos.

  16. dcgaffer says:

    The bombshell in the NY times story was that NSA wanted access to the Class 5 switches.

    Thats the smoking gun that confirms that the Administration has been lying all along.

      • dcgaffer says:

        Rayne, I see marksb already responded, and he summarized it well. The Class 5 is essentially the local “central office.”

        Even today, they are saying that FISA needs updating because of technology changes. Well, the Class 5 central office (CO) hasn’t changed much if at all since FISA was originally passed. Yes, we now have almost 100% digital central office switches (the Lucent version the 5ESS mentioned upthread) but this is a distinction without a difference.

        Heretofore, all the talk of the eavesdropping activities concentrated on the major tarffic hubs for both internet (IP) traffic as well as the hubs between US and Foreign voice traffic.

        The government has mechanisms to get at the local switch through CALEA. That process is pretty clear – a straightforward warrant / wiretap situation. Once you start sucking everything in from the CO, you’ve stepped over a philosophical and legal line which has been embedded in law for quite some time.

        They wanted it all, and the law was/is and impediment.

  17. marksb says:

    The money and power make it acceptable, even rewarding. Princes, barons, shipping magnates, oil companies, dictators, presidents, and telcos. Seems to be almost predictable behavior, doesn’t it?

  18. marksb says:

    That’s your local telco switch, the one that takes your call and sends it on to the network. See…..e_switches
    “Class 5 exchanges were those to which subscribers and end-users telephone lines would connect.”
    So NSA wanted access to the switch closest to your house. They wanted to tap your specific call, at the local level.

    • LS says:

      Yeah, like all the homes of the members of Congress and anyone else they could blackmail to control their agenda….maybe something like that, plus by getting it so local, they can tap people when they move around or visit people or take trips…anywhere….Just a thought.

  19. marksb says:

    Off to a holiday party, (kids-oriented, limited drinking I assume). have a lovely evening, thanks for the thoughtful exchange!

  20. marksb says:

    The family is tapping collective feet waiting…

    The thing is that if Big Brother taps the backbone, they’ve got to find the origin address in the traffic stream and while it can be done, it’s a needle in a huge haystack. So how much easier to track your calls where your line or wireless signal enter the switch. Gotcha!

    • MadDog says:

      Question… Is there anything equivalent to the Lucent 5ESS through Cisco or other vendors?

      Different thingies to us techies, but leaving aside “apples and pineapples”, the stuff that Cisco makes (from itty bitty Routers for that 6-10 Mbps Internet connection for your home network…and massively mucho big Routers for the 400.352 Mbps DS5 pipes that AT&T, Comcast, etc. use) are functionally equivalent for data communications as the 5ESS switches are for voice communications.

      Both types of communications technology are required by CALEA to support eavesdropping monitoring and collection of numerous stuff such as sender/recipient and content.

      Technology like the stuff that Narus provides is used worldwide by major Telcos and ISPs. The Narus stuff is what is at the heart of the AT&T suit in San Francisco.

  21. PetePierce says:

    I may have gotten to this thread too late for anyone to see the comments, but I believe one thing should be clear to everyone:

    These companies should have just said “Hell No. Your plan is insane. Drag your butt out of our offices and take your insipid plan to Congress. We’re going to call Congress who should be conducting oversight of your illegal intention right now.”

    The reason they didn’t is because of EWs and a cascade of news and blog reports in the past week of how in bed the government and private industry are illegally.
    This government has been for sale for many years–one big elaborate whore house comes to mind–but it is perhaps more nuanced and a lot more complicated then that–perhaps.

  22. MadDog says:

    Sorry, but I wished Previw worked for me.

    Here’s what I meant to post:

    Question… Is there anything equivalent to the Lucent 5ESS through Cisco or other vendors?

    Different thingies to us techies, but leaving aside “apples and pineapples”, the stuff that Cisco makes (from itty bitty Routers for that 6-10 Mbps Internet connection for your home network…and massively mucho big Routers for the 400.352 Mbps DS5 pipes that AT&T, Comcast, etc. use) are functionally equivalent for data communications as the 5ESS switches are for voice communications.

    Both types of communications technology are required by CALEA to support eavesdropping monitoring and collection of numerous stuff such as sender/recipient and content.

    Technology like the stuff that Narus provides is used worldwide by major Telcos and ISPs. The Narus stuff is what is at the heart of the AT&T suit in San Francisco.

  23. Mary says:

    Lots of bombshells in this piece. Prior Clinton era meta data mining. Pre-911 attempts to get at Qwests class 5 switches to allow for neighborhood by neighborhood taps (and the very funny claim by a “government spokesperson” that Qwest “misunderstood” the request. Pre-911 AT&T discussions and efforts to replicate network centers and give access to ALL global phone and email (and what do you want to bet that the surveillance programs began to go far beyond phone numbers and email addys that were used in the Clinton era program?). Use of made-up “administrative warrants” not allowed for by criminal or FISA statutes or the 4th Amendment a la the SWIFT program.

    And I’m still wondering what about AT&T’s foreign customers who are discovering that they are getting no protection whatsoever?

    • Rayne says:

      Clinton-era could be the reason why the Dem leadership are so complicit in providing cover for the telcos AND the White House — but who are they protecting? Themselves? Clinton1 or Clinton2?

      More leaks, please.

  24. MadDog says:

    And I’m still wondering what about AT&T’s foreign customers who are discovering that they are getting no protection whatsoever?

    I wish sometimes we had more foreign participation in this blog since I would love to take their temperature on “How do you like Uncle Sam monitoring all your communications including voice, email, cellphone, Internet access, etc.?”

    And oh btw, you foreign folks are not eligible for our 4th Amendment privacy rights (nor it seems are we).

    I suspect our foreign friends feel less empowered sometimes than we do.

    • Rayne says:

      Don’t you think to some extent our friends overseas are inured to this, having had the Soviets crawling across their backyards for years? It’s only Americans who ever nurtured the illusion that our government would not spy on its own.

      • MadDog says:

        Inured? Yes, and also like many Americans who couldn’t care less about this subject until it affects them personally. Of course, by then it is way, way too late.

      • TheraP says:

        I can assure you that people in Spain (my inlaws), who lived under Franco, measure their privacy very carefully. I think bush’s approval numbers are some of the lowest in Europe there. The inlaws are unwilling to travel either to the US or through the US. And we always have the sense that any phone call could be monitored. (My husband is paranoid about living here, especially since bush.)

        So I think that anyone over there who lived under a police state has tried to put much more careful privacy protections in place. It is my understanding that Europe’s privacy protection laws are much better than ours.

        There must be great anxiety worldwide about what we have become.

    • skdadl says:

      Gee, MadDog, I know that I’m only kind of pallid foreign (Canada), but I’m here all the time, even if mostly lurking.

      And I wonder about these things all the time, too. I mean: I write back to you on EW’s site, and suddenly you’re connected to an alien? I’m probably endangering you all by writing back.

      People here are starting to wonder. Our airlines, eg, are starting to use your dreaded lists — “administrative agreements” (ie: they don’t get run past Parliament) keep being made quietly between your Homeland Security and our neocon wannabes — so every time we write a snarky email or blogpost, we wonder whether we’ve just taken that one step too far.

      It’s hard for a foreigner not to notice the constant emphasis in the FISA discussions on who is an American and who is not. I quite understand why that is happening, and I empathize, but it is striking. I’m not sure that that happens anywhere else.

      • MadDog says:

        Gee, MadDog, I know that I’m only kind of pallid foreign (Canada), but I’m here all the time, even if mostly lurking.

        And I wonder about these things all the time, too. I mean: I write back to you on EW’s site, and suddenly you’re connected to an alien? I’m probably endangering you all by writing back.

        LOL! Endanger away! Any size preference in orange jumpsuits? Do you prefer bread with your water?

        Seriously, I would love to get a better feel from folks like you and petedownunder for example, on their sense of concern about US eavesdropping/surveillance.

        Is this topic receiving any national play wrt to you being under the microscope or is that played down if reported at all?

    • billinturkey says:

      I wish sometimes we had more foreign participation in this blog since I would love to take their temperature on “How do you like Uncle Sam monitoring all your communications including voice, email, cellphone, Internet access, etc.?”

      I think we’re more or less resigned. Which doesn’t mean we’re not supportive of those of you who are fighting for fourth amendment protections.

      Things that make us really mad OTOH: obstructionism over dealing with climate change; derogating from the ICC; screwing up over nuclear non-proliferation. And Pakistan. (FWIW)

  25. Mary says:

    57 – and don’t you wonder what their countries laws might provide (or international treaties) vis a vis an entity “doing business” in that country? The US sure had no problem going after the natwest crew. Why wouldn’t a European or other country go after AT&T? The SWIFT episode already demonstrated what hooey they think the “administrative warrants” are – but 4th amendment or not, you have to think that other nations expect the telecoms to follow their internal laws too and you have to wonder whether handing over their customers information to a foreign nation would be considered all that wonderful.

    • MadDog says:

      …and don’t you wonder what their countries laws might provide (or international treaties) vis a vis an entity “doing business” in that country? The US sure had no problem going after the natwest crew. Why wouldn’t a European or other country go after AT&T?

      A couple of things come to mind that seem to deflect other countries:

      1. The US “shares” a good deal of its gatherings. As in ECHELON where

      ECHELON is a name used in global media and in popular culture to describe a signals intelligence collection and analysis network operated on behalf of the five signatory states to the UKUSA agreement; Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, known as AUSCANZUKUS.

      2. Many of the foreign Telcos which connect to AT&T’s vast global fiber network are either owned outright by the foreign governments or if a private company now, were previously owned by the foreign government and may now be still a substantial shareholder.

      3. Many foreign governments have far more draconian eavesdropping powers that seem to fly mostly under the radar of their citizens.

      Lastly, I do agree one would expect more “screaming” from foreign countries, so the fact that there isn’t leads me to conclude that we are not seeing all of the puzzle.

      Like the mysterious wobble of a far-away planet, something is affecting its rotation.

      • TheraP says:

        Europeans are mostly communicating now by cell phone. How would that change the calculus?

        In Spain, for example, they can’t be spying on the cellphones, as the last election, where Aznar was defeated (after the 3/11 bombings when Aznar tried to pin that initially on the Basques) the defeat occurred because leftists organized a bunch of demonstrations the Sat night before the Sunday voting in addition to banding together to all vote for the Socialists instead of their varied leftist parties. And they organized that by text messages, so that the whole thing happened in a matter of hours and overnight.

        • MadDog says:

          Europeans are mostly communicating now by cell phone. How would that change the calculus?

          Cellphones are the very easiest stuff to eavesdrop on. They are a form of radio.

          The NSA got its start in this business by massively collecting radio signals from all over the world. It became the undisputed King of Sigint. It has never been second to anyone though the Brits and the Russians have “honorable mentions”.

          • TheraP says:

            I should have known better than to ask that question. In that case I think that people must not be worrying about what goes over cell phones. Or maybe it’s just too much data to really follow very quickly or sift for quickly.

            As far as what Europeans think about our spying on them, they have for decades believed that Americans were naive to be so trustful of their government. They have viewed the US, and this goes back to the 50’s, 60’s as spying on others, as meddling in other countries, arranging for assassinations, and so forth. They have assumed there was much propaganda going on here… that people were naive to. So, all the parsing we are now doing… they’ve been assuming dastardly things going on for a long, long time.

            Europeans were more worried about bush long before many Americans.

          • sojourner says:

            Radio communications are just that — available for anyone to listen to. Thus, the term “broadcast” derived, if I remember my communications theory, meaning that the communication was “broadly cast” to no specific person. If you had the equipment, it was there for you to listen to over radio.

            Of course, there has been a lot of “evolution” over the years with the rise of subscription services such as satellite TV and radio.

            I believe the theory was that “wired” communications were considered to be private, in that they were not intended for broadcast, and thus were protected communications. Again, that definition has evolved over time to whatever the hell Big Brother wants it to be.

  26. Mary says:

    58 – I think you have some of that wrong. Americans didn’t nuture the illusion that our government would not spy on its own – that’s why the 4th Amendment exists. And it didn’t really spring forth as an American concept, but was instead steeped in European beliefs about the limits on legitimate government exercise.

    Privacy laws are not unique to the US and a mega US company that begins to be a mega multinational company better be prepared to answer the questions on how it meets privacy laws. I’m guessing that having a “warrant” is at the heart of many of them, and that’s where the phoney,bogus “adminsitrative warrant” issue and AG certifications has come from – an attempt to comply with some international laws as they were trying to claim in the SWIFT case. And I’m guessing that a European privacy case might have as much respect for that claim as it did in the SWIFT administrative warrants situation.

    • Rayne says:

      No, I think I have it right; ask any Joe Sixpack about their understanding of the Fourth Amendment and their right to privacy. Even highly educated Joe’s don’t seem to realize that the Fourth Amendment has been little but a talismanic hold-over from a quaint time when telephones and computers did not exist. I used to be one of those Joe’s; I actually thought the Fourth Amendment meant something, was enforceable.

      Bah. Poppycock, stuff and nonsense.

      TheraP — Perhaps it’s more localized than I thought, American naivete on my part. Talking with someone like Larisa Alexandrovna and others across EU/Eurasia, I’ve had the impression that they are suspicious of the notion of real privacy.

      • TheraP says:

        I wonder if it’s “more paranoid” than we’ve tended to be till now. Americans have always been very, very open. Whereas Europeans are more cautious about telling things. I can assure you that in our household, I’m an “open American” and there is often a wide disparity between what I might say and what my husband feels should never be said.

        So, I think we’re on the same page here. But in other countries people may be much more used to fearing a dossier being built and therefore they simply don’t want to reveal information, if they don’t have to do so.

        I haven’t really thought about this before. But I think I’m correct.

        No one of us can really understand “growing up in a police state.” But it has a profound effect I think. In some ways people are more protective. In other ways they become exceedingly committed leftists.

        Then again, the countries are smaller. There’s more a sense that you can make a personal difference.

  27. Prairie Sunshine says:

    Hmmm, having come to this thread from a little home theatre-watching of Bourne Ultimatum this evening I’m feeling sensory overload! Life imitates art; art is life….

    Interesting reading,will bring me back again.

    Thanks, EW.
    ~ Prairie

  28. TheraP says:

    One very interesting thing is starting to happen here. And it can’t really be stopped. But who knows how it will eventually affect so many aspects of the economy and government.

    And that is related to the economic melt-down going on. The dollar dropping. The bond market in chaos and liquidity frozen. I’m no economist, so don’t expect a good analysis. But other countries, with petro dollars and other money to invest are starting to buy into US businesses. They’ve stepped in to rescue some banks. And are buying percentages of other companies.

    These are not foreign businesses I’m talking. They are foreign countries.. with money to invest. China is getting out of bonds and could literally start buying up businesses. Just think of who’s got oil and money to invest. Or where the economies are booming and you have government control of industries.

    What’s going to happen when these countries start meddling in a government that is so entwined with business?

    And how will that affect the kind of spying going on? Or will they be spying on us as well?

    Think about it!

    • sojourner says:

      Do I remember correctly that over the last couple of years there has been concern about certain counterfeit computers manufactured in China with these same onboard capabilities? I just vaguely remember mention…

      As for your thoughts about the economy meltdown, I guess when you put the government and national well-being up for sale you will eventually have to pay the fiddler. We have very little good will left in the remainder of the world, so what remains will get auctioned off.

      Reading back through this entire thread, it is obvious that both Republicans and Democrats alike are complicit in what is happening. Your earlier comments about strong leftist movements forming in European nations as a result of police states are certainly interesting — and most certainly true. I see more and more disenchanted voters from both sides — and that is dangerous because that means they are not going to play the political game any longer by not voting, or by voting only for more radical candidates.

  29. MadDog says:

    Since my day has been too long, I’ll throw out this last tidbit before counting some sheep. From Wired:

    FBI’s Secret Spyware Tracks Down Teen Who Made Bomb Threats

    FBI agents trying to track the source of e-mailed bomb threats against a Washington high school last month sent the suspect a secret surveillance program designed to surreptitiously monitor him and report back to a government server, according to an FBI affidavit obtained by Wired News.

    The court filing offers the first public glimpse into the bureau’s long-suspected spyware capability, in which the FBI adopts techniques more common to online criminals.

    In an affidavit seeking a search warrant to use the software, filed last month in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington, FBI agent Norman Sanders describes the software as a “computer and internet protocol address verifier,” or CIPAV.

    Sanders wrote that the spyware program gathers a wide range of information, including the computer’s IP address; MAC address; open ports; a list of running programs; the operating system type, version and serial number; preferred internet browser and version; the computer’s registered owner and registered company name; the current logged-in user name and the last-visited URL.

    The CIPAV then settles into a silent “pen register” mode, in which it lurks on the target computer and monitors its internet use, logging the IP address of every computer to which the machine connects for up to 60 days.

    Under a ruling this month by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, such surveillance — which does not capture the content of the communications — can be conducted without a wiretap warrant, because internet users have no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in the data when using the internet.

    • PetePierce says:

      I think it’s inevitable that the matrix of acronym spying proceedures are being woven together and used for whatever purpose any governemtn agency including DOJ and the 16 Intelligence agencies want to use them for. As someone remarked earlier on this thread, the 4th amendment has been an antiquity for years, and the corner turner was truly internet technology and Win 95 that got boxes on everyone’s desktop and now mobile computing.

      The programs are more secret than ever; a few people leak the info to reporters like Jim Risen, but they are powerless to do anything about it. The courts are completely passive, the Congress is completely passive and in bed with them as you’ll find out this week and in the coming weeks with whatever becomes S. 2248 (arguably worse than the PAA if you just read it).

  30. marksb says:

    All the Europeans I worked with assumed that their government, the U.S. government, and perhaps a couple of others were spying on their telecommunications and data flow (except maybe the Dutch, who have a fairly low view of the competence of their law enforcement.) Now maybe hanging around engineers tends to bring you in contact with cynical people who know darn well how it’s done and how it has been done, but I don’t think anyone you’d talk to in Europe would be at all surprised that massive domestic and international spying is going on. The Brits have shown the world what you can do with video surveillance, and other countries have been the subject of years of rumors of surveillance and communications tapping and so on.

    And reading MadDog’s last missive, well I guess it was just a matter of time until spyware would become FBI and other intel gathering agencies tool. What we’ve all seen is if someone invents a tool or weapon that can be used to further the gathering of information, strengthen the hold on power, or increase control over potentially troublesome individuals and groups, well by God it’s going to be used. Ain’t this a mess?

  31. Hmmm says:

    Uhm, actually, this is the part that scares me (emph. added):

    Other N.S.A. initiatives have stirred concerns among phone company workers. A lawsuit was filed in federal court in New Jersey challenging the agency’s wiretapping operations. It claims that in February 2001, just days before agency officials met with Qwest officials, the N.S.A. met with AT&T officials to discuss replicating a network center in Bedminster, N.J., to give the agency access to all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through it.

    The accusations rely in large part on the assertions of a former engineer on the project. The engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview that he participated in numerous discussions with N.S.A. officials about the proposal. The officials, he said, discussed ways to duplicate the Bedminster system in Maryland so the agency “could listen in” with unfettered access to communications that it believed had intelligence value and store them for later review. There was no discussion of limiting the monitoring to international communications, he said.

    ‘At some point,” he said, “I started feeling something isn’t right.’

    Store them for later review. Are calls getting recorded into databases without warrants, ostensibly to be fished out later with warrants? If so, then who else exactly is technically capable of fishing in the database, either during the interim or later?


      • TheraP says:

        Which brings us back to the anonymous poster. This person, in spite of at times sounding weird and off the wall, seemed to have real nuggets of clarity in there. Roberta (The Facilitatrix) and I still “talk” about that. These secret FBI “packets” sound very much like something that fits part of what that anonymous individual was talking about. If someone with deep knowledge of that type of FBI thing wants to go back and take a look at those posts again, they are gathered and collated in several places by several people.

        Or maybe it’s enough to know that such things exist
        . And that perhaps, somehow, either the FBI or CIA (or people from both agencies together) managed to place such packets on computers of important figures in govt… or even unimportant ones. Because if the traffic can be monitored for 60 days, depending on when the packets were there, you might have an interesting trail of which computers contacted which computers at important data points in the timelines you folks have been amassing.

        It certainly would help if indeed such info had been sent somehow to the EU for use in prosecution of war crimes.

        Even if that has not occurred, you spies watching me right this minute… can you be sure it hasn’t? bush and cheney know, I am sure, that there is no statute of limitations on war crimes… and what if incriminating evidence, based on the spy agencies spying on the spy masters has been unearthed and delivered to appropriate authorities?

        We can only hope. And bushco and cheneydom can only fear.

  32. radiofreewill says:

    If Bush can hide his reckless, spitefully political, de-classification of Valerie Plame Wilson’s CIA Identity from the Law – Get Caught Doing It – and still keep it out of Court,

    Then there’s not much We can do.

    Bush the Untrustworthy is demonstrating Control of Law Enforcement and the Courts.

    For the moment, it doesn’t seem to be Our America – rather more like Bush’s Plantation, where there is no expectation of ‘Our Rights.’

    Our Rights have morphed, de facto, under Bush and his Overseers to become: Do You ‘look right,’ ‘act right’ and ‘think right’ according to BushCo Ideology – a biscuit if you do, and a beating if you don’t.

    And, with Bush, suspicion rules the day…of course the Telcos are going to get immunity…Bush Controls the Law Makers, too.

    • TheraP says:

      I sure would like a copy of the new Constitution. Not that we could even trust that would now mean anything either.

      Just got this from Canada:

      French prosecutor dismisses torture case against Rumsfeld

      Nov 23, 2007

      PARIS – A Paris prosecutor has thrown out a complaint against former U.S. defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld for torture in Iraq and at the U.S. military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay.

      A lawyer for one of the four groups that filed the case confirmed the ruling today.

      Patrick Baudoin, president of the International Federation of Human Rights, said the prosecutor dismissed the case on the grounds that Rumsfeld benefits from immunity.

      url is here:…..71dcvsrgBA

      • TheraP says:

        Sorry, I see that is “old news.” Somehow I missed it. They are appealing that. Does that last for only how long someone is in office?

  33. bmaz says:

    It appears that “somebody” doesn’t want the CIA Torture Tapes destruction story to be shined on by the Administration either. I am with EW on Isikoff, but he does relate another nice little nugget. Turns out that the DNI at the time, John Negroponte, knew of the question and specifically told the CIA, through it’s Director, Porter Goss, not to destroy the torture tapes. And there is a paper trail of the meeting via a Negropont memorandum. I find it hard to believe that Negroponte kept this to himself. There is NO chance that he didn’t send this tasty appetizer up the food chain. Hello Bush, hello Cheney. I will also hazard a guess that if a smart examination is made of Negroponte, framing the questions brightly, Negroponte will tell the truth. Will our Democratic Leadersheep have the intestinal fortitude to do the job? Even with the perfect path to the Whitehouse served up to them on a silver platter, will they go ahead and follow it?

  34. emptywheel says:

    Note Bennett’s message: if it’s a with hunt, he’ll tell Rodriguez to take the fifth. That’s one of the best reasons I’ve heard of not to let Goss buddy Crazy Pete Hoekstra near Rodriguez.

  35. pseudonymousinnc says:

    On the question of foreign responses: I’ve seen the little outpost of the NSA that operates under the false-flag name of RAF Menwith Hill. (Mark Thomas once asked, in typical fashion, for a copy of the lease giving the US permission to operate on a British base, and none was forthcoming.) It’s a solar plexus of fibre-optic cable in the middle of sheep-grazing country. The workers import Cadillacs and Buicks.

    ECHELON has been deployed against foreign interests for years, and the presumption was that the foreign partners would use their surveillance capabilities on Americans and share the product. Obviously, there were areas that non-US tech couldn’t touch, hence the domestication of ECHELON.

  36. bmaz says:

    And how will Bob know when its not a witch hunt? Ah, that would be the moment the investigators show how “serious” they are by conferring full immunity on Bob’s client; thats how.

  37. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Oh, to underscore this point, the Economist’s 2007 Annual Summary has an interesting little statistic: download traffic tripled over text messaging this year (IIRC). So, who’s gonna miss out on that much filthy lucre if they can control it?

    Greed without social conscience wails: “We have to protect the shareholders.”
    Self deception can be very profitable financially for the top 1%.

  38. Starbuck says:

    I want to examine a bit more in detail the insertion of a CIPAV into a specific computer.

    Since I use a router primarily as a hardware firewall, I expect that no intrusion into my computer is possible without my permission, that is, if I decline to connect to a specific IP address, that entity would not be able to access the things like internal IP address Mac, and ports, existing open or closed.

    If I ping my system from the outside I find that the return doesn’t even acknowledge any port, let alone if it is open or closed.

    Of course, this CIPAV system would obviously have to be able to access any computer and OS, Mac, PC MS OS, Linux, Unix etc, and Mac is supposed to be bullet proof from the outside, which is why I would expect certain organizations to use Macs over every other system off the shelf.

    So, I see a lot of unanswered questions about the toplogy of such spyware. My A/V provider once found a hacking tool installed in a retail Compaq/HP computer I was setting up for a client. Really pissed me off, and when I confronted the Tech help, first they denied it, then said it was harmless. Harmless indeed!

    A simple answer might be simply establish a bogus website, one that would be impossible to resist. But there has to be more.

    • PetePierce says:

      Since such a high percentage of people use routers as an additional hdw firewall, which have their limitations, I’m positive that this program would not be deterred by a router.

        • PetePierce says:

          I sincerely doubt any hardware would make a difference when you’re dealing with software programs of that magnitude. However, there are plenty of people who could foil that program. Most, if not all, are not the targets of that program.

          Also the more publicity these programs get, the more security experts will work to deter them.

          The FBI itself has wasted approximately 200 million dollars on two programs it didn’t get off the ground. But with the alliance between government and large corporations that exists now since Rule of Law has been abandoned by the executive, legislative, and to an increasing degrees the Judicial branch who are largely a bunch of unimaginative lazy, woosie sheep, I suspect this program was created by outside consultants for FBI.

  39. PetePierce says:

    We all appreciate that when almost all the Democcrats are silent, secretly meeting with Telecom lobbyists like Verizon’s very long list of 400+ attorney firms, and while Senator Reid has done a byzantine cascade of parliamentary procedures that most people can’t decipher (or I haven’t seen explained clearly yet), Senators Dodd, Feingold and Kennedy seem left like the 3 Lone Rangers in the U.S. Senate to fight a terrible Telcom Bill S. 2248 that is remarkably like the PAA but no one will read it carefully and realize that.

    I do not understand why essentially nearly all Democrats are now voting for whatever Bush, Cheney, Addington and Ed Gillespie dictate, and I’ve never seen that explained well.

    16 Short Questions I Believe Should Be Read on the Senate Floor Tomorrow:

    I strongly recommend that Senator Dodd read Glenn Greenwald’s terrific article from this morning, and the and the link is here–as of a couple days ago, when I make links they turn into gibberish on FDL and quote it on the Senate floor tomorrow verbatim and completely:

    “The Lawless Surveillance State” December 18. 2007

    1) Why hasn’t there been subpoenas of Telco Execs and the NDI and AG to inquire what the extent is of the use of the following acronymed wiretapping methods now in use:


    2) Why have their been no subpoenas recently of Telcos to ask them what they were doing or make them plead the 5th. We all know they weren’t doing “nothing to break the law” and they know it which is why amnesty is the huge deal it is.

    3) The wiretapping means in all their varietiesz have never been explored by any oversight Committee–why is that?

    4) The partnership between Congress and Corporations that’s pushing Telco Immunity is one of the most corrupt partnerships in the history of this country and Congress and the media have not touched it. The blogs have. Why is this?

    5) Not one senator actually has found out what’s being hidden. Precisesly what did the Telcos do? What did the government do? How many ways are we being wiretapped and how much of our personal info is being matrixed and used to harm us, not to mention that the government agencies are famous for losing CDs and DVDs with hundreds of thousands of lists of personal data from citizens.

    6) The Congress has never looked into the story of why Nachio was really prosecuted after he that Quest would to wiretap like the rest of the Telcos.

    7) Why hasn’t any oversight committee subpoenaed the Telcos and gotten a roadmap to what Glenn Greewald has called

    “The cooperation between the various military/intelligence branches of the Federal Government — particularly the Pentagon and the NSA — and the private telecommunications corporations is extraordinary and endless…The Federal Government has its hands dug deeply into the entire ostensibly “private” telecommunications infrastructure and, in return, the nation’s telecoms are recipients of enormous amounts of revenues by virtue of turning themselves into branches of the Federal Government.
    There simply is no separation between these corporations and the military and intelligence agencies of the Federal Government. They meet and plan and agree so frequently, and at such high levels, that they practically form a consortium.

    In fact, the House and the Senate doesn’t have a clue what these means of cooperation are. These represent an illegal merger of Private Telco Corporations and the Federal government.

    Why hasn’t Congress looked into the rapidly lightening coopting of AG Mike Mukasey who is parooting every line from Bush, Cheney, and Addington:

    9) Why don’t any Democrats in Congress have the sense to say not providing Telco amnesty we’ll help to keep the Telcos from breaking the law in the future and that’s what the American people want.

    10) Has it occurred to you it’s gotten hard to tell what if anything the Deomocats are doing in Congress besides supporting the Republican lawless gutting of the 4th amendment and our privacy rights.

    11) Why is it that

    Despite issuing prior statements claiming they would support Dodd’s filibuster, none of the other presidential candidates in the Senate — Clinton, Obama or Biden — have indicated that they will do so tomorrow. As the Kos has said, they have far and away “the biggest megaphon” and instead of all the insipidly irrelevant details on the road with them, it’d be consrtructive and healthy that they go to Washington for major support of Senator Dodd and his fillibuster efforst but they certainly have no intention of doing this and could seem to care less that the Telcos and the US Governments have partnered to foreclose on the privacy of Americans so systemically.

    12) Why besides from Senator Dodd has their been nno real substantive leadersip on opposing Telco Immunity from the current crop of Democratic Presidential Candidates and the controls by the AG and NDI of wiretapping in S. 2248 whatsoever?

    13) Why hasn’t congress dug into pressure by the government on Google and other search engines to de-ananomyze search information?

    14) Why isn’t the NSA Director Hadley subpoenaed to ask if NSA put a backdoor in new encryption standards they are heavily involved in called “Dual_EC_DRBG”?

    15) Why have the Democrats in Congress allowed Bush to dictate to him precisely as if he is King George III??? Bush has threatened to hold Congress in session until they pass whatever bill he wants. This has been his tact now througout the 110th Congress, and they have sat still and taken it like passive children.

    16) Finally why can’t this Rule 22 tactic be brought into play tomorrow?

    While sixty votes is enough to bring a measure to the floor, a determined minority of senators can still delay a vote for about two weeks. Once a motion to invoke cloture passes, a group can still filibuster the bill itself, requiring an additional cloture motion. At that point, the Senate has another thirty hours to consider the bill again. Rule XXII limits the use of this tactic, however, for a vote must occur on either the 11th day of consideration or the 15th day after a motion to proceed was made.

    ↑ Garry Gamber, “What Is The Filibuster All About? Got Links, December 9, 2005.
    ↑ “Filibuster and Cloture in the Senate,” U.S. Senate.

    • bmaz says:

      Pete – Before i even read this, I want to ask if you posted this on Jane Hamsher’s “Dodd, FISA and the Filibuster” thread at FDL yet. It is my understanding that Dodd actually plans to read substantive comments from that FDL thread on the floor as part of his filibuster (beats reciting the phone book, which actually was used long ago). If you have not, do so. If I remember later and have not seen you leave evidence here one way or another Maybe I’ll cut and paste and put it over there. Might as well get your questions on the Senate record!

      • PetePierce says:


        I appreciate it very much. I did post there, but I corrected a couple of sentence fragments and posted it here after doing so.

        I never have trouble admitting when I don’t understand something, and I have to tell you I am totally baffled about the who procedural sequence of events that unfolded Friday to set up tomorrow which will be on C-Span 2 so I’m going to set my DVR– with Reid and the withdrawal of the cloture motion, and frankly if as I understand it why Reid and the Senators who signed that Cloture motion chose to set such high hurdles other than that the fix is in.

        I don’t understand also the portion of Rule 22 in the last paragraph in the link below (after I name a hyperlink on these threads as of 2 days ago my hyperlink gets distorted, and I’m trying to figure out why so I can only paste the link:…..Filibuster

        Prolonging a filibuster after successful cloture vote

        While sixty votes is enough to bring a measure to the floor, a determined minority of senators can still delay a vote for about two weeks. Once a motion to invoke cloture passes, a group can still filibuster the bill itself, requiring an additional cloture motion. At that point, the Senate has another thirty hours to consider the bill again. Rule XXII limits the use of this tactic, however, for a vote must occur on either the 11th day of consideration or the 15th day after a motion to proceed was made.[38][39]

        If you haven’t read Glenn Greenwald’s article from this morning, please do–it’s excellent:

        I would love to see Greenwald as Senator from NY-and on SJC-and he has plenty of con law experience.

        Looks like you were right about Green Bay this afternoon.

      • PetePierce says:

        What I wouldn’t give to be on the Senate floor and have the chance to read my questions and go after Harry Reid as to his hypocritical interferrance for Bush. I was never thrilled with Reid as SML, and he’s turning out to remind me of Frist. Frist might as well be leading the charge to gut the 4th Amendment. It seems the outcome would be much the same with a Republican majority.

        And if Clint and Obama were leaders, they’d be right back on the Senate floor tomorrow leading the charge against Reid and the totally lawless Republicans and Dems who are supporting them.

        I’m surprised too that Edwards with his anti-large corporation stance has been mum on this egregious partnership of the Telco corporations and government that is being totally hidden from any scrutiny.

        I can’t remember in a long time when such important federal cases faced summary foreclosure by an action of Congress.