AT&T Confident Its Partner in Crime Will Let It Take Over T-Mobile

Here’s the last paragraph of a Politico article describing the considerable extent of AT&T’s paid influence in DC.

AT&T said Monday that it is “confident” it can secure federal approval as it presents its case for T-Mobile, and both companies signaled Monday that they hoped to wrap everything up in about a year. AT&T declined to comment on its lobbying and PAC efforts and whether those efforts would be stepped up as it pushes for merger approval.

Now, the Politico piece is worth reading just for a sense of how corrupt the upcoming approval of the merger will no doubt be.

But somehow Politico forgot to mention the other reason AT&T will be granted the right to buy T-Mobile in spite of its clear assault on key principles of competitive capitalism: because the government owes AT&T.

Or, to put it another way, AT&T and the government have become so closely entwined in their joint program spying on Americans that the government cannot be said to be an independent reviewer of AT&T’s business.

Not only that, but by having AT&T take over T-Mobile, the government will get more unfettered access to Americans’ phone records. As Chris Soghoian explains:

While it is little known to most consumers, T-Mobile is actually the most privacy preserving of the major wireless carriers. As I described in a blog post earlier this year, T-Mobile does not have or keep IP address logs for its mobile users. What this means is that if the FBI, police or a civil litigant wish to later learn which user was using a particular IP address at a given date and time, T-Mobile is unable to provide the information.

In comparison, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint all keep logs regarding the IP addresses they issue to their customers, and in some cases, even the individual URLs of the pages viewed from handsets.

While privacy advocates encourage companies to retain as little data about their customers as possible, the Department of Justice wants them to retain identifying IP data for long periods of time. Enough so that T-Mobile was called out (albeit not by name) by a senior DOJ official at a data retention hearing at the House Judiciary Committee back in January:

“One mid-size cell phone company does not retain any records, and others are moving in that direction.”

If and when the Federal government approves this deal, T-Mobile’s customers and infrastructure will likely be folded into the AT&T mothership. As a result, T-Mobile’s customers will lose their privacy preserving ISP, and instead have their online activities tracked by AT&T.

So no wonder AT&T is so confident they’ll get to do what they want, and to hell with the interests of consumers. While this deal offers zero benefit for consumers, it does give the government just what it wants.

  1. phred says:

    The Mr. is not gonna like this. He got T-mobile specifically because of they were not implicated in government spying activities.

    Are there any telco/internet companies left where the 4th amendment is still in force?

  2. bittersweet says:

    A friend of mine maintains a T-Mobil account, despite its relatively poor reception, because it works in Europe when he visits his relatives. As the US government is especially interested in international calls, I am sure it will be giddy with excitement over this merger.

  3. barne says:

    I called this AT&T surveillance ace-in-the-hole back in the late 90s when VOIP and cell was touted as the end of AT&T’s 800-lb gorilla status. Back when Myhrvold was saying voice telephony would soon be free.

    Somewhere, long ago, I read that “our government” tapped into the original submarine cable carrying telegraph messages. AT&T’s predecessor acquiesced, but insisted on first receiving a get out of jail letter from a poobah. Got one from the Sec. of State.

  4. barne says:

    If it must be surveillance max, can we at least do something to make sure the files aren’t used the way J. Edgar used his?

    In the meantime, though, I’m willing to bet that LOTS of pols and players were naive about what info. they put out over the wires over the last 15-20 years, and are now executing their duties while knowing or suspecting that that info. is in dirty hands and would be used if certain lines are not toed. Think Kwame.

    So the blackmail files will hold some sway until that trapped generation retires, or until a change in society renders sex scandal less of a blackmailable issue.

  5. JTMinIA says:

    OK. But before I reply to phred, I need to switch to a different account and log in via an unsecured network at some local coffee shop. The soup company in question has one employee who once made the off-hand comment “I just wish that fewer children were getting killed in the Middle East” and I don’t want to end up on some list with the Mossad by linking myself to this company.

    (Sure hope that the unfreezing process didn’t mess up my inner monologue.)

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The Nextel-Sprint merger was quickly approved with barely a semblance of a review of its anti-competitive effects by either Bush’s FCC or his Department of Injustice.

    There was much sturm and drang, of course, a great many fees were paid inside the Beltway, and a great many documents were electronically produced. They were read with insight and occasional virtual excitement arising from surprisingly detailed office romances. But there was no serious doubt the deal would go through, and much grinning as once exhaustive data requests were narrowed and narrowed and narrowed.

    The only difference for the review of this next incarnation of Ma Bell, which has almost as many lives as Doctor Who and Standard Oil, is that much of the anti-trust review will be done in India, “overseen” by young turks in DC who will make between 10 and 50 times as much per hour as their common law peers doing the real legwork.

  7. KrisAinCA says:

    As a T-Mobile customer for the past 5 years, I must say that I’m fucking pissed off at this.

    Not only will my privacy now be violated like mad, but I’ll lose the award-winning customer service I’ve received, along with the company infrastructure I’ve come to enjoy.

    Fuck AT&T and their anti-American, terroristic asses. Sideways.

  8. eCAHNomics says:

    While it is little known to most consumers, T-Mobile is actually the most privacy preserving of the major wireless carriers.

    Nice catch.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Yes, it’s very worth following. One item from today talks about how readily and in large volume Sprint ships off data to the DEA- 8 million GPS queries in a 13-month period – and how the DEA refuses to release documents pursuant to a routine FOIA request about it.

        That’s only one example of what companies do with customer details to assuage governments and generate revenue. Customers are routinely as unaware of such practices and the revenue or goodwill they generate as they are unaware of the data “privacy” policies that “permit” it. Which is one reason the US will never have or respect data protection policies such as those in the EU, Canada, Australia and Japan. Our experience with data protection mimics our experience with access to health care.

        • eCAHNomics says:

          And the privacy we can expect on our medical records once they are all on computers and the computers are all linked. Apple’s ipad’s got a new ap for that I saw on cnbc this morning.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          The oft-repeated “efficiency” argument for such digitalization never seems to delve into the question of efficient for whom.

        • eCAHNomics says:

          Besides which, with my Mafia of the Intelligentsia explanation for why medical industry has such a strangle hold on pricing, even if there were genuine efficiencies, they would accrue to the medical industry, not to customers.

  9. spanishinquisition says:

    Art Brodsky, a spokesman for Public Knowledge, a nonprofit public-interest group, said many critics of the deal are also wary of William Daley, the White House chief of staff. In the early 2000s, Daley was president of SBC Communications, which later merged with AT&T, and then worked for JPMorgan, which is helping finance the AT&T/T-Mobile merger.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Brilliant. The AT&T – T-Mobile deal will go through faster than Sprint-Nextel, whose speed-for-size embarrassed the intestinal tracts of most geese.

  10. thelonegunman says:

    of course… after years of spying on citizens for The Empire, the corporate cronies are going to be rewarded with a further monopoly…

  11. speakingupnow says:

    And now for more news on the actions of corporations with government compliance…

    “Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Tuesday announced that his office was opening the door for 2.35 billion tons of new coal mining operations in Wyoming’s stretch of the Powder River Basin.”

    Salazar’s Folly

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Lilly Tomlin and The President’s Analyst were jokes, not conspiracy theories, about a company as large and ruthless as any put together by Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, Vanderbilt or Edison. Ida Tarbell wasn’t a conspiracy theorist when she documented the excesses, overreaching, dirty and illegal business practices of a robber baron praised by all the then MOTU.

    Today’s Ma Bell isn’t out to “get” the president’s analyst. It is a mega-corporation with enormous wealth and clout and privy to increasingly valuable and useful digital files on Americans. It has even more political clout after the Citizens United decision. It is out to acquire a healthy competitor, to become bigger and increasingly monopolistic. It will take a great stride in that direction if it is allowed to acquire T-Mobile. No theory about it.

    (It is interesting to see how the likes of HBGary fine tune wonderfully blunt instruments. One day, they’ll be formidable.)

    • mzchief says:

      AT&T has the hubris to consider themselves a government. They are a bunch of greedy kleptocrats with too many frickin’ VPs and they only want slaves just like every other bankster operation.

  13. mzchief says:

    A tel-sat-co who’s who (not necessarily complete)–

    The 2008 Canadian Telecom Summit

    Tsav 8–

    ‘Tsav 8’: A call to duty for hi-tech mavens” (Feb. 8, 2010)

    Israeli VC on Sand Hill road” (image courtesy of the Way Back Machine, Feb. 22, 2009) (Feb. 12, 2009 ; you can cut and paste into Google Translate) (Feb. 15, 2009 ; you can cut and paste into Google Translate)

    tsav 8 to barcelona 2011 joseph ziskin about ibm vision” (Joseph Ziskin, IBM, Vice President, Corporate Strategies and Enterprise Initiatives presentation for Tsav 8, in Israel, 2010).

    tsav 8 to barcelona 2011 ambassadors panel” (in Israel, 2010)

    An IBM Who’s Who (not necessarily complete)–

    Participant Biographies – IBM” (2010 CIO Leadership Exchange)

    Participant Biographies – IBM” (2009 CIO Leadership Exchange)

    MTG Ltd.–

    Value of Marvell-Galileo merger deal shrinks 80% as Marvell stock plunges on Nasdaq” (Dec. 27, 2000)

    Marvell’s Galileo Technology Division Announces Industry’s First Router Chips to Enable Converged Voice/Data Internetworking.” (Mar. 20, 2001)

    Marvell Technology Group Ltd. — The Market leader in Switching, Transceivers, Wireless, PC Connectivity, Gateways, Communications Controllers and Storage” (accessed Mar. 23, 2011)

    OMG we are being buried in data!–

    Vision Cloud in the News” (Nov. 15, 2010)

  14. ackack says:

    OK, now that we don’t any have any choices left for private communication, is it time to put the cell phones down, and go back to land lines and voice mail?

    Like krisinCA, I’m a T-mobile customer, who transferred from AT&T the day I heard about the surveillance and have refused to do any business with them since.

    I don’t think I can stomach giving those fuckers a single penny of my money, so now what? I’m seriously considering ditching my mobile phone. This has just gone too far.

  15. mzchief says:

    So, we are being told that the US needs to cut social services programs so that money can be paid to the hugely M & A’d tel-sat-co/IT industry (i.e. AT&T and IBM) to do this? “FBI dedicates $1 billion to massive biometrics identification program” (RawStory.Com, By Stephen C. Webster, Thursday, March 24th, 2011 — 1:26 pm)

    Facial recognition systems were being developed in the 1980s under the guise of other research (“Are there certain faces that babies find comforting versus others?”) and seem fairly complete given this survey, “Your Face Is Not a Bar Code: Arguments Against Automatic Face Recognition in Public Places” (by Philip E. Agre, Department of Information Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, 2001 with 2003 updates).

    Mainframe databases of criminal records were already welded together by the early 1990s as I knew one of the analyst working on that for a major city.

    Fairly real-time domestic LEO satellite surveillance (Google Earth), optical telecomm switches and duplicate CO circuits by AT&T for “other” use (AT&T fiberoptic splitter at 611 Folsom Street, San Francisco, California) were in place by the late 1990s.

    In the early 2000s, I witnessed a Fairfax County officer parked in a restaurant lot picking license plate numbers, entering them into an on-board computer and reviewing the associated records.

    What other piece of Vision Cloud is being done as the FBI is deployed in and outside the country (see interview with former FBI Agent Coleen Rowley in ‘Protest at the FBI H/Q: “Hands Off Our Activists!” and “Free Bradley Manning!‘)? India is in a parallel conversion.

    Will Obama get locked out of the White House (Mar. 24, 2011) again? The proposed system doesn’t mean this will stop.

    Oh yeah and the macro-econ talking bears are back: “Part 5 – The Silver Saga Story Continues” (Mar. 25, 2011)

    Welcome to America 2011: Home of sock puppets, astroturfing, disinfo, misinfo, hoaxes and false flags” (Political Analyst Stacy Herbert, Mar. 25, 2011)

    The IMF has just announced that it is expanding its borrowing facility from its existing $50 billion by a whopping $500 billion (SDR333.5 billion), to $550 billion.” (Max Keiser with Tyler Durden at ZeroHedge.Com sublink, Mar. 25, 2011)