October 16, 2007

Tapping Every Phone Call in the Country -- Redux

Greetings. Now it becomes crystal clear why the phone companies have been begging to be indemnified for past participation in illegal wiretapping and subscriber transactional data disclosures -- it's obviously been going on massively for years -- as many of us have long suspected.

Today's Washington Post explores Verizon's admission that they've been handing over customer calling data without court orders for ages. Perhaps even more interesting is the news that the feds had also wanted the numbers being called by the people called by the targets of interest. That is, if person A was the target, and he called entity B (which might be a person or a business, of course), investigators also wanted the lists of everyone being called by entity B. When you work out the math, this is an utterly astounding way to drag vast numbers of innocent persons into such investigations. Verizon claimed not to have the necessary data to provide this secondary "community of interest" data, but the very fact that the government requested it speaks volumes. And who knows what was going on with AT&T?

Actually, we do seem to know a bit more about Qwest and AT&T now -- though both are currently refusing to answer Congressional queries about their participation in the various illegal programs. Their defense? "The government prohibits us from telling you the truth." Gotta love those guys.

Now it turns out that according to the former CEO of Qwest and other sources, the feds were busily laying the groundwork for these illicit operations months before 9/11. Fascinating.

In light of all this, I can't help but wonder if my thoughts last year about How to Tap Every Phone Call in the Country might be far less speculative than I thought at the time. We have more evidence than ever that the sensibilities behind interactions between government and telcos might have encouraged such an approach.

Do I really think that wiretapping on such a scale is going on? No, I don't. But what's disturbing is that I believe that the federal government -- our federal government -- would not be unwilling to explore such an approach.

That's pretty scary, in and of itself.


Posted by Lauren at October 16, 2007 09:44 AM | Permalink
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