Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New Wiregate Info

More information about the government's monitoring of American phone calls has broken as the customers of AT&T, Verizon, and Bellsouth take our telecom providers to court over their cooperation with the Bush administration's illegal monitoring of Americans' telephone activity. It has also recently come to light that the NSA has gained access to internet activity as well as phone calls on these networks. Because these three companies are so large, their networks route a sizable percentage of all internet traffic through government monitoring stations. That means that even people who are not customers of these companies are being monitored by the government equipment installed in their switching centers.

One company absent from the list of those being sued, however, is Qwest Communications. CEO Joe Nacchio turned down NSA requests for access to its customers' phone calls, concerned that the program might be illegal. Recently, Nacchio was convicted on six counts of insider trading, and one of the arguments he advanced in his defense was that the NSA canceled several lucrative deals with Qwest over his refusal to go along with their surveillance measures. The interesting thing about that filing is that Nacchio alleges that the Bush administration started monitoring Americans' communications in February of 2001, barely two months after Bush moved into the White House and more than half a year before 9/11.

While one is tempted to dismiss such allegations as a last-ditch defense from a ruined man, now the plaintiffs in the AT&T/Verizon/Bellsouth action are claiming that the program was initiated just elevens days after Bush took office. It is now clear that, far from being an overreaction to the legitimate threat of international terrorism, the creation of Big Brother has been a policy goal of this administration from the very beginning. I've been arguing for a long time now that this sort of thing is foreboding, but this latest news is downright chilling.

EDIT 11:20 AM, 10/19/2007:
Good rundown of all the info available here.