New Proof: AT&T and NSA’s Long Surveillance Partnership shredded 4th Amendment

By Mark Rumold | ( Electronic Frontier Foundation) | – –

Reports today in the New York Times and ProPublica confirm what EFF’s Jewel v. NSA lawsuit has claimed since 2008—that the NSA and AT&T have collaborated to build a domestic surveillance infrastructure, resulting in unconstitutional seizure and search of of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of Americans’ Internet communications.

“These documents not only further confirm our claims in Jewel, but convincingly demolish the government’s core response—that EFF cannot prove that AT&T’s facilities were used in the mass surveillance,” said EFF Executive Director Cindy Cohn. ”It’s long past time that the NSA and AT&T came clean with the American people. It’s also time that the public U.S. courts decide whether these modern general searches are consistent with the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure.”

The reports provide detailed accounts of both the breadth of the NSA’s access to AT&T’s networks and the evidence that definitively establishes that AT&T is one of the “corporate partners” referenced in the NSA’s documents.

The documents note AT&T’s “extreme willingness to help” with NSA’s surveillance within the United States, some of which appears to be done in “partnership,” rather than required by law. Here’s how the Times describes the breadth of NSA’s access to AT&T’s networks:

AT&T’s cooperation has involved a broad range of classified activities, according to the documents, which date from 2003 to 2013. AT&T has given the N.S.A. access, through several methods covered under different legal rules, to billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks. It provided technical assistance in carrying out a secret court order permitting the wiretapping of all Internet communications at the United Nations headquarters, a customer of AT&T.

The link to AT&T isn’t directly obvious from the documents themselves, because the documents rely on NSA’s codename for AT&T—Fairview. However, ProPublica’s companion report describes in detail the evidence that ties Fairview to AT&T, including an internal NSA’s document describing damage to a transpacific cable owned by AT&T following the massive 2011 earthquake in Japan and the United Nations information.

These reports are just the latest in a long line of evidence demonstrating AT&T’s deep involvement in the NSA’s surveillance programs. Although the cat has been out of the bag for years now, the government still pretends that AT&T’s participation in its programs is a classified “state secret,” and has used that claim to repeatedly attempt to try to convince the courts to dismiss Jewel, EFF’s lead case against the Internet surveillance. Jewel is now on appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and these reports show once again the futility of the government’s efforts to delay consideration of the NSA’s activities. We look forward to the court ruling soon.

The documents published today also include other revelations about the NSA’s activities, and we’ll have more in-depth discussion of those on Monday.

Via Electronic Frontier Foundation

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Wochit News: “AT&T Helped NSA in Spying on Internet Traffic”

5 Responses

  1. Commercial surveillance is a much greater threat to democracy than government surveillance. All communication companies must be heavily regulated and investigated, and must be presumed guilty of abuse of information until proven innocent.

    The wider problem is the dominance of all mechanisms of democracy including elections and mass media, by the economic concentrations that have arisen since the Constitution was written. The result is that there is no mechanism in the Constitution to defend its institutions from economic power. We must demand immediate amendments to restrict funding of elections and mass media to limited registered individual contributions. We must demand amendments providing for intimate government regulation of communications companies, and providing for absolute privacy of communications absent a warrant of probable cause, not a default rubberstamp warrant by a kangaroo court of right-wing airheads. Otherwise we shall have nothing left at all of democracy.

    • The seminal books revealing the United States intelligence community – including “The Secret Team” by L. Fletcher Prouty and “The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence” by Victor Marchetti and John Marks, and “Inside the Company – a CIA Diary” – had each emphasized the links of that community to big business interests.

      Banks and communication companies often have a cozy relationship with the federal law enforcement and “help” them in investigating citizens without observance of legal formalities.

      Fortune 500 companies often recruit personnel from federal agencies as the FBI and CIA. Former FBI Assistant Director Cartha DeLoach, for example, took a position as a vice-president of Coca Cola after retiring.

  2. If efforts put into whining and complaining about a cascading stripping of the right-to-privacy (enabled by an obscure 1981 Reagan Administration Executive Order 12333 (authored by a then Chief-of-Staff), made robust by the misnamed Patriot Act and the AUMFs) was applied to actually curtailing these egregious well over thirty year-old oversteps with effective specifics – then well-intended pieces like this one would be worth the read.

    The writing on the NSA topic has become an aging cottage industry, offers scant useful purpose and serves to sidestep the biggest privacy offender. Indeed our government has exceeded Constitutional authority for at least three decades but is NOTHING compared to current private sector information gathering/gobbling.

    NSA monitoring primarily looks for useful intelligence, information which may lead to evidence for due-process and a conviction in a court of law.

    The private sector knows on an ongoing basis who you are, where you are, when you wake up, what you eat, who you know, your maladies and your favorite porn tags to itemize just a few of many specific data points clandestinely gleaned and recorded from most citizens – even little children.

    The captured and recorded very personal information can be (and is, in fact) packaged and sold to the highest bidder without regulation, controls or the individuals permission in a batch or as a subscription.

    How will previously prostituted highly-granular day-to-day personal data be used in your future, say, ten years from now?

    Good luck with that.

    John B has it right.

  3. The fundamental problem is that the NSA “surveillance” has only one function: blackmail. That’s the only reason they’re collecting the data, to blackmail their political opponents.

    The dragnet data is not actually good for anything else. It’s *completely* useless for law enforcement, and has never once been used for law enforcement; it’s *worse than useless* with regard to terrorism, and has never once been used to stop a terrorist attack (though it may have been used to *cause* a few terrorist attacks).

    There’s too much data to analyze, so the only way to use it is to harass individuals who were previously picked out for harassement.

  4. The previous post allows for some hope for us at present; there is indeed too much data for the NSA’s, NRO’s, and their cousins not yet interconnected to the cloud by neural pathways to analyze our world accurately now, imagine how large the bucket will be be ten years from now.
    We are still offered some bit of privacy until the day AT&T starts selling their ‘really smart phone’, that is wireless, battery-less, and hands-free to boot; with no contract required! Too bad that lobotomies, which were the rage of the 40’s and 50’s, have gone out of style just when the technique will be about the only way to not answer the damn phone.

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