Journal: T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless Not Direct NSA Partners
Foreign Ownership Ties Makes It Hard to Muzzle Them
An anonymous source insists to the Wall Street Journal
that Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile do not "directly" help the NSA due to the potential issues raised by their foreign ownership ties. Presumably, such cooperation would provide T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom and Verizon Wireless co-owner Vodafone with too much data on the NSA's practices:
Legal, practical and political obstacles are all possible reasons why the two firms are excluded from the NSA program. But current and former U.S. officials say the likely reasons are tied to their overseas ownership. Government requests for data, through special court orders sanctioned by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are classified "top secret" and "noforn," spy-talk for "no foreign." That would prohibit some T-Mobile and Verizon owners from being aware of the programs.
kind of side steps the fact that a big reason is the fact that it would be very difficult to muzzle these overseas companies, who would likely be less blindly and patriotically obedient.
Still, the report notes that this doesn't really matter since the NSA is said to have access to "99% of U.S. phone traffic" due to partnerships with other companies like AT&T and Sprint and wiretaps scattered all over upstream locations and regional nodes. It's also worth noting this restriction likely doesn't apply to Verizon and their fixed-line FiOS, DSL and POTS services. Nor does it apply to Verizon's core data transit networks -- where plenty of Verizon Wireless traffic touches down anyway.
Nor does this preclude T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless's help in more above-board, traditional surveillance efforts. As such, the Journal's leak is interesting legally, but irrelevant in every other regard.