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Judge: Phone Companies Never Fought Surveillance Expansion
by Karl Bode 06:17PM Tuesday Jul 30 2013
You might have noticed that AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and company were very, very quiet during this latest NSA-surveillance related scuff up. That's in part because unlike a few of the more modern tech companies (like Yahoo, who fought secretive rubber-stamped FISA court requests), the telcos yelled "how high?" when asked to repeatedly trample privacy and wiretap laws. In some cases, companies like AT&T even advised government on how best to break the law.

As such, it's not too surprising to see a letter publicized this week from Judge Reggie Walton of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), confirming that no phone company has ever resisted a court order under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The letter notes that companies who receive FISA court orders have "multiple opportunities" to "challenge those orders or directives, either directly or through refusal to comply."

As we've covered, Section 215 of the Patriot Act states that only data that is "relevant to an ongoing terrorist investigation" can be collected. The NSA, as it has been made very clear, insists that everyone and everything is relevant, and they're gobbling up this data by the fists full -- via everything from live fiber splits at AT&T head ends, to satellite communications and undersea cable taps.

Walton's letter goes into rare detail concerning how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court operates. According to Walton, only Yahoo could be bothered to challenge an order back in 2008. Microsoft and Google have challenged orders, but only after they were made public courtesy of the Edward Snowden leaks. Again, most companies either yell "how high" (AT&T), or they pretend to be victims only after the revelations come to light (Microsoft).

As for telcos, they've been at the heart of this scandal ever since NSA insiders and AT&T whistle blower Mark Klein showed that AT&T lets the NSA have direct access to essentially every byte that crosses their network. Their blind compliance with government requests isn't too surprising given that, as former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio made clear, companies who don't play along may harm their chances of landing lucrative government contracts or getting favorable regulation.

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FFH
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Tavistock NJ
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Telco execs have their own skeletons in the closet

CEOs of major corporations all have financial shortcut skullduggery in their pasts and almost every one of them could be arrested and charged by the SEC with some financial crimes. Does anyone really expect them to buck the government when a legal court order comes their way?

Nacchio of Qwest did buck the government. He is still in a halfway house after serving 4 yrs in prison for financial crimes. And his company went down hill and was eventually taken over by CenturyLink.
--
"If you want to anger a conservative lie to him.
If you want to anger a liberal tell him the truth."

tshirt
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Re: Telco execs have their own skeletons in the closet

Didn't help Nacchio was actually doing insider trading.

I don't think it's as much duress, as where's the money in fighting it.
We know the telcos expenses are generously paid for complying, and no customer would every offer to pay as well for them to fight it, if they could even ask.
If the court order appears legit and doesn't open a liability question, why fight it over a morality issue. (not in their charter)
ISurfTooMuch

join:2007-04-23
Tuscaloosa, AL

Re: Telco execs have their own skeletons in the closet

Exactly what I was thinking. Fighting these orders would require the use of attorneys, which would mean money, since, even if the lawyers were on staff, they'd be pulled away from other duties. OTOH, complying doesn't cost a thing, and, if the companies figure that there will be no adverse effects, then the decision makes perfect sense from their amoral, customers-be-damned point of view.
jjeffeory

join:2002-12-04
USA

1 recommendation

You said what I was going to say....

FFH
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After reading the presiding FISC judges letter to Congress, it certainly looks to me like the court is not a rubber stamp for the NSA.
--
"If you want to anger a conservative lie to him.
If you want to anger a liberal tell him the truth."

tshirt
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Re: Telco execs have their own skeletons in the closet

IT is very likely that the gov't is being quite selective about the orders it requests from the court, thus the high rate of success, basically the court MUST grant any properly written and justified requests for warrants on matters that fall under it's jurisdiction.
Not saying questionable cases don't get shunted/revealed to other agencies that currently don't have judicial review as part of their investigative process.

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
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join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK
said by FFH:

CEOs of major corporations all have financial shortcut skullduggery in their pasts and almost every one of them could be arrested and charged by the SEC with some financial crimes. Does anyone really expect them to buck the government when a legal court order comes their way?

Nacchio of Qwest did buck the government. He is still in a halfway house after serving 4 yrs in prison for financial crimes. And his company went down hill and was eventually taken over by CenturyLink.

Well for once we agree. They have broken laws, violated ethics, cheated, lied, and stolen at will. If they can get blanket immunity and don't have to worry about being prosecuted, in exchange for helping the Government spy on us, they are going to jump at it. We're seeing quite the rash of people being prosecuted and persecuted for doing the right thing lately.
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

skeechan
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Like they are going to say anything against the Chicago Way

There is no way they will cross the most corrupt and vindictive administration in history. And in the previous administration we saw anyone who faught got screwed with by the FCC or other agencies...interfering with their business.
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StuartMW
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Well geez...

said by Karl Bode:
The NSA, as it has been made very clear, insists that everyone and everything is relevant, and they're gobbling up this data by the fists full -- via everything from live fiber splits at AT&T head ends, to satellite communications and undersea cable tap.
Well geez the NSA has to fill that nice new shiny datacenter in Utah with something

Build it and they will come fill it with your data.
--
Don't feed trolls--it only makes them grow!
Bob61571

join:2008-08-08
Washington, IL

What about the smaller Telcos?

We never hear about the Level 2 or Level 3 Telcos and how they have responded/not responded?
I would guess that some would quietly reject cooperation w/NSA, but most would cooperate.

Anyone have any information/news articles on this topic?

Simba7
I Void Warranties

join:2003-03-24
Billings, MT

Why fight..

..when you can rake in the cash? Once they wave a few $b at them, the phone company (or companies) would gladly let the NSA do whatever they wanted.

Like they say.. Money talks.

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
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Tulsa, OK

Re: Why fight..

said by Simba7:

Like they say.. Money talks.

.... and those who fight the B.S. don't walk. Unless you count the walk down the cell block.
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

Mizzat
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said by Simba7:

..when you can rake in the cash? Once they wave a few $b at them, the phone company (or companies) would gladly let the NSA do whatever they wanted.

Like they say.. Money talks.

Yup, but billions, no, millions, yes.

dbarber

join:2000-07-25
West Chester, PA

Coincidence?

From original article:
"Their blind compliance with government requests isn't too surprising given that, as former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio made clear, companies who don't play along may harm their chances of landing lucrative government contracts or getting favorable regulation " (my bold).

Does anyone really think that it's a coincidence that telcos are allowed to keep merging when it's against the public good and them going along with FISA court requests? If so, I've got some prefabricated basements in the Everglades to sell you.

Donn
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batterup
I Can Not Tell A Lie.
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join:2003-02-06
Netcong, NJ

Re: Coincidence?

said by dbarber:

Does anyone really think that it's a coincidence that telcos are allowed to keep merging when it's against the public good and them going along with FISA court requests?

at&t must not have done it right as they were denied buying T-Mobile.