Telecom immunity passes

This makes me ill (via NYT):

The Senate rejected a series of amendments that would have restricted the government’s surveillance powers and eliminated immunity for the phone carriers, and it voted in convincing fashion — 69 to 29 — to end debate and bring the issue to a final vote. That vote is expected later this afternoon, with the result all but assured.

So how, exactly, can anybody say with a straight face that this warrantless surveillance is legal if we have to immunize the culpable parties? Isn’t giving them immunity basically an admission that these telecoms have been breaking the law by listening to Americans’ phone conversations? Where will it end? I’m almost scared to find out. This Congress, one of the most spineless in history, is now officially useless to me. We have officially legalized a total surveillance state, where the agents of the government are private enterprise, who are not bound by any constitution and are apparently above the law.

They say they do it to protect us from those who do us harm — but isn’t a government that respects the rule of law only when it benefits itself just as bad, if not WORSE, than any tyranny a foreign agent could unleash upon us?

The New AT&T: Team Hollywood, Internet Police

News is traveling quickly of AT&T’s intent to filter copyrighted content on portions of the Internet it controls. It’s been repeated a million times before, but briefly: The New AT&T wants to transform itself into a content provider, serving up Internet TV. Obviously, people trading copyrighted television shows for free over the Internet(s) is a direct contradiction to that business model. Conveniently for The New AT&T, they also have a stranglehold on much of the Internet backbone in the United States. Thus, they’re going to use that capacity and attempt to start filtering out content that doesn’t pass muster as legit.

In other words, The New AT&T is sacrificing itself as a neutral network provider — really, how could they be expected to provide neutral network services and be a content provider at the same time? Where would the incentive be, besides drawing the ire of regulators, to permit competitors on their network? When I say competitors, think YouTube — Alex Curtis believes they could be the first target of a joint Hollywood/AT&T hit. I’m only scratching the surface, too — there is much more to this than just the business angle. What about consumer privacy? (It’s bad enough that they forward traffic to the NSA.) Does AT&T, and only AT&T, reserve the right to regulate what is and isn’t acceptable on the public Internet? The answers to these questions will have a lasting effect on the Internet as we know it.

One thing is for certain: The New AT&T sure seems to be just as sinister as the old one. I hope the regulators get on the horn to AT&T and find out what the deal is, because so far to me this flies in the face of the provisions that were set when AT&T acquired SBC and later BellSouth. I guess they just haven’t learned their lesson from the first time they were broken up…

EFF spying case vs. AT&T to move forward

The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s case against AT&T will move forward after a judgement issued today to deny the motions to dismiss on behalf of both AT&T and the federal government. This delivers a tough blow against the government and AT&T, who tried to get the case dismissed for the ever-convenient “national security reasons.”

Here’s EFF’s press release for more information.

A Sunday evening collection of randomness

Good Sunday evening, Internet(s)! I hope the American contingent of the readership is enjoying the holiday weekend. Mine is being interrupted by a work day tomorrow, though I get the feeling I won’t be there the whole day. We’ll see what happens. Tom is once again having his July 4 shindig, so I’ll be there on Tuesday.

So what’s going on? Continue reading A Sunday evening collection of randomness

Verizon, AT&T, and BellSouth bought by NSA to hand over phone records

“In other words, one end of the communication must be outside the United States.”
President George W. Bush, on the NSA phone monitoring program

Whoops.

USA Today is reporting that the NSA phone monitoring is far broader than previously acknowledged. Apparently AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth have been, since just after September 11, 2001, complicit in permitting the NSA to create a massive database — possibly the largest database, ever — of phone calls made inside the country (despite the Administration’s consistent reassurances that one end of any monitored phone call is outside the country) for the purpose of attempting to identify terrorist activity by calling patterns. While no voices were recorded, and no customer names and addresses exist in this database, it’s hardly trivial to pin the gathered phone numbers to a person. The same article also reports that the three companies were paid by the NSA to provide this information. More interestingly enough, Qwest Telecom refused to join the program, because of fears over fines and privacy concerns. Bravo.

I’m just starting to wonder what would happen if General Hayden is confirmed as the CIA head. CIA agents working domestically to gather intelligence, much as they would do overseas? We probably already have that too.

Needless to say, I smell a giant lawsuit against these three companies for a gross and willful invasion of privacy. The Fourth Amendment is still valid in the Constitution, right? Or was repealing the 4th yet another secret clause in the “Patriot” Act that no one read? You just can’t make this stuff up anymore. Orwell would be shocked. I, for one, am pretty disgusted.

Sen. Roberts: We don’t need no stinkin’ checks and balances

I rarely discuss politics on this blog, but I saw this on CNN and was utterly outraged.

CNN:

…[T]he Republican chairman [Sen. Pat Roberts] of the Senate Intelligence Committee said he had worked out an agreement with the White House to consider legislation and provide more information to Congress on the eavesdropping program.

“I believe that such an investigation at this point … would be detrimental to this highly classified program and efforts to reach some accommodation with the administration,” Roberts said.

Unbelievable, unacceptable…and par for the course these days. Congressional checks on executive power, anyone? The Framers are turning 10,000 rpm in their graves right now. This is maddening.

Want accommodation? It’s there – it’s called FISA! Or are they going to make a few tweaks and remove the FISA roadblock and permit unlimited wiretapping? That’s sure the vibe I get from all this.

Compromising our liberties is a victory for the terrorists. Make sure you write your Congressional representatives and let them know that. These are the fundamentals of our democracy at risk here.