Even worse than we imagined: AT&T contract for NSA to surveill all internet traffic, foreign and domestic, started before 9/11
That's all Internet traffic, foreign and domestic, data and voice. And the decision to do this was taken, not because of 9/11, but as soon as Bush took office. As was the decision to ignore the rule of law. So much for the idea that the extremely benevolent and trustworthy Bush administration was reacting to 9/11, and just wants "surgical" surveillance* to keep us safe from terrorists, eh? Could this program be Spencer Ackerman's "Project X"?
Anyhow, it's late, so I can't do this story justice, but according to Wired:
And in May 2006, a lawsuit filed against Verizon for allegedly turning over call records to the NSA alleged that AT&T began building a spying facility for the NSA just days after President Bush was inaugurated. That lawsuit is one of 50 that were consolidated and moved to a San Francisco federal district court, where the suits sit in limbo waiting for the 9th Circuit Appeals court to decide whether the suits can proceed without endangering national security.
According the allegations in the suit (.pdf):
The project was described in the ATT sales division documents as calling for the construction of a facility to store and retain data gathered by the NSA from its domestic and foreign intelligence operations but was to be in actuality a duplicate ATT Network Operations Center for the use and possession of the NSA that would give the NSA direct, unlimited, unrestricted and unfettered access to all call information and internet and digital traffic on ATTÌs long distance network. [...]
The NSA program was initially conceived at least one year prior to 2001 but had been called off; it was reinstated within 11 days of the entry into office of defendant George W. Bush.
An ATT Solutions logbook reviewed by counsel confirms the Pioneer-Groundbreaker project start date of February 1, 2001.
The allegations in that case come from unnamed AT&T insiders, who have never stepped forward or provided any documentation to the courts. But Carl Mayer, one of the attorneys in the case, stands by the allegations in the lawsuit.
"All we can say is, we told you so," Mayer said.
Mayer says the issue of when the call records program started - a program that unlike the admitted warrantless wiretapping, the administration has never confirmed nor denied - should play a role in the upcoming confirmation hearings of Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey.
Mukasey will have to "come clean on when this program started," Mayer said. "The entire rationale was that it was necessitated by 9/11."
And now that we can be totally sure that Iraq was for oil--even in the absence of the suppressed records of the Cheney energy task force--and we know that massive warrantless surveillance was the order of the day immediately after Bush took office, it looks like what "changed" after 9/11 wasn't "everything," but just the catapult Bush used for the propaganda. Eh?
NOTE * The trad press coverage of McConnell's lying on "surgical" was even more bogus than usual.
UPDATE Here's WaPo's Ellen Nakashima and Dan Eggen. They focus on the court filings from which the Wired story above is derived. They get the pre-9/11 nature of the program:
Nacchio's account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 attacks have been cited by the government as the main impetus for its warrantless surveillance efforts.
Right. All this crap about protecting the American people was and is just propaganda; 9/11 was just the icing on the cake for the criminal Bush regime. They were secretly working to destroy the Fourth Amendment, and the Constitution from the start--right after they seized power in Bush v. Gore. Tell me again why we live under a legitimate government?
Now, Eggen and Nakashima are framing this in terms of "phone records," not "all call information and internet and digital traffic", as Wired has it:
In a statement released after the story was published, Nacchio attorney Herbert Stern said that in fall 2001, Qwest was approached to give the government access to the private phone records of Qwest customers. At the time, Nacchio was chairman of the president's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.
But they do have the money quote:
"Mr. Nacchio made inquiry as to whether a warrant or other legal process had been secured in support of that request," Stern said. "When he learned that no such authority had been granted and that there was a disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process, including the Special Court which had been established to handle such matters, Mr. Nacchio concluded that these requests violated the privacy requirements of the Telecommunications Act."
A "disinclination." Nice. So Nacchio turned down the request. The consequences: The so-called Justice Department sued him for insider trading--Nacchio had sold his stock at a high on the expectation that the contract would go through because who would have fucking thought the request would be illegal. (This is America!) And, cleverly, the so-called Justice Department then gamed the system of security clearances and got the judge to suppress any defense based on the request because of the "state secrets" privilege.*
So, Nacchio wasn't a total, total greedhead. And all the other telco CEOs were, apparently. What a re-assuring portrait of the integrity and benign intentions of our ruling class.
And it looks like the multiple nature of the surveillance programs is causing a lot of confusion. "Call records" implies only voice but, as Wired says (and they've got the technical expertise) what we have long believed: that it's voice and data, with domestic data the real prize; just like 9/11, the foreign intelligence aspect is just a cover for the real goal. We've always thought that ratfucking was the important part, but now I'm thinking that espionage for favored corporations could also play a role. Marcy has an excellent timeline.
UPDATE Oddly, or not, The Newspaper of Record (not!) has no story on this. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Not even anything ripped from the wires.
UPDATE Looking through our total postings on NSA surveillance, the broad outlines of the program have been clear from the beginning. We knew from December 2005 that the program was about data and voice, though the trad press kept focusing on the "wiretap" (voice only) aspect. And we knew from July 2006 (Bloomberg) that a "call monitoring" program was in place before 9/11. What we didn't put together was: (1) the sheer scope of the program: all voice, all data; (2) that such a program was fully specified and ready for contract before 9/11; (3) that the Bush administrations breathtaking disregard for the rule of law was also in place before 9/11.
I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords....
UPDATE EmptyWheel on Nacchio:
Note to the Senate: this guy says he's in jail because he refused to break the law. Yet you want to let AT&T off scot-free.
And for those of you who want to ask Jello Jay Rockefeller why AT&T should have immunity for breaking the law while Joseph Nacchio rots in jail, indirectly, because he refused to break the law, [here's] the list of phone numbers.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman — (202) 224-6472
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) — (202) 224-3841
Sen. John Warner (R-VA) — (202) 224-2023
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) — (202) 224-5244
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) — (202) 224-4224
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) — (202) 224-5623
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) — (202) 224-4654
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) — (202) 224-5344
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) — (202) 224-5274
They want immunity because they know they're guilty. Say, I wonder who the various corporate counsels to Verizon and so forth are? They're guilty too, well-paid though they are.
UPDATE Kagro X makes an excellent point at Big Orange:
But it's not just that. If Qwest's competitors were already abetting this bloodless(?) coup before 9/11, then the "administration's" domestic spying not only has little if anything to do with response to terrorism, but it also objectively failed to prevent 9/11.
Yep. Mr. Preznit, you've uncovered your ass, now.
NOTE * One of the distinguishing features of the operations of the criminal Bush regime, as opposed to the criminal Nixon regime, is that the judicial system has been so corrupted that the likelihood of a John Sirica is very low.