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View Diary: DOJ Dread Exposed: Destruction of AT&T (260 comments)

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  •  Move the timeline even further back: (35+ / 0-)

    Two key pieces of legislation need to be taken into consideration to understand this issue.  In a way, they serve as counterpoints in understanding how the phone companies (not just AT&T) are liable for damages wrought by Bush-Cheney's illegal wiretapping, and how the Telcos could have and should have served as a firewall to the  warrantless surveillance program.

    1.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 prescribes procedures for the physical and electronic surveillance and collection of "foreign intelligence information".  The primary enforcement mechanism of the FISA law is criminal and civil penalties -- that may be imposed on either/or both Telco executives or government officials -- for allowing phone company facilities to be used to wiretap without a) a FISA or criminal warrant; or b) a letter from the AG stating that a lawful exception applies.  
    1.  The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) is a United States wiretapping law passed in 1994 (Pub. L. No. 103-414, 108 Stat. 4279). In its own words, the purpose of CALEA is:

     

     To amend title 18, United States Code, to make clear a telecommunications carrier's duty to cooperate in the interception of communications for Law Enforcement purposes, and for other purposes.

    In effect, CALEA mandated that the Telcos and more recently the ISPs install surveillance equipment at key switching stations that allows the federal government to record electronic communications.  There are two basic types of surveillance equipment in place, diverters that funnel data directly to the NSA (this is type observed in the AT&T case), and data storage systems that separate out data streams into discrete messages and then store these should a federal agency produce a warrant or order demanding it be turned over.  

    For obvious reasons, there is tremendous tension between FISA and the first type of CALEA compliant equipment and procedures that simply funnel your call to NSA contractors rather than separate and store messages.  

    The telcos would prefer that they be exempted from liability, and by installing diverters rather than separators have sought to evade the intent of FISA, which was to hold the Telcos jointly liable for cooperating with warrantless searches.  

    CALEA, as well as FISA, need to amended to clarify

    1994:

    FISA is codified in 50 U.S.C. §§1801-1811, 1821-29, 1841-46, and 1861-62.

    •  This is important (9+ / 0-)

      On one hand, If the TelCos broke the law by agreeing to give the data to the government they should be prosecuted. Though I would go after the executives who allowed this to happen. I see no benefit to us if ATT was forced out of business.

      On the other hand, if they had no legal choice but to turn over the data, or if the laws are conflicting as you suggest, I blame congress for failing to legislate in a manner that protects our privacy, as well as for leaving the TelCos in a no-win situation.

      A special prosecutor is needed, though I wonder how far they could get as the White House is not exactly forthcoming in turning over information.

      01-20-09: THE END OF AN ERROR

      by kimoconnor on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 10:02:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I may disagree... (7+ / 0-)

        I see no benefit to us if ATT was forced out of business.

        I would, if it meant the alternative would become mass-market adoption of strong-encrypted open-source VoIP over WiFi/WiMAX mesh networking.

        But then again, that's just me...

        •  While that sounds cool... (8+ / 0-)

          AT&T does employ thousands of people (like myself) who had nothing to do with the wiretapping. Let's punish the responsible individuals, but let's not throw the baby out with the bath water.

          Just impeach 'em already.

          by itsjim on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 11:10:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I couldn't disagree more! (14+ / 0-)

            Frankly, if AT&T violated the law and illegally turned over our/my communications to the government then a crime was committed. Not an oversight, but a crime. If it was the CEO and the Board of Directors of AT&T that made that decision then the company and those who made those decisions, along with the stockholders, deserve the punishment.

            I don't find it any different than the illegal decisions made by Enron that bankrupted the company and caused thousands to lose their jobs and thousands more their pensions. If you want the company you work for to be protected from lawsuits for the sole benefit of protecting your job, then corporations will only gain more and more control over our lives. You are setting up a situation where all a company has do is utter the words "Think about all of our employees" and they get a blank check to do whatever illegal activity they want.

            Sorry, but if the company you work for commits a crime, particularly one against millions of Americans, they deserve to be sued out of existance and those that made the decisions should be tried, convicted and imprisoned for the damage they did to the American people, their shareholders and their employees.

            You won't be out of work long. There will be another company to replace AT&T and they too will require workers with your skill set. Hopefully, the company that replaces them will adhere to the rule of law. To say that a company should be protected from lawsuits to save the jobs of its employees would set a very, very bad precedent!!!

            Attention Waxman Staffers! Clean up on aisle 1600! huttotex 3/27/07

            by reflectionsv37 on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 02:04:39 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not sure I understand. (5+ / 0-)

              Why should I be out of work at all? I didn't break any laws. In fact, I was probably spied on just like you. Decisions aren't made by a "company." They're made by individuals. "Enron" didn't make decisions that bankrupted the company, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling did. The company that I work for did not commit a crime. Individuals, who also work for the company, did.

              I agree that "...those that made the decisions should be tried, convicted and imprisoned for the damage they did to the American people..." But, suing the company out of existence punishes, literally, a couple hundred thousand people for the acts of a few.

              Certainly my interest in this is more parochial than most, but damn, I have car payments and a mortgage, and a kid in college just like everyone else.

              Just impeach 'em already.

              by itsjim on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 02:43:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I feel for ya... (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                drational

                When that movie Who Killed the Electric Car came out, there were people around here who wanted GM to just go out of business.  That's foolish. Many of us actually worked on the same electric car and took great pride in it. Why should we be punished due to stupidity of the people in charge?  I really empathize.  

                A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

                by dougymi on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 04:40:54 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Sorry Jim! (5+ / 0-)

                The discussion here is about granting AT&T, and other telecoms, immunity from lawsuits arising from the possibility/probability that they broke the law. At this point, we don't even know what type of harm may have come to some people who were illegally spied upon and had their data turned over to the government.

                This is just hypothetical, but lets say that some of that data that was turned over to the government caused an innocent citizen to be put on a watchlist. Let's further hypothesize that because of that, the FBI started an investigation and began inquiries of that persons employer who subsequently fired the employee because of those inquiries. That individual would be legally damaged by the actions of the company for illegally breaking the law and likely breach of contract also by not keeping their agreement to keep their clients information private.

                It's unfortunate, but IMHO, those most liable for these damages would be the shareholders who elected the board of directors, who in turn appointed the CEO and other top ranking officers. If the CEO allowed this, then he did so as the chief representative of the company. He also very likely did this with the approval of the board of directors making them just as responsible. If the company can not be held responsible for the actions and decisions of its chief officers, then how else can it be held responsible?

                Why should the government jump in to protect shareholders and as you pointed out employees, because of the decisions of upper management? If this type of protection gets handed to AT&T for their criminal acts, then how can we ever again hold a company responsible for any of its actions? I'm sure corporate America will be all for this protection, because once the telecoms get it, it will be only a matter of time until the same precedent is used to shield other companies from criminal activities.

                Attention Waxman Staffers! Clean up on aisle 1600! huttotex 3/27/07

                by reflectionsv37 on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 05:15:39 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  I should probably add... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                crystaljim, Executive Odor

                on more thought on this. If, in fact, it was proven that AT&T broke the law and because of the crimes committed many people were damaged by their actions and they sued and won and somehow AT&T became insolvent, I think the employees of the company would have a right to also sue AT&T because their criminal activities also affected them.

                I think this comes down to a very basic rule of law. If companies are granted immunity for certain violations of the law then there is no rule of law. Companies can do anything they want as long as they have someone to blame.

                If the CEO of Mattel Corporation knowing allowed the Chinese manufacturers to use lead in the paint on the toys it contracts to manufacture (to help reduce costs) and 100 children die because of it, do you really believe there are circumstances where the company shouldn't be held responsible? Granting AT&T immunity would be opening Pandora's box to a whole host of other abuses in the future!

                Attention Waxman Staffers! Clean up on aisle 1600! huttotex 3/27/07

                by reflectionsv37 on Tue Sep 18, 2007 at 05:33:45 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Well... (0+ / 0-)

                  I never suggested immunity -- that was your straw man. However, I suspect that there is some equitable ground between immunity and the death penalty. Forgive me for not being ideologically pure on this one. Even setting aside my own vested interest, I think this case will prove to be complex and legally groundbreaking. I also believe that applying such black/white thinking to it would be disasterous.

                  Just impeach 'em already.

                  by itsjim on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 05:02:52 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I don't really think that was... (0+ / 0-)

                    a straw man argument but to view this in a slightly different way, you claim that only a few people are guilty in this and that the employees of AT&T had no role. I agree with that to a point, but would argue that this did not happen by "only" a handful of people. I just can't see how this wasn't known by a number of mid level managers and likely even technicians. You just don't go and start building rooms and connecting new equipment without employees asking questions. Unfortunately, only one of AT&T's employees came forward and blew the whistle, when in fact, everyone that knew of this illegal activity should have come forward. Even to this day, we only have one that I'm aware of.

                    Although you were not aware of this, many other "employees" of the company were. And rather than do the right thing and expose the criminality, they did what so many employees do, they turned their head and looked the other way to protect their own jobs and livelyhoods. When that type of atmosphere takes over in a "company" it's time for the company to be held responsible for its actions. And the actions, or in this case the inactions, of it's employees!

                    Sorry, but I hope At&T goes down hard along with Verizon and any others that aided the government in these crimes. And to those other companies that defied the government and followed the law, I hope they succeed and benefit from AT&T's poor judgement!

                    Attention Waxman Staffers! Clean up on aisle 1600! huttotex 3/27/07

                    by reflectionsv37 on Wed Sep 19, 2007 at 12:07:46 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

          •  That was my thought. (0+ / 0-)

            Go after the ATT executives who are responsible for breaking the law. Why punish thousands of people just trying to pay their bills?

            01-20-09: THE END OF AN ERROR

            by kimoconnor on Thu Sep 20, 2007 at 12:46:15 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  May I suggest that the ambiguity is not entirely (4+ / 0-)

        unintentional.

        CALEA allows Telcos to simply divert their data to Trusted Third Parties (TTPs), companies set up as intermediaries with NSA.

        This use of a "cut-out" makes it very difficult to successfully prosecute or sue Telco execs for actions taken by TTPs, such as releasing data to NSA  without a warrant, unless it can be shown that the Telco was aware of that release and did not perform due diligence to protect the customer from warrantless searches.

        I believe the TSP involved the mass, warrantless harvesting of data held by TTPs as well as some of the data held by some of the Telcos, themselves.

        There's a similar sharing arrangement between the Internet domain registries and NSA.  See,

        Did Telcos Hire "Scapegoat" To Give NSA Phone Records?
        Lockheed-Martin is also prime contractor on the NSA Groundbreaker Project, leveymg, May-20-06 11:39 AM, #29. The Timing of their Press Release was VERY ...
        http://www.democraticunderground.com... - 137k - Cached - Similar pages

        Does possible Telco scapegoat Neustar, Inc. have White House ...
        US domain name was recently registered with NeuStar, Inc. This site is ... NeuStar is a major hub of the privatized NSA, leveymg, May-20-06 08:23 AM, #14 ...
        http://www.democraticunderground.com... - 251k - Cached - Similar pages
        [ More results from www.democraticunderground.com ]

        Daily Kos: How NSA Uses Private Companies to Spy On You.
        by leveymg. Fri May 26, 2006 at 08:36:07 AM PDT. NSA Scandal (Pt. ... reported that the NSA similarly employs NeuStar, the top .us and .biz Internet domain ...
        www.dailykos.com/story/2006/5/26/11367/6684 - 20k - Cached - Similar pages

        Daily Kos: NSA SCANDAL: NeuStar - Telcom Scapegoat or NSA Front ...
        NSA SCANDAL: NeuStar - Telcom Scapegoat or NSA Front Company? by leveymg ... It also operates the entire .us and .biz domain name registries, ...
        http://www.dailykos.com/... - 37k - Cached - Similar pages
        [ More results from www.dailykos.com ]

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