About the rampant spying in the U.S.

March 20, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More

From Electronic Frontier Foundation:

EFF has obtained whistleblower evidence [PDF] from former AT&T technician Mark Klein showing that AT&T is cooperating with the illegal surveillance. The undisputed documents show that AT&T installed a fiberoptic splitter at its facility at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco that makes copies of all emails, web browsing, and other Internet traffic to and from AT&T customers, and provides those copies to the NSA. This copying includes both domestic and international Internet activities of AT&T customers. As one expert observed, “this isn’t a wiretap, it’s a country-tap.”

What is EFF?

From the Internet to the iPod, technologies are transforming our society and empowering us as speakers, citizens, creators, and consumers. When our freedoms in the networked world come under attack, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is the first line of defense. EFF broke new ground when it was founded in 1990 — well before the Internet was on most people’s radar — and continues to confront cutting-edge issues defending free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights today. From the beginning, EFF has championed the public interest in every critical battle affecting digital rights. Blending the expertise of lawyers, policy analysts, activists, and technologists, EFF achieves significant victories on behalf of consumers and the general public. EFF fights for freedom primarily in the courts, bringing and defending lawsuits even when that means taking on the US government or large corporations.

EFF offers this FAQ regarding its suit against AT&T.

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Category: Orwellian, Privacy, Secrecy

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Dave Jenkins says:

    Under US Code, title 50, order 1802, Jimmy Carter authorized electronic surveillance under the position of "National Security". That has since been amended and expanded several times– but it boils down to this: the NSA can wiretap all communications and record up to a certain amount of minutes. It then has xx days to "act" on any information gathered, or else it must throw away the data.

    I agree, the fiber-optic route tap is a wholesale wiretap of all communications. I'm of a mixed reaction on it:

    a) I don't commit crime so I don't really care (I know, I know.. first they came for the Jews…)

    b) I still have the courts if I want any evidence/data destroyed (unlikely); I still have the courts and due process if some of that _illegally_ gathered data punishes me or disenfranchises me in some way

    c) There is likely some benefit from the NSA trying to spot patterns in traffic.

    That last one is the only benefit to me as a citizen. Unfortunately, it's pretty weak, indirect, and tentative. In the end, in my mind I treat electronic communications much like I do my credit card number: yes, the mafia has my number (They always did), but inertia, lawsuits, and Visa corporation's insurance keeps it (relatively) safe. There's no absolute freedoms here anymore, unfortunately, unless you want to go off the grid (which is a voluntary choice).

    • Erich Vieth says:

      Good summary, Dave. I don't like the idea of the government getting too comfortable with my "private data." Yes, I don't have anything to hide (in the sense that I'm covering up any sort of crime), but what if the government started sharing information when they noticed that you were highly and publicly critical of the government, leading to ever increasing levels of scrutiny. In the old days, we assumed that your personal business was none of the government's damned business in the absence of probable cause that you committed a crime. We've already seen, however, that the U.S. has focused it's spying extra hard on anti-war protesters. And it still amazes me what our government has done to librarians (here the reaction of the American Library Association). On this topic of librarians, I've heard from a reliable source that at least one public library in Missouri has stopped maintaining records regarding books that patrons borrow and then return, in order that they simply don't have that information when the government comes knocking on the door to demand it.

      It does seem, that we are living in a new world with new rules and expectations. It is some comfort that most of us probably get lost among the masses of people who are being spied on. On the other hand, there is a lot of sensitive private information in many of our emails, including financial information and passwords. When I hear of new victims of identity theft, I do wonder whether those leaks might have originated as a result of fishing operations conducted by unaccountable government agencies. How could we possibly show otherwise? Further, I'm an attorney, and many of my emails concern privileged and confidential information regarding my clients. How could I possibly be assured anymore that this secret information isn't being misused by a renegade government employee?

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    From the ACLU blog:

    "In a huge victory for privacy and the rule of law, a federal appeals court today reinstated our landmark lawsuit challenging the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), a statute that gives the executive branch virtually unchecked power to collect Americans' international e-mails and telephone calls.

    The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of a broad coalition of attorneys and human rights, labor, legal and media organizations whose work requires them to engage in sensitive and sometimes privileged telephone and e-mail communications with colleagues, clients, journalistic sources, witnesses, experts, foreign government officials and victims of human rights abuses located outside the United States."

    http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/victor

  3. Dave Jenkins says:

    I know the ACLU is doing their job when they:

    a) make me proud to be an American with a Bill of Rights

    b) make me furious that they are ruining America with all of their complaining and nit-picking

    c) both of the above.

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