I wasn’t imagining that I would have had a problem with Colorado’s newest senator on this issue, but lo and behold he actually voted NOT to strike the provisions providing immunity. Just to be clear as it’s a double negative, this means he voted to keep Telephone Companies (Telco) immunity in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2007. (To find out if your Senator did likewise, look for Nay’s here)
What this means is that the government is saying AT&T and others are not liable for any action taken after 9/11 during which the NSA and others tapped at their largest junction in NY and San Francisco without a warrant, without court authorization, and in violation of the privacy laws that govern citizens of the United States. They effectively “tapped the internet” as those two points connect the traffic to the rest of the world and in doing so tapped US Citizens. (Citizens that are not o the US of A are fair game without any authorization in the first place)
If you are in Colorado (or a state with a dumb Senator) tell Salazar your not happy with him! Go to http://salazar.senate.gov
This is the short description of the lawsuit the Telco’s are afraid of, filed by the Electronic Frontiers Foundation in San Francisco:
The lawsuits alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers’ communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit’s class members.
The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte “Daytona” database of caller information — one of the largest databases in the world. Moreover, by opening its network and databases to wholesale surveillance by the NSA, EFF alleges that AT&T has violated the privacy of its customers and the people they call and email, as well as broken longstanding communications privacy laws.
The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T continues to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of Americans. EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government’s domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public.
The FISA Amendment Act of 2007 has previously passed the House without the Telco Immunity in it. It’s now passed the Senate with Telco Immunity in it. Senate version must be now be reconciled with a House version in conference committee, so there is still a chance this won’t pass, but it seems likely to go to the president’s desk. Bush has threated to veto the bill if it doesn’t have immunity in it.
Possibly of more concern is that this bill “also largely legalizes Bush’s secret wiretapping program, by letting the NSA spy inside American telecom and internet infrastructure without getting court approval or having particular targets in mind” (from Wired Magazine’s Threat Level). This means US Citizen as well as Foreign Citizens could be targeted without a warrant. Currently the Justice Department can tap for upto one year without court order and substantiating that US Citizens are not targeted. It’s unclear to me how the FISA Amendment Act of 2007 bill changes this requirement.
The primary problem with FISA is the lack of accountability and potential for abuse. Although it’s targeted at Intelligence gathering, it can be used for criminal prosecutions both concerning US Citizens and Foreign Citizens.
Please jump up and down in your various congressional representative’s home office. Even if you don’t agree with me, don’t be afraid to go talk to your congressmen.
Track the bill in congress (This is 1-2 days behind)
A FAQ on the FISA Act
Wired’s description of how NSA tapping works
The EFF description of the class action lawsuit
PBS’s Frontline did a show called Spying on the Homefront that describes the some of the telco tapping.