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Verizon Admits to Illegally Spying On Over 700 Phone Calls

Christy Hardin Smith: In case you were wondering about the need for individual, particularized warrants for American citizens under FISA, wonder no more.
 
 
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This post, written by Christy Hardin Smith, originally appeared on FireDogLake

In case you were wondering about the need for individual, particularized warrants for American citizens under FISA, wonder no more:

...Verizon also disclosed that the FBI, using administrative subpoenas, sought information identifying not just a person making a call, but all the people that customer called, as well as the people those people called. Verizon does not keep data on this "two-generation community of interest" for customers, but the request highlights the broad reach of the government's quest for data.

The disclosures, in a letter from Verizon to three Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating the carriers' participation in government surveillance programs, demonstrated the willingness of telecom companies to comply with government requests for data, even, at times, without traditional legal supporting documents. The committee members also got letters from AT&T and Qwest Communications International, but those letters did not provide details on customer data given to the government. None of the three carriers gave details on any classified government surveillance program.

From January 2005 to September 2007, Verizon provided data to federal authorities on an emergency basis 720 times, it said in the letter. The records included Internet protocol addresses as well as phone data. In that period, Verizon turned over information a total of 94,000 times to federal authorities armed with a subpoena or court order, the letter said. The information was used for a range of criminal investigations, including kidnapping and child-predator cases and counter-terrorism investigations.

Verizon and AT&T said it was not their role to second-guess the legitimacy of emergency government requests.... ( emphasis mine )

Beyond the blatant attempt at fobbing this onto the government by playing the "we're just being patriotic and who are we to ask questions" game, playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with people's phone records without any third-party court review of the requests is an open door for abuse.

Multiply that across every telecommunications company in the United States and the number of years that the Bush Administration has been end-running the FISA court altogether using Patriot Act provisions that were meant as emergency situation stop-gaps (and not as everyday occurrances). Add in the fact that, as ex-Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio says, the Bush Administration was already pushing for these legal end-runs a full six months prior to 9/11/01 ...and you have a recipe for an Administration who could give a rat's ass about the rule of law, and which still didn't keep America safe from attack even with their end-run of FISA.

Christy Hardin Smith is a former attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy.