Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Fed up? What we can do now
"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added. -- USA Today

You know what? I've had enough.

I've had enough of hearing the latest invasion of our civil liberties and trashing of the United States Constitution. The Fourth Amendment isn't some quaint anachronism, it's the law of the land. The president of the United States is supposed to be a Constitutional officer, not Julius Caesar. He cannot wilfully violate the law simply because he wishes to, as part of his "war power." And the expectation of basic privacy -- in the library, in our homes, and for God's sake on the phone (let alone the expectation that we cannot be whisked away to a military brig in Cuba or elsewhere and held indefinitely without trial, then executed at the behest of the president alone, as Johnathan Turley just pointed out on Hardball as among Bush's self-claimed "unitary power...") seems to me to be as basic to our way of life as the principle of one person, one vote or freedom of worship. And how is it that the same right wingers who go ballistic at the thought of a gun database -- something that at least has a snowball's chance in hell of making a difference in tracking violent criminals and terrorists -- have no problem allowing the same federal government to amass a database of every American phone call within or external to the United States?

If BellSouth, Verizon and AT&T think they can just sell information about our private phone calls to the feds without repurcussions, I think it's time we showed them better. Show me the law firm who will take a class action suit against my provider, AT&T, and I will sign onto that lawsuit in a New York minute. By the way:
Under Section 222 of the Communications Act, first passed in 1934, telephone companies are prohibited from giving out information regarding their customers' calling habits: whom a person calls, how often and what routes those calls take to reach their final destination. Inbound calls, as well as wireless calls, also are covered.

The financial penalties for violating Section 222, one of many privacy reinforcements that have been added to the law over the years, can be stiff. The Federal Communications Commission, the nation's top telecommunications regulatory agency, can levy fines of up to $130,000 per day per violation, with a cap of $1.325 million per violation. The FCC has no hard definition of "violation." In practice, that means a single "violation" could cover one customer or 1 million. ...

Eventually, someone in some White House -- maybe even this one -- is gonna figure out that if you can data-mine to figure out who'se "talking to al-Qaida," you can also figure out...

...if reporter X is repeatedly calling prominent Democrats or the DNC...
...if Congressman Y has placed numerous calls to a phone number connected to prostitution (and oh, the bribery possibilities that presents...)
...if Senator Z has placed calls to a foreign ambassador known to oppose a U.S. foreign policy point...
...if television or magazine reporter Q has been called by Congressman Y, indicating possible leaking of information embarrasing to the president...
...who is repeatedly calling or taking calls from anti-war Group M ...

You see where I'm going? This program is ripe for abuse, and the NSA has proven that it definitely has abuse potential:
Created by President Truman in 1952, during the Korean War, the NSA is charged with protecting the United States from foreign security threats. The agency was considered so secret that for years the government refused to even confirm its existence. Government insiders used to joke that NSA stood for "No Such Agency."

In 1975, a congressional investigation revealed that the NSA had been intercepting, without warrants, international communications for more than 20 years at the behest of the CIA and other agencies. The spy campaign, code-named "Shamrock," led to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was designed to protect Americans from illegal eavesdropping.

Spying on the White House's political enemies has been proved repeatedly to be the FBI and Pentagon's bag, so why wouldn't it be so with the NSA? Michael Hayden isn't commenting...

Even more fundamentally, I was not consulted before a public corporation, AT&T, started turning over my records, and I don't choose to participate in Bush's data mining experiment. If the AJ Stratas of the world want to open up their phone records, personal computers and hell, their entire lives, to governmental scrutiny in exchange for some insipid pledge to "stop the next attack" (like this crowd is competent to do that, given that they failed to stop the last one despite a national intelligence estimate headlined "BIN LADEN DETERMINED TO ATTACK INSIDE THE UNITED STATES," let them opt in to a voluntary "anti-terror citizens program" and leave the rest of us alone. The phone companies have to get our permission before selling our personal data to telemarketers, and they should have to disclose to us that they may also be sharing our phone records with the government for the purposes of mass surveillance. Given Qwest's laudble non-compliance, participation in this program was clearly voluntary (in other words, the telcos did it in exchange for money.)

So I think it's time we Americans who are fed up with these serial abuses of our Constitution did something to fight back. And here's a three-point plan:

First, cancel your service with the participating providers and find a local landline or VOIP company to switch to.

Second, send your carrier a letter letting them know why you're quitting them.

Third, sue their behinds, class action style.

(and fourth: if you own stock in these companies, dump it.)

AT&T is history with me. My letter goes out tomorrow. Now all I need is a good lawyer.

Previous: Live free or dial

Tags: News and politics, NSA, domestic spying, Bush, USA Today, civil liberties, Constitution
posted by JReid @ 7:48 PM  
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