Three top American telephone carriers -- Verizon, AT&T
and Qwest -- have set what some believe may be an alarming precedent in refusing
to turn over information on their wiretapping and snooping programs to the
A Congressional panel is investigating whether citizens' rights to privacy and
personal freedoms were violated by executive branch mandated snooping programs,
which allegedly monitor users' email and phone calls.
The phone companies claim they want to release the information, but
can't. They say that other branches of the government are preventing them
from releasing the information about the Bush administration's spy programs to
AT&T Inc. General Counsel Wayne Watts wrote a letter to the House Energy
and Commerce Committee stating, "Our company essentially finds itself
caught in the middle of an oversight dispute between the Congress and the
executive relating to government surveillance activities."
Congress had request three specific pieces of information. The first was
what information the carriers had turned over to government organizations
without warrant. The second question was whether they were compensated
for any such occurrences. The third question was whether they had
installed any equipment for the express purpose of intercepting user emails or
The three major carriers all claimed they were not at liberty to discuss any of
these details. All three carriers did
submit limited reports to Congress, which did not contain any of the
Representative Ed Markey, D. Massachusetts, leads the telecommunications
subcommittee and is among the congressional lawmakers frustrated by the carriers'
refusal and the executive branch's secrecy. He voiced his frustration in
a public statement. "The water is as murky as ever on this issue, and it's
past time for the administration to come clean."
AT&T stated that the Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell,
invoked the state secrets privilege to block the information request.
Qwest and Verizon say that the Justice Department is blocking the request.
Scott Stanzel, Whitehouse spokesman declined comment, as did Justice Department
spokesman, Dean Boyd.
Ross Feinstein, McConnell's spokesman, defended his actions stating that the
director had the power to oversee all intelligence activities, as per the 1947
National Security Act.
Verizon did provide Congress with one piece of information. It said that
the Bush administration asked it to find information on the "calling
circle" for specific telephone numbers, without warrant. Verizon
claims to have refused this request as it states that it does not have the
capabilities to gain such information.
Michael McConnell has tried to defend these carriers and said that they should
be given immunity from lawsuits and due process.
Currently AT&T and Verizon are the target of suits for providing customer
information to the government.
Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the Democrats' No. 2 Senate leader, has vowed
to fight giving these carriers immunity from due process of the law.
The Congressional inquiries follow a July temporary measure which allows spy
agencies to continue intercepting, without a court warrant, phone calls and
e-mails of suspected terrorists. The measure, named the "Protect
America Act of 2007" was covered here at DailyTech.
The Congress is researching the issue as it is mulling over new surveillance
House democrats are proposing legislation named the "RESTORE Act",
which would perpetuate certain warrantless surveillance for antiterrorism
purposes, but would impose clear limitations to the scope of the powers and a
rigid process to be followed. House republicans are largely opposed to
this measure as they would prefer more open ended powers and freedom from
The issue of spying is a thorny one. Phone companies are uncomfortable
with their customers finding out that they have been spied upon. The
government is uncomfortable with its citizens finding out they are being spied
upon. Yet, for better or worse, the Bush administration is pushing for
continued surveillance privileges as the Congress tries to limit and control
quote: Yet, for better or worse, the Bush administration is pushing for continued surveillance privileges as the Congress tries to limit and control these privileges.
quote: Another reason we should trust a thing
quote: Any argument of "That's not safe, we need to maintain security" is bunk. The information is of no threat to anyone if Congress is going over it. It doesn't need to be seen by the public;
quote: The Bush administration I would agree is not acting like a typical Conservative administration because spending has been out of control and not controlled by a typical fiscally conservative adminstration.But to say that they dont care how many of our people die is terrible. Of course they do, and for you to say that makes you just as bad as the extremist on the other side of the political spectrum.
quote: do not buy the liberal mumbo jumbo that MSNBC uses to brainwash its viewers.
quote: ABC, NBC, MSNBC, etc are extremely liberal media
quote: Ever think they got moved out of the country before we got there?
quote: A Pentagon official who confirmed the findings said that all the weapons were pre-1991 vintage munitions "in such a degraded state they couldn't be used for what they are designed for." ........The Iraqis were very capable of producing such shells in the 1980s but it's not as clear that they continued after the first Gulf War , so officials are reluctant to guess the age of the shell or the capacity of the Iraqis prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom to produce such shells.
quote: Boylan said the suspected lab was new, dating from some time after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 . The Bush administration cited evidence that Saddam Hussein's government was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction as the main justification for the invasion. No such weapons or factories were found.
quote: people like you are why we havent won a major war since ww2 ...stop being a little sissy and man up
quote: Terrorists weren't tolerated? Are you kidding me? The Iraqi army was pretty much a huge government funded terrorist group, except they attacked their own.
quote: The reason the UN didn't respond was because some of the top UN countries were too busy getting rich off of the food for oil program...
quote: we were attacked by Japan
quote: To hold an entire group of countries responsible for the actions of a few
quote: So basically any company who is a supplier of the government - including all of them well before the war - are now guilty of profitting off the the war?
quote: And of course the contractors are getting paid to be there....and they should be. They are not part of our volunteer army. I dont see the problem with them.
quote: polical garbage and accusations by the democratic party because they want to pull out of the war.
quote: Id rather pay taxes to be spyed on and for security than pay taxes to support a ghetto mom with 3 kids who trades her food stamps for crack.
quote: And how is raising the SCHIP bill to giving away insurance to families who make 80k/yr helping people want to work for their money instead of getting something for free?
quote: PS - Thank GWB (a Republican) in vetoing the SCHIP bill. There is nothing like taking healthcare dollars from children.
quote: The government is all for openness and honesty.
quote: Except NOT share files and NOT criticize Moveon.org.
quote: Yes a little off subject, but couldnt pass up the chance at a comment about these wackjob groups and who is associated with them.
quote: Do I think we should invade middle eastern countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity? Absolutely!
quote: she does bring about many good points.
quote: ...the Lanham Act has nothing to say when a trademark is being used by an “unauthorized third party” in connection with the assertion of political or ideological ideas. That is not a trademark use, and cannot be trademark infringement. Even if the trademark law did have something to say, the First Amendment would trump it.
quote: But to see the different branches fighting each other? Have you ever heard the saying that parents should never fight in front of their children?
quote: to what we all know to be illegal.
quote: If we didnt have so many liberals that were against kicking out all the people who are here illegally and reducing the number of people we allow into the country, then we wouldnt have as large of a problem. But, for example, when two middle eastern college aged kids get pulled over by a military base, hundreds of miles away from school, with bomb making materials in their car, then a liberal & civil rights lawyer wants to protect them, we have a problem.
quote: I agree that their are similarities between parties
quote: Conservative used to mean fiscal responsiblity, avoidance of conflict to the point of isolationism, and strict constitutionalism...defending people's constitutional freedoms.
quote: Now it stands for coorporate tax handouts, agressive foreign policy, big spending, and "overrides" of the constitution that lows infringment upon basic liberties, "for our own good".
quote: No, due process is needed, i agree 100%. But people who are not in this country legally do not have any rights at all.
quote: You say "a liberal & civil rights lawyer wants to protect them, we have a problem". - Once lawyer does not equal the entire "left" and due process is still a law in this country.
quote: They may well be terrorists, and hopefully the trial brings that proof out, not hard to do, what with pipe bombs in the trunk. For all you know the pipe bomb material was planted by a jealous ex girlfriend or other person that heted them, and the police were tipped by the same plant. Its highly doubtful, but a trial is warrented, and everyone gets a chance to tell thier side of the story. That is part of freedom in society.
quote: If you follow your philosophy of "if you do nothing wrong you have nothing to hide" then why does the government not publish its information on its spy programs? Secrecy is the refuge of deceit
quote: I haven't found any evidence in the intervening months that the surveillance program was illegal.... The lack of appropriate oversight—to catch any abuses in the absence of media attention—was a key reason I originally supported publication..
quote: They have accomplished nothing of substance since taking control last year - nothing. We have gone from bad to worse.
quote: I don't want Dumbya to have it, and I don't want Hillary to have it either.
quote: I'm a bit dissapointed that Gingrich could not run, because I think he would have made a great republican candidate.
quote: think a situation where the president (read executive) is effectively operating behind the back of the representatives of the people is very dangerous.