The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

AT&T Whistleblower on retroactive immunity

From TPMmuckraker:

Earlier today we flagged that Mark Klein, who uncovered a secret surveillance room run by the NSA while employed as a San Francisco-based technician for AT&T, is in Washington to lobby against granting retroactive legal immunity to telecommunications companies. In an interview this afternoon, Klein explained why he traveled all the way from San Francisco to lobby Senators about the issue: if the immunity provision passes, Americans may never know how extensive the surveillance program was -- or how deeply their privacy may have been invaded.

"The president has not presented this truthfully," said Klein, a 62-year old retiree. "He said it was about a few people making calls to the Mideast. But I know this physical equipment. It copies everything. There's no selection of anything, at all -- the splitter copies entire data streams from the internet, phone conversations, e-mail, web-browsing. Everything."

What Klein unearthed -- you can read it here -- points to a nearly unbounded surveillance program. Its very location in San Francisco suggests that the program was "massively domestic" in its focus, he said. "If they really meant what they say about only wanting international stuff, you wouldn't want it in San Francisco or Atlanta. You'd want to be closer to the border where the lines come in from the ocean so you pick up international calls. You only do it in San Francisco if you want domestic stuff. The location of this stuff contradicts their story."

That's what's at stake in the telecom immunity provision, Klein believes. If the surveillance-related lawsuits are invalidated by a provision in the intelligence-committee-passed FISA bill, then the extent of the program -- at least between 2001 and 2006 -- will remain the exclusive purview of the Bush administration, the communications firms and the handful of Senators selected to review legal justifications for the program. "These are not babes in woods. They knew what they were doing," Klein said. "The violation of the Constitution is where they split off -- where the splitter splits off full copies of a datastream, and connects to other companies' internet stuff, like Sprint or GlobalCrossing. They don’t want people to understand that. They want to portray it like the president does, that it's a handful of international phone calls. That's the soundbite, and that’s not true. It affects millions of people domestically."

Klein has been public with his insider account for nearly two years, with precious little publicity to show for it, thanks to the relative paucity of national media in San Francisco. Coming to Washington might have changed that: his day was packed with press calls and face time with at least a half-dozen Congressional staffers, mostly from Democratic Senators Joe Biden, Sheldon Whitehouse and Barbara Boxer. Press attention and one-on-ones in the corridors of power might be nice, he said, but it's not enough. "I'm not impressed by people with speeches pretending to be on your side," he said. "I want to see votes. In our favor."

The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the surveillance bill tomorrow.

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