NSA ‘scandal’ leak fallout continues – AT&T and Verizon being sued

There have been many fallouts from the NYTimes original ‘revelations’ regarding the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, fallouts that I’ll remind everyone of at the end of this post. Today, we learn that as a result of the USAToday’s rehashing of an old NYT story about NSA datamining, that Verizon is being sued. Via AP:

TRENTON, N.J. – Two New Jersey public interest lawyers sued Verizon Communications Inc. for $5 billion Friday, claiming the phone carrier violated privacy laws by turning over phone records to the National Security Agency for a secret government surveillance program.

Attorneys Bruce Afran and Carl Mayer filed the lawsuit Friday afternoon in federal district court in Manhattan, where Verizon is headquartered.

The lawsuit asks the court to stop Verizon from turning over any more records to the NSA without a warrant or consent of the subscriber.

“This is the largest and most vast intrusion of civil liberties we’ve ever seen in the United States,” Afran said of the NSA program.

USA Today reported on Thursday that the NSA has been building a database of millions of Americans’ everyday telephone calls since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Verizon, along with AT&T Corp. and BellSouth Corp., complied, the newspaper reported.

The lawsuit against AT&T has been ongoing since January of this year, thanks to the original NYT article on this ‘scandal’:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications.

In December of 2005, the press revealed that the government had instituted a comprehensive and warrantless electronic surveillance program that ignored the careful safeguards set forth by Congress. This surveillance program, purportedly authorized by the President at least as early as 2001 and primarily undertaken by the NSA, intercepts and analyzes the communications of millions of ordinary Americans.

In the largest “fishing expedition” ever devised, the NSA uses powerful computers to “data-mine” the contents of these Internet and telephone communications for suspicious names, numbers, and words, and to analyze traffic data indicating who is calling and emailing whom in order to identify persons who may be “linked” to “suspicious activities,” suspected terrorists or other investigatory targets, whether directly or indirectly.

But the government did not act-and is not acting-alone. The government requires the collaboration of major telecommunications companies to implement its unprecedented and illegal domestic spying program.

AT&T Corp. (which was recently acquired by the new AT&T, Inc,. formerly known as SBC Communications) maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans’ telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.

The lawsuit 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.

Needless to say, lawsuits such as these will likely hamper efforts in the future for our security agencies to get telecommunications companies to agree to datamining call patterns in search of unusual calling patterns that might be a link to potential terrorist activity.

What other fallouts have we experienced as a result of the overall leaking of the NSA warrantless wiretapping program? Let’s take a look:

One has to wonder: when we get attacked again – and I say when, not if, because I do believe it will happen again, will the people who cheered and lionized the jerks who leaked this information to the press continue to assert in the face of the obvious that “we were just doing our jobs as American citizens to keep our government honest!!!!!!!!!!!!”? If so, the response to that should be: “Oh hell no you weren’t. You deliberately targeted the administration’s policies on national security for political gain. Are you feeling good about that today?” (That’s the clean, ladylike version. The ‘street’ version isn’t suitable for posting on this blog.)

On a related note, Michelle Malkin and Bryan Preston visited the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, Maryland yesterday. Watch the video of her visit as she defends the NSA here. Good stuff.

Continuing blogger coverage of this latest NSA ‘scandal’ can be read at the following blogs: Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy, Blog For All, Betsy Newmark (who links to this defense of NSA datamining written by Richard Falkenrath – former deputy homeland security adviser and deputy assistant to the President)

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