Thursday, May 11, 2006


Osama in Rocky Mountains?

Perhaps Osama is holed up in a mountainous tribal region where even the telephone companies are not controlled by federal authorities? I've got it! Bush can't find Osama because Qwest won't cooperate!

Thanks to USA Today, we now know that Qwest is the one major US telco that has refused to cooperate with warrantless NSA spying. Leslie Cauley has the major detailed scoop. She writes,
One major telecommunications company declined to participate in the program: Qwest.

According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that Qwest didn't need a court order — or approval under FISA — to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers' information and how that information might be used.

Financial implications were also a concern, the sources said. Carriers that illegally divulge calling information can be subjected to heavy fines. The NSA was asking Qwest to turn over millions of records. The fines, in the aggregate, could have been substantial.
Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.
Elsewhere in the article, intrepid reporter Cauley discovers:

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime.

"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.

The three telecommunications companies [AT&T, Verizon & BellSouth] are working under contract with the NSA . . . The sources said the NSA made clear that it was willing to pay for the cooperation.

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. "In other words," Bush explained, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States." . . . [but] . . . Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans.

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Or perhaps this is Qwest's plan for dominance.

Section 222 of the Communications Act prohibits carriers from divulging customer information "except as required by law" It is unclear if an executive order is law, but this President may be going down anyway.

The fines start at $1k per customer with prison time in many cases.

(suggested by a friend - I am not a lawyer or familiar with the CA)
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