BellSouth Denies Giving Records To NSA

May 16, 2006

Senators Frist and Lott apparently believe that if you "aren't doing anything wrong" you should not be worried about being illegally wiretapped.  So much for preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution.  I wonder of they think only guilty people "pleed the fifth"?  Perhaps they shuld both enroll in a remedial constitutional law class?

–DS

From CNN:

Despite media reports to the contrary, BellSouth said late Monday it had not participated in any effort by the National Security Agency to collect customer phone records.

"We have provided no customer information whatsoever to the NSA," said BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher.

In a statement released Monday, Atlanta-based BellSouth said it had conducted an internal review after reports surfaced last week that the company and two other telecommunications firms, Verizon and AT&T, had provided information to the NSA.

"Based on our review to date, we have confirmed no such contract [with the NSA] exists, and we have not provided bulk customer calling records to the NSA," the statement said.

The newspaper USA Today reported Thursday the companies had provided the NSA with records of billions of domestic phone calls since shortly after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

According to the report, the NSA does not record or listen to the conversations, but uses data about the calls — numbers, times and locations — to look for patterns that might suggest terrorist activity. (Full story)

Bush: Privacy 'fiercely protected'

In the wake of the report, President Bush and other administration officials neither confirmed nor denied the existence of such a program.

But Bush insisted that NSA intelligence activities are lawful and target only suspected al Qaeda operatives.

"The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval," he said Thursday. "The privacy of ordinary Americans is being fiercely protected."

Verizon and AT&T each issued statements saying they could neither confirm nor deny they had given customer records to the NSA.

Both companies insisted, however, that data would have been provided only with safeguards to protect customers' privacy.

According to the USA Today report, Qwest, a Denver, Colorado-based telecommunications company, refused to cooperate with the program.

In March, San Antonio, Texas-based AT&T announced it would acquire BellSouth in a $67 billion deal that will create the nation's biggest phone company.

Calls for hearings

Lawmakers from both parties said the USA Today report raised new questions about the extent of the administration's surveillance efforts.

Some warned it could complicate Bush's nomination of Gen. Michael Hayden, a former NSA director, to replace Porter Goss as head of the CIA.

Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he would call phone company executives to testify about their involvement.

Specter has complained the administration has been reluctant to provide details of the previously known surveillance program since its disclosure in December.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, told reporters he "strongly" agrees with Bush and said, "We'll discuss whether hearings are necessary." Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi said Specter should back off his call for hearings.

"What are people worried about? What is the problem?" asked Lott, a former majority leader. "Are you doing something you're not supposed to?"

Hayden, now deputy national intelligence director, faces a confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee for the CIA post on Thursday.

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, a member of the Judiciary Committee and the Intelligence Committee, said Thursday's disclosure presented "a growing impediment" to his nomination.

"I happen to believe we are on our way to a major constitutional confrontation on Fourth Amendment guarantees of unreasonable search and seizure," said Feinstein, who had expressed no reservations about Hayden earlier this week.

White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said the Bush administration would continue to push Hayden's nomination "full steam ahead."

"All I would want to say is that everything that NSA does is lawful and very carefully done, and that the appropriate members of Congress, the House and Senate, are briefed on all NSA activities," Hayden said last week.

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NSA Whistleblower To Testify Before Senate

May 14, 2006

NSA Whistleblower To Expose More Unlawful Activity: ‘People…Are Going To Be Shocked’

CongressDaily reports that former NSA staffer Russell Tice will testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee next week that not only do employees at the agency believe the activities they are being asked to perform are unlawful, but that what has been disclosed so far is only the tip of the iceberg. Tice will tell Congress that former NSA head Gen. Michael Hayden, Bush’s nominee to be the next CIA director, oversaw more illegal activity that has yet to be disclosed:

A former intelligence officer for the National Security Agency said Thursday he plans to tell Senate staffers next week that unlawful activity occurred at the agency under the supervision of Gen. Michael Hayden beyond what has been publicly reported, while hinting that it might have involved the illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens. …

[Tice] said he plans to tell the committee staffers the NSA conducted illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens while he was there with the knowledge of Hayden. … “I think the people I talk to next week are going to be shocked when I tell them what I have to tell them. It’s pretty hard to believe,” Tice said. “I hope that they’ll clean up the abuses and have some oversight into these programs, which doesn’t exist right now.” …

Tice said his information is different from the Terrorist Surveillance Program that Bush acknowledged in December and from news accounts this week that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of millions of Americans. “It’s an angle that you haven’t heard about yet,” he said. … He would not discuss with a reporter the details of his allegations, saying doing so would compromise classified information and put him at risk of going to jail. He said he “will not confirm or deny” if his allegations involve the illegal use of space systems and satellites.

Tice has a history for blowing the whistle on serious misconduct. He was one of the sources that revealed the administration’s warrantless domestic spying program to the New York Times.


Telecom Giants Face Billions In Suits

May 14, 2006

From The NY Times:

The former chief executive of Qwest, the nation's fourth-largest phone company, rebuffed government requests for the company's calling records after 9/11 because of "a disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process," his lawyer said yesterday.

The statement on behalf of the former Qwest executive, Joseph P. Nacchio, followed a report that the other big phone companies — AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon — had complied with an effort by the National Security Agency to build a vast database of calling records, without warrants, to increase its surveillance capabilities after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Those companies insisted yesterday that they were vigilant about their customers' privacy, but did not directly address their cooperation with the government effort, which was reported on Thursday by USA Today. Verizon said that it provided customer information to a government agency "only where authorized by law for appropriately defined and focused purposes," but that it could not comment on any relationship with a national security program that was "highly classified."

Legal experts said the companies faced the prospect of lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in damages over cooperation in the program, citing communications privacy legislation stretching back to the 1930's. A federal lawsuit was filed in Manhattan yesterday seeking as much as $50 billion in civil damages against Verizon on behalf of its subscribers.

For a second day, there was political fallout on Capitol Hill, where Senate Democrats intend to use next week's confirmation hearings for a new C.I.A. director to press the Bush administration on its broad surveillance programs.

As senior lawmakers in Washington vowed to examine the phone database operation and possibly issue subpoenas to the telephone companies, executives at some of the companies said they would comply with requests to appear on Capitol Hill but stopped short of describing how much would be disclosed, at least in public sessions.

"If Congress asks us to appear, we will appear," said Selim Bingol, a spokesman at AT&T. "We will act within the laws and rules that apply."

Qwest was apparently alone among the four major telephone companies to have resisted the requests to cooperate with the government effort. A statement issued on behalf of Mr. Nacchio yesterday by his lawyer, Herbert J. Stern, said that after the government's first approach in the fall of 2001, "Mr. Nacchio made inquiry as to whether a warrant or other legal process had been secured in support of that request."

"When he learned that no such authority had been granted, and that there was a disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process," Mr. Nacchio concluded that the requests violated federal privacy requirements "and issued instructions to refuse to comply."

The statement said the requests continued until Mr. Nacchio left in June 2002. His departure came amid accusations of fraud at the company, and he now faces federal charges of insider trading.

The database reportedly assembled by the security agency from calling records has dozens of fields of information, including called and calling numbers and the duration of calls, but nothing related to the substance of the calls. But it could permit what intelligence analysts and commercial data miners refer to as "link analysis," a statistical technique for investigators to identify calling patterns in a seemingly impenetrable mountain of digital data.

The law governing the release of phone company data has been modified repeatedly to grapple with changing computer and communications technologies that have increasingly bedeviled law enforcement agencies. The laws include the Communications Act, first passed in 1934, and a variety of provisions of the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act, including the Stored Communications Act, passed in 1986.

Wiretapping — actually listening to phone calls — has been tightly regulated by these laws. But in general, the laws have set a lower legal standard required by the government to obtain what has traditionally been called pen register or trap-and-trace information — calling records obtained when intelligence and police agencies attached a specialized device to subscribers' telephone lines.

Those restrictions still hold, said a range of legal scholars, in the face of new computer databases with decades' worth of calling records. AT&T created such technology during the 1990's for use in fraud detection and has previously made such information available to law enforcement with proper warrants.

Orin Kerr, a former federal prosecutor and assistant professor at George Washington University, said his reading of the relevant statutes put the phone companies at risk for at least $1,000 per person whose records they disclosed without a court order.

"This is not a happy day for the general counsels" of the phone companies, he said. "If you have a class action involving 10 million Americans, that's 10 million times $1,000 — that's 10 billion."

The New Jersey lawyers who filed the federal suit against Verizon in Manhattan yesterday, Bruce Afran and Carl Mayer, said they would consider filing suits against BellSouth and AT&T in other jurisdictions.

"This is almost certainly the largest single intrusion into American civil liberties ever committed by any U.S. administration," Mr. Afran said. "Americans expect their phone records to be private. That's our bedrock governing principle of our phone system." In addition to damages, the suit seeks an injunction against the security agency to stop the collection of phone numbers.

Several legal experts cited ambiguities in the laws that may be used by the government and the phone companies to defend the National Security Agency program.

"There's a loophole," said Mark Rasch, the former head of computer-crime investigations for the Justice Department and now the senior vice president of Solutionary, a computer security company. "Records of phones that have called each other without identifying information are not covered by any of these laws."

Civil liberties lawyers were quick to dispute that claim.

"This is an incredible red herring," said Kevin Bankston, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy rights group that has sued AT&T over its cooperation with the government, including access to calling records. "There is no legal process that contemplates getting entire databases of data."

The group sued AT&T in late January, contending that the company was violating the law by giving the government access to its customer call record data and permitting the agency to tap its Internet network. The suit followed reports in The New York Times in December that telecommunications companies had cooperated with such government requests without warrants.

A number of industry executives pointed to the national climate in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks to explain why phone companies might have risked legal entanglement in cooperating with the requests for data without warrants.

An AT&T spokesman said yesterday that the company had gotten some calls and e-mail messages about the news reports, but characterized the volume as "not heavy" and said there were responses on both sides of the issue.

Reaction around the country also appeared to be divided.

Cathy Reed, 45, a wealth manager from Austin, Tex., who was visiting Boston, said she did not see a problem with the government's reviewing call logs. "I really don't think it matters," she said. "I bet every credit card company already has them."

Others responded critically. Pat Randall, 63, a receptionist at an Atlanta high-rise, said, "Our phone conversations are just personal, and to me, the phone companies that cooperated, I think we should move our phone services to the company that did not cooperate."

While the telephone companies have both business contracts and regulatory issues before the federal government, executives in the industry yesterday dismissed the notion that they felt pressure to take part in any surveillance programs. The small group of executives with the security clearance necessary to deal with the government on such matters, they said, are separate from the regulatory and government contracting divisions of the companies.


CIA Nominee Hayden Linked to MZM

May 9, 2006

From The TPM Muckraker:

While director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Michael V. Hayden contracted the services of a top executive at the company at the center of the Cunningham bribery scandal, according to two former employees of the company.

Hayden, President Bush's pick to replace Porter Goss as head of the CIA, contracted with MZM Inc. for the services of Lt. Gen. James C. King, then a senior vice president of the company, the sources say. MZM was owned and operated by Mitchell Wade, who has admitted to bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham with $1.4 million in money and gifts. Wade has also reportedly told investigators he helped arrange for prostitutes to entertain the disgraced lawmaker, and he continues to cooperate with a federal inquiry into the matter.

King has not been implicated in the growing scandal around Wade's illegal activities. However, federal records show he contributed to some of Wade's favored lawmakers, including $6000 to Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) and $4000 to Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL).

Before joining MZM in December 2001, King served under Hayden as the NSA's associate deputy director for operations, and as head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.

King worked at NSA Headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland, in 2004 and 2005, both sources told me. "King was out there working on same floor as Hayden," one former employee with firsthand knowledge of the arrangement said. "He was doing special projects for Hayden as an MZM employee." Neither former employee knew details of King's work for Hayden; one said he thought he was doing "special projects" for the director, while the other speculated it was "high-ranking advisory work."

The NSA did not immediately respond to my request for comment. Hayden left the NSA in April 2005 to take the post of Deputy Director of National Intelligence. The DNI office referred my call on the matter to the NSA.

As an MZM employee, King was involved in a number of controversial projects. In 2002, he was a key adviser to the team creating CIFA, the Pentagon's domestic surveillance operation. In 2004, he was one of three MZM staffers who worked on the White House Robb-Silberman Commission, which recommended expanding CIFA's powers.

NSA is home to its own controversial project, of course — the post-9/11 warrantless domestic wiretapping operation known as the "terrorist surveillance program." There is no indication that King has been involved in that project.

"I don't see anything nefarious" about King's work for Hayden, one employee told me, although he conceded he did not know what projects King worked on. "I think Hayden needed help."

King became president of MZM when Wade left the company in June 2005, following revelations he bribed Cunningham to win lucrative federal contracts. The company has since been sold and renamed Athena Innovative Solutions. It did not return my call for comment.


Bush Nominates Hayden To Head CIA

May 9, 2006

From Yahoo! News:

President Bush on Monday chose Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to lead the embattled CIA, re-igniting a debate over the domestic surveillance program that the one-time head of the National Security Agency once ran.

Republican and Democratic critics also questioned the wisdom of putting a military officer in charge of the civilian spy agency.

“Mike Hayden is supremely qualified for this position,” Bush said in the Oval Office, with Hayden at his side. Without mentioning Hayden’s critics or their objections, the president said: “He knows the intelligence community from the ground up.”

If confirmed, Hayden would replace Porter Goss, who resigned under pressure Friday.

He said that Hayden “has been a provider and consumer of intelligence.”

To balance the CIA between military and civilian leadership, the White House plans to move aside the agency’s No. 2 official, Vice Admiral Albert Calland III, who took over as deputy director less than a year ago, two senior administration officials said. Other personnel changes also are likely, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the changes are not ready to announce.

Talk of Hayden’s nomination rekindled debate over the administration’s domestic surveillance program, which Hayden used to oversee as the former head of the National Security Agency.

“There’s probably no post more important in preserving our security and our values as people than the CIA,” Hayden said.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, said that to send a signal of independence from the Pentagon, Hayden “may want to consider retiring from the Air Force. That would put to rest questions about whether an active duty military officer should lead the CIA at this time.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said in advance that he would use a Hayden nomination to raise questions about the legality of the domestic surveillance program.

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said he was concerned that Hayden’s nomination would detract from the real issue of intelligence reform.

His sentiment was echoed by Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, who said Hayden’s military background would be a “major problem,” and by several Democrats.

Bush noted that Hayden was unanimously approved by the Senate for his current job — the nation’s No. 2 intelligence official.

National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, who oversees the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies, dismissed concerns about having an active military officer take over the civilian spy agency.

“Mike has both the breadth and depth of qualifications that are required for the position,” Negroponte said. He called Hayden “a very, very independent-minded person, blunt spoken, who I don’t think will have any difficulty whatsoever staking out positions that are independent and responsive to the needs of our civilian intelligence community.”

Many of Goss’ top aides were expected to soon leave the CIA. Executive Director Kyle “Dusty” Foggo has decided to retire, said an intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet public.

The FBI is investigating whether Foggo’s friend, defense contractor Brent Wilkes, provided prostitutes and hotel suites to a California congressman jailed for taking bribes in exchange for government contracts. Foggo is also under investigation by the CIA’s inspector general.

Bracing for a tough nomination fight, the White House took the unusual step of pre-empting Bush’s announcement with a defensive media blitz. “We think the issue is getting the best man for the job and the president has determined that Mike Hayden is the best man for the job,” national security adviser Stephen Hadley told The Associated Press. He also appeared on morning news shows before Bush formally announced his nomination of Hayden.

“He’ll be reporting to the president of the United States, not Don Rumsfeld,” the secretary of defense, Hadley said, adding that other military officers have led the CIA, Hadley said. “So the precedents are clear.”

White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Hayden would be the fifth CIA chief in uniform. “He has been viewed as a non-comformist and an independent thinker,” Bartlett said.

Hadley said that any nominee to lead the CIA would face questions about the controversial domestic surveillance program by the National Security Agency and that Hayden, the former director of the agency, was the best man to answer those questions.

If Hayden were confirmed, military officers would run all the major spy agencies, from the ultra-secret National Security Agency to the Defense Intelligence Agency.