Bad Connection

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Bad Connection

So now that Verizon is denying that they were "approached by NSA and entered into an arrangement to provide the NSA with data from its customers' domestic calls." They also emphatically declare that "media reports about Verizon are simply false." Bellsouth also makes very similar denials.

Interesting. Especially in light of this, also from Verizon's official statement:
"As the President has made clear, the NSA program he acknowledged authorizing against al-Qaeda is highly-classified. Verizon cannot and will not comment on the program.... Again, Verizon cannot and will not confirm or deny whether it has any relationship to the classified NSA program."
So did they or didn't they? If they did are they even allowed to say they did? There is range of possibilities here. Is there a way for them to share information with the NSA without defining their actions as "providing"? Or maybe they're setting themselves up to hang the blame on lower level employees? So that the official decision makers can say they didn't know about it and that they never complied with a formal request from the NSA?

Also, and this is the thing that jumps out at me the most, if USA Today's piece is 100% BS then why didn't the government come out and say so? Why haven't they denied it outright?

In fact they haven't really denied it at all, they quickly resort to claiming that they "do not listen" to the calls, that they weren't the only ones who knew about it, and that other people had been "briefed."
Two judges on the secretive court that approves warrants for intelligence surveillance were told of the broad monitoring programs that have raised recent controversy, a Republican senator [Orrin Hatch] said Tuesday.

President George W. Bush, meanwhile, insisted the government does not listen in on domestic telephone conversations among ordinary Americans. But he declined to specifically discuss the alleged compiling of phone records, or whether that would amount to an invasion of privacy.
Bush was asked Tuesday about the reported lists of calls.

"We do not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval," Bush said.

He appeared to acknowledge the NSA sweep of phone records indirectly, saying that the program referred to by a questioner "is one that has been fully briefed to members of the United States Congress in both political parties."

"They're very aware of what is taking place. The American people expect their government to protect them within the laws of this country and I'm going to continue to do just that," Bush said.
So Bush doesn't deny that the mega NSA database exists, various members of the government are asserting that judges and members of congress had been briefed, but neither BellSouth or Verizon "provided" the NSA with their records? It seems possible that much of their argument hangs on how they are defining the word "provide" as well as how they might have been asked and who might have complied with such a request.

Keep in mind that Verizon, Bellsouth and AT&T all have a very serious problem on their hands if they did "provide" the government with their records without a warrant and are facing a $200 billion dollar lawsuit for violating the Telecommunications Act of 1934. So while seems highly unlikely that they're actually lying-- that makes no sense legally-- there is something about this whole story that just doesn't add up.

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