Spy Agency Sought U.S. Call Records Before 9/11, Lawyers Say
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June 30 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T
Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months
before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court
papers filed in New York federal court.
The allegation is part of a court filing adding AT&T, the nation's
largest telephone company, as a defendant in a breach of privacy case
filed earlier this month on behalf of Verizon Communications Inc. and
BellSouth Corp. customers. The suit alleges that the three carriers,
the NSA and President George W. Bush violated the Telecommunications
Act of 1934 and the U.S. Constitution, and seeks money damages.
``The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after
9/11,'' plaintiff's lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview.
``This undermines that assertion.''
The lawsuit is related to an alleged NSA program to record and store
data on calls placed by subscribers. More than 30 suits have been
filed over claims that the carriers, the three biggest U.S. telephone
companies, violated the privacy rights of their customers by
cooperating with the NSA in an effort to track alleged terrorists.
``The U.S. Department of Justice has stated that AT&T may neither
confirm nor deny AT&T's participation in the alleged NSA program
because doing so would cause `exceptionally grave harm to national
security' and would violate both civil and criminal statutes,'' AT&T
spokesman Dave Pacholczyk said in an e-mail.
U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Charles Miller and NSA spokesman
Don Weber declined to comment.
The NSA initiative, code-named ``Pioneer Groundbreaker,'' asked AT&T
unit AT&T Solutions to build exclusively for NSA use a network
operations center which duplicated AT&T's Bedminster, New Jersey
facility, the court papers claimed. That plan was abandoned in favor
of the NSA acquiring the monitoring technology itself, plaintiffs'
lawyers Bruce Afran said.
The NSA says on its Web site that in June 2000, the agency was
seeking bids for a project to ``modernize and improve its information
technology infrastructure.'' The plan, which included the
privatization of its ``non-mission related'' systems support, was
said to be part of Project Groundbreaker.
Mayer said the Pioneer project is ``a different component'' of that
Mayer and Afran said an unnamed former employee of the AT&T unit
provided them with evidence that the NSA approached the carrier with
the proposed plan. Afran said he has seen the worker's log book and
independently confirmed the source's participation in the project. He
declined to identify the employee.
On June 9, U.S. District Court Judge P. Kevin Castel in New York
stopped the lawsuit from moving forward while the Federal Judicial
Panel on Multidistrict Litigation in Washington rules on a U.S.
request to assign all related telephone records lawsuits to a single
Robert Varettoni, a spokesman for Verizon, said he was unaware of the
allegations against AT&T and declined to comment.
Earlier this week, he issued a statement on behalf of the company
that Verizon had not been asked by the NSA to provide customer phone
records from either its hard-wired or wireless networks. Verizon also
said that it couldn't confirm or deny ``whether it has any
relationship to the classified NSA program.''
Mayer's lawsuit was filed following a May 11 USA Today report that
the U.S. government was using the NSA to monitor domestic telephone
calls. Earlier today, USA Today said it couldn't confirm its
contention that BellSouth or Verizon had contracts with the NSA to
provide a database of domestic customer phone call records.
Jeff Battcher, a spokesman for Atlanta-based BellSouth, said that
vindicated the company.
``We never turned over any records to the NSA,'' he said in a
telephone interview. ``We've been clear all along that they've never
contacted us. Nobody in our company has ever had any contact with the
The case is McMurray v. Verizon Communications Inc., 06cv3650, in the
Southern District of New York.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Andrew Harris in Chicago at firstname.lastname@example.org
by James Plummer with Joshua M. Parker
July 5, 2006
Big Brother Watch is published by the Big Brother Watch Center, a project of the Liberty & Privacy Network, a 501(c)3 affiliated with Liberty Coalition. A website is forthcoming at www.watchingbigbrother.org
Claim: NSA began monitoring AT&T calls in Feb. 2001
Plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against AT&T and other phone companies have filed an amended complaint with some startling claims. The lawsuit concerns the companies' allowing the National Security Agency to monitor the phone calls of their customers without the customers' knowledge or consent.
Among the claims in the amended complaint filed June 23 (taken verbatim from court documents):
Within eleven (11) days of the onset of the Bush administration, and at least seven (7) months prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001, defendant ATT began development of a center for monitoring long distance calls and internet transmissions and other digital information for the exclusive use of the NSA.
The center was put into development by ATT following a proposal by the NSA for the construction and development of a network operations center identical to ATT's own network operations center located in Bedminster, New Jersey for the exclusive use of the NSA.
The NSA proposal sought construction of a duplicate ATT Network Operations Center for the exclusive use of the NSA with the capacity to monitor all calls and internet traffic placed on the ATT long distance network, as well as ATT's wide area, fiber optic, T-1, T-3, T-5 and high speed data networks.
Such a data center would also enable the NSA to tap into any call placed on the ATT network and to monitor the contents of all digital information transmitted over the ATT network.
Said data center would enable the NSA to tap into any phone line and to monitor any digital transfer of information on ATT's networks including voice telephone calls, facsimile transmission and all internet traffic.
The NSA program was code-named Pioneer-Groundbreaker and was also known at ATT Solutions division as GEMS (Groundb (Groundbreaker Enterprise System).
International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) was one of the parties working with ATT and the NSA to develop the monitoring center and IBM personnel participated in meetings with ATT and NSA officials in the development of the monitoring center.
Among the purposes of the Pioneer-Groundbreaker project was the storing and monitoring of all phone call information coming across ATT's networks; by means of this program NSA sought to duplicate all of the phone call information that came across ATT's networks for real time, contemporaneous analysis or, alternately, for downloading and later use by the NSA.
NSA sets its eyes on MySpace etc.
Online social networks such as MySpace are the latest target of the federal government and the National Security Agency, reports New Scientist .. A recent paper, Semantic Analytics on Social Networks, offers a means of attaining information about individuals by obtaining data from social network websites and other databases. The "semantic web" described in the article proposes to make it easier to unearth information about individuals by making incompatible data compatible through a common data structure referred to as the Resource Description Framework (RDF).
What's most alarming about the article is not so much the new technology, but one of the footnotes, which cites the Advanced Research Development Agency (ARDA) as contributing to the funding of the research paper. ARDA is part of the NSA, which has been the subject of a great deal of recent press for their invasive surveillance techniques. ARDA's name was recently changed to the Disruptive Technology Office (DTO). New Scientist points out the similarities between DTO's focus on social networks and the Total Information Awareness (TIA) initiative directed by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Projects research Agency (DARPA). TIA was supposed to track data trails, but due to public disapproval and privacy issues, the TIA was officially suspended in 2002.
Yet, the TIA's focus on data tracking appears to be not going away any time soon. The social networks that DTO is potentially going to be accessing tend to include personal information regarding age, sexuality, hobbies, drinking habits, and common activities. Therefore, with this social network information, the NSA has the ability to violate individual privacy on a much deeper level.
Spycams come to Dallas
The Dallas City Council voted last week to install 30 surveillance cameras downtown to keep an eye on its citizens. Details on the program were sparse in news reports, but a spokesman for the Dallas Police Department claimed "strict rules" were in place to forbid the cameras from looking into private residences and other private property.
An outfit called the Meadows Foundation will donate $700,000 towards the operation of the cameras.
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James Plummer -- email@example.com
Big Brother Watch Center
Liberty & Privacy Network