Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Business As Usual

Were you really surprised?  After all that you've heard?

The scope of it, and the chutzpah, they're impressive.  But we're talking big gov and big biz.

AT &T records, going back to 1987.  Records of every call that's passed through an AT &T switching system, not just calls by AT &T customers.  Who, what, when, where.  4 billion new records added to the database every day.

Scott Shane and Colin Moynihan had the story in the Times.
For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.

The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.

The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.
As the government and AT &T spokespeople and a Columbia U lawprof describe it, it's just business as usual.  Of course, the description is dishonest.  As Mark Bennett points out, those subpoenas that AT &T claims it has to obey actually obligate AT &T to nothing.  And the claim that AT &T is a private entity holding all that data?  Sure, after a fashion.

Except the feds are paying AT &T for this.  And AT &T employees are "embedded" in the federal agency.  Which makes AT &T part of the government.  But then, really, it has been for decades.

The only surprise, once again, is the scope of the thing.  And that as a formal program with a cool name and decoder badge it's only been around since 2007.  See, if you'd been paying attention, even a little bit of attention, you'd have known.  Not the details, of course, but the idea.  After all, these are
routine investigative procedures used in criminal cases for decades.
Going after phone records of suspected criminals?
[A] bread-and-butter tactic in the course of criminal investigations.
Hell, haven't you watched The Wire

So now you know the details you've let yourself ignore all these years.  Government is spying on you.  It has been.  It will.  You might be able to stop it if you really cared, if you - not just you folks who read this, of course, but you the American people.  If you spoke up.  If you actually voted out of office every representative and senator who didn't immediately vote to terminate all funding for the DEA and then to override Obama's veto.  But you won't.

You won't.  Because you know that it really is business as usual.  That they're not doing anything new except doing it a shade faster because computers are faster than they used to be.  And because you won't think about it again.


And the one after that.

The wizard isn't working from behind the curtain.  He's out in the open.  He's been there for years. The Hemisphere Project began when Shrub was President.  It continues now.  It will continue whoever becomes President next.  Or after her.  There's nothing partisan about the government wanting to spy on its people, nothing partisan about the government actually managing to do it.  All parties.  All governments.  

Law of Rule.

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