Department of Justice helping AT&T getting around PESKY WIRETAPPING LAWS.
The airwaves are not safe! We are going to need to take our communications to broad-band telepathy. You know, we must don our aluminum plated salad bowl helmets and transmit that way. ‘Cause the rest of the avenues are being watched. Legal or not.
Internal government documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Centerhave revealed that the US Department of Justice is secretly helping AT&T and other service providers evade wiretapping laws so that the US government can conduct surveillance on parts of their networks. The legal immunity comes from authorizations granted by the Justice Department through special “2511” letters that absolve carriers in the event that the surveillance is found to run afoul of federal law.
The authorization program began as a narrow cybersecurity effort to monitor government defense contractors, but has been expanded to cover critical infrastructure like energy, finance, and health care, CNET reports. Normally, the Wiretap Act prohibits such eavesdropping, unless it’s necessary to the functioning of the service or unless the user gives his or her consent to be monitored. EPIC’s executive director Mark Rotenberg says “Alarm bells should be going off.”
But rather than changing the law, the secret authorizations simply allow the service provider to enter an agreement with the Justice Department ensuring that they won’t be prosecuted. Besides AT&T, at least one other company appears to have taken part int he program, CenturyLink. Reached for comment by CNET, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said, in part, “In order to protect privacy while safeguarding and securing cyberspace, DHS institutes layered privacy responsibilities throughout the department, embeds fair practice principles into cybersecurity programs and privacy compliance efforts, and fosters collaboration with cybersecurity partners.”
It won’t be the first time that AT&T cooperated so directly with law enforcement. It was given retroactive immunity for its role in NSA surveillance programs under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. That law was passed two years after AT&T technician Mark Klein revealed evidence that the telecom had cooperated with the NSA, installing routing equipment inside a secret room at a network hub in San Francisco.
Several court cases have attempted to challenge these surveillance activities, but so far none have resulted in a constitutional ruling. What’s more, the secret 2511 authorizations may not even be necessary in the near future: if signed into law, CISPA, “would formally authorize the program,” CNET reports.