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American Dream Betrayed

Why The Close Collaboration Between The NSA And AT&T Matters

Newly disclosed documents unveiling the close relationship between the National Security Agency and AT&T could breathe new life into a long-running legal dispute about the NSA's controversial method of tapping the Internet backbone on U.S. soil.

NSA Spying Relies on AT&T's 'Extreme Willingness to Help'

The National Security Agency's ability to capture internet traffic on U. S. soil has been based on an extraordinary, decades-long partnership with a single company: AT&T. Read the story.

A Trail of Evidence Leading to AT&T's Partnership with the NSA

Documents provided by Edward Snowden mention a special relationship between the National Security Agency and an unnamed telecommunications company. Here's how we figured out that's AT&T. Read the story.
This program, according to documents provided by Edward Snowden, is largely enabled by telecom giant AT&T, which filters internet traffic, based on NSA instructions. AT&T then forwards the "take" to the spy agency's storage facilities for further review and analysis.

But a single e-mail traverses the Internet in hundreds of tiny slices, called "packets," that travel separate routes. Grabbing even one e-mail requires a computer search of many slices of other people's messages.

Privacy advocates have long argued in court that grabbing portions of so many e-mails - involving people not suspected of anything - is a violation of the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures provided by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group, is now hoping that the new documents will bolster their claims in a long-running case, Jewel v. NSA.

"We will be presenting this information to the court," said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the foundation. A Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment.

So far, the only court that has reviewed the constitutional question is the secret panel of jurists known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This court only hears arguments from the government and all of their decisions are highly classified.

Other federal courts have declined to debate the constitutional question for fear that discussing any collaboration with telecom companies would damage American security.

Last year, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told a court that confirming the identities of any telecoms that work with the NSA would alert terrorists that "certain channels of communications are vulnerable to NSA interception."

But the internal NSA documents describe a nearly unavoidable surveillance system on AT&T's Internet backbone in the United States. One document shows a technical sketch of how AT&T provides the spy agency not only with access to traffic on its own network, but also traffic from other telecoms that crosses its network.

Such cooperative arrangements, known in the industry as "peering,'' are central to the speed of the global Internet. The packets that make up e-mails and other messages are sent through the fastest routes possible, jumping on and off each company's network as needed. That means that any internet user's communications, regardless of whether they are an AT&T customer, could end up on AT&T's network - and in the NSA's hands.

The newly disclosed documents seem to confirm the words of former ATT technician Mark Klein, who has testified that the spy agency had access to vast amounts of data from other telecoms that was transmitted over AT&T's fiber-optic lines.

Klein's allegations are central to Jewel v. N.S.A., which alleges that the NSA's "bulk, untargeted seizure of the Internet communications of millions of innocent Americans" from AT&T's networks amounted to an unconstitutional search and seizure.

The government has responded that there is no evidence that any particular communications have been copied, and, even if they were, they would have been "destroyed within milliseconds of their creation" if they did not have intelligence value. Even in that scenario, the government says, the surveillance would be a "minimal intrusion on Fourth Amendment interests" that would be "vastly outweighed" by the benefits of the program.

The court agreed, dismissing most of the case in February without examining the plaintiffs' constitutional questions.

For Kevin Bankston, the new document disclosure is bittersweet. Bankston was the attorney at the EFF who first brought Mark Klein's allegations to court. After reviewing the documents, he said, "We were treated as crazy for years for allegations that we now know are substantially true."

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Previously:
* EFF Sues For Records About 'Hemisphere' Phone Call Collection And Drug Enforcement Program.

* Snowden Documentarian Laura Poitras Sues U.S. Government To Uncover Records After Years Of Airport Detentions And Searches.

* Obama Secretly Expanded NSA Spying To Internet.

* Court: NSA Phone Program Illegal.

* The Chicago Connection To The Hidden Intelligence Breakdowns Behind The Mumbai Attacks.

* Human Rights Watch Sues DEA Over Bulk Collection Of American's Telephone Records.

* U.S. Secretly Tracked Billions Of Calls For Decades.

* Amnesty International Joins ACLU, Wikimedia In Lawsuit To Stop Mass Surveillance Program.

* Stop Spying On Wikipedia Users.

* EFF Wins Battle Over Secret Legal Opinions On Government Spying.

* The NSA's "U.S. Corporate Partners."

* I Fight Surveillance.

* Illegal Spying Below.

* Smith vs. Obama.

* EFF Sues NSA Over FOIA.

* Stand Against Spying.

* The NSA Revelations All In One Chart.

* U.S. Supreme Court Limits Cell Phone Searches.

* EFF To Court: There's No Doubt The Government Destroyed NSA Spying Evidence.

* House Committee Puts NSA On Notice Over Encryption Standards.

* Which Tech Companies Help Protect You From Government Data Demands?

* Lawsuit Demands DOJ Release More Secret Surveillance Court Rulings.

* Human Rights Organizations To Foreign Ministers: Stop Spying On Us.

* What The Proposed NSA Reforms Wouldn't Do.

* Technologists Turn On Obama.

* Dear Supreme Court: Set Limits On Cell Phone Searches.

* EFF Fights National Security Letter Demands On Behalf Of Telecom, Internet Company.

* Eighth-Grader Schools The NSA.

* You Know Who Else Collected Metadata? The Stasi.

* Today We Fight Back.

* The Day We Fight Back.

* FAQ: The NSA's Angry Birds.

* Jon Stewart: The Old Hope-A-Dope.

* Four Blatantly False Claims Obama Has Made About NSA Surveillance.

* EFF To DOJ In Lawsuit: Stop Pretending Information Revealed About NSA Over Last Seven Months Is Still A Secret.

* Judge On NSA Case Cites 9/11 Report, But It Doesn't Actually Support His Ruling.

* Edward Snowden's Christmas Message.

* Jon Stewart: Obama Totally Lying About NSA Spying.

* Presidential Panel To NSA: Stop Undermining Encryption.

* The NSA Is Coming To Town.

* 60 Minutes We Can't Get Back.

* Why Care About The NSA?

* NSA Surveillance Drives Writers To Self-Censor.

* Filed: 22 Firsthand Accounts Of How NSA Surveillance Chilled The Right To Association.

* Claim On 'Attacks Thwarted' By NSA Spreads Despite Lack Of Evidence.

* Obama Vs. The World.

* How A Telecom Helped The Government Spy On Me.

* UN Member States Asked To End Unchecked Surveillance.

* Government Standards Agency: Don't Follow Our Encryption Guidelines Because NSA.

* Five More Organizations Join Lawsuit Against NSA.

* A Scandal Of Historic Proportions.

* Item: NSA Briefing.

* The Case Of The Missing NSA Blog Post.

* The NSA Is Out Of Control.

* Patriot Act Author Joins Lawsuit Against NSA.

* Obama's Promises Disappear From Web.

* Why NSA Snooping Is A Bigger Deal In Germany.

* Item: Today's NSA Briefing.

* NSA Briefing: It Just Got Worse (Again).

* Song of the Moment: Party at the NSA.

* It Not Only Can Happen Here, It Is Happening Here.

* What NSA Transparency Looks Like.

* America's Lying About Spying: Worse Than You Think.

* Obama Continues To Lie His Ass Off About The NSA.

* The Surveillance Reforms Obama Supported Before He Was President.

* America's Spying: Worse Than You Think.

* Has The U.S. Government Lied About Its Snooping? Let's Go To The Videotape.

* Who Are We At War With? That's Classified.

* Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping.

* NSA Says It Can't Search Its Own E-Mails.

* Does The NSA Tap That?

* Obama Explains The Difference Between His Spying And Bush's Spying.

* FAQ: What You Need To Know About The NSA's Surveillance Programs.

* NSA: Responding To This FOIA Would Help "Our Adversaries".

* Fact-Check: The NSA And 9/11.

* The NSA's Black Hole: 5 Things We Still Don't Know About The Agency's Snooping.

* Defenders Of NSA Surveillance Citing Chicago Case Omit Most Of Mumbai Plotter's Story.

* Obama's War On Truth And Transparency.

* ProPublica's Guide To The Best Stories On The Growing Surveillance State.

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See also:
* Jimmy Carter: America's Shameful Human Rights Record.

* James Goodale: Only Nixon Harmed A Free Press More.

* Daniel Ellsberg: Obama Has Committed Impeachable Offenses.

* Paul Steiger: Why Reporters In The U.S. Now Need Protection.

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Comments welcome.




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Posted on August 18, 2015


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