Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Big Brother I: Denial Is Not a River in Egypt

AT&T and BellSouth have been added to a massive class-action lawsuit against Verizon for climbing into bed with the NSA over its domestic spying program.

All three telecoms are vigorously denying that they cooperated.

What gives?

They're lying, that's what gives. Their statements are written in response to the lawsuit, not the original USA Today story of last week that revealed the sweeping extent of the spying program, and are carefully parsed to give the impression that they did not violate contracts with their subscribers.

The telecoms also are implying that the NSA never approached them, which is silly on its face since Qwest has said it was approached but rebuffed the spy agency. Does it make sense that only one of the four largest telecoms were approached? Nope.

Josh Marshall notes at Talking Points Memo that

No, I don't have any inside information to confirm the claim [that they're lying]. But common sense is a marvelous thing.

If you own a business and someone accuses you of an offense that goes to the heart of your responsibility to your customers, do you wait a week to deny it? I doubt that very much.

Now, I don't know that they're lying in a precise, semantic sense. In fact, I suspect they're not. There must be some way in which what they're saying is technically true. But if it were more than technically true, they would have said it and said it more emphatically last week, before a bunch of lawsuits got filed. . . .

My hunch is that there's some third party involved here, a subcontractor, a private vendor, perhaps another government agency. And because of that their claims are technically true. Or, maybe, they allowed the NSA to take the data (a variety of technical means suggest themselves) rather than 'providing' it to them. Who knows.

The Bush administration claimed right after the New York Times broke the first NSA spy program story in December than major apprehensions had been made as a result of the warrantless wiretaps.

It was unable to back up the claim because it was . . . uh, untrue.

Since then the administration's major pushback tactic has been to deny that the program does what everybody now knows it indeed does.


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