Friday, October 19, 2007

Implementing Domestic Surveillance

From the Federation of American Scientists' "Secrecy News" e-newsletter:

IMPLEMENTING DOMESTIC INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCEUpon lawful request and for a thousand dollars, Comcast, one of thenation's leading telecommunications companies, will intercept itscustomers' communications under the Foreign Intelligence SurveillanceAct.The cost for performing any FISA surveillance "requiring deployment ofan intercept device" is $1,000.00 for the "initial start-up fee(including the first month of intercept service)," according to a newlydisclosed Comcast Handbook for Law Enforcement.Thereafter, the surveillance fee goes down to "$750.00 per month foreach subsequent month in which the original [FISA] order or anyextensions of the original order are active."With respect to surveillance policy, the Comcast manual hews closely tothe letter of the law, as one would hope and expect."If your [FISA intercept] request pertains to individuals outside theU.S., please be sure you have complied with all the requirements in 50U.S.C. sections 105A and/or 105B," the manual says, referring toprovisions of the Protect America Act that was enacted last month. "Requests such as these can not be honored after one year and must bedated prior to February 5, 2008, unless extended by Congress."Comcast will also comply with disclosure demands presented in the formof National Security Letters. However, the manual says, "Attentionmust be paid to the various court proceedings in which the legal statusof such requests is at issue."In short, "Comcast will assist law enforcement agencies in theirinvestigations while protecting subscriber privacy as required by lawand applicable privacy policies."At the same time, "Comcast reserves the right to respond or object to,or seek clarification of, any legal requests and treat legal requestsfor subscriber information in any manner consistent with applicablelaw."

A copy of the manual was obtained by Secrecy News.See "Comcast Cable Law Enforcement Handbook," September 2007:'

The role of telecommunications companies in intelligence surveillanceis under increased scrutiny as the Bush Administration seeks to shieldthe companies from any liability associated with their cooperation inwhat may be illegal warrantless surveillance.

Also, there are new indications that the unauthorized warrantlesssurveillance program pre-dated 9/11. The Rocky Mountain News, theWashington Post, and others reported allegations that the governmentmay have penalized Qwest Communications for refusing to participate ina pre-9/11 National Security Agency surveillance program that thecompany believed might be illegal.

The Washington Post editorialized yesterday that the telecommunicationscompanies should indeed be immunized against liability, as the Bush Administration desires. Even though it is not known exactly what thecompanies did, the Post said, they "seem to us to have been acting aspatriotic corporate citizens in a difficult and uncharted environment."

Writing in, Glenn Greenwald disputed that view, arguing thatpatriotism lies in compliance with the law, not in mere obedience toexecutive authority.

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