it is obtaining reporters’ phone records as part of an effort to root out confidential sources. ABC News reports “the FBI makes extensive use of a new provision of the Patriot Act which allows agents to seek information with what are called National Security Letters (NSL). The NSLs are a version of an administrative subpoena and are not signed by a judge.”
after company is hit with a $50 billion lawsuit for turning over customer records to the NSA.
“Consent” appears to be the right wing’s favorite defense for the apparent decision by major phone companies to hand over millions of customers’ calling records to the National Security Agency. As reported in the Washington Post, “the Bush administration has argued that a company can turn over its entire database of customer records — and even the stored content of calls and e-mails — because customers ‘have consented to that’ when they establish accounts.”
1. The telco language terms of service provide no basis for “consent.” The terms of service of AT&T, BellSouth, and Verizon highlight that they will turn over records in response to court orders or subpoenas, which did not exist, according to USA Today. Verizon also mentions “exigent circumstances” – a very slim reed on which to conclude that customers gave actual consent to having all their phone calls disclosed to the government.
2. Consent is for a specific action, not a blanket permission. As explained by former prosecutor and law professor Orin Kerr, cases under the wiretap laws require that “the user actually agreed to the action, either explicitly or implicitly based on the user’s decision to proceed in light of actual notice.” You give consent for a call when you have actual notice. That’s why we always hear that “this call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes.”
Today in his speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Karl Rove claimed that the most credible polls on President Bush are run by the RNC, and they are saying the American public likes him:
But the polls I believe are the polls that get run through the RNC. And I look at those polls all the time. The American people like this president. His personal approval ratings are in the 60s. Job approval is lower. And what that says to me is that people like him, they respect him, he’s somebody they feel a connection with, but they’re just sour right now on the war. And that’s the way it’s going to be.
Rove should look at some polls done by non-political organizations. They paint a very different picture:
55 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Bush. [CBS/NYT, 5/4-8/06]
60 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Bush. [USA Today/Gallup, 4/28-30/06]
52 percent have a somewhat or very negative opinion of Bush. [NBC News/WSJ, 4/21-24/06]
57 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Bush. [CNN, 4/21-23/06]
Looks like Rove and the First Lady are in denial.
In January, NBC reporter Andrea Mitchell asked James Risen, the New York Times author who disclosed the NSA wiretapping program, whether CNN’s Christiane Amanpour had been eavesdropped upon.
MITCHELL: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?
RISEN: No, I don’t. It’s not clear to me. That’s one of the questions we’ll have to look into [in] the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don’t know the answer to that.
MITCHELL: You don’t have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?
RISEN: No, no I hadn’t heard that.
The question-and-answers were soon deleted from NBC’s website, but NBC did confirm that it was conducting an inquiry into whether reporters had been targeted. CNN’s David Ensor received an official response from the NSA:
I’m told considerable manhours today went into making sure the answer to CNN would be accurate. A senior US intelligence official tells use that our colleague Christiane Amanpour has never been targeted by the National Security Agency, and nor has any other CNN journalist. Now, the NSA as you know is the eavesdropping intelligence agency, the US government’s big ear, and from time to time, the official says, wiretaps overseas or other intercepts turn out to include Americans, or what they call ‘US persons’, which includes people who works for US companies, it does so inadvertently.
The response Ensor received from the NSA related specifically to eavesdropping — i.e., the monitoring of the contents of a phone call. According to a report today from ABC’s Brian Ross the government is tracking reporters’ phone records — but not the contents of their phone calls — in an effort to root out confidential sources. If the ABC story is true, it raises the question of whether Amanpour’s — or any other journalist’s — phone records were monitored by the government.
This morning, Karl Rove gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute. During the question and answer session, David Corn of the Nation Magazine asked him why he fed White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan misinformation about his involvement in leaking Valerie Plame’s identity. (Rove told McClellan that he was “not involved.”) Rove refused to answer. Watch it:
Full transcript: Read more
Brain Ross and Richard Esposito of ABC News’ investigative unit report that, according to a senior federal law enforcement official, the government is monitoring their phone calls to discover the identity of confidential sources:
A senior federal law enforcement official tells us the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.
“It’s time for you to get some new cell phones, quick,” the source told us in an in-person conversation.
This, of course, is the real problem with the extra-legal collection of phone records by the government, revealed by USA Today last Thursday. No one really has objections to doing whatever is necessary to defeat al-Qaeda. But when you do so outside the law and without meaningful Congressional oversight, it leaves the door wide open to abuse.
During a prime-time address tonight, President Bush will “outline immigration reform proposals,” including a controversial plan to deploy several thousand National Guard troops to the US/Mexican border.
Appearing on ABC’s Good Morning America a few minutes ago, White House Counselor Dan Bartlett was asked about concerns that the National Guard was under strain:
GIBSON: So you reject the argument that some Republicans made yesterday that the Guard is already stretched too thin?
BARTLETT: Well, absolutely.
Here are the facts about the state of the National Guard:
- 352 National Guard soldiers have died in Iraq.
- The National Guard Bureau estimated that “nondeployed units had only about 34 percent of their essential warfighting equipment as of July 2005.”
- The Army National Guard “reported that it had less than 5 percent of the required amount of more than…220 critical items.”
The Christian Aid charity warns that 184 million people in Africa alone could die as a result of climate change before the end of the century. The group’s report warns that climate-induced floods, famine, drought and conflict could reverse recent gains in reducing poverty.
“I don’t really believe those polls.” – First Lady Laura Bush, on her husband’s sinking approval ratings. Mrs. Bush added “As I travel around the United States…A lot of people come up to me and say, ‘Stay the course’.”
“Despite a congressional order that the military assess the mental health of all deploying troops, fewer than 1 in 300 service members see a mental health professional before shipping out.” Soldiers showing signs of psychological distress are being kept on duty, increasing the risk of suicide.
Roll Call reports, “Federal prosecutors are seeking to interview at least nine current or former staffers on the House Intelligence, Appropriations and Armed Services committees as they widen their probe into the bribery scheme involving former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.).”
A lawyer who sued Verizon last week on claims it violated privacy laws by turning over calling records to the National Security Agency said that customers of AT&T and BellSouth want to join the lawsuit. If other telecommunications companies are named, “it may be the largest class-action ever filed,” said New Jersey public-interest lawyer Bruce Afran. Read more