|July 10, 2012
This week, cellphone carriers publicly reported that US law enforcement made an astounding 1.3m demands for customer text messages, caller locations, and other information last year. The disclosure has sparked a flood of press coverage and consumer outrage, given much of the information was obtained without a warrant.
But this is only one way that communications and communications records are being monitored by the government. Since 2006, Americans have known that the National Security Agency (NSA), in league with telecommunications carriers like AT&T, has been engaging in mass warrantless surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans. And since shortly thereafter, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has been suing to stop it.
Despite the fact that the mass wiretapping was first exposed by the New York Times in 2005, and subsequently reported on by dozens of news organizations, the government continues to maintain that the "state secrets" privilege should prevent the courts from even the basic determination of whether the NSA's actions are legal or constitutional. This position isn't correct legally, since, in 1978, Congress created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance law specifically requiring the courts to determine the legality of electronic surveillance. But it also isn't the right answer for a country founded on the supremacy of law and the constitutional protections against untargeted searches and seizures.
Now, three longtime NSA employees – William E Binney, Thomas A Drake, and J Kirk Wiebe – have come forward and offered additional inside evidence to support the lawsuit, all of which confirms what an increasing mountain of evidence shows: that the US government is engaging in mass dragnet surveillance of innocent, untargeted American people, as well as foreigners whose messages are routed through the US. As Binney states, "the NSA is storing all personal electronic communications."
Our lawsuits – first, against the telecommunications carriers, and now, against the government directly – also included other undisputed evidence from a former AT&T technician named Mark Klein. He provided blueprints and photographs showing an NSA-installed "secret room" in an AT&T facility less than a mile from EFF's San Francisco office, which experts say siphons massive amounts of internet usage data, phone calls and records flowing through the facility directly to the NSA.