Ma Bell Becomes Big Brother

So here’s one that Orwell would have loved.

AT&T is spying on you for the NSA.

Did that get your attention?

Forget Duh-bya’s garden-variety illegal wiretaps everyone’s talking about — AT&T’s decided to just go ahead and divert a copy of all Internet and phone traffic that passes through its San Francisco switching center (and, one presumes, its other switching centers across the country) to a secret NSA spy center. No warrants, no evidence of individual suspicion, no terrorist ties — they’re just giving the NSA everything. Of course, that’s along with the data-mining equipment necessary to sift through all that data. Make sure that the spymasters can interpret all of that noise.

It’d be easy to dismiss this as a disgruntled ex-employee making up a story to discredit his former employer. Except that he’s got the documentation to prove it — documentation that was filed, under a temporary seal, with the court as a part of the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s class-action lawsuit (Hepting v. AT&T) against the company. (You can see additional information at the EFF’s site — I love their tag line: “Your world. Delivered. To the NSA.”)

Furthermore, AT&T isn’t denying anything.

They’ve just filed a motion not only to keep the files sealed, but to have them returned — so they can’t be used as evidence in the lawsuit. In essence, their claim is that sure, we’re illegally wiretapping our customers’ phone and Internet traffic. And sure we’re funneling that information — again, illegally — straight to the NSA. But hey, those documents contain corporate secrets as to exactly how we did all that, so you can’t actually tell anyone about them.

I’ll be up-front about this: I am not an AT&T customer. (Even before Cingular merged with AT&T Wireless, the latter was completely divorced from its original parent company.) But I guarantee you one thing — no matter what the outcome of this case is, I will never do business with AT&T in the future. Frankly, consequences to the economy be damned, I’m going to do everything in my power (which may not be much, admittedly) to ensure that they go the way of Enron.

And step one is making sure that this story becomes front-page news. Starting right here.

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