Verizon, like AT&T, illegally gave the government YOUR phone records


Verizon spied on your phone records too! Without a court order! Simply because the government said “give em to us.”

Why didn’t Verizon go to court and demand a court order to release your private phone records, like the law says they need? Oh, let’s have a look at how the Washington Post characterized what Verizon told them:

The company said it does not determine the requests’ legality or necessity because to do so would slow efforts to save lives in criminal investigations…. Verizon and AT&T; said it was not their role to second-guess the legitimacy of emergency government requests.

Yes, it’s not Verizon’s and AT&T;’s role to follow the law – the law that was set up specifically because of fears of government spying – and require the government to show up with the court orders that are required under the law. No, not Verizon’s and AT&Ts; job at all, that one. (Funny, but if a woman is being stalked by some pervert who’s threatening to rape or kill her, and she calls Verizon or AT&T;, they’re not going to give HER the perv’s phone records or identity because that would be wrong. Interesting that their overriding interest in saving lives only applies to some lives, apparently.)

So basically, what Verizon and AT&T; have just said, is that they will turn over any of your private phone records to the government any time the government wants, with no court order whatsoever, in violation of the law, provided that the government say it’s really really really important.

What country do we live in?

A country where we have no privacy.

To quote Frank Rich, we’re all “good Germans” now. We’re all to blame. Well, not all of us, but certainly the Democrats in the Senate who can’t find a testicle between them to stand up to this ongoing outrage. The Senate Intelligence Committee is getting ready to pass legislation tomorrow or Thursday granting AT&T; and Verizon immunity for illegally spying on you. Why? Because George Bush, Mr. 28% in the polls, threatened them that they’d better.

In particular, the problem in the Intell committee is most likely Feinstein, Bayh, Mikulski and Nelson – Democrats who don’t have a very big backbone, and then wonder why we we’re mean to them. But what about on the Senate floor? Why doesn’t a Democratic Senator object to the legislation, put a hold on it? Sure, they’d have to have a filibuster vote, and we might lose, since so many other Dems are wimps too, but let’s put it on the record, who supports domestic spying in violation of the law, let’s at least get a vote count so we know who the enemy is. (And would it kill the Senate leadership to finally require some kind of legislative loyalty from the Democratic caucus? Any at all?) Now is one of those times when Senator Feingold’s acts of courage would be most welcome.

The House, fortunately, isn’t planning on passing the immunity provision. But, if the Senate does, then the decision goes to a House-Senate committee (called a conference) where they iron out the differences between the House and Senate bills. If the House holds firm, these bastards aren’t given immunity. If the House caves, they are.

Folks, you have no privacy any more. And worst yet, your government doesn’t care, your politicians don’t care. And far too few Democrats care either. Every week we see stories about millions of records being let go to the public in such-and-such computer database. And what do we hear from the Democrats in Congress, from our Democratic leaders in Congress? Nothing. Well, at least from the Senate side.

Let’s revisit Verizon’s absurd defense again:

“Public officials, not private businessmen, must ultimately be responsible for whether the legal judgments underlying authorized surveillance activities turn out to be right or wrong — legally or politically,” wrote Wayne Watts, AT&T;’s senior executive vice president and general counsel. “Telecommunications carriers have a part to play in guarding against official abuses, but it is necessarily a modest one.”

Yeah, um, a few points here. First, if private businessmen want to assume the responsibility as caretakers for our most private information, because they want to make a few trillion bucks, then those private businessmen had better learn the law and actually take care of our personal information. For Verizon to say that it’s just too blond and dumb to understand complicated things like throw weights “legal judgments” (you can almost hear them titter in their letter as they flip their hair) is beyond bizarre. First off, you’re freaking lawyers – you’re getting paid half a million a year to make those complicated legal judgments. Second of all, and more importantly, there wasn’t really a legal judgment here to be made. You weren’t given a court order, that little document you’re required to have before releasing your customers’ most personal information. So the legal judgment necessary was this:

Did the government give us the court order required for us to release this information? No.

Pretty complicated legal judgment there.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget what we’ve been learning the past few days. It looks like Bush’s domestic spying on your phone records and your phone calls started BEFORE September 11. In fact, it started his first week on the job (AT&T; was asked to spy on its customers seven months BEFORE September 11). That means it had nothing to do with September 11, even though that’s what he’s always said. That would also mean that Verizon and AT&T; wouldn’t have a leg to stand on in the court of public opinion if in fact they were approached before September 11 to turn over your private phone records to the government like you were some kind of common criminal, or East German citizen.

But let’s not let the Republicans off the hook. The gun nuts ought to be going ballistic right about now. But they’re not. The government can violate any privacy law it wants, provided it says it’s really really really important. Would that include compiling databases of gun owners? Uh yeah. I’m certain such lists must exist after September 11. But the gun lobby that normally goes nuts over such things hasn’t said boo. The right wing is just as complicit in accepting the diminution – the repeal – of our freedoms. And nobody, outside of you guys, even cares.

They’re all good Germans now.

(More on AT&T;’s illegal spying here.)

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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