November 9, 2007
Copyright © 2007 by Marc Norton
"Yahoo CEO blasted for helping China jail dissident" screams the San Francisco Chronicle --
on the first page, in a Chronicle Washington Bureau special report, one of two articles above the fold, on Wednesday, November 7. Seems the Silicon Valley internet biggies turned over some email records to the Chinese government, which allowed them to identify a Chinese journalist on the outs with the powers that be there. A bipartisan group of congressmen, apparently led by our own Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), are all in a dither. Okay, guys, bad stuff.
Then, buried back on page seven, below the fold, in a Washington Post reprint, is another headline: "Former AT&T worker details federal internet spying in S.F." Seems AT&T allowed the National Security Agency (NSA), the biggest and baddest intelligence agency in world history, to build a special room at an AT&T office on Folsom Street, right here in the City by the Bay.
According to a lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, AT&T is sending
"the entire Internet to the [NSA's] secret room... sweeping up everything, vacuum-cleaner-style... These are major pipes that carry not just AT&T's customers but everybody's."
"Congress is considering legislation that would ban U.S. internet companies from providing information on its customers to repressive regimes." No, that's not a quote from the article about AT&T and the NSA. That's a quote from the Chronicle article about Yahoo and China. Congress is all mad about China jailing one journalist with Yahoo's help.
But are they mad about AT&T "sweeping up everything" and handing it over to the NSA? Nope. Seems Congress is instead considering legislation "to grant legal immunity to telecommunications firms" that "helped the government" (that's our government, not China's) in its "anti-terrorism efforts."
Mark Klein, the AT&T technician who stumbled upon the NSA's secret room, is in Washington this week, trying to lobby against Congress granting AT&T immunity for ignoring the Constitution and doing exactly what Yahoo did in China: give the government whatever internet data it wants. Except AT&T gave them "everything," while Yahoo gave them one journalist.
Get this straight. AT&T was, probably still is, making sure that the NSA knows everything that you do on the internet, including the fact that you are reading this article about them. In this day and age of Patriot Acts, Homeland Security Acts, Guantánamo, and "extraordinary rendition," doesn't that make you feel so much safer?
The front page of USA Today, on the very same day, carried this headline: "15,000 want off the U.S. terror watch list." Seems 15,000 people have asked to be taken off government watch lists just since last February. These lists now include an estimated 755,000 names, including toddlers with suspicious names. The list is growing by about 200,000 names a year, probably with a little bit of help from AT&T. Yahoo!
Senators and congressmen, please heed this call. Those in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Fix the repressive government that you are in charge of first, before you go bothering the rest of the world.
Hey, who is that knocking at my door?