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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

September, 2007



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Phone Companies And Bush Spy On You
By Onnesha Roychoudhuri

AlterNet readers have now had more than enough time to digest their disappointment with the Democrats' utter capitulation to President Bush on the FISA law. While the focal point of concern thus far has been the breach of Constitutional authority and the brazen disregard for the separation of powers there's an even more practical concern at hand.
Namely, are your communications-private communications between Americans without suspicion of terrorist ties -- being listened to? And, if so, with which telecommunications companies' assent? The whole NSA program - and thus the FISA violations - is, in fact, a non-issue without the participation of the telecoms.

Despite the fact that Democrats have since taken control of the House and Senate, there is still no substantive investigation into the relationship between telecommunications companies and the White House. It's a relationship that warrants investigation as select telecommunications companies have gained nearly inconceivable clout. The past three years have seen a string of massive telecommunications mergers leaving Americans with only two major telecommunications options: AT&T; and Verizon.

AT&T; and Cingular (co-owned by AT&T; and BellSouth) clearly feel they have some powerful allies. Last year, they actually referenced the "state secrets" privilege after receiving a subpoena from the state of New Jersey.

"To which we answer very simply that the state secrets privilege can only be invoked by the federal government," says Attorney General Anne Milgram, When Milgram's office subpoenaed telecommunications companies in the state to find out whether they were sharing consumer information with the government, rather than receiving responses from the telecommunications companies, they received notice from the Department of Justice-formally suing the Attorney General's office for even posing the question.

With such close ties to the White House, AT&T; and Verizon have come to rely on the DoJ and FCC to push through mergers, and prevent investigations into their conduct. The kind of power exercised by AT&T; and Verizon is in sharp contrast with Qwest, the one company that, under the direction of now-indicted former CEO Joseph Nacchio, refused to participate in the NSA program.

To read the whole story, go to Truthdig.

(c) 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/bloggers/onnesha/59682/

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