By JEFF MACKLER
Edward Snowden, renowned for his 2013 exposure of all pervasive U.S. government Internet and telephone spying on virtually all Americans, if not the entire world (no exaggeration), has once again blown the cover off corporate America’s collaboration with the nation’s top super-spy entity, the National Security Administration (NSA).
Snowden’s most recent revelations—once again, documents from the NSA itself—were released to The New York Times and ProPublica. They refer to AT&T’s “highly collaborative” relationship with the NSA and its “extreme willingness to help.”
AT&T, utilizing a series of what The Times refers to as “legal rules” and secret court orders, provided the NSA with billions of e-mails, including all such communications to and from the United Nations, an AT&T customer. While the Snowden-released documents did not specifically mention that AT&T was the central NSA source, The Times and ProPublica investigators confirmed “a constellations of evidence” and other confirmations from “several former intelligence officials” implicating AT&T.
The NSA’s spy operations were conducted through its secret Fairview program, established in 1985 and ramped up immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center bombings. The Fairview documents, according to The Times, contained “technical jargon specific to AT&T.” In one month shortly after the 9/11 bombings, AT&T collected 400 billion internet meta-data records, leading the top government surveillance agency to brag—secretly, of course—that the NSA has a “live presence on the global net.” The Orwellian notion that Big Brother is listening all the time has the ring of truth today.
While previous Snowden revelations had exposed NSA spying on the UN, AT&T was not known as its direct vehicle until The Times investigations in recent weeks,. AT&T representatives, when asked to verify the veracity of the Snowden documents, replied, “We don’t comment on matters of national security.”
Similarly, in response to AT&T customer lawsuits and a myriad of other legal filings aimed at ending government surveillance, U.S. courts have repeatedly upheld Obama administration pleadings arguing that a public exposé of government spying would reveal “state secrets that would be damaging to national security.”
In the name of “national security,” the government’s legal machinery repeatedly insists, almost always with court approval, that the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment guarantees of the “right to privacy “and “protection against unreasonable search and seizure” are essentially worthless. Indeed, any “laws” or constitutional interpretations that were previously on the books to protect privacy, freedom of association, and other hard won democratic rights are today routinely re-written—formally as legislation or behind the scenes in the form of secret court orders that trample fundamental rights.
While the 2013 worldwide outcry against U.S. government surveillance of close to all internet and cell-phone communications around the world—a formal goal secretly stated by the NSA—has subsided, little or nothing has changed. The Times could only wonder, for example, whether the UN spying continues to this day.
The new Snowden documents point to the Special Service Operations (SSO) division of the NSA as the secret cover for AT&T and other internet providers like Verizon, also exposed as a government surveillance collaborator but of a lesser magnitude in comparison to AT&T. The SSO accounts for 80 percent of the information that the NSA collects.
AT&T’s explicit “partnership” with the NSA was quite lucrative indeed, yielding in 2011 alone $188.9 million to the nation’s top internet provider at the time and “extremely willing” collaborator.
AT&T’s services went far beyond spying on the United Nations. At the behest of the NSA, it installed the agency’s then experimental spy equipment in 17 of its national internet hubs and collected virtually everything that came its way, including “foreign to foreign” and “foreign to U.S.” communications.
Following the 2013 Snowden exposés, the NSA claimed that its UN spying operations, “for technical reasons” only, was limited to mostly land-line calls. This too has now been exposed as a lie, with the new Snowden documents revealing that in 2011 alone the AT&T turned over 1.1 billion domestic cell-phone calls daily to the NSA.
NSA technology now collects bulk metadata on virtually everyone. In addition, it appears to have achieved the capacity to record the names and phone numbers of all callers and recipients. A simple click or two on an NSA computer can well open the door to everyone’s personal, political, and economic affairs.
The U.S. emerging police state only awaits the moment when mass surveillance passes over to mass repression, the ultimate weapon employed by all ruling-class elites when massive and generalized discontent becomes clearly focused and directly threatens capitalist rule itself. At that special and inevitable moment in history when the vast majority become conscious of their exploitation and oppression and move to fundamentally challenge their domination by the few, history will once again record the birth of a new society free from all the horrors of the present decaying social order.