Wired Publishes AT&T NSA Documents
Citing "the public's right to know," Wired News on Monday published 30 pages of documentation regarding AT&T's alleged participation in warrantless domestic wire trapping being performed by the National Security Agency. The documents come from the Electronic Frontier Foundation's lawsuit against AT&T.
The EFF sued AT&T in January for violating laws and the privacy of its users by collaborating with the NSA. The lawsuit stemmed from a report in the New York Times that claimed the NSA was working with major telecommunications companies to monitor traffic moving across their networks, including instant messages, e-mails and phone calls.
The Los Angeles Times followed the NYT report on December 26, 2005 by reporting that AT&T had given the NSA a "direct hookup" into a database that records information about all domestic phone calls. The EFF said the agency mined the contents of Internet and phone communications for "suspicious names, numbers, and words."
AT&T was also referenced alongside BellSouth and Verizon in a USA Today report that alleged the NSA had been collecting domestic calling records of millions of Americans. The Bush administration previously asserted that its spying program only involved calls made internationally. BellSouth and Verizon have denied involvement in the program.
Wired says it obtained the documents from an anonymous source close to the litigation. They come from the EFF's primary witness in the case, former AT&T employee and whistle-blower Mark Klein, and include eight pages of AT&T documents marked "proprietary."
According to the EFF's complaint, "AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte 'Daytona' database of caller information -- one of the largest databases in the world." The group also alleges that AT&T opened its network to "wholesale surveillance by the NSA" and has broken privacy laws.
While Wired believes the documents are excerpted from those filed in the EFF's lawsuit, it says a court order prevents the news organization from comparing them. In turn, Wired has filed a motion asking the court to unseal the evidence. The San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, the San Jose Mercury News, the Associated Press and Bloomberg have filed similar motions.
At least one Democrat on the Federal Communications Commission has pushed for a federal investigation into the legality of the domestic spying program, saying it may have broken communications laws which protect the privacy of American's phone call records unless the customer approves their release.
"AT&T claims information in the file is proprietary and that it would suffer severe harm if it were released," explained Wired editor Evan Hansen. "Based on what we've seen, Wired News disagrees. In addition, we believe the public's right to know the full facts in this case outweighs AT&T's claims to secrecy."
"Before publishing these documents we showed them to independent security experts, who agreed they pose no danger to AT&T," Hansen added.
However, the Bush administration may beg to differ on that assessment. U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Sunday that journalists could be prosecuted for publishing classified information. He added that the government would track calls made by reporters as part of any investigation, noting that the First Amendment right of a free press is not absolute when it comes to national security.