A View From The Handbasket

Sunday, October 14, 2007
The 9/11 fig leaf shrinks
Posted by neros_fiddle at 10:35 AM

There's a fascinating lawsuit currently being pushed through the intestines of the justice system surrounding an NSA call harvesting program that I've talked about before. You may remember (if you're among the minority that pays attention to things like this) that most of the major telcos rolled over and gave the administration whatever they wanted except for Qwest, who thought that giving the government free reign over American's call data without any sort of due process was sort of, you know, unAmerican-ish.

So there's now this suit, brought in 2006 against the telcos that cooperated. As part of that, we're now finding somthing very interesting. If you thought that the civil-liberties-stomping excesses of the Bush White House were inspired and/or enabled by 9/11, then it's time to re-synchronize your watches. (Also see this Washington Post article.)

Startling statements from former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio's defense documents alleging the National Security Agency began building a massive call records database seven months before 9/11 aren't the only accusations that the controversial program predated the attacks of 9/11.

According to court documents unveiled this week, former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio clearly wanted to argue in court that the NSA retaliated against his company after he turned down a NSA request on February 27, 2001 that he thought was illegal. Nacchio's attorney issued a carefully worded statement in 2006, saying that Nacchio had turned down the NSA's repeated requests for customer call records. The statement says that Nacchio was asked for the records in the fall of 2001, but doesn't say he was "first asked" then.

And in May 2006, a lawsuit filed against Verizon for allegedly turning over call records to the NSA alleged that AT&T began building a spying facility for the NSA just days after President Bush was inaugurated. That lawsuit is one of 50 that were consolidated and moved to a San Francisco federal district court, where the suits sit in limbo waiting for the 9th Circuit Appeals court to decide whether the suits can proceed without endangering national security.

So the NSA was actually pursuing unrestrained surveillance of Americans starting when the Bible Bush was inaugurated with hadn't cooled off yet. Which means all this "post-9/11 changed everything" guff from the administration is a wheelbarrow full of bullshit. They were pursuing their police state from the get-go, from a time period when there's plenty of documentation that al-Qaeda wasn't a big concern of the White House.

Which raises two very interesting points.

First, if not terrorists, who was this program intended to keep tabs on?

And second, selling such extralegal domestic spying as necessary to prevent another 9/11 loses a lot of credibility, since this program demonstrably failed to prevent the actual 9/11.

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