A telecommunications technician has a sense of déjà vu over the recent whistleblowing on the US government’s PRISM Big Brother programme by Edward Snowden.
For those with long memories, humanity was warned about government data mining by Mark Klein in 2006. He said AT&T was allowing US spies to siphon vast amounts of customer data without warrants.
Klein’s allegations launched dozens of consumer lawsuits in early 2006 against the government and telecommunications companies. Nothing changed of course, and Snowden’s allegations prove that the situation has become worse. Klein’s case also showed how difficult it would be for anyone to score a prosecution, such as the one the American Civil Liberties Union filed against the government in New York Federal Court on Tuesday, against the government or telecommunications companies.
All the cases launched against the government were tossed out in 2008 when Congress granted the telecommunications industry retroactive immunity from legal challenges, which the Supreme Court upheld.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Klein said that he warned whoever he could. He was angry then and he is even angrier now.
In 2002, a visitor to his AT&T office in San Francisco identified himself as an NSA representative. The official interviewed Klein’s colleague, who said he was given top-secret government clearance soon after the encounter.
A year later when Klein he saw the colleague installing a special room, which only that person was allowed to enter.
When the colleague retired in 2004, he gave Mr Klein several documents, including highly technical wiring diagrams. The diagrams showed AT&T’s electronic communications flowed through a “splitter” which created identical copies of the digital material.
One copy continued on to its intended destination of consumer email in-boxes, phones and the like. The other copy flowed into the secret room.
It was clear that the NSA was looking at everything and not just foreign communications.
What gets Klein cross about the Snowden disclosures is that the government painted him as a nobody, a technician who was merely speculating.
Now it is clear with an actual copy of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court order, the story is undeniable.
The fact that the spooks are monitoring social media sites such as Facebook might have gained the attention of more people who weren’t bothered by his initial leak.
Meanwhile the US government is starting to wonder why it did not work out why Snowden was not a security risk. Apparently when he was working for Dell, he was often moaning fairly publically about government spying on the comments section of Ars Technica. Reuters found one of his postings on February 4, 2010 where he talked about a major technology company that allegedly was giving the US government access to its computer servers.