George W. Bush's phone records spying
|This article is part of our coverage of the
Bush administration's domestic spying programs.
- "The privacy of all Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities," President George W. Bush said May 13, 2006, in his weekly radio address. "The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. We are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans." 
- "'The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities,'" Bush told reporters May 11, 2006, during "a hastily called session aimed at damage control. 'We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans'." 
The National Security Agency "has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data" provided by AT&T, Verizon Communications and BellSouth Corporation, Leslie Cauley first reported May 10, 2006, in USA Today.
President George W. Bush "lied" when he said that NSA's "spying wasn't a domestic program," A. Alexander, wrote May 11, 2006, in The Progressive Daily Beacon.
The NSA program "reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews," Cauley wrote.
"It is exactly a domestic spy program and what's more AT&T, BellSouth, and Verizon have been assisting the Bush government in creating what is being described as, '[T]he largest database ever assembled in the world,' and the goal is 'to create a database of every call ever made' within America's borders," Alexander wrote.
While President Bush justified NSA's domestic phone monitoring as part of a necessary step after 9/11, but the phone monitoring was happening prior to 9/11. Seven months prior to 9/11, the NSA had asked AT&T to set up a domestic call monitoring site.  "The allegation is part of a court filing adding AT&T, the nation's largest telephone company, as a defendant in a breach of privacy case filed earlier this month on behalf of Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. customers. The suit alleges that the three carriers, the NSA and President George W. Bush violated the Telecommunications Act of 1934 and the U.S. Constitution, and seeks money damages." 
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) civil rights group filed complaints in more than 20 states [with] state utility commissions and attorneys general, and demanded the Federal Communications Commission look into the matter" on Wednesday May 24, 2006, "over allegations that phone companies shared customer records with the government's biggest spy agency." 
The ACLU "also placed full-page ads in eight large-city newspapers asking the public to join the complaints, saying in bold type: 'AT&T, Verizon and Other Phone Companies May Have Illegally Sent Your Phone Records to the National Security Agency.' Readers were urged to add their names to complaints on the ACLU Web site." 
Presidential Memorandum Authorizes Telcos to Lie
"Ordinarily, a company that conceals their transactions and activities from the public would violate securities law. But an presidential memorandum signed by the President on May 5  allows the Director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte, to authorize a company to conceal activities related to national security. (See 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A))," Judd Legum wrote May 17, 2006.
"There is no evidence that this [memorandum] has been used by John Negroponte with respect to the telcos. Of course, if it was used, we wouldn’t know about it," Legum said.
Bush's Private KGB
Greg Palast pointed out May 12, 2006, that both USA Today and the New York Times have missed the bigger story: "the snooping into your phone bill is just the snout of the pig of a strange, lucrative link-up between the Administration's Homeland Security spy network and private companies operating beyond the reach of the laws meant to protect us from our government. You can call it the privatization of the FBI -- though it is better described as the creation of a private KGB."
"But it won't stop, despite Republican senators shedding big crocodile tears about 'surveillance' of innocent Americans. That's because FEAR is a lucrative business -- not just for ChoicePoint, but for firms such as Syntech, Sybase and Lockheed-Martin -- each of which has provided lucrative posts or profits to connected Republicans including former Total Information Awareness chief John Poindexter (Syntech), Marvin Bush (Sybase) and Lynn Cheney (Lockheed-Martin).
"But how can they get Americans to give up our personal files, our phone logs, our DNA and our rights? Easy. Fear sells better than sex -- and they want you to be afraid," Palast wrote.
Case Challenging Spying
On January 31, 2006, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T and the NSA, the U.S. government. The lawsuit accused AT&T of violating the privacy of its customers and the law by participating in NSA's warrantless wire-tapping program.  "Evidence in the case includes undisputed evidence provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA."  In July 2006, District Court Judge Vaughn Walker denied motions to dismiss by both AT&T and the government. 
"In June of 2009, a federal judge dismissed Hepting and dozens of other lawsuits against telecoms, ruling that the companies had immunity from liability under the controversial FISA Amendments Act (FISAAA), which was enacted in response to our court victories in Hepting. Signed by President Bush in 2008, the FISAAA allows the Attorney General to require the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms' participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president -- certification that was filed in September of 2008. EFF is planning to appeal the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, primarily arguing that FISAAA is unconstitutional in granting to the president broad discretion to block the courts from considering the core constitutional privacy claims of millions of Americans." 
Related SourceWatch Resources
- data mining
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
- George W. Bush's domestic spying
- George W. Bush's Domestic Spying: Legal or Illegal?
- President's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee
- USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005
- "Verizon Faces New $20B Suit over NSA Spying Complicity," The New Standard News, February 24, 2006.
- Liz Moyer, "Here Come The Lawsuits," Forbes, May 12, 2006.
- Bob Secter and Jon Van, with Andrew Zajac, "Experts say phone firms at law's edge. Verizon hit with $5 billion lawsuit," Chicago Tribune, May 13, 2006.
- John Markoff, "Questions Raised for Phone Giants in Spy Data Furor," New York Times, May 13, 2006.
- David Hench, "Maine filing seeks answers from Verizon," Portland Press Herald (Maine), May 13, 2006: "A complaint asking the Maine Public Utilities Commission to investigate whether Verizon handed over telephone records to the National Security Agency could be the first of many similar actions taken in other states."
- "BellSouth, AT&T added to NSA lawsuit. Intelligence committees to be briefed before CIA confirmation," CNN, May 17, 2006.
Articles & Commentary
- James Risen and Eric Lichtblau,"Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,""New York Times," December 16, 2005
- Jennifer Granick, "Lawbreaker in Chief," Wired News, December 21, 2005.
- Josh Meyer and Joseph Menn, "U.S. Spying Is Much Wider, Some Suspect," Los Angeles Times (Liberty Post), December 26, 2005.
- Ryan Singel, "AT&T Sued Over NSA Eavesdropping," Wired News, January 31, 2006. re Electronic Frontier Foundation class-action lawsuit; see Complaint.
- Ryan Singel, "Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room" and "Wiretap Whistle-Blower's Account," Wired News, April 7, 2006.
- Ryan Singel, "AT&T Seeks to Hide Spy Docs," Wired News, April 12, 2006.
- Leslie Cauley, "NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls," USA Today, May 10, 2006; updated May 11, 2006.
- Susan Page, "NSA secret database report triggers fierce debate in Washington," USA Today, May 11, 2006.
- John O'Neil, "Bush Says U.S. Spying Is Not Widespread," New York Times, May 11, 2006.
- "Bush: We're not trolling your personal life. Lawmakers demand answers on phone records report," Associated Press (CNN), May 11, 2006.
- "White House Won't Confirm or Deny It Tried to Stop 'USA Today' Story," Editor & Publisher, May 11, 2006.
- Matt Spetalnick and Andy Sullivan, "UPDATE 2-Bush denies spying infringing on Americans' privacy," Reuters, May 11, 2006.
- A. Alexander, "Now Its Personal," The Progressive Daily Beacon, May 11, 2006.
- "NSA Collected Phone Records in U.S., Lott Says" (Update1), Bloomberg News, May 11, 2006.
- Editorial: "The NSA has your number. This sounds like a vast and unchecked intrusion on privacy," Chicago Tribune, May 11, 2006.
- Michael Muskal, "Report of NSA Phone Database Ignites Furor," Los Angeles Times, May 11, 2006.
- "NSA Phone Record Program: More Than Meets the Eye," Talk Left, May 11, 2006.
- Jesse Lee, "On Domestic Data Collection," The Stakeholder, May 11, 2006.
- Reed Hundt, "The General and the Telephone Companies," TPM Cafe, May 11, 2006. re Michael V. Hayden
- Paul Kiel, "Did Gonzales Mislead Congress about NSA Program?" TPM Muckraker, May 11, 2006.
- Matt Stoller, "Qwest: Good Corporate Behavior Should Be Rewarded," MyDD, May 11, 2006.
- eightball0, "ACTION ALERT: Tell ATT, Verizon, Cingular, SBC NO NSA SPYING!" Daily Kos, May 11, 2006. "Contact numbers are below the fold."
- Judd Legum, "Bush Claims Program That Monitors Tens of Millions of Americans 'Strictly Targets Al Qaeda'" and "Telcos Could Be Liable For Tens of Billions of Dollars For Illegally Turning Over Phone Records," Think Progress, May 11, 2006.
- Greg Mitchell, "Editorials, from Right and Left, Hit Latest NSA Shocker," Editor & Publisher, May 11, 2006.
- mcjoan, "So About Those Call Records....," Daily Kos, May 11, 2006.
- Joe Scarborough, Transcript for Scarborough Country, May 11, 2006, MSNBC.
- Orin Kerr, "Thoughts on the Legality of the Latest NSA Program," The Volokh Conspiracy, May 11, 2006.
- "The USA Today's NSA Story," The Anonymous Liberal, May 11, 2006.
- Marty Lederman, "The (Il)legality of the NSA Phone-Records-Interception Program," Balkinization, May 11, 2006.
- Kate Martin, "Guest Blogger: NSA Again Violates the Law," American Constitution Society (ACS) Blog, May 11, 2006. Kate Martin is Director of the Center for National Security Studies.
- "Memo to (Democratic) Caucus on NSA program" posted on Crooks and Liars website, May 11, 2006. Memorandum was signed by Jane Harman, Alcee L. Hastings, Silvestre Reyes, Leonard Boswell, Robert E. "Bud" Cramer Jr., Anna G. Eshoo, Rush D. Holt, Dutch Ruppersberger, and John F. Tierney.
- Barton Gellman and Arshad Mohammed, "Data on Phone Calls Monitored. Extent of Administration's Domestic Surveillance Decried in Both Parties," Washington Post, May 12, 2006.
- Nicholas Wade, "Wider Use of DNA Lists Is Urged in Fighting Crime," New York Times, May 12, 2006.
- Erin Kelly, "Sanders, Leahy challenge Bush domestic spying program in court," Burlington Free Press (VT), May 12, 2006. re Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy
- "Congress Vows Hearings on U.S. Phone-Record Collecting Program," Bloomberg News, May 12, 2006.
- Ronald Brownstein and Maura Reynolds, "Congress 'Flying Blind' on NSA Issue, Some Say. Members of both parties call for answers from the White House -- if only 'to keep the program viable,' one surveillance supporter argues," Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2006.
- Tom Regan, "Left and right question NSA spying program. Bush says there is no danger to privacy but many lawmakers want more information," Christian Science Monitor, May 12, 2006.
- Matthew Ygelsias, "Poisoned Fruit," TAPPED, May 12, 2006.
- Eugene Robinson, Op-Ed: "An Easy Call: Lying," Washington Post, May 12, 2006.
- Editorial: "Ever-Expanding Secret," New York Times, May 12, 2006.
- Joan Biskupic, "Gathering data may not violate privacy rights, but it could be illegal," USA Today, May 12, 2006.
- Editorial: "More Domestic Spying. Now we learn that the NSA sought records of every phone call in the country. What else don't we know?" Washington Post, May 12, 2006.
- Opinion: "What Would Ma Bell Do?" Boston Herald, May 12, 2006.
- Katherine Shrader, "CIA Nominee Hayden Defends NSA Programs," Associated Press (Guardian Unlimited (UK)), May 12, 2006.
- Jon Ponder, "Cheney and Rumsfeld Shielded Telecoms from Domestic Spying Charges in the 1970s," Pensito Review, May 12, 2006.
- John Aravosis, "T-Mobile says they did NOT participate in spy program, Comcast less clear" and "AT&T lying to customers about Bush phone-records spy scandal," AMERICAblog, May 12, 2006.
- John O'Neil and Eric Lichtblau, "Qwest's Refusal of N.S.A. Query Is Explained," New York Times, May 12, 2006.
- Eric Lichtblau and Scott Shane, "Bush Is Pressed Over New Report on Surveillance," New York Times (truthout), May 12, 2006.
- Katherine Shrader, "Lawyer: Ex-Qwest Exec Ignored NSA Request," Associated Press (Houston Chronicle), May 12, 2006.
- Robert Parry, "This Time, It Really Is Orwellian," Consortium News, May 12, 2006.
- Faiz Shakir, "Gingrich on NSA Phone Records Program: Administration’s Conduct Can’t 'Be Defended By Reasonable People'," Think Progress, May 12, 2006.
- Faiz Shakir, "NSA Whistleblower To Expose More Unlawful Activity: 'People…Are Going To Be Shocked'," Think Progress, May 12, 2006: "CongressDaily reports that former NSA staffer Russell Tice will testify to the Senate Armed Services Committee next week that not only do employees at the agency believe the activities they are being asked to perform are unlawful, but that what has been disclosed so far is only the tip of the iceberg."
- georgia10, "An Illusion of Privacy and Security," Daily Kos, May 12, 2006.
- Greg Palast, "The Spies Who Shag Us. The Times and USA Today have Missed the Bigger Story -- Again," BuzzFlash, May 12, 2006.
- Fred Kaplan, "The Right Kind of Paranoia. How the NSA could fix its data-mining program," Slate, May 12, 2006.
- Michael Kieschnick, "Working Assets vs. AT&T, BellSouth, Verizon and the Bush Administration. Where We Stand on Big Telecom and Spying on Americans," workingforchange, May 12, 2006.
- "Bush Defends Scope of Domestic Spying. Address comes two days after revelation of ultra-secret NSA eavesdropping," Associated Press (MSNBC), May 13, 2006.
- John Aravosis, "Add Virgin Mobile and Cox to the list of 'good guy' telecom companies," AMERICAblog, May 13, 2006.
- Simson L. Garfinkel, "Phone Calls Are Just the Start," Washington Post, May 14, 2006.
- Dan Eggen, "Negroponte Had Denied Domestic Call Monitoring. Administration Won't Comment on NSA Logs," Washington Post, March 15, 2006.
- Brian Ross and Richard Esposito, "Federal Source to ABC News: We Know Who You're Calling," The Blotter Blog/ABC News, May 15, 2006.
- Patrick Martin, "NSA phone spying program: a blueprint for mass repression," WSWS, May 15, 2006.
- Leslie Cauley, "In statement, BellSouth denies giving information to National Security Agency," USA Today, May 16, 2006.
- "BellSouth Denies Giving NSA Call Data. Company Refutes Report, Says No Evidence NSA Contacted Them," CBS News/Associated Press, May 16, 2006.
- James M. Yoch, Jr., "FCC chief calls for probe of domestic phone records turnover to NSA," Jurist, May 16, 2006.
- Douglass K. Daniel, "FCC chief calls for probe of phone cos.," Associated Press (The Mercury News), May 16, 2006.
- John Aravosis, "After five days of silence, Verizon denies giving data to the NSA, kind of," AMERICAblog, May 16, 2006.
- Bill Gallagher, "Bush Spying on American Citizens Violates Our Guaranteed Freedoms," Niagara Falls Reporter, May 16, 2006.
- Jon Van and Michael Oneal, "Phone giants raise doubts on spy story," Chicago Tribune (Topix.net), May 16, 2006.
- Ryan Singel, "Stumbling Into a Spy Scandal"; "AT&T Whistle-Blower's Evidence"; and "Court Deals AT&T a Setback," Wired News, May 17, 2006.
- Judd Legum, "New Presidential Memorandum Permits Intelligence Director To Authorize Telcos To Lie Without Violating Securities Law," Think Progress, May 17, 2006.
- "Court Denies AT&T Privacy. Judge nixes bid for a closed-door hearing involving the company’s stewardship of customer phone records," Red Herring, May 17, 2006.
- David Kravets, "Sealed Documents Central to Spying Lawsuit," Associated Press (Houston Chronicle), May 17, 2006.
- Declan McCullagh, "Legal loophole emerges in NSA spy program," CNet News, May 17, 2006; last modified May 19, 2006.
- Keith Regan, "Judge to Keep AT&T Documents in NSA Spying Case Sealed for Now," E-Commerce Times, May 18, 2006.
- "Big Brother and the Phone Companies. Bush Regime Spies on Millions," Revolution, May 21, 2006.
- "Whistle-Blower's Evidence, Uncut," Wired News, May 22, 2006. re Internal AT&T documents
- John Aravosis, "WIRED publishes internal AT&T documents showing company sold out customers to the NSA," AMERICAblog, May 22, 2006.
- Larry Neumeister, "ACLU Launches Anti-Surveillance Campaign. ACLU launches campaign to investigate phone companies' sharing of customer data with NSA," Associated Press (CBS News), May 24, 2006; Washington Post.
- Kathleen Burge, "Mayors demand phone inquiry. Seeking answers on data sharing," Boston Globe, May 25, 2006.
- Declan McCullagh, "AT&T leaks sensitive info in NSA suit," CNET News (ZDNet News), May 26, 2006.
- "Spy Agency Sought U.S. Call Records Before 9/11, Lawyers Say," Bloomberg News, June 30, 2006.
- Andrew Harris,"Spy Agency Sought U.S. Call Records Before 9/11, Lawyers Say,","Bloomberg News,"June 30, 2006.
- EPIC,"Hepting et al. v. AT&T Corp.,","Electronic Privacy Information Center,"May 2007.
- Eff,"EFF's Case Against AT&T,""Electronic Frontier Foundation,"
- EPIC,"Hepting et al. v. AT&T Corp.,","Electronic Privacy Information Center,"May 2007.