Who Is Helping The NSA?

Ken AshfordWiretapping & Surveillance1 Comment

CNET News.com asked telecommunications and Internet companies about cooperation with the Bush administration’s domestic eavesdropping scheme.

The question asked: "Have you turned over information or opened up your networks to the NSA without being compelled by law?"

Company Response
Adelphia Communications Declined comment
AOL Time Warner No [1]
AT&T Declined comment
BellSouth Communications No
Cable & Wireless* No response
Cablevision Systems No
CenturyTel No
Charter Communications No [1]
Cingular Wireless No [2]
Citizens Communications No response
Cogent Communications* No [1]
Comcast No
Cox Communications No
EarthLink No
Global Crossing* Inconclusive
Google Declined comment
Level 3* No response
Microsoft No [3]
NTT Communications* Inconclusive [4]
Qwest Communications No [2]
SAVVIS Communications* No response
Sprint Nextel No [2]
T-Mobile USA No [2]
United Online No response
Verizon Communications Inconclusive [5]
XO Communications* No [1]

Declined comment

* = Not a company contacted by Rep. John Conyers.
[1] The answer did not explicitly address NSA but said that compliance happens only if required by law.
[2] Provided by a source with knowledge of what this company is telling Conyers. In the case of Sprint Nextel, the source was familiar with Nextel’s operations.
[3] As part of an answer to a closely related question for a different survey.
[4] The response was "NTT Communications respects the privacy rights of our customers and complies fully with law enforcement requests as permitted and required by law."
[5] The response was "Verizon complies with applicable laws and does not comment on law enforcement or national security matters."

Bottom Line: "Major telecommunications companies" have reportedly opened their networks to the NSA. Because it may be illegal to divulge customer communications, though, not one of the companies has chosen to make its cooperation public.

It is interesting to note the number of companies who decline to comment, or are cagy in their response.  Why might they be doing this?  Do they wish to avoid the wrath of their conservative customers (because they don’t assist the NSA)?  Or their liberal ones (because they do assist the NSA)?  Or are they concerned about national security issues?

In a related item, it is interesting to note that Bush’s father, when he was CIA director in 1976 "complained that some major communications companies were unwilling to install government wiretaps without a judge’s approval", and that such a refusal "seriously affects the capabilities of the intelligence community."  Yup.  During the Ford Administration, there was a debate on warrantless surveillance, and the cast of charactors included Bush (the Elder), Cheney, and Rumsfeld.  That was 1976, two years before FISA.  Have times changed?