Fifty years ago, officers from the Signal Security Agency, the predecessor to the National Security Agency, visited an executive from International Telephone and Telegraph and asked for copies of all foreign government cables carried by the company.
The request was a direct violation of a 1934 law that banned the interception of domestic communications, but Attorney General Tom Clark backed it.
Initially reluctant, ITT relented when told that its competitor, Western Union, had already agreed to supply this information. As James Bamford relates in his book The Puzzle Palace, the government told ITT it “would not desire to be the only non-cooperative company on the project.”
RCA Global Communications, Western Union, and American Cable and Radio Corporation all just jumped right in and signed on to an obviously unlawful program.
Shamrock, was the code name for the effort to collect cables sent through U.S.-controlled telegraph lines ultimately involved all the American telecom giants of the era, captured private as well as government cables, and lasted nearly 30 years. (Read more here)
Well, here we are again in December of 2007 with the same sort of nonsense going on.
Senator Diane Feinstein says she wants a “Secret Court” to decide if the telephone companies believed that they were acting legally.
This is ridiculous.
These companies understood they were breaking the law when they were doing this sort of thing in the past, and they understand they are breaking the law today.
This is obviously why they want immunity from prosecution.
How come we need to give the telecommunications corporations some sort of special secret court? How many other criminals get to have their own special court and judge to appeal to when they get caught doing something unlawful?
What is wrong with that woman?
As further evidence that these outfits knew they were on shaky ground, one company, Qwest, had the courage to stand up and tell the government that they wouldn’t take part in their unlawful scheme.
It’s all the more unusual, because Qwest was a company that was not particularly known for it’s business ethics.
Don’t you think these corporate attorneys and general counsels talk to each other?
Once again, these corporations knew they were breaking the law when they did this sort of thing in the past, and they know they are breaking the law now.
They should not get any immunity… period.