USA Today has broken the story that, with the cooperation of AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, the NSA has been collecting (nearly) all our phone call records since shortly after 9/11:
“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA’s activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.
Notably, of the big telecomm companies only Qwest refused to cooperate despite strong pressure:
According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest’s CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA’s assertion that Qwest didn’t need a court order — or approval under FISA — to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers’ information and how that information might be used.
Financial implications were also a concern, the sources said. Carriers that illegally divulge calling information can be subjected to heavy fines. The NSA was asking Qwest to turn over millions of records. The fines, in the aggregate, could have been substantial.
Here’s what should happen as a result of this news: AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth should pay dearly in the marketplace with customers scrambling to get their service away from companies they don’t trust. Bush should be impeached and the head of the NSA that oversaw all this, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, should be up on charges with huge amounts of jail time. What actually will happen remains to be seen.
UPDATE: Also see USA Today’s chilling Q&A… “Q: Does the NSA’s domestic program mean that my calling records have been secretly collected? A: In all likelihood, yes… [including] calls from home phones and wireless phones.”9:45 am on May 11, 2006 Email Stephen W. Carson