Newly disclosed documents unveiling the close relationship between the National Security Agency and AT&T could breathe new life into a long-running legal dispute about the NSA’s controversial method of tapping the Internet backbone on U.S. soil.This program, according to documents provided by Edward Snowden, is largely enabled by telecom giant AT&T, which filters Internet traffic, based on NSA instructions. AT&T then forwards the “take” to the spy agency’s storage facilities for further review and analysis.But a single email traverses the Internet in hundreds of tiny slices, called “packets,” that travel separate routes. Grabbing even one email requires a computer search of many slices of other people’s messages.Privacy advocates have long argued in court that grabbing portions of so many emails — involving people not suspected of anything — is a violation of the protection against unreasonable searches and seizures provided by the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil liberties group, is now hoping that the new documents will bolster their claims in a long-running case, Jewel v. NSA. “We will be presenting this information to the court,” said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the foundation. A Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment.So far, the only court that has reviewed the constitutional question is the secret panel of jurists known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. This court only hears arguments from the government and all of their decisions are highly classified.Other federal courts have declined to debate the constitutional question for fear that discussing any collaboration with telecom companies would damage American security. Last year, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, told a court that confirming the identities of any telecoms that work with the NSA would alert terrorists that “certain channels of communications are vulnerable to NSA interception.”But the internal NSA documents describe a nearly unavoidable surveillance system on AT&T’s Internet backbone in the United States. One document shows a technical sketch of how AT&T provides the spy agency not only with access to traffic on its own network, but also traffic from other telecoms that crosses its network.Such cooperative arrangements, known in the industry as “peering,” are central to the speed of the global Internet. The packets that make up emails and other messages are sent through the fastest routes possible, jumping on and off each company’s network as needed. That means that any Internet user’s communications, regardless of whetherthey are an AT&T customer, could end up on AT&T’s network — and in the NSA’s hands.The newly disclosed documents seem to confirm the words of former AT&T technician Mark Klein, who has testified that the spy agency had access to vast amounts of data from other telecoms that was transmitted over AT&T’s fiber-optic lines.Klein’s allegations are central to Jewel v. N.S.A., which alleges that the NSA’s “bulk, untargeted seizure of the Internet communications of millions of innocent Americans” from AT&T’s networks amounted to an unconstitutional search and seizure.The government has responded that there is no evidence that any particular communications have been copied, and, even if they were, they would have been “destroyed within milliseconds of their creation” if they did not have intelligence value. Even in that scenario, the government says, the surveillance would be a “minimal intrusion on Fourth Amendment interests” that would be “vastly outweighed” by the benefits of the program.The court agreed, dismissing most of the case in February without examining the plaintiffs’ constitutional questions.For Kevin Bankston, the new document disclosure is bittersweet. Bankston was the attorney at the EFF who first brought Mark Klein’s allegations to court.After reviewing the documents, he said, “We were treated as crazy for years for allegations that we now know are substantially true.”ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter. Sign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York
Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh announced Jan. 7 he was leaving to become the next coach of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, signing a lucrative five-year, $25-million contract.Recruiting power · NCAA-imposed sanctions have not stopped Lane Kiffin from finding top talent. USC’s commits currently rank 5th in the nation, according to Rivals.com. – Daily Trojan File Photo “It’s the perfect, competitive opportunity,” said the former NFL signal caller at his introductory press conference regarding the decision to bolt for the professional ranks.In the aftermath of Harbaugh’s departure, the Cardinal swiftly promoted offensive coordinator David Shaw to head coach, hoping to continue the success the program had achieved under Harbaugh’s watch, culminating in a 12-1 finish and an Orange Bowl victory earlier this month.If recent results on the recruiting trail serve as any indication, however, it won’t be a seamless transition after all, and USC stands to benefit as a result.On Monday, USC coach Lane Kiffin and the Trojans received an oral commitment from Anthony Sarao of Absecon, N.J., a four-star linebacker according to Yahoo! Sports’ Rivals.com, who had previously been committed to Stanford.The announcement came just one day after four-star running back Amir Carlisle from Sunnyvale, Calif. announced that he was also switching his commitment from Stanford to USC.“Amir is going to USC,” said his father Duane in a text message to Scout.com recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman.Saroa and Carlisle were among a group of 19 prospects visiting USC on official and unofficial recruiting visits this past weekend. The number of recruits on campus was one of the largest totals in the program’s recent history.When making his decision, Saroa told USCFootball.com, “It was a perfect visit. I had a great time out there.”The campus wasn’t the only selling point, however, as the New Jersey native admitted to being rather fond of the coaching staff’s pedigree.“USC has one of the best coaching staffs in college football,” Sarao also told the Rivals.com USC-centric website. “They definitely know what they’re talking about.”The Trojans’ staff includes highly regarded defensive coordinator Ed Orgeron, in addition to assistant head coach Monte Kiffin, who has been credited with creating the famed Tampa-2 defense. If Sarao had remained a Stanford commit, he would not only be playing for a new coach, but also a new defensive coordinator, after Vic Fangio announced he was leaving for the 49ers along with Harbaugh.Many recruiting analysts say Sarao, who is ranked seventh overall at his position by Rivals.com, has great strength, as ball carriers have had a difficult time escaping after first contact. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker can also go toe-to-toe with fullbacks when he blitzes or tries to shoot through the gaps.And with starters Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan graduating, Saroa, who is expected to provide help at the linebacker position, addresses an area of severe need for the Trojans.In terms of depth and position need, Carlisle also represents a needed pickup, becoming USC’s only running back for the 2011 class. Ranked by Rivals.com as the 10th best player at his position, Carlisle measures 5-foot-10 and weighs 181-pounds.Huffman has compared him to former California standout and 2010 NFL Draft pick Jahvid Best, who was known for his speed and breakaway ability.Carlisle runs a 4.43 40-yard dash and can catch passes well coming out of the backfield, which will make him a two-dimensional threat for the Trojans.“Both are great pickups,” Huffman said Monday via Twitter. “Carlisle will end up being the top running back in the West and is extremely versatile.”“Sarao is a big hitter and really physical. Not real tall, but thick with great agility and range.”The Trojans currently have 25 commitments for their 2011 class, ranked as fifth-best nationally according to Rivals.com.Under NCAA sanctions, USC would normally be permitted to offer just 15 scholarships per recruiting class. Because the school is appealing the penalties, however, the limitation will not be enforced until 2012, allowing the program to offer a maximum of 20 scholarships, including the nine early enrollees that count toward the 2010 totals.It is still possible that USC could self-impose further and offer just 15 scholarships.