…not 9/11. The Bush Administration spied on American citizens without court orders before Sept. 11, 2001. And it didn’t stop the attacks (italics mine):
In a separate program, N.S.A. officials met with the Qwest executives in February 2001 and asked for more access to their phone system for surveillance operations, according to people familiar with the episode. The company declined, expressing concerns that the request was illegal without a court order.
While Qwest’s refusal was disclosed two months ago in court papers, the details of the N.S.A.’s request were not. The agency, those knowledgeable about the incident said, wanted to install monitoring equipment on Qwest’s “Class 5” switching facilities, which transmit the most localized calls. Limited international traffic also passes through the switches.
….The accusations rely in large part on the assertions of a former engineer on the project. The engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview that he participated in numerous discussions with N.S.A. officials about the proposal. The officials, he said, discussed ways to duplicate the Bedminster system in Maryland so the agency “could listen in” with unfettered access to communications that it believed had intelligence value and store them for later review. There was no discussion of limiting the monitoring to international communications, he said.
…”What he saw,” said Bruce Afran, a New Jersey lawyer representing the plaintiffs along with Carl Mayer, “was decisive evidence that within two weeks of taking office, the Bush administration was planning a comprehensive effort of spying on Americans’ phone usage.”
The same lawsuit accuses Verizon of setting up a dedicated fiber optic line from New Jersey to Quantico, Va., home to a large military base, allowing government officials to gain access to all communications flowing through the carrier’s operations center. In an interview, a former consultant who worked on internal security said he had tried numerous times to install safeguards on the line to prevent hacking on the system, as he was doing for other lines at the operations center, but his ideas were rejected by a senior security official.
What this means is that companies other than Qwest cooperated with the Bush Administration to break the law. Then there’s this from an intelligence ghoul:
But Bobby R. Inman, a retired admiral and former N.S.A. director who has publicly criticized the agency’s domestic eavesdropping program, says he still supports immunity for the companies that cooperated.
“The responsibility ought to be on the government, not on the companies that are trying to help with national security requirements,” Admiral Inman said. If the companies decided to stop cooperating, he added, “it would have a huge impact on both the timeliness and availability of critical intelligence.”
Fine. Now can we impeach Bush? Actually, it’s not fine. If Qwest stood up to the government, why couldn’t the other companies? Ultimately, the final responsibility in defending the Constitution rests, not with elected officials, but with us. Jail the telco executives and impeach Bush.