SMASH WALLS: WRITINGS ON POLITICS AND CULTURE BY TREVOR HULTNER
Volume 1 Nov. 2012 - Jun. 2013
DEAR OBAMA SUPPORTERS: A Letter From An Anarchist
Originally published: Nov. 6, 2012 http://c4ss.org/content/14034
Congratulations. Your preferred candidate won a second term as president. I’m sure y’all are too busy dancing in the streets and smilecrying and stuff to be on the Internet right now, but this will be here when all that is done. Now that Obama has got himself a second term, you and I need to have a chat. I just have a couple questions I need to ask, and then you can be on your merry Democrat way. Now that this is no longer an “election year,” will you now pay attention to the drone strikes, kill lists, allowance of indefinite detention and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants? Now that Obama is safe in the White House until 2016, will you pay attention to the continued incarceration of Private Manning? Now that your dude has won, will you look critically at his connections to the parasitic financial institutions that sent our economy spiraling out of control in 2008?
Now that there will never be another Obama campaign, will you protest with us against all of the above? Or will you stay home, wring your hands and sit there looking worried that your friends won’t like you anymore if you speak out against all of these things, things that people in other countries are justifiably mad at? Will you still call people who protest these things impractical, “emotional progressives,” or worse? Will you sit there, pensively waiting for Obama to become the man he promised he would be in 2008? Here’s a hint: he won’t. You don’t have to be an anarchist to see that the man you elected, while ostensibly “better” in a couple of arguably important ways than the man he was running against, is still no one to write home about. The “lesser evil” is still evil. All we are asking is that you remove your head from your collective behind and, at the very least, help us make sure that his evil doesn’t grow. You don’t need Adbusters to tell you to take to the streets. Just do it.
ZOMBIE OCCUPY VS
THE VAMPIRE STATE Originally published: Nov. 13, 2012 http://c4ss.org/content/14354 Remember two months ago, on the anniversary of Occupy Wall Street’s insertion into national and popular culture, when all the major media outlets declared Occupy dead? Those very same media outlets had to swallow those words in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, when activists from OWS formed a new group — Occupy Sandy — to help afflicted communities in New York recover from the “superstorm’s” devastation. They had to swallow their words again when Occupy Sandy began outperforming organizations whose very job it is to help communities bounce back after disasters. When the Federal Emergency Management Agency shut its doors at the onset of a second storm, a Nor’easter, blowing through New York City, Occupy Sandy picked up their slack. This became such a big deal that even the New York Times — which historically has not been very kind to movements centered around highlighting economic inequality — could not ignore it: Maligned for months for its pur-
ported ineffectiveness, Occupy Wall Street has managed through its storm-related efforts not only to renew the impromptu passions of Zuccotti, but also to tap into an unfulfilled desire among the residents of the city to assist in the recovery. This altruistic urge was initially unmet by larger, more established charity groups, which seemed slow to deliver aid and turned away potential volunteers in droves during the early days of the disaster. In the past two weeks, Occupy Sandy has set up distribution sites at a pair of Brooklyn churches where hundreds of New Yorkers muster daily to cook hot meals for the afflicted and to sort through a medieval marketplace of donated blankets, clothes and food. There is an Occupy motor pool of borrowed cars and pickup trucks that ferries volunteers to ravaged areas. An Occupy weatherman sits at his computer and issues regular forecasts. Occupy construction teams and medical committees have been formed.
This is not the first time grassroots, activist-based aid groups have outclassed both federal and nonprofit disaster relief. Hurricane Katrina saw the formation of the Common Ground Relief Collective. That organization, founded with the principles of horizontal, voluntary
association and direct action in mind, began helping people in the Lower Ninth Ward before FEMA or the Red Cross could even set up camp. These ad hoc groups of activists and volunteers seem to work better than the government or NGOs, but why? One possible reason is that the activists and volunteers are pulled from the affected communities themselves, rather than coming from without — therefore, they understand the neighborhoods they’re working in, know the people and can gauge their needs quickly. However, this is not always the case; Common Ground was started by four out-of-town street medics. Another possibility is that horizontally organized groups based on the principles of free association and mutual aid are just superior to organizations steeped in bureaucracy. The evidence for this is growing rapidly, as more people take control of their own lives and help their neighbors during times of crisis, economic, ecological or otherwise.
FEAR, VIOLENCE AND THE ABSURD Originally published: Jan. 10, 2013 http://c4ss.org/content/16185
Nearly a month after the tragic massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the ensuing “debate” over gun control and gun violence still looks less like the exchange of ideas and discussion on systemic violence we need to be having, and more like an absurdist tragicomedy; the latest “act” of which is, of course, the recent “interview” between TV tabloid hack Piers Morgan and conspiranoid fear-mongering talk radio host Alex Jones. Ostensibly, the two got together in the same room to “debate” each other over gun control. That was how the show was billed, and what appeared on the lower third graphic when the exchange finally aired. And this makes sense: for the last several weeks Morgan has been calling for measures that many — if not most — libertarians and anarchists would no doubt oppose, while Jones is without a doubt one of the the most outspoken gun rights advocates with access to a microphone and Internet connection. Those who saw the interview know that nothing like a reasonable conversation actually took place. For those who didn’t watch, this short analysis by fellow C4SS writer Jason Lee Byas captures the spirit of the spectacle nicely: “Within two minutes, (Jones) starts screaming. Within five minutes, he challenges Morgan to a boxing match. Towards the end he begins mocking Morgan’s accent.” In other words, viewers of the program were treated to a dramatic teleplay of epically absurd proportions. It’s immediately clear that both players were aware of their assigned roles, and they performed them beautifully. Jones was the court jester (or perhaps a more apt description would be rodeo clown?), responsible for keeping us, the audience, riled up and agitated — and more impor-
tantly, entertained; Morgan was the quintessential “straight man,” a stoic voice of reason, remaining steadfast after Jones’ whirlwind of irrationality died down. You can find evidence of this in how Morgan described the interview during an appearance on “CNN Newsroom” early Tuesday: “I can’t think of a better advertisement for gun control than Jones’ interview last night. […] It was startling, it was terrifying in parts, it was completely deluded.” It almost sounds like Morgan was describing a particularly effective horror movie from the 1930s. “You’ll scream! You’ll shake! You’ll come back for more! Witness the horror masterpiece of the century!” you can very nearly hear him exclaim. In fact, the interview is so scary that it compels viewers to swing right back around to a progun stance; as Laissez-Faire Books editor Jeffrey Tucker wrote in a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post, “If we get gun control, what means will the people have to protect themselves against Alex Jones?” Joking aside, what no one — not Jones, not Morgan, not liberals or conservatives, nor libertarians and anarchists — is willing to admit is that the problem of gun violence, and violence in general, is a wicked problem, eluding easy answers completely and teasing more complex ones unfairly. It is, like poverty or climate change, an absurd problem. Liberals want a more powerful regulatory state concerning gun rights. Conservatives and right libertarians oppose this on consti-
tutional grounds, and left-libertarians and anarchists oppose it on the grounds that they don’t want a stronger state, period. Conservatives want a bigger police state with armed guards in every school. Liberals agree with this proposal but disagree on the uniform the guards wear, while libertarians, anarchists and individual progressives definitively oppose it. Right-libertarians would like to see a less-regulatory state and more guns in the hands of individuals for self-defense, which liberals oppose. Conservatives play lip-service to it but would probably oppose it if it meant the “wrong” people getting their hands on guns. Of course, leftlibertarians and anarchists by and large want to dismantle a state that advocates and promotes violence on a systemic scale; this solution is one that liberals and conservatives alike strongly oppose. The possibility no one will admit exists — or, at least, they won’t in any serious sense — is that there may not be a solution to gun violence. For all the good a conversation on systemic violence, state violence, militarism, etc. might do for a small percentage of the population, the fact that at the end of the day, the current state still exists, will serve to nullify that good. People will still deify military service. Children will still be raised to want to be police officers. And the absurd problem will continue on a systemic level. Therefore, we must, as oppositional forces often do, commit to an absurd answer; we must struggle to teach our own children to reject killing, to reject domination over each other, to reject that systemic violence.
The Banality of Condemnation Originally published: Jun. 12, 2013 http://c4ss.org/content/19692 It seems that the standard media response when whistleblowers come out these days is to twist their images in such a way that no one could ever find them sympathetic figures. It happened to Daniel Ellsberg. It happened to Pfc. B. Manning. And now, it ‘s former Booz Allen Hamilton system administrator Edward Snowden’s turn on the character assassination stage. Snowden came out on Sunday (the Guardian‘s Glenn Greenwald) as the person who leaked information about multiple NSA programs to the press. Since then, many commentators have taken it upon themselves to not only question Snowden’s allegiance, but wonder aloud: “Who paid him off?” This task has been taken on most completely by two of journalism’s greatest hacks: New York Times columnist David Brooks and New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin. Toobin, in his “Daily Comment” piece “Edward Snowden Is No Hero,” infers from the interviews Snowden has granted that he is a “a grandiose narcissist who deserves to be in prison.” Why? “Any marginally attentive citizen, much less N.S.A. employee or contractor, knows that the entire mission of the agency is to intercept electronic communications.
Perhaps he thought that the N.S.A. operated only outside the United States; in that case, he hadn’t been paying very close attention. [...] Any government employee or contractor is warned repeatedly that the unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a crime. But Snowden, apparently, was answering to a higher calling.” Toobin argues from the mindset that government legality automatically translates into universal morality. Because Snowden knew that leaking his knowledge of what the NSA was up to was illegal and did it anyway, he should be imprisoned for it. This is itself an abhorrent premise to adopt. But Toobin doubles down: “The American government, and its democracy, are flawed institutions. But our system offers legal options to disgruntled government employees and contractors. They can take advantage of federal whistle-blower laws; they can bring their complaints to Congress; they can try to protest within the institutions where they work. But Snowden did none of this. Instead, in an act that speaks more to his ego than his conscience, he threw the secrets he knew up in the air — and trusted, somehow, that good would come of it. We all now have to hope that he’s right.” These are, almost word-for-word, the same blind appeals to authority that corporations like Walmart
use to quell any thoughts in workers’ minds of doing something as outrageous as going on strike or unionizing. One has to wonder, if Toobin’s career had gone differently and he had ended up as a manager at a Walmart at the center of — for example — the largest class-action sexual discrimination lawsuit in history, whether he would use the same arguments against the women bringing attention to the problem. But Toobin’s bloviations pale in comparison to the monolith of statism that is David Brooks’s latest column. Brooks’slegendary ability to deify, rather than defy, authority bears only a slight mention. Last year, he wrote a column calling (no, this is not a joke) for statues of the elite to be erected in town squares nationwide. This time, Brooks takes his art to a new height (or nadir, depending on perspective). Brooks starts his magnum opus by insulting Snowden’s intelligence; a bad move, considering the position he was in (not to mention the experience he had obtained) when he left Booz Allen Hamilton. Brooks quips, “[He] could not successfully work his way through the institution of high school. Then he failed to navigate his way through community college.” This is only the beginning of Brooks’ attempts to paint Snowden as immoral because of his supposed lack of family values. He continues: “According to The Washington Post, he has not been a regular presence around his mother’s house for years. When a neighbor
in Hawaii tried to introduce himself, Snowden cut him off and made it clear he wanted no neighborly relationships. He went to work for Booz Allen Hamilton and the C.I.A., but he has separated himself from them, too.” Snowden also had a girlfriend. But besides that, this doesn’t seem like deviant behavior from someone in the intelligence community. Spying is a standoffish profession. Finally, Brooks brings out the smoking gun: Snowden donated $500 to Republican US Representative Ron Paul ‘s 2012 presidential campaign. According to our favorite gumshoe columnist, that outward manifestation of dangerous libertarian ideals is what really makes Snowden a threat. And, in a way, he’s right — If not for Snowden’s libertarian tendencies, the state’s sweeping eavesdropping and data collecting programs wouldn’t have been revealed to the public. We’d still be in the dark. But that isn’t “dangerous.” At least, not in the same ways that David Brooks’ servility is dangerous.
US Attorney files dismissal of Swartz’s case, refuses to comment on his death Originally published: Jan. 16, 2013 http://c4ss.org/content/16334
NO MO Originally published: Feb. 7, 2013 http://c4ss.org/content/17011
In probably the most unbelievably smug move the state could have taken in the wake of Aaron Swartz’s death, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz dropped the case against Swartz in a US District Court in Massachusetts late Monday.
Thanks to NBC News, a lot of (nowformer) drone supporters are confronted with a confidential Justice Department white paper justifying presidential killing of American citizens abroad, seemingly on the basis of thin air.
“Pursuant to FRCP 48(a), the US Attorney for [...] Massachusetts, Carmen M. Ortiz, hereby dismisses the case presently pending against Defendant Aaron Swartz,” Ortiz wrote in a submission to the court on Monday. “In support of this dismissal, the government states that Mr. Swartz died on January 11, 2013.”
The document, 16 pages of Bushian doublespeak, declares “Here the Justice Department concludes only that where the following three conditions are met, a U.S. operation using lethal force in a foreign country against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida or an associated force would be lawful.”
Despite Swartz’s family literally placing the blame for his death on the state, and both MIT and JSTOR releasing public statements that were largely positive in how they portrayed him, a spokesperson for Ortiz told the Los Angeles Times, “We want to respect the privacy of the family and do not feel it is appropriate to comment on the case at this time.” After a year and a half of state harassment, the threat of over 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine hanging over Swartz’s head, after both JSTOR and MIT dropped their criminal charges (though MIT still wanted to go ahead with their civil suit), the government went after Swartz like a rabid dog – and got a kill. And now it is gloating.
Those conditions? “[A]n informed, high-level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.” In other words, we’ll obliterate you because of reasons, and you’re now a terrorist because we said so. Anwar al-Awlaki, to whom the Justice Department refers when it writes, “a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of alQa’ida,” was killed by a drone strike in Yemen in 2011; his 16-year-old
ORE EXCUSES! son, Abdulrahman, died in another drone strike weeks later. Their deaths, not to mention numerous other killings in Yemen, were welldocumented by reporters, including Jeremy Scahill. Yet the government has continued to refuse to publicly acknowledge that it assassinated two American citizens. From page two of the DOJ white paper:
“Were the target of a lethal operation a U.S. citizen who may have rights under the Due Process Clause and the Fourth Amendment, that individual’s citizenship would not immunize him from a lethal operation. [...] But that interest must be balanced against the United States’ interest in forestalling the threat of violence and death to other Americans that arises from an individual who is a senior operational leader of al-Qa’ida and/or an associated force of al-Qa’ida and who is engaged in plotting against the United States.” This paragraph, in particular, seems to rustle the jimmies of more than just your average ACLU lawyer, Glenn Greenwald or libertarians of all stripes. According to the Associated Press, several Democratic senators, including Maryland’s Steny Hoyer and Delaware’s Chris Coons, are leading an increasingly loud congressional outcry against the administration’s drone program. While it’s definitely a good thing that even Democrats are finally concerned about the utter wrongness of drone assassinations, “congressio-
nal control” is exactly the opposite of what we want. The military drone program, among other things, needs to be completely dismantled, not “regulated.” For the record, it should be pointed out that this white paper isn’t exactly revelatory. It confirms the claims of drone critics offered over the last five years — that this program grants the executive branch massive power, more power than any one person can stand up to. And it proves that the critics weren’t just spinning their wheels. When al-Awlaki and son were killed, when Samir Khan was killed, people tried to call out the Obama administration for engaging in the worst kind of authoritarianism. They were shouted down by supporters who thought the only goal of criticizing the administration on this issue was to cost Obama reelection. Think about that for a second: People protesting the assassination of American citizens were scorned for raising a “petty, divisive” wedge issue in electoral politics. The absurdity of this scenario threatens to implode the universe. The drone program is murderous and must be stopped. We need a ground-up anti-war movement to ensure that it is stopped, along with every other act of imperialism perpetrated by this government. You’ve got all the evidence you could possibly need. The ball is in your court.
Patent Trolls: BAD. Patents: WORSE. Originally published: Mar. 11, 2013 http://c4ss.org/content/17605 While global biotechnology firm Monsanto battled a farmer over soybean patents in the US Supreme Court, a District Court in eastern Texas heard a similar case: Personal Audio, an alleged “patent troll,” filed suit against Adam Carolla’s Ace Broadcasting network for patent infringement. The patent allegedly infringed? “System For Disseminating Media Content Representing Episodes In A Serialized Sequence.” In other words, podcasting. Personal Audio has been around since the mid-1990s, and credits itself with inventing the “Personal Audio Player,” a device similar to the iPod and the source of many of the company’s patents, including this one. “[Personal Audio CEO James Logan] is a small businessman, an entrepreneur, who invested a ton of his money into a startup, who still owns the patent, and is just trying to get compensation for his hard work as an inventor,” the company’s vice president of licensing, Richard Baker, said. “This is what the patent system is for.” According to Baker, Personal Audio is also trying to sell its podcast license to several major and influential podcasts and providers. “I will say that we’re certainly looking to license this patent beyond those three (companies they’re suing),” he said. “We’ve sent letters to a number of companies that we hope will come to a license with us amicably, without having to resort to litigation.” The prospect of this licensing scheme spreading across the entire medium has spooked many podcasters, including WTF Show host Marc Maron and Majority Report host Sam Seder. Both have received letters from Personal Audio “inviting” them to purchase licenses, and both have used their voices to back a recently introduced piece of legislation called the SHIELD Act. Supported by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, SHIELD aims to make it prohibitively risky for alleged patent trolls to sue; according to the act, if a patent troll loses, they have to pay the other side’s legal fees and costs. While this bill might be a minute step in a better direction, it isn’t even a bandage on the problem of corporation-favoring patent law. The SHIELD
Act, if passed, might prevent companies like Personal Audio from shaking people down, but it won’t prevent companies like Monsanto, with “legitimate” patents on genetically modified and enhanced seeds, from suing farmers and forcing them to burn their crops when they find their seeds on the latter’s land or Apple from making the smartphone and tablet markets expensively litigious. Libertarian intellectual property lawyer and self-described IP abolitionist Stephan Kinsella brought up an interesting point in a recent interview that seems to get lost in the general discussion surrounding patent trolls, patent law and intellectual property more broadly: as bad as patent trolls are — according to Kinsella they cost the US economy somewhere around $500 billion — legitimate patent holders, companies like Monsanto and Apple, can be — and often are — worse. Speaking of Apple, imagine a scenario where the company going after Adam Carolla and the rest of the podcasting world wasn’t some tiny dot-com-era relic in Texas, but the multi-billion dollar corporation from Cupertino, Calif. In this hypothetical situation, who would have the money or power to fight against Apple? How could a DIY podcast held together with string and some spit defend against Apple if it held the “podcasting patent” and wanted money for its license? Millions of people subscribe and listen to podcasts through Apple‘s distribution and cataloging software, iTunes. Currently, it costs nothing to add your own podcast to the iTunes directory; all that is necessary to do so is being able to link to a podcast RSS feed. If Apple owned the patent on podcasting and forced all new podcasts to purchase this license, it might, as EFF activist Adi Kamdar suggested in reference to Personal Audio, create a “chilling effect” on the medium. It’s possible, if the cost was high enough, that podcasting would meet the same fate as other forms of media and find itself subject to a “walled garden” model of organization. Only people with the means to do so would podcast. Vital voices and perspectives would be cut off. Patent legitimacy as it is currently presented seems to be based more on perception than any objective standards of law. With Personal Audio, we question the legitimacy of their podcasting patent in a way we may not have done if another company with more buying power had reached it first. Therefore, the solution to the problem of patent trolling is not to “regulate” it with faulty measures and half-steps in the “right direction.” The patent system itself must be abolished.
Originally published: May 24, 2013 http://c4ss.org/content/19297 The US government has declared war on us. By “us,” I mean the many thousands of people who work as journalists in this country, myself included. This war extends a larger, more subtle war on whistleblowers that the government, and the Obama administration more specifically, has waged for several years. Last week, the first overt shot: The announcement by Associated Press president and CEO Gary Pruitt that
was taking part in a “conspiracy to release classified information” in order to obtain a search warrant. Glenn Greenwald at the Guardian writes: New revelations emerged yesterday in the Washington Post that are perhaps the most extreme yet when it comes to the DOJ’s attacks on press freedoms. It involves the prosecution of State Department adviser Stephen Kim, a naturalized citizen from South Korea who was indicted in 2009 for allegedly telling Fox News’ chief Washington correspondent, James Rosen,
the US Department of Justice had secretly subpoenaed records from 20 AP phone lines, gaining unprecedented access to reporters’ phone numbers, both work-related and personal.
The probe stems from an article by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Matt Apuzzo describing, in fairly innocuous terms, how US and British intelligence allegedly thwarted a terrorist attack on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s killing. This week, that same DOJ announced that it had gained access to the email of another journalist, Fox News reporter James Rosen. This time, DOJ apparently went to a judge and claimed that Rosen
that US intelligence believed North Korea would respond to additional UN sanctions with more nuclear tests – something Rosen then reported. Kim did not obtain unauthorized access to classified information, nor steal documents, nor sell secrets, nor pass them to an enemy of the US.
The ramifications of effectively accusing journalists of federal crimes just for doing their jobs – something rarely done to cops or soldiers, even when they commit the most vile acts while “on the job” – are widespread and horrifying. We know that this has been an issue since at least 2005. Why is the media only now starting to talk about it seriously? Because of the “view
from nowhere.” The view from nowhere allows mainstream journalists two privileges: It removes them from the story (which can be beneficial until they are the story themselves), and it sets up the premise that there are two equally valid perspectives on any given issue (rather than one, or many, perspectives of varying credibility). Reporters aren’t supposed to be people when they’re reporting; rather, they exist as living, breathing receptacles and dispensers of information. This precludes any emotional attachment to a story. Again, this can be a good thing – especially in disaster areas where a massive physical and emotional toll has been exacted on a community – but it can make reporters blind to issues that directly effect them. Until earlier in May, this applied to the war on whistleblowers. We’re also supposed to adhere to the laughable idea that fairness and objectivity in our reporting automatically means that there are two – and only two – equal and opposing sides to any given story. Not only is this not true most of the time, it came back to bite reporters in the face regarding both the DOJ AP investigation and the announcement that Rosen had essentially been accused of a crime. Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog, put out messaging days after the DOJ AP story broke that, while not explicitly siding with the government, tried to put “equal” skepticism on the legality of the AP’s actions. In the Rosen case, critics on Twitter tried to argue that
since Fox News wasn’t a “legitimate” journalistic institution and that Rosen allegedly acted with some impropriety, the reporter in question forfeited journalistic protections, and therefore the government was justified in falsely accusing him of conspiracy. As Tommy Christopher wrote about the Rosen case for Mediaite, another progressive news-watcher, “Mr. Kim didn’t approach James Rosen, wracked by conscience over some government malfeasance, and Rosen didn’t approach Kim with a noble desire to gather the truth.” Christopher continues: That James Rosen was never charged seems to indicate that the evidence didn’t support the charge, but it is as silly to contend that the government had no right to ask as it is to conclude that James Rosen had no right to ask his source for information. The details matter, and they are being lost in the press’ knee-jerk revulsion at the general idea of investigating reporters and their sources. Although Christopher also acknowledges the First Amendment doesn’t make an exception for ignobility, the point is clear: If one’s status as a journalist can be questioned in the name of “seeing both sides,” so can their rights. Why is this okay? In both the AP and Rosen stories, the State used force to invade journalists’ privacy in the name of plugging leaks. This is unacceptable. If we are to advocate for a truly free society, there should be no concession on this issue: the State must not be allowed to do this.
MARK KLEIN: THE NSA WHISTLEBLOWER TIME IGNORED Originally published on Jun. 15, 2013 http://smashwallsradio.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/mark-klein-thensa-whistleblower-time-ignored/ One of the common gripes I’ve heard regarding the recent leak of NSA documents pertaining to the extent we’re being spied on is that “we already know this stuff, why is it a big deal now?” It’s a fair point to make (albeit, you’ve done so in a particularly annoying fashion), but it’s always good to be reminded that sometimes the State can be openly malevolent. However, one thing we weren’t counting on: the gripers are right. Like, exactly right. We already do know this stuff, because in 2006, AT&T technician Mark Klein told us. We just weren’t listening. Klein worked at AT&T for 22 years and traveled from New York to California. According to his testimony in front of a District Court Judge in Northern California in 2006, it was during his final years at the corporation that he saw anything suspect or out of the ordinary: In January 2003, I, along with others, toured the AT&T central office on Folsom Street in San Francisco — actually three floors of an SBC building. There I saw a new room being built adjacent to the 4ESS switch room where the public’s phone calls are routed. I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room. The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room. In San Francisco the “secret room” is Room 641A at 611 Folsom Street, the site of a large SBC phone building, three floors of which are occupied by AT&T. High speed fiber optic circuits come in on the 8th floor and run down to the 7th floor where they connect to routers for AT&T’s WorldNet service, part of the latter’s vital “Common Backbone.” In order to snoop on these circuits, a special cabinet was installed and cabled to the “secret room” on the 6th floor to monitor the information going through the circuits. (The location code of the cabinet is 070177.04, which denotes the 7th floor, aisle 177 and bay 04.) The “secret room” itself is roughly 24-by-48 feet, containing perhaps a dozen cabinets including such equipment as Sun servers and two Juniper routers, plus an industrial-size air conditioner. While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the WorldNet circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal. I saw this in a design document available to me, entitled “Study Group 3,
LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco” dated Dec. 10, 2002. I also saw design documents dated Jan. 13, 2004 and Jan. 24, 2003, which instructed technicians on connecting some of the already in-service circuits to the “splitter” cabinet, which diverts some of the light signal to the secret room. The circuits listed were the Peering Links, which connect Worldnet with other networks and hence the whole country, as well as the rest of the world.
So, why wasn’t Klein’s story bigger news at the time? After all, we had a Bush/Cheney White House and disturbing revelations were starting to come out regarding the national security-obsessed “shadow” government Cheney had been setting up. Well, actually… Wired, April 6, 2006: Former AT&T technician Mark Klein has come forward to support the EFF’s lawsuit against AT&T for its alleged complicity in the NSA’s electronic surveillance. Here, Wired News publishes Klein’s public statement in its entirety.
The Washington Post, Nov. 7, 2007: The plain-spoken, bespectacled Klein, 62, said he may be the only person in the country in a position to discuss firsthand knowledge of an important aspect of the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program. He is retired, so he isn’t worried about losing his job. He did not have security clearance, and the documents in his possession were not classified, he said. He has no qualms about “turning in,” as he put it, the company where he worked for 22 years until he retired in 2004. “If they’ve done something massively illegal and unconstitutional — well, they should suffer the consequences,” Klein said. “It’s not my place to feel bad for them. They made their bed, they have to lie in it. The ones who did [anything wrong], you can be sure, are high up in the company. Not the average Joes, who I enjoyed working with.”
Here’s a link full of stories about Klein over at the EFF: (https://www.eff. org/fa/pages/news-coverage-mark-klein-washington) Klein’s story was followed (albeit on a low level) by the media for several years, and yet it still barely registered to the American public. Maybe the difference is, now that whistleblowing is a little more public, people are paying attention better? (To be clear, this in no way takes away from the new revelations coming from Greenwald and Snowden. History is simply repeating itself. Hopefully this time, we get it – and get it right.)
Published on Aug 30, 2013
Volume 1, by Trevor Hultner Featuring writing from the Center for a Stateless Society and Smash Walls Radio