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NSA data-mining: Should Verizon have resisted?






by Tim Kern

June 12, 2013

Where is the Outrage? Where is the Courage? Where is the Resistance?

The past week’s revelation that the National Security Administration was mining cell service provider Verizon’s data would have been an even bigger shock, had it occurred in isolation. But with the AP reporters’ scandal, plus the very personal case being built against Fox News reporter James Rosen, it appeared to be only business as usual for this most-corrupt Administration ever.

Not only Verizon customers, but anyone who talked with Verizon customers, was part of the (as far as we know) most-sweeping dragnet of government snooping in our history. Unfortunately, with all the illegal activity, stonewalling, false information, and sneaking around being done by various Obama appointees (none of whose activity, apparently, was known to Our Leader), the Verizon case may not get the attention it deserves.

Of course, the usual Republicans will want to launch investigations. They’ll appoint committees, and we’ll hear all about this after it’s been properly whitewashed… in 2022. Even some Democrats, notably those who are facing election in 2014, are outraged and shocked – shocked! – that this could be going on. Nobody’s going to prison, and it’s likely no one will lose employment, though it’s possible some employees will be shifted to other government jobs.

The people lost a large part of their trust in their government with each of the past month’s scandals (the Benghazi lies, the IRS harassment, getting caught in the AP and Fox News spying, and now this), but how could it have been stopped?

In the Verizon case, it could have been stopped, but it would have taken some corporate cojones, which apparently Verizon lacks.

How? Verizon was being extorted by the NSA, no doubt with all sorts of threats. “Cooperate or else!” works, when the one demanding is the one with all the guns and police power, when the aggressor runs the courts, assesses the fines, determines who goes to prison. But Verizon has a power the government lacks: popular support.

Suppose Verizon said, “No, thanks!” when the NSA demanded millions of customers’ data. Suppose Verizon demanded, in writing, a list of just what the government was trying to get from them… and made it public? Suppose Verizon wrote its customers a letter like this:

Dear Verizon Customer:

We have been told by our government that we must turn over all your records to the National Security Administration, in the name of national security. The NSA has not told us what authority it has to make this demand, and it has not told us why it suspects you – all of you – are posing national security threats of one kind or another.

Nevertheless, we feel we must comply, because we have been presented with this letter [see letter] and have also been threatened by the NSA with actions which will cost us (and therefore you) so much money that you could lose service. There are so many Verizon customers that, should be forced to shut down even temporarily, the remaining carriers could not handle all the volume; not only you, but the people you call who use other networks, may therefore face massive and sometimes unpredictable service outages, due to the inevitable overloading of their networks.

While we believe that the government’s request is unreasonable, rude, and possibly illegal, we cannot fight this alone. Our corporate legal staff has never faced an assault of this type, and it is certainly not large enough to handle, in addition to all the work they already do in compliance and litigation, a full frontal attack by our nation’s internal spy network.

We need your help.

Please call your US Representative and your two US Senators at (202) 224-3121, and tell them that you do not like having all your phone records, locations, times of calls, who called you/whom you called, and other information simply turned over to the NSA, without any probable cause or a search warrant.

For the next week, Verizon will not charge calls made to this number to your account; nor will any calls you make to this number count against your minutes, should you have other than an “unlimited” plan with us.

Repeat: if you do not want the government snooping into your phone records without any reason or a warrant, call all three of “your people in Washington” at 202-224-3121 and tell them so. The call’s on us.

Thank you.

Your Verizon Management Team
Working for our customers, not the government.

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The onslaught of calls such a campaign would chill every person in the Capitol. There would be no need for Verizon to publicize this through the Administration’s captive Press; it would go viral in moments. The Press would not be able to ignore it, and neither would Congress.

Better yet, this kind of direct communication would build trust in the private sector, and build an appreciation for how a free market and a free country are supposed to stay that way.

2013 - Tim Kern - All Rights Reserve

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Tim Kern taught economics for fifteen years, hosted a radio talk show for nine, and continues to write and work on behalf of the Constitution, small government, and freedom. He has written or co-written three books, has bylines in over 50 magazines worldwide, and once earned an MBA from Northwestern University.

An archive of his recent columns.










The past week’s revelation that the National Security Administration was mining cell service provider Verizon’s data would have been an even bigger shock, had it occurred in isolation.