The Return of Mark Klein

Remember Mark Klein, the former AT&T tech who emerged as a whistleblower in April of last year, alleging that AT&T was diverting internet traffic to the NSA via secret rooms in their switching centers?

Well, if you don't remember him, I won't blame you, given that the mainstream media didn't seem to think that what he had to say was all that important at the time.

But in the intervening year and a half, of course, we've learned that both the administration and the telecoms were getting up to a lot of secretive and flatly criminal shenanigans, the extent of which we've yet to determine—even as Congress is poised to nonetheless grant them retroactive immunity for whatever it was they might have done in a blatant infringement of the privacy rights of American citizens.

Now, Klein is in D.C. to lobby against that legislation, explaining that if the immunity provision passes, Americans may never know how extensive the surveillance program actually was nor how profoundly their rights had been breached.

"The president has not presented this truthfully," said Klein, a 62-year old retiree. "He said it was about a few people making calls to the Mideast. But I know this physical equipment. It copies everything. There's no selection of anything, at all -- the splitter copies entire data streams from the internet, phone conversations, e-mail, web-browsing. Everything."

What Klein unearthed -- you can read it here -- points to a nearly unbounded surveillance program. Its very location in San Francisco suggests that the program was "massively domestic" in its focus, he said. "If they really meant what they say about only wanting international stuff, you wouldn't want it in San Francisco or Atlanta. You'd want to be closer to the border where the lines come in from the ocean so you pick up international calls. You only do it in San Francisco if you want domestic stuff. The location of this stuff contradicts their story."

That's what's at stake in the telecom immunity provision, Klein believes. If the surveillance-related lawsuits are invalidated by a provision in the intelligence-committee-passed FISA bill, then the extent of the program -- at least between 2001 and 2006 -- will remain the exclusive purview of the Bush administration, the communications firms and the handful of Senators selected to review legal justifications for the program. "These are not babes in woods. They knew what they were doing," Klein said. "The violation of the Constitution is where they split off -- where the splitter splits off full copies of a datastream, and connects to other companies' internet stuff, like Sprint or GlobalCrossing. They don’t want people to understand that. They want to portray it like the president does, that it's a handful of international phone calls. That's the soundbite, and that’s not true. It affects millions of people domestically."
Yesterday, Matt Browner-Hamlin from Chris Dodd's campaign interviewed Klein. This video is a short clip (transcript at the link), but the full 18-minute interview can be viewed here.

I'd like to point out that Mr. Klein is blew this whistle in real time, unlike a seemingly never-ending parade of Bush administration tattle-tales who waited to reveal the truth until they had books to promote.

UPDATE: Petulant also has video of Klein with Olbermann and on Washington Journal.

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