UPDATE (edited). The following story, which I mistakenly attributed to the Financial Times has been challenged [see comments.] While there is, regrettably, no way to authenticate that the poster is who he says he is, some checking has turned up serious doubts. The original source for this was The Barnes Review, a Willis Carto publication
; there are not pejoratives strong enough for this man.
Unlike The Magisterial New York Times, some of us bloggers actually do make corrections and issue apologies. I hereby apologize to our readers for not checking this story out more closely ahead of time. And unlike Judy Miller, we don't blame others for doing the checking we should have done. --Charles]
As many readers doubtless know, The Financial Times published an article
stating that America Online is allowing the Department of Homeland Security-- the people who handled New Orleans so well-- unlimited access to electronic transmissions such as e-mail and IMs. Even worse, DHS has exceeded even that wildly Orwellian charter and started shopping personal information to... who? Blackwater Security? Blackmail Security? Blackguard Insecurity?
Washington- The American-based internet giant, AOL, wholly-owned by Time-Warner, has formed a working partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to permit unlimited surveillance of the millions of AOL online members, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.... allows agents from these entities 'free and unfettered' access to AOL Hq at Dulles, VA for the purpose of 'watching over and keeping surveillance' on the millions of AOL customers,' ...While information gleaned from delving into personal computer messages is supposed to be kept confidential, it appears that the DHS has exceeded their brief and obtained what appears to be strictly personal information which is then circulated to entities outside the DHS.
Anyone who has read James Bamford's The Puzzle Palace knows that variations on this have been going on for 20 years. That's when NSA started doing keyword searches of every phone conversation on the East Coast. If you tell your maiden aunt, "That Broadway show was a bomb," the computer would flag the word "bomb" so that an all-wise intelligence officer can parse your meaning for you.
Anyone who has not been living his or her life as if it were in a fishbowl hasn't been reading enough.
What puts me in a snit is how blandly America Online simply lies about this.
"We regard our members' privacy as one of our most important values. ...We are committed to protecting your personal privacy. ...We do not read your private online communications...We ...safeguard your personal information...We will keep you informed, clearly and prominently, about what we do with your personal information, and we will advise you if we change our policy....We respect the confidentiality of your private communications, like e-mail and Instant Messages. We do not read or disclose these communications except in the restricted circumstances (such as a subpoena or court order)"
Has anyone seen lies uttered this casually even by such professionals as Scott McClellan? Where are the standards-- the rhetorical stutters, tics, and shifty eyes, the weasel words that alert one to the fact that the Department of Homeland Security is reading every word you type (including these) even as AOL is telling you you have perfect anonymity?
Well, you can tell AOL that you think they should improve their standards of lying by writing to members of the Time-Warner Board. The best bets are probably Parsons and the outside directors, but feel free to mix and match:
Richard D. Parsons
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
One Time Warner Center
New York, NY 10019
Robert C. Clark
Dean and Royall Professor of Law
Harvard Law School
1563 Mass Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
Fax (617) 496-4947
Jessica P. Einhorn
Dean, Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies,
Johns Hopkins University
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21218 USA
Fax: (202) 663-5621
and don't forget the Crowbar Lady,
Carla A. Hills
Chairman & CEO
Hills & Company
901 15th Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20005
Fax (202) 822-4710