Wiretapping Flap Puts Phone Firms Under Fire
The Bush administration’s controversial domestic surveillance program has brought unwelcome scrutiny to many telecommunications companies, as the public debate has turned attention toward the level of complicity in the relationship between those companies and the National Security Agency.
Telecom officials maintain that the NSA could eavesdrop on electronic communications without the knowledge of high-level executives, as some of those who conduct secret work at telecom companies have higher security clearances than their superiors.
Congressional hearings opened last month to determine the legality of the program, which has monitored the phone calls of hundreds of people with suspected links to terrorism since Bush authorized warrentless surveillance following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The discrepancy in security clearances among workers and their bosses has created a dilemma for managers and executives at SBC and Verizon, which recently acquired AT&T and MCI, respectively. Workers with high clearances are legally prohibited from detailing the nature of their work to coworkers and bosses who have a lower level clearance.
Facing the threat of legal prosecution, it is not uncommon for workers with top secret clearances not to report details to their bosses, which calls into question how much top telecom executives actually know about the surveillance program.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Wall Street Journal (02/07/06) P. B3; Searcey, Dionne; Young, Shawn; Sharma, Amol .