The NSA wiretapping story nobody wanted
Whistleblower Mark Klein tells in his new book of how he was ignored. He spoke with IDG News.
Robert McMillan - July 17, 2009
p>The cliché doesn’t seem far off the mark after reading Mark Klein’s new book, “Wiring up the Big Brother Machine … and Fighting It.” It’s an account of his experiences as the whistleblower who exposed a secret room at a Folsom Street facility in San Francisco that was apparently used to monitor the Internet communications of ordinary Americans.
Klein, 64, was a retired AT&T communications technician in December 2005, when he read the New York Times story that blew the lid off the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Secretly authorized in 2002, the program lets the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) monitor telephone conversations and e-mail messages of people inside the U.S. to identify suspected terrorists. Klein knew right away that he had proof — documents from his time at AT&T — that could provide a snapshot of how the program was siphoning data off of the AT&T network in San Francisco.
Amazingly, however, nobody wanted to hear his story. In his book he talks about meetings with reporters and privacy groups that went nowhere until a fateful January 20, 2006, meeting with Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). Bankston was preparing a lawsuit that he hoped would put a stop to the wiretap program, and Klein was just the kind of witness the EFF was looking for.
With the EFF on board, Klein was briefly a media celebrity — the man who had the guts to expose the NSA’s secret wiretapping program. In his book he provides the documents and the stories that illustrate how all of this transpired.
Klein has been politically active since the 1960s, when he protested the Vietnam war. “I came to view the government with great suspicion like a lot of people back then and I still do,” he said in an interview he granted the IDG News service on Friday. “I guess that sort of laid the groundwork for my later experience, because I didn’t trust the government to begin with.”
Today he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife, Linda, and his two dogs. He self-published his book last week.