“What Is That Box?” — When The NSA Shows Up At Your Internet Company

The owner of a small Utah ISP recently refused to compromise customer privacy for NSA, warrantless wiretapping…

When people say the feds are monitoring what people are doing online, what does that mean? How does that work? When, and where, does it start?

Pete Ashdown, CEO of XMission, an internet service provider in Utah, knows. He received a Foreign Intelligence Service Act (FISA) warrant in 2010 mandating he let the feds monitor one of his customers, through his facility. He also received a broad gag order. In his own words:

The first thing I do when I get a law enforcement request is look for a court signature on it. Then I pass it to my attorneys and say, “Is this legitimate? Does this qualify as a warrant?” If it does, then we will respond to it. We are very up front that we respond to warrants.

If it isn’t, then the attorneys write back: “We don’t believe it is in jurisdiction or is constitutional. We are happy to respond if you do get an FBI request in jurisdiction or you get a court order to do so.”

The FISA request was a tricky one, because it was a warrant through the FISA court — whether you believe that is legitimate or not. I have a hard time with secret courts. I ran it past my attorney and asked, “Is there anyway we can fight this?” and he said “No. It is legitimate.”

It was also different [from other warrants] because it was for monitoring. They wanted to come in and put in equipment on my network to monitor a single customer. The customer they were monitoring was a particular website that was very benign. It seems ridiculous to me. It was beyond absurd. It wasn’t like a guns and ammo website.

“What Is That Box?” — When The NSA Shows Up At Your Internet Company

 

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