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Who Owns the Content of Your Phone Calls?

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: There's a big argument that has ensued over this that's kind of constitutionally fascinating.  And the people that are not bothered at all by what the NSA's doing, it's just common, this is part of intel, and you have nothing to fear.  All three branches signed off on this.  It's entirely lawful.  It's entirely constitutional, and, guess what?  You don't own your phone calls.  They're not yours.  You don't own your phone number.  It isn't yours.  It's the phone company's.  The record of your phone call is not yours to give.  It's the phone company's.  You don't own it.  It isn't yours.  So you run around thinking your calls here are private.  They're not yours.  So goes the theory.  The information belongs to the phone company.  It doesn't belong to you.  So you have no leg to stand on when you demand --

(interruption)

No. The content of the call belongs to the phone company, and now the government.  You don't own it.  You don't own the phone company.  The content exists only because the phone company made their phone lines available for you to rent.  You don't own them.  I'm telling you how these people are looking at it now.  The information belongs to the phone company, not you.  Well, your house doesn't belong to you until you've paid it off.  You might think you own it, but you don't until you've paid off the mortgage.  The bank does. 

The phone company owns the audio.  You don't.  You are renting.  You are leasing.  In fact, most people don't even own their phones.  They're subsidized by their contract with the cell provider.  There is a law that if you are going to play on the air recorded phone calls, you have to get the permission of the people on the call before you can.  That's an FCC rule.  Now, let me go further with this business that the information doesn't belong to you.  The content of your phone calls, your texts, your video chats, doesn't belong to you.  It belongs to the phone company and therefore it's entirely up to the phone company whether or not they want to give it up to the government. 

Now, let's add a new wrinkle.  In PRISM, in everything that we've learned about that sweep involving Verizon where every call they are giving to the government for three months, and then it gets renewed, probably all the other phone companies as well.  Yeah, you don't own the information.  The phone company does.  But, added wrinkle, the federal government has passed a statute giving immunity to the phone companies from civil suits based on privacy representations by phone companies to customers via private contract.  So the phone companies have immunity.  They struck a deal.  The government said we want everything on your phone line, everything in your system. The phone company, "Okay, we want immunity from what's on there because it's all these different customers of ours."  That's part of the Patriot Act.  The phone companies have immunity. 

The phone companies have immunity.  The cell phone companies all have immunity by virtue of a statute that was passed that is part of the Patriot Act, and it's renewed, that gives them immunity from civil suits based on privacy violations.  Meaning, you can't sue the phone company for violating your so-called privacy by giving the government details of your account.  But that's not all.  There's another wrinkle.  In addition to that, the federal government has made it virtually impossible for phone companies to protect this information from government access, as evidenced by the NSA project.  The government has access to all of this phone data.  Consequently, saying that the individual does not own or control the information, saying the information does not belong to the customer is all well and good, but it doesn't belong to the government, either. 

This is what bothers me about where we are. Okay, you can say to the people that want to talk about strict interpretations of law, okay, fine.  Right.  The phone company owns every detail of my account.  Fine.  I don't own it because I don't own the carrier, I don't own the equipment, they enable the call because they own it, and I'm paying them rent blah, blah, blah, but why is the government automatically entitled to it?  We make this assumption that government can fix health care, government can fix global warming, government can fix problems with oil.  Government can't do diddly-squat.  Okay, so you don't own the contents of your phone calls, but then there's this automatic assumption the government does.  All they gotta do is say, "We want it." 

If you went to Verizon and said, "I want every phone call you handle. I want to be able to see the data," what are they gonna tell you?  "Fat chance, Joe."  The government calls 'em and says we want that, "Oh, oh, okay, here it is."  In some cases even without warrants.  It doesn't belong to the federal government either.  Yet the federal government has appropriated it from the phone companies and has immunized the phone companies from civil challenges under long-established contract law.  And you know how ubiquitous phone usage is.  I mean, it's incomprehensibly large.  And now people say it's no big deal because there's judicial oversight because all three branches signed off on it.  I don't know.  I'm just not that reassured.  I'm not a paranoiac and I'm not a conspiracy theorist, as you know.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: It's section 215.  Snerdley is really blown away.  I tell you, the interesting things about this, folks, all of this, the sweep of metadata, what I'm describing here is section 215 of the Patriot Act.  That is where the phone company owns the records.  That's where the phone company has been immunized.  That's where the phone company grants the government whatever they want.  They have to go to the FISA court.  The only oversight is the FISA court.  The FISA court never turns the government down.  Never.  I don't care what government, what administration.  "We want this." FISA court says, "You got it."  Phone companies are immunized; they give it up. 

The thing for you to know is that all this collection of metadata such as the Verizon Hoover operation, not PRISM, but just every record of every phone call on every carrier's network, the FISA requests for that data has gone up something like 1,000% under Obama over Bush.  It used to be limited by the requirement of a foreign component in the phone call.  That's out the window now.  So the president who's telling us that the War on Terror is over and we basically kicked ass and that we got nothing to worry about because everybody loves us now because Obama's a great, lovable messiah, and there is no more war, FISA requests for this kind of data are up 1,000% the last four years under Obama. 

Why? 

All of this collection of metadata skyrocketed under Obama. 

Why? 

Well, I mean, you answer the question.  Why does he want it?  Why does he need it?  What are they doing with it?  All three branches have signed off on it.  This is where I fall back, and maybe this is juvenile, naive and so forth, according to educated constitutionalists, but when I say it matters who's doing it, it matters.  If the same people who are using the IRS to target citizens and to suppress their participation in the political process, if the same people doing that are collecting all of this data, sorry, my red flags of suspicion skyrocket.  And the fact that all three branches have signed off on it doesn't comfort me that much because the FISA court's a branch, the judicial branch, and they rubber-stamp every request, that we know of.  It's secret.  But we assume that they rubber-stamp it.

END TRANSCRIPT

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