Friday, November 09, 2007

AT&T Technician is Latest Brave Patriot
To Blow Whistle on Illegal Federal Action

Amid all the reasons one might have these days to feel extremely pessimistic about the country (endless war, skyrocketing gas prices, a leadership vacuum and an ever-worsening economy, to name just a few), I think that a modest, retired technician for AT&T is almost enough to balance things out.

Mark Klein was working at the telecom's San Francisco office when he noticed some odd events unfolding. Workmen seemed to be building a secret room. He stumbled upon some internal documents that helped him piece together what was going on: the National Security Agency was tapping into AT&T's infrastructure in order to scoop up massive amounts of data. The agency, in other words, was illegally spying on Americans. He copied the documents out of a feeling that they might come in handy later. When he heard President Bush say something that seemed at odds with what he had personally observed, he went public.

By doing so, he adds his name to a proud tradition of ordinary Americans who stand up and do the right thing, blowing the whistle on government outrages. To my way of thinking, he becomes the third leg of a trifecta of courageous superpatriots in these Bush years. The first was Joe Darby, the young soldier who blew the whistle on his fellow soldiers' abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (I wrote about him earlier here). The second was Bunnatine Greenhouse, a high-ranking, no-bullshit civilian employee of the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers, who bravely challenged Halliburton contracts with the U.S. military. Vanity Fair did itself proud by comprehensively telling her story in 2005. Mr. Klein joins a unique list of American heroes who help renew my faith in the enduring strength of what might otherwise seem to be our fragile hold on democracy.


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