San Francisco reviews contracts with AT&T over domestic spying
SAN FRANCISCO – City officials are examining San Francisco’s telecommunications contracts with AT&T Inc. and whether to take action against the company for its alleged cooperation with the National Security Agency, Mayor Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.”If what I’m reading is true, I’ve got some serious problems as a San Franciscan, as a taxpayer and as mayor,” Newsom said in interview with The Associated Press. “And I don’t like it.”A federal lawsuit filed by Internet privacy advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation accuses the telecommunications giant of illegally cooperating with the NSA to make communications on AT&T networks available to the spy agency without warrants. According to the lawsuit, AT&T allowed the NSA to install data-mining equipment in secret rooms at AT&T offices in San Francisco and a handful of other cities.Last month, the government urged a federal judge to dismiss the suit, saying it threatens to reveal state secrets. The judge’s decision is pending.Newsom said he has asked City Attorney Dennis Herrera to conduct “fact-finding” on the matter. But the mayor also said he has completed his own compilation of “all of our current business relationships the city has with AT&T.”That review, which includes expiration dates and other obligations, “may be suggestive that if we conclude that this is sincerely problematic, there may be a desire to not just make a symbolic statement of opposition, but to make a substantive one.”The mayor said he did not know the value of AT&T’s contracts with San Francisco. Nor would he provide a timetable for completion of the city attorney’s probe.”I recognize the ability, (from) a local perspective, to perhaps have a little more influence because we do have a strong relationship with AT&T and I’d like to continue that,” he said.”But I also think it’s a two-way street,” Newsom said. “If you’re going do business with us, and San Francisco always has, we say, please help represent the values of the people that are actually purchasing those goods and services, meaning the taxpayers of this city.”The city attorney has not spoken directly to the NSA about its program, he said. A spokesman for the city attorney said his office does not comment on the existence or progress of investigations.A spokesman for San Antonio-based AT&T, Michael Coe, declined to comment on the city review or the mayor’s remarks.”Over the span of several decades, AT&T and the city of San Francisco have enjoyed strong partnership,” Coe said in an e-mail message. “We value this relationship and we look forward to serving the telecommunications needs of the city and its residents in the future.”The Justice Department has said more than 20 lawsuits have been filed around the country alleging that the phone companies illegally assisted the NSA. But a move to change contracts with AT&T over domestic spying would apparently be the first of its kind by a government entity. Newsom said he knew of no other similar efforts.New Jersey Attorney General Zulima Farber and other state officials sent subpoenas to five telecoms on May 17, asking for documents that would explain whether telecoms including AT&T supplied customer records to the NSA.The federal government sued the New Jersey officials last month to stop them from seeking information about telephone companies’ cooperation with the National Security Agency.