March 7, 2008 | By Eva Galperin

EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn's Introduction for Mark Klein at the 2008 Pioneer Awards

My name is Cindy Cohn and I’m the legal director of the EFF.

I am honored to be presenting an EFF Pioneer Award to Mark Klein. The Pioneer Awards are often given to people who are innovators, who make cool or important things or who explain or change policy. We award thinkers of big thoughts and doers of big deeds. But in Mark we have something even better. We have a bona fide hero.

Let me tell you a little about Mark Klein.

On the surface Mark is a retired AT&T telecommunications technician, with 22 years at the company.

In 2002, Mark learned that the NSA was installing a secret, secure room at AT&T’s central office at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco.

In October, 2003, Mark was transferred to that facility and assigned to connect circuits carrying Internet data to optical “splitters” that were hardwired to that secret NSA room.

The splitters made a copy of all data going through those circuits and delivered it into the secret room. He also obtained documents showing the powerful computers inside the room, with the capability to analyze and sort through millions and millions of emails, web traffic and phone calls carried on those lines in real time.

Through his work he learned of similar installations in Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles, Atlanta and here in San Diego.

When reports of the government's warrantless surveillance program surfaced in December, 2005, Mark realized that he had unwittingly participated in a massive spying program that violated the rights of millions of Americans.

As he later told Keith Olbermann, he realized that by connecting AT&T fiber optic cables through the splitters, he had been “hooking up the big brother machine.”

And he realized that the President was not telling Americans the truth about this massive surveillance.

And that’s when Mark became a hero.

Mr. Klein brought his evidence to us at the Electronic Frontier Foundation -- including over a hundred pages of authenticated AT&T schematic diagrams and tables. Mark also presented this information to major media outlets.

For his efforts Mark was been threatened with civil liability and criminal prosecution. He’s been attacked, without success, by the federal government lawyers at both the District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of appeals. And he’s been ignored for way too long by the pundits and mainstream media who steer our national debate in DC.

But Mark has been undeterred. He has continued to take every opportunity to present his information to leading news organizations, to numerous Congressional staffers and at least two Senators personally. When Senator Chris Dodd took the floor in the FISA debate, he quoted liberally from Mark’s testimony and documents, and cheered him on as a great American hero.

Senator Dodd is right.

Stanford Professor Phillip Zimbardo gave a talk at the TED conference recently where he discussed “the Lucifer effect,” how evil always exists and ordinary, people can and do perpetrate it by sticking with the pack and telling themselves that they were “just following orders.” Professor Zimbardo ran the famous Stanford Prison Experiment in the 1970s, and recently testified at one of the trials of the guards in the Abu Ghraibe torture scandal.

Professor Zimbardo said that the only real antidotes to evil are heroes.

Professor Zimbardo tells us “>we need to teach kids to be ready to act heroically when the see evil. We need to give them real role models. He noted that comic book superheroes are bad models, because they have super powers. Instead we need to teach kids hero courses, teach them hero skills, make them heroes-in-waiting.

Professor Zimbardo also tells us “>that most heroes are more effective when they're social heroes rather than isolated heroes. A single person or even two can be dismissed by the system, but once you have three people, then it's the start of an opposition.

He promotes not only the importance of each individual thinking "I'm a hero" and waiting for the right situation to come along in which I will act on behalf of some people or some principle, but also, "I'm going to learn the skills to influence other people to join me in that heroic action."

Well, if you have a child, you could do no better than telling him or her about Mark Klein.

He stood up and told the truth at great personal risk to himself and his family. But he also recognized that just telling the truth wouldn’t be enough – that he would have to inspire other people to join him in his heroic acts. He certainly inspired all of us at EFF, so much so that we filed a lawsuit based largely on his evidence, and I know he’s inspired hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans who have written to their Congresspersons and to AT&T demanding that the illegal surveillance stop.

Right now EFF and Mark are in the fight of our lives in Congress to save that lawsuit, and it’s not clear which way that is going to go. But one thing is very clear: were it not for Mark Klein’s heroism, we wouldn’t have a chance.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Mark Klein: antidote to evil.

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