"NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls":
Thu May 11, 2006 16:31

Magrie Burns
"NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls":
Thu May 11, 2006 15:23

"NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls": calls for sarcastic response
by margieburns on Thu 11 May 2006 05:11 AM CDT | Permanent Link

This is straight out of some evil planet visited in Star Trek. AP reports that “The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth . . .”


The USA Today article says, “This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity . . .”

What this means among other things is that Team Bush can infer from “calling patterns” (I am a Verizon customer) whom I am calling and who is calling me, whether I’m at home, my destination if I’m traveling or even commuting, even when my next article is coming out and where it’s coming out.

“Terrorist activity”? Never happen. But as a patriotic American, I never see the president on television without thinking of Leavenworth. And they know it.

BTW, there is no scantest assurance here that they aren’t doing the same thing with emails. Every Democrat in Congress ought to be demanding the open release, from BushGovt, of all information collected on his/her own constituents. Any Dem or Repub who doesn’t -- needs a swiftly moving primary opponent who will promise to do so.





Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated by President Bush to become the director of the CIA, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. In that post, Hayden would have overseen the agency's domestic phone record collection program.




Bush administration officials have said repeatedly that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by President Bush after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is carefully targeted to include only international calls and e-mails into or out of the USA, and only those that involve at least one party suspected of being a member or ally of al-Qaeda or a related terror group.

Some comments related to what the administration calls the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," and surveillance in general:

Gen. Michael Hayden, principal deputy director of national intelligence, and now Bush's nominee to head the CIA, at the National Press Club, Jan. 23, 2006:

"The program ... is not a drift net over (U.S. cities such as) Dearborn or Lackawanna or Fremont, grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data-mining tools or other devices that so-called experts keep talking about.

"This is targeted and focused. This is not about intercepting conversations between people in the United States. This is hot pursuit of communications entering or leaving America involving someone we believe is associated with al-Qaeda. ... This is focused. It's targeted. It's very carefully done. You shouldn't worry."

Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Feb. 6, 2006:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales: "Only international communications are authorized for interception under this program. That is, communications between a foreign country and this country. ...

"To protect the privacy of Americans still further, the NSA employs safeguards to minimize the unnecessary collection and dissemination of information about U.S. persons."

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.: "I don't understand why you would limit your eavesdropping only to foreign conversations. ..."

Gonzales: "I believe it's because of trying to balance concerns that might arise that, in fact, the NSA was engaged in electronic surveillance with respect to domestic calls."


QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: The NSA record collection program

The National Security Agency has been collecting domestic calling records from major telecommunications companies, sources told USA TODAY. Answers to some questions about the program, as described by those sources:

Q: Does the NSA's domestic program mean that my calling records have been secretly collected?

A: In all likelihood, yes. The NSA collected the records of billions of domestic calls. Those include calls from home phones and wireless phones.

Q: Does that mean people listened to my conversations?

A: Eavesdropping is not part of this program.

Q: What was the NSA doing?

A: The NSA collected "call-detail" records. That's telephone industry lingo for the numbers being dialed. Phone customers' names, addresses and other personal information are not being collected as part of this program. The agency, however, has the means to assemble that sort of information, if it so chooses.

Q: When did this start?

A: After the Sept. 11 attacks.

Q: Can I find out if my call records were collected?

A: No. The NSA's work is secret, and the agency won't publicly discuss its operations.

Q: Why did they do this?

A: The agency won't say officially. But sources say it was a way to identify, and monitor, people suspected of terrorist activities.

Q: But I'm not calling terrorists. Why do they need my calls?

A: By cross-checking a vast database of phone calling records, NSA experts can try to pick out patterns that help identify people involved in terrorism.

Q: How is this different from the other NSA programs?

A: NSA programs have historically focused on international communications. In December, The New York Times disclosed that President Bush had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on international phone calls to and from the USA. The call-collecting program is focused on domestic calls, those that originate and terminate within U.S. borders.

Q: Is this legal?

A: That will be a matter of debate. In the past, law enforcement officials had to obtain a court warrant before getting calling records. Telecommunications law assesses hefty fines on phone companies that violate customer privacy by divulging such records without warrants. But in discussing the eavesdropping program last December, Bush said he has the authority to order the NSA to get information without court warrants.

Q: Who has access to my records?

A: Unclear. The NSA routinely provides its analysis and other cryptological work to the Pentagon and other government agencies.

Contributing: Leslie Cauley
Posted 5/10/2006 11:18 PM ET

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