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Six degrees, and all that jazz...
May 11, 2006 4:55 AM   Subscribe

NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls. "The NSA's domestic program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the sources. Right around that time, they said, NSA representatives approached the nation's biggest telecommunications companies. The agency made an urgent pitch: National security is at risk, and we need your help to protect the country from attacks"
posted by gsb (182 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."
posted by EarBucket at 4:59 AM on May 11, 2006


"Let me talk for a few minutes also about what this program is not. It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont 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."

-- Michael Hayden, President Bush's pick to head the CIA, January 2006
posted by digaman at 5:00 AM on May 11, 2006


USA Today describes the tracking records of phone calls made by Americans within US borders as "the largest database in the world."
posted by digaman at 5:02 AM on May 11, 2006


This is chilling, but the worst part is that I can't imagine how it is illegal. These are the phone companies' records, and the phone companies handed them over voluntarily.
posted by leapingsheep at 5:05 AM on May 11, 2006


"Six degrees" nothing. This is about tracking the calling activity of "tens of millions" of Americans -- which means you.

No wonder the NSA wouldn't grant security clearances to the Justice Departments own investigation of the ethics of this program, killing the DOJ's probe.
posted by digaman at 5:07 AM on May 11, 2006


It's (hopefully) soon going to be illegal for phone companies (or other companies) to sell your call log information to a third party. Wouldn't this certainly be illegal then?

Oh, wait, 9/11. Silly me.


Members of the FBI knew 9/11 was going to happen and the government still wasn't able to stop it. How is this still being ignored?
posted by rxrfrx at 5:09 AM on May 11, 2006


they're not looking for terrorists

they're looking for the shape and nature of people's social and business networks, which could be invaluable for political marketing purposes ... or to identify certain key phone numbers that many different people call ... which could belong to ordinary businesses ... or drug dealers

the result won't be many arrests or wiretaps ... but subtle manipulation of the public based on secret metrics
posted by pyramid termite at 5:13 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


This manipulation is not subtle. The next head of the CIA has flagrantly misled the public about the extent of a domestic surveillance program targeting ordinary citizens, in the kind of carefully parsed language that was once called "Clintonian." This kind of manipulation is a clear and present danger to the liberty and privacy that Americans take for granted.
posted by digaman at 5:16 AM on May 11, 2006


not to mention that political activists, drug dealers, politicians, damn, just about anyone the government's interested in, are going to have their associations and habits thoroughly documented ... by just punching in the phone number into a cray computer

j edgar hoover would have creamed in his panties if he'd known about this

and digaman ... some of the manipulation isn't subtle at all ... but much of it will be

there's a lot of levels to this ... a lot of potential uses ... and they're all pretty sinister

the first thought that crossed my mind when i heard this on npr this morning was "fuck what i don't like about them - i'm voting libertarian"
posted by pyramid termite at 5:26 AM on May 11, 2006


Why does anyone find this suprising??
posted by matty at 5:37 AM on May 11, 2006


That'll teach me a lesson for buying all that Norwegian phone sex.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:48 AM on May 11, 2006


Big Brother spying on it's own citizens just doesn't seem to bother Americans much anymore; if it ever did.
posted by rmmcclay at 5:49 AM on May 11, 2006


From AT&T's Project Daytona (also here) website:
The DaytonaTM data management system is used by AT&T to solve a wide spectrum of data management problems. For example, Daytona is managing over 312 terabytes of data in a 7x24 production data warehouse whose largest table contains over 743 billion records as of Sept 2005. Indeed, for this database, Daytona is managing over 1.924 trillion records; it could easily manage more but we ran out of data.

Daytona's architecture is based on translating its high-level query language CymbalTM (which includes SQL as a subset) completely into C and then compiling that C into object code. The system resulting from this architecture is fast, powerful, easy to use and administer, reliable and open to UNIX tools. In particular, two forms of data compression plus robust horizontal partitioning and effective SPMD parallelization enable Daytona to handle terabytes with ease. Fast, large-scale in-memory operations are supported by in-memory tables and scalar and tuple-valued multi-dimensional associative arrays.

Daytona offers all the essentials of data management including a high-level query language, data dictionary, B-tree indexing, locking, transactions, logging, and recovery. Users are pleased with Daytona's speed, its powerful query language, its ability to easily manage large amounts of data in minimal space, its simplicity, its ease of administration, and its openness to other tools. In particular, Daytona supports SQL, Perl DBI, and JDBC.
posted by scalefree at 5:53 AM on May 11, 2006


pyramid termite, with respect, I'm not sure that voting libertarian would be more helpful than voting Democratic to bring this kind of thing (1) to light, and (2) to an end.
posted by ibmcginty at 5:58 AM on May 11, 2006


How much is the NSA paying the telecommunications companies for this data? That is the real question.
posted by JJ86 at 6:01 AM on May 11, 2006


This is not the time for a chorus of blasé hipster yawns about how Americans "don't care," folks. Bush's poll numbers indicate massive unrest about how he and his army of spooks, crooks, bumblers, and torturers are running this country.

Start listening to America's new silent majority.
posted by digaman at 6:02 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this is practically begging to be abused. As any hacker knows, the first step in hacking any network is mapping it. Find the hubs, the long-range links, map out the topology, track the flow of information throughout the network & you're set to manipulate the system on a grand scale. Forget social engineering, how about social NETWORK engineering!
posted by scalefree at 6:11 AM on May 11, 2006


Wow, I'm impressed that the folks at Qwest refused to bend over and grab their ankles the way the rest of the telcos did.
posted by emelenjr at 6:12 AM on May 11, 2006


If you want to read all the geeky details about Daytona, go here. It's pretty damn impressive.
posted by scalefree at 6:19 AM on May 11, 2006


This is not fresh news, and the govt has asked that the class action suit against ATT be dropped for security reasons. Always security reasons. If you do but a bit of research, NSA has put on line (!) their request PRIOR to 9/11 and for the new incoming president (Bush) that they be allowed to tap into places that previously they had not been allowed to touch.
posted by Postroad at 6:20 AM on May 11, 2006


Don't telephone companies provide their customers with a written privacy statement when they sign up? Would this violate the telephone companies' polices, and if so, could this result in a class action suit by the customers of these telephone companies' against them for breach of contract?
posted by ND¢ at 6:25 AM on May 11, 2006


Michael Hayden said they were too busy to spy on Americans.

President Bush, January 26, 2006:
...we will not listen inside this country. It is a call from al Qaeda, al Qaeda affiliates, either from inside the country out, or outside the country in, but not domestically.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:33 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


While we wait for a slightly less horrible president (Oh please, please, please) please join me in ratcheting up the banality of our phone conversations to heights never before seen, let us become a nation of 16 year old sweethearts, cry to each other patriotic brothers and sisters "I love you more, no I love you more, you hang up first, no You hang up first."

If you can... if you can just spare 15 minutes a day to call someone, anyone and tell them "Now I'm on Broadway, yeah still on Broadway, now I'm on 16th street and broadway, yeah Jody is a total bitch, who does she think she's fooling with that spray on tan, now I'm on 17th... What?"

We can do it together, grab a copy of Jane to leaf through and bellyflop on your beds America, call someone and say nothing at all, for as long as you can. After 9pm it's usually free!


This country will eat itself, ah well, it was a neat experiment if nothing else, see you all in the thunderdome, I got dibs on Blaster. Those who know never talk about anything secret on the phone anyway, right?
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:41 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Bush really whips it out and slaps it on the face of every American. John Bolton in the UN, his family lawyer in the Supreme Court, now his wiretapping Air Force buddy at the CIA.

America, what have you done by electing this Mongol.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 6:42 AM on May 11, 2006


I wish he was a freakin' Mogol, at least we'd see some cool horse tricks then.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:43 AM on May 11, 2006


kirkaracha: Technically they're not listening in because the call is already over. All they're doing is getting a record of the call, not its contents. Anything they do with this database would be classed under datamining, not surveillance.
posted by scalefree at 6:47 AM on May 11, 2006


America, what have you done by electing this Mongol.

As an American of Mongolian heritage, I am offended.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:51 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Now the DOJ has dropped its inquiry into the NSA wiretapping program because, well, they just wouldn't cooperate.
posted by NationalKato at 7:00 AM on May 11, 2006


Divine_Wino, that already DOES happen. There's no need to request it.
posted by tomplus2 at 7:08 AM on May 11, 2006


When I was in high school I had a war dialer program called Tone Loc that I used to dial my entire city. I dont know why I did it, but I did. I have to wonder how many flags doing so set off. Thing is even though I dialed tens of thousands of phone numbers, nothing ever happened.
posted by deviantlnx at 7:16 AM on May 11, 2006




Thanks for the xenophobia, but it is still unclear as to whether or not America "elected" Bush. There's plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise, given that both "elections" were squeakers with dozens of dubious factors, including the one I linked to.

That said, it's very important that the Republicans be unelected soon, so the proper investigations as befitting an actual democracy can begin.
posted by digaman at 7:22 AM on May 11, 2006


My country 'tis of thee
Sour land of hypocracy.
For thee I cry.
posted by Goofyy at 7:23 AM on May 11, 2006


All they're doing is getting a record of the call, not its contents
Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.
Maybe you trust them not to cross-check; I don't.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:26 AM on May 11, 2006


That makes three links now in this thread to essentially the same news about the NSA killing the DOJ investigation -- just sayin'.
posted by digaman at 7:28 AM on May 11, 2006


But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases

That makes it sound, like, complicated. Any journalist can do the same thing. Easy as pie -- but it ain't American pie.
posted by digaman at 7:30 AM on May 11, 2006


That makes three links now in this thread to essentially the same news about the NSA killing the DOJ investigation -- just sayin'.

digaman, I think it bears repeating. But do I get any prize for being speedier than the chungking express?
posted by NationalKato at 7:33 AM on May 11, 2006


Cheers to Qwest. I hope sales go through the roof. I'm not sure I can get it ...
posted by mrgrimm at 7:37 AM on May 11, 2006


Perhaps this is a final straw. I think this issue resonates with *everyone* now.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:39 AM on May 11, 2006


Yeah, I noticed after I posted the link. Sorry. That said, it still is a suck that nothing will probably come of this story as well. It's really quite amazing how much momentum/inertia Bush has. Nothing slows him down. Nothing stops him.

I wonder when they are going to leak news about Secret Police.
posted by chunking express at 7:40 AM on May 11, 2006


Let's all watch as:

1. "Conservatives" rush to defend Bush, saying of course this report isn't true. Many of them will claim, "If this is true, I don't see how I can support this administration any more." (I put "conservative" in quotes because, well, anyone with real conservative values -- small unobtrusive government, freedom of expression, transparency and honesty in public life, that kind of thing -- should have turned against Bush's Kremlinesque administration years ago.)

2. It turns out to be true.

3. The pundits all claim they didn't really mean they wouldn't support the administration (because remember what those liberals did that one time? Even worse. Goddamn liberals, we wouldn't be in this mess if it weren't for them, let's talk some more about how awful they are.) They are just slightly uneasy with this particular program. But hey, national security, Bush is one of us so by definition he always acts in our best interest, US uber alles, etc.

Someone tell me again how this sort of thing isn't a sign of fascist tendencies? (Corporate interests conspiring with secret government agencies to undermine civil rights -- very 1930s Berlin to my eyes.) Oh, right, this is America, nothing we do here can be fascist no matter what it is, and to say otherwise is unpatriotic. Ignore all that history! By no means try to learn from it and see how a democracy can turn into a police state. No warning signs here.

Well, let's have it, right wingers. Tell us why this is all perfectly okay and we should all just calm down.

It is getting harder and harder to be a moderate and not sound like a radical these days.
posted by koreth at 7:41 AM on May 11, 2006


Perhaps this is a final straw. I think this issue resonates with *everyone* now.

And i'm going to guess that this isn't going to be the final straw. If I had to guess, people will say, "I don't break the law, so why should I care if the government knows who I am calling" or something to that effect.
posted by chunking express at 7:41 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


it still is a suck that nothing will probably come of this story as well. It's really quite amazing how much momentum/inertia Bush has. Nothing slows him down. Nothing stops him.

Sorry sir, but you are profoundly out of touch. Bush's disapproval ratings are rivaling Nixon's in the days just before he was forced to resign. It's natural that the GOP would play this down, but even conservatives are starting to desert him en masse, if only because he's becoming a bad poster boy. Much of the media has been disgustingly slow to challenge him, but that's changing too -- as the primary link in the FPP shows.

Bush's "momentum" is currently headed one way only: into the shitter.
posted by digaman at 7:46 AM on May 11, 2006


Sorry; I must have missed how his low approval rating has changed everything.
posted by chunking express at 7:47 AM on May 11, 2006


All the President's Books.

In recent months a floodlet of books has been published about President Bush, his administration and the war in Iraq. They range widely in perspective: there are books by reporters, by administration insiders and by counterterrorism and economic experts; books with conservative, liberal and nonpartisan points of view; books that offer a wide-angle window on the administration; and books that zero in on particular aspects of the war in Iraq...

For critics of Mr. Bush, his willingness to toss out precedent and boldly go where few have gone before smacks of arrogance and hubris, and indicates a disregard for both history and long-term consequences. As Francis Fukuyama, the apostate neoconservative, writes in his new book "America at the Crossroads," great leadership may involve "putting aside self-doubt" and "bucking conventional wisdom," but "bad leadership can also flow from these same characteristics: steely determination can become stubbornness; the willingness to flout conventional wisdom can amount to a lack of common sense."

Mr. Barnes may regard the president's aversion to managing "a problem or a dispute or a broken relationship" as an indication that he is firmly focused on the big picture, but the former counter-terrorism czar Richard A. Clarke, writing in "Against All Enemies," argues that Mr. Bush looks for "the simple solution, the bumper sticker description of the problem." Issues like terrorism and Iraq require substantive analysis, Mr. Clarke goes on, but "Bush and his inner circle had no real interest in complicated analyses; on the issues that they cared about, they already knew the answers."

posted by digaman at 7:49 AM on May 11, 2006


kirkaracha: of course I expect them to do it. And I expect them to abuse it for purely political purposes, to track dissidents & leakers. My point is, everything the NSA is saying about not "surveilling" Tom, Joe & Harry American is technically true because they're not listening in on everybody's calls, they're only datamining their call records & using the output of analysis on that system as the input for the actual wiretapping system. This is the "subtly softer trigger" we keep hearing about with no explanation of what that phrase means.

I'm an old-time hacker (aside to deviantlnx: I'm in the ToneLoc docs as a betatester) who understands this technology probably better than anyone here because I've spent the last few years immersing myself in the concepts (& as much of the math as I can handle) of social network analysis, the math behind the structure of society. Believe me, I see exactly what this stuff is capable of.
posted by scalefree at 7:50 AM on May 11, 2006


Chunking, not to be flippant, but unless you expect the USS Enterprise to suddenly appear over the White House and beam Bush out of the Oval Office, I'm afraid you'll have to settle for the slower process of elections, investigations, and criminal inquiries.
posted by digaman at 7:51 AM on May 11, 2006


AT&T, Bellsouth and Verizon all rolled over. Qwest did not. All subscribers to the cowardly companies that betrayed their trust should cancel their service and sign up with Qwest, if they can.

A blow to their cashflow is absolutely the only thing the cold-blooded bastards who run this country understand.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:53 AM on May 11, 2006


See also... (apologies is previously linked).
posted by rzklkng at 7:57 AM on May 11, 2006


digaman, I don't think there will be an inquiry into this. I don't think there will be any criminal investigations. (Both of us will have to wait and see I suppose.) Bush can't run for a reelection. The net result of this scandal is that nothing will be any different for anybody. These are the sorts of scandals that you would think might bring a government down, but they don't. Extraordinary Rendition, Secret Prisons, Spying on your Citizens, etc, etc, etc. This is America?
posted by chunking express at 7:58 AM on May 11, 2006


The real story, perhaps further on, will not be the illegal collection of such intelligence, but instead the actions taken upon analysis of that intelligence.

Unfortunately, we have lots of practice.
posted by bhance at 8:00 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


A blow to their cashflow is absolutely the only thing the cold-blooded bastards who run this country understand.
posted by EatTheWeak at 7:53 AM PST on May 11 [+fave] [!]


Your money is the only vote you have.
posted by rough ashlar at 8:04 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


digaman, I don't think there will be an inquiry into this....These are the sorts of scandals that you would think might bring a government down, but they don't. Extraordinary Rendition, Secret Prisons, Spying on your Citizens, etc, etc, etc. This is America?

I know, if only we would catch Bush doing something truly horrible, like getting a blowjob from an intern, then the wheels of Justice could finally start rolling.
posted by illovich at 8:07 AM on May 11, 2006


CK, there are already several investigations already under way, as daunted as they are. But it's a bloody start. Please forgive my reaction to your cynicism, but frankly, I believe it's one the major obstacles to building a critical mass of opposition to the administration. If every time a new outrage is exposed by a journalist (I'm one myself), a chorus of obviously bright people like you pipes up with, "Who cares? It doesn't matter! Bush's momentum is unstoppable! This news will have no effect!", a profoundly chilling effect is exerted on the media to keep risking coverage of these stories, which Bush has made clear he considers tantamount to treason.

In other words, I believe that smart people throwing up their hands and saying "This is America?" is a huge part of the problem.

But I hear you and understand your frustration.
posted by digaman at 8:10 AM on May 11, 2006


This doesn't surprise me all that much ... it's kind of typical NSA practice:

Gather enormous amounts of data, and then process it and sift it and see what pops up (or look for specific things).

Also, the collusion of the telecoms with the NSA (or NSA predecessors) dates back to the 30s.
posted by Relay at 8:19 AM on May 11, 2006


In other words, I believe that smart people throwing up their hands and saying "This is America?" is a huge part of the problem.

I don't mean to be a jerk (heh). I get where you are coming from. I don't mean to suggest people should take things quietly. I think it's good these stories come out, and I think it's good people are starting to notice what's up. I just think it's scary what the government (and Bush) can get away with; you would think in a liberal democracy like America that there would be checks in place to prevent this sort of stuff from happening in the first place. More so, that there would be efficient ways to deal with things once they are brought to light. This doesn't seem to be the case.
posted by chunking express at 8:33 AM on May 11, 2006


Qwest is available in only 14 states, mostly in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain regions.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:35 AM on May 11, 2006


the collusion of the telecoms with the NSA (or NSA predecessors) dates back to the 30s.

True, but you'll find some illuminating information in the primary FPP about how the telecoms' approach has changed under Bush. This is not your granddaddy's data-mining.
posted by digaman at 8:47 AM on May 11, 2006



The NSA responded to the report with a statement.

"Given the nature of the work we do, it would be irresponsible to comment. Therefore, we have no information to provide," the statement read. "However, it is important to note that the NSA takes its legal responsibility seriously and operates within the law."


That's so reassuring to know. But I wonder which law -- the Bush "I don't need your steenking laws" law, or the US Constitution?
posted by digaman at 8:51 AM on May 11, 2006




One thing to note is how visible a USA Today above-the-fold headline is. Tons of people see those boxes everyday, and today they woke up to "NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls." Maybe it'll actually get notice.
posted by smackfu at 8:59 AM on May 11, 2006


I recently read Chatter: Dispatches From the Secret World of Global Evesdropping. There is a lot of interesting details, backstory and third party analyses of the NSA's supposed capabilities.
posted by well_balanced at 9:00 AM on May 11, 2006


It's not just "getting notice," it's the top story on TV news right now, says my mother, who actually watches television, unlike me.

It's also worth noting that USA Today has been strongly pro-Bush and is generally conservative on most issues. It's not FOX News, but it's not Daily Kos either.
posted by digaman at 9:04 AM on May 11, 2006




If you want to see what the blogs on both sides are saying about it, go to this Pajamas Media post (ugh, I know).
posted by scalefree at 9:12 AM on May 11, 2006


I like Bruce's work but there's not really any analysis in that post, just a quickie "this is bad" opinion that I think we all agree with already.
posted by scalefree at 9:15 AM on May 11, 2006


Just as I was looking into switching wireless companies, too. Why oh why doesn't Qwest provide coverage in California...
posted by truex at 9:28 AM on May 11, 2006


The only way this could be cool was if it was publicly available and they had a Kevin Bacon algorithm. Imagine the possibilities for stalking!

"Hmmm, I wonder who Susie has been calling?"
posted by blue_beetle at 9:29 AM on May 11, 2006


unless you expect the USS Enterprise to suddenly appear over the White House and beam Bush out of the Oval Office

Couldn't we get Grey Area (aka Meatfucker) instead?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:30 AM on May 11, 2006


This sucks. Just like the patriot act, it clearly has nothing to do with 'terrorism'.

Who benefitted most from 9/11? I think at this point, the actual terrorists are coming in second in that regard.
posted by cell divide at 9:37 AM on May 11, 2006


If the government is running a program to spy on the calls of Americans without reason, I'll be among the first to start the mortar attacks. But, if the nature of the program is as described, I don't really see a problem with it.

Don't I already see a list of numbers I called and numbers that called me on my phone bill every month. If my phone company is providing this info to the NSA, why do I care?

On the other hand, I can see how this is vital intelligence. if the government has Terrorist Suspect A in Florida and Terrorist Suspect B in Nevada, and can link them together through phone calls to one another or through another intermediary, they could gain intel on Al Qaeda planning and stop attacks.

It sounds like the thing most people want the government to be doing.

As far as privacy goes, if you find this program and this level of surveillance offensive and unacceptable, I highly suggest you no longer use the Internet.
posted by b_thinky at 9:52 AM on May 11, 2006


If every time a new outrage is exposed by a journalist... a chorus of obviously bright people like you pipes up with, "Who cares? It doesn't matter..." a profoundly chilling effect is exerted on the media to keep risking coverage of these stories.

Oh, jeez. And every time I don't leave a cupcake for the mailman I'm exerting a profoundly chilling effect on his delivery of my mail. Fuck the journalists in the main stream media. Investigating and reporting is their job, and maintaining a rigorous, free press is their responsibility. As a group, they have failed miserably, traitorously at both. They have rolled over for this administration so many times and so quickly that all their blood has been centrifugally forced into their extremities. The journalists abandoned the American people long ago, and I'm not going to curb my speech to avoid hurting their feelings.
posted by squirrel at 10:10 AM on May 11, 2006 [3 favorites]


b_thinky: The problem is there are no checks & balances over the process to prevent it from being abused for political purposes. If you can track terrorists you can also track dissidents, critics, journalists or just plain innocent bystanders with no penalty for overstepping your authority. Either we're a nation of laws with limits on the authority of the government, accountability to catch & punish them when they misbehave or we're just subjects of a de facto monarchy.

Tooting-my-own-horn-filter: I predicted all this back in January (& also February).
posted by scalefree at 10:16 AM on May 11, 2006


Bush Denies Massive Spying on Citizens.

President Bush today denied that the government is "mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans," as Democrats expressed outrage over a news report describing a National Security Agency program that has collected vast amounts of telephone records.

The article, in USA Today, said that the agency did not listen to the calls, but secretly obtained information on numbers dialed by "tens of millions of Americans" and used it for "data mining" — computer analysis of large amounts of information for clues or patterns to terrorist activity.

Making a hastily scheduled appearance in the White House, Mr. Bush did not directly address the collection of phone records, except to say that "new claims" had been raised about surveillance. He said all intelligence work was conducted "within the law" and that domestic conversations were not listened to without a court warrant.

"The privacy of all Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities," he said. "Our efforts are focused on Al Qaeda and their known associates."

-----

Bush is going down in flames, but unfortunately he's taking everything with him.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 10:17 AM on May 11, 2006


if the government has Terrorist Suspect A in Florida

This is not about listening in on suspects or connecting suspects. If you have a suspect, then you can go to a judge and get his phone records. It's a lot easier since 9/11. Happens every day in law enforcement.

And don't fool yourself that it's about 'terrorism'. There are not enough terror suspects to make this useful for that, this is about control. If you trust the state that much, then god bless you.
posted by cell divide at 10:18 AM on May 11, 2006


Senators steam
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:23 AM on May 11, 2006


I'd like to reiterate that on Sept. 11th, we had all the information available to stop the hijackings, but no one could parse it correctly. The info NSA is collecting just adds to the noise they'll need to wade through to collect any signal.

if the government has Terrorist Suspect A in Florida and Terrorist Suspect B in Nevada, and can link them together through phone calls to one another or through another intermediary, they could gain intel on Al Qaeda planning and stop attacks

That would be nice if that were the case but the NSA was collecting information on millions of citizens. Meaning that Al Queda either has millions of operatives in America, or they are clearly not limiting the collection only to terror suspects or those directly connected to them.
posted by drezdn at 10:23 AM on May 11, 2006


b_thinky, I suppose people like yourself are the reason this may very well be a non-issue like everything else: "I'm not a terrorist. Why should I care if the government [detains people forever | spies on me | tortures me in a foreign country | etc]".
posted by chunking express at 10:26 AM on May 11, 2006




Hmmmm....

The Digital Telephony Law (CALEA)

On the last night of the 1994 session, Congress enacted the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), sometimes called the "Digital Telephony" bill. CALEA requires telephone firms to make it easy to wiretap the nation's communication system.

1994
posted by a3matrix at 10:34 AM on May 11, 2006


From homunculus's link, it looks like Qwest was the only telco to stand up to the NSA. It's time to change my wireless service provider.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 10:35 AM on May 11, 2006


b_thinky: Why don't we all just get RFID chips implanted under our skin* & place scanners at all major transportation centers, all feeding into a master database to track our movements at all times? Is that more intrusive or less than logging every phone call every person in the country makes & scanning them for patterns of who calls who? Why?

*On our foreheads or hands, preferably.
posted by scalefree at 10:40 AM on May 11, 2006


It sounds like the thing most people want the government to be doing.

If the program is indeed no more than what they have described, then they will welcome a full investigation to ensure that the program has not exceeded its legal bounds.

Why would you expect a group that has publically and vigorously opposed any investigation into their actions to be reporting the truth of the matter?

If they have committed no crime, then they have nothing to fear, correct?

Why is that logic valid when it's the state spying on its citizens, but not when the citizens would like to see what the state is up to?
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:44 AM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


b_thinky: If the government is running a program to spy on the calls of Americans without reason, I'll be among the first to start the mortar attacks.

That's so clearly not true.
posted by hackly_fracture at 10:53 AM on May 11, 2006




Another sad day in America. I can only hope the Democrats will win either the Senate or the House in the fall. Only then will we start to see any real investigation into this administrations closet of skeletons.
posted by aaronscool at 10:56 AM on May 11, 2006


Background information on these "Pen Register" type phone "taps" can be found in Cringely's January 19th, 2006 post, There's a Long History of Intercepting Foreign Communications, and Some of It May Have Been Legal.
posted by pwb503 at 10:57 AM on May 11, 2006


And how long before they come to the ISPs . . . oh wait, we let that pretty much go on without a murmur. They grow bolder. It won't be long before we are swiping identity cards each time we travel beyond our own city.

Could this finally be the thing that wakes people the fuck up? We need the 70 percent of Americans supposedly not impressed by this mofo and his entourage to seriously voice some unrest here. How? How do you trigger a brush fire when the fields are bone dry? You light a match. Anybody got a goddamn match? Is this story at last the match? Is there a leader in the house (or the senate)? At long last, have they no fucking decency in this administration, and will the media stop sucking long enough to remember that once in a while it still has a job to do?

WTF AMERICA? Thank god for MeFi. But don't use that dial-up modem, please. Then they have to collate the server traffic analysis with the phone number database to really nail you.

We have become what we would destroy. Sickening.
posted by fourcheesemac at 11:12 AM on May 11, 2006


I'm sure all this chatter about "rights," "checks and balances," "separation of powers," and "the Constitution" is quite baffling to people like b_thinky, but let's chalk it up to an inadequate education in US history and a lack of general awareness and move on. They'll learn eventually that they would rather not live in a country that resembles Stalinist Russia after all -- I have faith.

From homunculus' excellent link to Glenn Greenwald:

This theme emerges again and again. We continuously hear that the Bush administration has legal authority to do anything the President orders. Claims that he is acting illegally are just frivolous and the by-product of Bush hatred. And yet, as I detailed here, each and every time the administration has the opportunity to obtain an adjudication of the legality of its conduct from a federal court (which, unbeknownst to the administration, is the branch of our government which has the authority and responsibility to interpret and apply the law), it does everything possible to avoid that adjudication.

This continuous evasion of judicial review by the administration is much more serious and disturbing than has been discussed and realized. By proclaiming the power to ignore Congressional law and to do whatever it wants in the area of national security, it is seizing the powers of the legislative branch. But by blocking courts from ruling on the multiple claims of illegality which have been made against it, the administration is essentially seizing the judicial power as well. It becomes the creator, the executor, and the interpreter of the law. And with that, the powers of all three branches become consolidated in The President, the single greatest nightmare of the founders. As Madison warned in Federalist 47:


"From these facts, by which Montesquieu was guided, it may clearly be inferred that, in saying 'There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or body of magistrates,' or, 'if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers,' he did not mean that these departments ought to have no partial agency in, or no control over, the acts of each other.

His meaning, as his own words import, and still more conclusively as illustrated by the example in his eye, can amount to no more than this, that where the whole power of one department is exercised by the same hands which possess the whole power of another department, the fundamental principles of a free constitution are subverted. This would have been the case in the constitution examined by him, if the king, who is the sole executive magistrate, had possessed also the complete legislative power, or the supreme administration of justice; or if the entire legislative body had possessed the supreme judiciary, or the supreme executive authority."

posted by digaman at 11:13 AM on May 11, 2006


I have a meeting with a staffer of my Rep next Thursday (in DC). Is there a clearinghouse of information on these issues (wiretapping, telephone DB, Calea) that has high signal-to-noise (e.g., not just resorting to Google)? I'd walk in with as much solid evidence and analysis as possible.
posted by jhscott at 11:20 AM on May 11, 2006


Info the government has on me:

my name, and former names (if I've changed it)
my ssn
my address and all my former addresses
my income, and my past income
how much i pay in income and property taxes
mother's maiden name
wife's name, children's names, parents names

If I was really leery about the goverment, I would be much more concerned about it having the above info than about it having
access to my phone records.

This program is far less intrusive than what Google does. They "spy" on the content of your searches and even your email to serve you ads. The NSA just has a list of phone numbers that aren't attached to any content, any names, addresses, etc.
posted by b_thinky at 11:31 AM on May 11, 2006


Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley on MSNBC:

"Well, first of all this President's theory of his power I think is now so extreme that it's unprecedented. He believes that he has the inherent authority to violate federal law. He has said that. Not just the signing statements and the infamous torture memo that Alberto Gonzales signed. It was stated that he could in some circumstances order federal officials to violate federal law and this is consistent across the board with this President. Frankly, I'm not too sure what he thought he was swearing to when he took the oath of office to uphold the Constitution and our laws. I've never seen a President who is so uncomfortable in his constitutional skin."
posted by digaman at 11:32 AM on May 11, 2006


If you have a suspect, then you can go to a judge and get his phone records.

Actually, you can get his phone records, and then go to the FISA court within three days for a secret hearing to get approval. And they almost always approve them. "From 1979 through 2004 it granted 18,761 warrants and rejected five."

Article 2 of the Articles of Impeachment against Richard M. Nixon that the House Judiciary Committee approved in July 1972 concerns illegal wiretapping:
...in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by directing or authorizing such agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; he did direct, authorize, or permit the use of information obtained thereby for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; and he did direct the concealment of certain records made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of electronic surveillance.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:34 AM on May 11, 2006


The NSA just has a list of phone numbers that aren't attached to any content, any names, addresses, etc.

If that is true, why do they not open up the program to a congressional, or better yet, independent investigation?

If they have nothing to hide, what's the problem?
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:34 AM on May 11, 2006


Why don't we all just get RFID chips implanted under our skin* & place scanners at all major transportation centers, all feeding into a master database to track our movements at all times? Is that more intrusive or less than logging every phone call every person in the country makes & scanning them for patterns of who calls who? Why?

Definitely less intrusive. You're comparing surgery and surveilance to anonymous phone records.
posted by b_thinky at 11:35 AM on May 11, 2006


b_thinky, it would take me about three minutes to figure out your name, address, and possibly even your Social Security number given your phone number, and then another few seconds to fly over the roof of your house with Google Earth. And I don't even have the state-of-the-art computing power the NSA specializes in -- I have an iBook and the Internet. So I'm afraid you're quite wrong.
posted by digaman at 11:36 AM on May 11, 2006


If that is true, why do they not open up the program to a congressional, or better yet, independent investigation?

If they have nothing to hide, what's the problem?
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:34 AM PST on May 11 [+fave] [!]


The issue is of operational secrecy. It obviously renders the progam nearly useless if terror cells fear communicating with one another more than they did previously. Which is why leaks such as this one actually hurt national security. Which some folks do not care about.
posted by b_thinky at 11:40 AM on May 11, 2006


b_thinky:

"If I was really leery about the goverment, I would be much more concerned about it having the above info than about it having access to my phone records."

You've never been on the wrong side of power, have you?

You've never had a perfect stranger enter your life and fuck with your head, repeating the things you told a friend the night before?

You've never driven to another city, and returned to your hotel room certain that somebody has been there and searched it while you were gone?

You apparently trust that the Bush administration will be honest and forthright in their efforts, and never misuse the data for political gain?

Are you really that naive?
posted by rougy at 11:43 AM on May 11, 2006


The issue is of operational secrecy. It obviously renders the progam nearly useless if terror cells fear communicating with one another more than they did previously.

Right, because before this article came out, terrorists felt secure discussing things over the phone. Those tens of millions of terrorists are now going to clam up or get better codes.

The amount of trust you have in the state is amazing. I don't use this word lightly, but I have to believe that those who support this uncritically are essentially fascists, as their loyalty to the state is greater then their loyalty to their fellow citizens.
posted by cell divide at 11:47 AM on May 11, 2006


Yes, b_thinky, we're all unconcerned with the 'terr'ists.' We're all just complacent and ignorant of the lurking evildoers in our midst. Out there lurking. The lurkers (tens of millions, apparently).

You know what? With frightened, consenting citizens like you, America is weaker and less of a shining example. Congratulations. You didn't need that backbone anyway.
posted by NationalKato at 11:47 AM on May 11, 2006


Notice what happens: make enough outright idiotic statements, and all discourse here tumbles into a black hole of refuting them. Don't feed the troll.
posted by digaman at 11:49 AM on May 11, 2006


digaman: I don't disagree with you. The ability to match phone numbers with people and places is why the program is potentially useful.

If terrorist suspects are communicating with one another through a previously unknown person who relays communications, I think it's in society's best interest to identify this person.

Your assumption that the NSA wants to intrude on you is absurd. If there are tens of millions of numbers in the database, do you honestly think they have the time or resources to attach a name to each and every number? I don't know the specifics of the program but I'd guess when they find a terror suspect, they simply try to find out who he called, who his callers called, etc to see if any sense can be made of it.

Your comparison of Bush to Stalin is also absurd, given that:

a) You're still using the internet to speak out against Bush
b) You're still using the internet, period
c) You're still using the telephone

Until you give up any of the above, I don't think you can honestly claim to be fearful.
posted by b_thinky at 11:50 AM on May 11, 2006


Newsflash: terrorists already know they might be wiretapped.

The NSA program is not a national security defense.

The NSA program is an attack on our national security by a small group trying to grab as much power for themselves as they can.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:52 AM on May 11, 2006


If there are tens of millions of numbers in the database, do you honestly think they have the time or resources to attach a name to each and every number?

Moron. I could write a script that would associate a name to each number with a high accuracy rate in a few hours, for free.

Total database population would not take more than a week, tops.

It's clear you don't have a clue.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:53 AM on May 11, 2006


do you honestly think they have the time or resources to attach a name to each and every number?

Do you understand how computers work? All they need is to designate a "name" column in their database and run a script. For 10 million phone numbers this takes a piddling about of time and resources.
posted by jhscott at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2006


Until you give up any of the above, I don't think you can honestly claim to be fearful.

Actually, I think it's you who is fearful. Afraid and cowering. Take a walk through America's history and remember when the citizens stood up for their rights while facing aggression from outer and inner sources.
posted by NationalKato at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2006


The amount of trust you have in the state is amazing. I don't use this word lightly, but I have to believe that those who support this uncritically are essentially fascists, as their loyalty to the state is greater then their loyalty to their fellow citizens.
posted by cell divide at 11:47 AM PST on May 11 [+fave] [!]


This is an interesting comment. When we discuss economics, I tend to want less government interference while most MeFis want more. People here tend to have an awful lot of trust in the state when it comes to finances. Why are you trusting of the state in one sense and distrust them in another?

I believe the basic function of government is to protect its citizens from foreign threat and stay out of the rest of my life. I abhor the government's excessive taxation and that they have all sorts of financial info on me and my company. If the NSA started analyzing my credit card or banking info, I'd be thoroughly pissed.
posted by b_thinky at 11:58 AM on May 11, 2006


If the NSA started analyzing my credit card or banking info, I'd be thoroughly pissed.

how do you know they're not? ... they're already analyzing your phone calls, aren't they?
posted by pyramid termite at 12:00 PM on May 11, 2006


Do you understand how computers work? All they need is to designate a "name" column in their database and run a script. For 10 million phone numbers this takes a piddling about of time and resources.
posted by jhscott at 11:55 AM PST on May 11 [+fave] [!]


Yes, I realize this. But in order for the name to provide any use to them it would have to be analyzed by a human. Why would a human analyze your info? Do you call terrorist suspects or do they call you?

Are you also against social security numbers, driver's licenses, concealed weapons permits, and other government programs that put your name into a database?
posted by b_thinky at 12:04 PM on May 11, 2006


If the NSA started analyzing my credit card or banking info, I'd be thoroughly pissed.

Yeah, they're doing that too.
posted by bshort at 12:08 PM on May 11, 2006


b_thinky, there's a difference between a database that describes who you are and one that describes who you make phone calls to ... and if you're so naive to think that these numbers can't be matched up with names quickly, you're wrong
posted by pyramid termite at 12:08 PM on May 11, 2006


Do you call terrorist suspects or do they call you?

Do you have any way of knowing whether or not you've spoken to a person on the terrorist watch list on your phone?

You don't know who's on the watch list.
posted by sonofsamiam at 12:10 PM on May 11, 2006


Yes, I realize this. But in order for the name to provide any use to them it would have to be analyzed by a human.

The whole point of data mining is that they don't have to do this. Do you think there is some dude at Google looking at web pages and saying, "This would be a good page to send people to if they search for complacent," because that's not how it works? You can look for patterns in the data you have, and derive meaningful information from them, without having some boy or girl looking at the information.

The NSA probably has people that have determined that the mathematical model for a dissidents phone call habits are X, and will look into anyone who happens to match those habits. And if none of them are criminals, they adjust their model and try again.
posted by chunking express at 12:11 PM on May 11, 2006


b_thinky writes "Why would a human analyze your info? Do you call terrorist suspects or do they call you?"

History has proven how such programs as the NSA's which can be abused always are abused. Just as the administration's policies lead to torture, they have also lead and will lead to abuses in surveillance and intelligence.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:19 PM on May 11, 2006


TIA Lives On:
A controversial counter-terrorism program, which lawmakers halted more than two years ago amid outcries from privacy advocates, was stopped in name only and has quietly continued within the intelligence agency now fending off charges that it has violated the privacy of U.S. citizens.
The new name for TIA is Basketball.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:24 PM on May 11, 2006


b_thinky, I am against excessive taxation and government interference as well. I don't trust the state to manage my affairs, because its power is ultimately given to the people most willing to abuse the trust its citizens give it.

Certain economic factors which make commerce easier and freer are necessary, and I will accept them grudgingly. This has nothing to do with terrorism and is simply handing over more power to the state without a benefit to me the citizen. Yes, it's possible that this could be used in an ethical way. But I do not have the faith that you do in the state to protect me from every little threat out there. Unfortunately for us, mission creep from the power-hungry started on 9/12.

Also, in a democracy you can't agree to massive state programs just because you trust one party or one administration to use it wisely. What if an ultra-liberal government is elected and its leaders decide to use this program to ferret out the overly right wing and marginalize them? Think it couldn't happen? Then go ahead and sign away any vestige of freedom from state interference and just hope your views are in the majority forever, or that you don't accidentally get tangled up in some sort of scheme.
posted by cell divide at 12:29 PM on May 11, 2006


The whole point of data mining is that they don't have to do this. Do you think there is some dude at Google looking at web pages and saying, "This would be a good page to send people to if they search for complacent," because that's not how it works? You can look for patterns in the data you have, and derive meaningful information from them, without having some boy or girl looking at the information.

That's why Google is not intrusive. No person is monitoring the content of my searches or emails. And the NSA is not having a person monitor my phone calls. We don't know the scope of the program in full, but basically, a computer could potentially flag the numbers I've called and the numbers that have called me.

The government says they are not wire-tappig calls and are not associating names with numbers. Even the anonymous sources in the USA Today article say this. To assume they are, despite all evidence you've seen, is a little bit ridiculous.

Yes, it would be easy to create a program to match names and addresses with most of the phone numbers. But there are also highly sophisticated devices that have much of this info already. These devices are called phone books.
posted by b_thinky at 12:39 PM on May 11, 2006


The new name for TIA is Basketball.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
posted by NationalKato at 12:40 PM on May 11, 2006


Only the truly naive could possibly believe that something like this only just started under the GW administration.
PULEASE !! get a clue.

See my earlier comment regarding the Federal Law Enforcement act of 1994 when Saint Clinton was President.
This is nothing more than politics as usual. They all do it, or rather, they have their toads do it for them.

Time to get off the grid.
posted by a3matrix at 12:41 PM on May 11, 2006


Yes, it would be easy to create a program to match names and addresses with most of the phone numbers. But there are also highly sophisticated devices that have much of this info already. These devices are called phone books.

Holy shit, phonebooks have listings of all the numbers that a particular number has called, and when, for all of the numbers contained therein, for the past several years? And here I thought the Compact OED was the only print book that needed a magnifying glass to read.
posted by truex at 12:42 PM on May 11, 2006


Isn't this database tomfoolery still illegal, according to the Communications Act of 1934?

Aw, hell, what am I saying...this is El Jefe. He can do whatever he wants, beholden to no law, because WE'RE AT "WAR". Can anyone tell me where I need to take my scrap metal to help out? Seeds for my Victory Garden? Anyone?
posted by trigonometry at 12:54 PM on May 11, 2006


President Bush said today that "our intelligence activities strictly target Al Qaida and their known affiliates" and "the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful."

The White House transcript quotes him as saying, "our international activities strictly target Al Qaida," (my emphasis) but he says "intelligence" in the video.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:54 PM on May 11, 2006


You know what would be fun? if we could get him to say that under oath.
posted by Artw at 1:22 PM on May 11, 2006


heh ... i thought he'd already said he would defend the constitution of the united states under oath ... so much for that

i had no idea that everyone with a phone in america was a known affiliate of al qaida

bush is a lying sack of shit
posted by pyramid termite at 1:32 PM on May 11, 2006


You know what would be fun? if we could get him to say that under oath.

Why? He clearly doesn't give two shits about oaths.
posted by MikeKD at 1:42 PM on May 11, 2006


Rhetorically fantasy:

Do you call terrorist suspects or do they call you?

Reality:

Do you call terrorist suspects or do they call you?
Do you call people who call terrorist suspects or do they call you?
Do you call people who call people who call terrorist suspects or do they call you?
Do you call people who call people who call people who call terrorist suspects or do they call you?
Do you call people who call people who call people who call people who call terrorist suspects or do they call you?
.
.
.
posted by MikeKD at 1:45 PM on May 11, 2006




One step closer to the transparent society. What we need is for this NSA database to be available to anyone! That way we could know exactly who in the White House ordered the jamming of Democratic Party phones in a New Hampshire election. And I'm dying to know which hookers Cunningham hired: was it boys or girls? The call records would tell us.
posted by Nelson at 2:04 PM on May 11, 2006


I think most of you are missing the point, mostly B_thinky.
This isn't about 'wiretaps'. This is much, much more intrusive and dangerous.

"As I've said elsewhere, many many many times now, in varying words, since December 20th, in answer to the endless mantra of "but why couldn't they just get FISA warrants?": bottom line: if you're doing a multiplexdata-mining pattern analysis on tens of thousands or more people, shifting by possibly tens of thousands of people per day, or more, you can't get warrants. It's not humanly possible.

Which, as I keep explaining, only makes the threat exponentially larger than most non-tech oriented left/lib/progressives seem to understand, with this antediluvian focus on "wiretaps" and "why can't you get a FISA warrant?" That's a question that was entirely sensible when we all asked it last month. It's long been answered and answered and answered and answered.

It's far greater reason for Congress to get the truth out, and possibly impeach, then simple wire-tapping. It's as if people kept decrying the threat of TNT when we're talking about the fact that the fusion bomb has been invented and put to use.

Also: The point I'm trying to emphasize is that datamining is vastly more threatening to our privacy and liberties, by many orders of magnitude, than mere wire-tapping is.

The most alarming part is the total-information data-mining (or so it appears to be; we know very little as yet; but it's the mostly likely thing).

Data-mining, for those unfamiliar with it, simply put, collecting every available bit of information about you, public and that which comes up via investigation of others, accurate or inaccurate, putting it all in a massive file about you updated on a constant real-time basis, and then integrating that into a massive data-matrix that shows all perceived links between you and other people and enterprises, and then analyzes that, and then washes, rinses, and repeats, non-stop.

The second most frightening thing going on here is the revealed colloborative relationships with, apparently, all the major U.S. telecommunications providers, which has involved direct tapping into the "switches" through which all traffic flows (other than completely independent systems, which I won't detail, and only know a little about, anyway). Repeat: all (relatively and simply put) traffic.

Surely I shouldn't have to over-emphasis just how vastly more potentially totalitarian even this is, let alone the Total Information data-mining it's a part of, then mere wire-tapping. Even if they had been slapping on 5,000, or hell, 50,000, new individual taps a day (not that that would be humanly possible, of course), it would be relatively trivial compared to just how massively, wholly, totalitarian these two vastly more important issues are.

Trying to get people to understand this is not an attempt to minimize the issue. It's to point out how completely anyone instead talking just about "wiretaps" is fricking minimizing the issues at stake here.

People have to learn how datamining threatens them.

I'd like to point out that, in essense, some of the technology and practice in use here been going on since the first INTELSATs in the 1960s. What was previously forbidden was a) theoretically, U.S. targeted recording of domestic U.S. traffic without a warrant, and b) using such SIGINT in court, but b) was irrelevant, because SIGINT wasn't previously connected to the criminal justice system save in extremely rare counter-intel cases, and then with a warrant.

The problem has erupted into the open because of the "tearing down" of that famous wall of separation between the criminal justice system and the intelligence system, with the PATRIOT ACT (which nonetheless did not, so far as I can tell, authorize any of these measures). There was a reason that was there, and it wasn't because Jamie Gorelick is an ass.

Of course, it's impossible for us civilians to as yet have more than clues and bits and pieces as to what precisely is going on, which is why courageous and exhaustive Congressional hearings are a must, no matter that they, yes, must balance the genuine need for security with a necessary airing of sufficient information for a democratic society to decide, as always, where the current line balancing security and liberty must be drawn. This has been done in the past, can be done now, and must always be done in the future, if our Republic is to stand.

So say we all.

There's more, there's always so very much more.

Read The Rest Scale: 5 out of 5.

As promised, from December 24th, when, I suppose, some of you have an excuse for not reading:
It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

[...]

"There was a lot of discussion about the switches" in conversations with the court, a Justice Department official said, referring to the gateways through which much of the communications traffic flows. "You're talking about access to such a vast amount of communications, and the question was, How do you minimize something that's on a switch that's carrying such large volumes of traffic? The court was very, very concerned about that."

[...]

What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.

[...]

Officials in the government and the telecommunications industry who have knowledge of parts of the program say the N.S.A. has sought to analyze communications patterns to glean clues from details like who is calling whom, how long a phone call lasts and what time of day it is made, and the origins and destinations of phone calls and e-mail messages. Calls to and from Afghanistan, for instance, are known to have been of particular interest to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said.

This so-called "pattern analysis" on calls within the United States would, in many circumstances, require a court warrant if the government wanted to trace who calls whom.

The use of similar data-mining operations by the Bush administration in other contexts has raised strong objections, most notably in connection with the Total Information Awareness system, developed by the Pentagon for tracking terror suspects, and the Department of Homeland Security's Capps program for screening airline passengers. Both programs were ultimately scrapped after public outcries over possible threats to privacy and civil liberties.

A former technology manager at a major telecommunications company said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the leading companies in the industry have been storing information on calling patterns and giving it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists.

"All that data is mined with the cooperation of the government and shared with them, and since 9/11, there's been much more active involvement in that area," said the former manager, a telecommunications expert who did not want his name or that of his former company used because of concern about revealing trade secrets.

Such information often proves just as valuable to the government as eavesdropping on the calls themselves, the former manager said.

"If they get content, that's useful to them too, but the real plum is going to be the transaction data and the traffic analysis," he said. "Massive amounts of traffic analysis information - who is calling whom, who is in Osama Bin Laden's circle of family and friends - is used to identify lines of communication that are then given closer scrutiny."

Several officials said that after President Bush's order authorizing the N.S.A. program, senior government officials arranged with officials of some of the nation's largest telecommunications companies to gain access to switches that act as gateways at the borders between the United States' communications networks and international networks. The identities of the corporations involved could not be determined.

The switches are some of the main arteries for moving voice and some Internet traffic into and out of the United States, and, with the globalization of the telecommunications industry in recent years, many international-to-international calls are also routed through such American switches.

One outside expert on communications privacy who previously worked at the N.S.A. said that to exploit its technological capabilities, the American government had in the last few years been quietly encouraging the telecommunications industry to increase the amount of international traffic that is routed through American-based switches.

[...]

The growth of that transit traffic had become a major issue for the intelligence community, officials say, because it had not been fully addressed by 1970's-era laws and regulations governing the N.S.A. Now that foreign calls were being routed through switches on American soil, some judges and law enforcement officials regarded eavesdropping on those calls as a possible violation of those decades-old restrictions, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires court-approved warrants for domestic surveillance.

Historically, the American intelligence community has had close relationships with many communications and computer firms and related technical industries. But the N.S.A.'s backdoor access to major telecommunications switches on American soil with the cooperation of major corporations represents a significant expansion of the agency's operational capability, according to current and former government officials.

Phil Karn, a computer engineer and technology expert at a major West Coast telecommunications company, said access to such switches would be significant. "If the government is gaining access to the switches like this, what you're really talking about is the capability of an enormous vacuum operation to sweep up data," he said.
And. This. Is. Why. You. Can't. Get. A. Warrant.

ADDENDUM: Since I've said most of what I've had to say about this issue on other blogs, oddly enough, as I explained at the start, I didn't wind up writing this as any sort of comprehensive post on my thoughts, sad to say. Of course, I'll be continuing to follow this topic closely as events develop, so check back in days and weeks and months to come.

Meanwhile, two points by me I'm lifting up from comments on this post: One is that we'l want to discuss the David Brin option for approaches to loss of privacy, but gaining transparency, which I've discussed elsewhere at various times, and will inevitably be bringing up here Real Soon Now in a future post. But there's your page to get started on.

The other: before anyone points it out, I should add that the cases I've been drawing in this and the linked posts and elsewhere are more or less "worst case" scenarios. I'm not actually maintaining that the NSA is currently running open files on everyone in the United States, or sifting through everyone's phone calls, just now. My point is, instead: they might be. We don't know. We know they're running programs of this nature, but the scale is, as yet, not out in the open. The essential capacity for total vacuuming exists.

So my take is that we need to assume the worst, and demand investigation and facts, and then, I hope, we'll be able to truly grasp just what the actual extent of ongoing programs in the U.S. have been. If it's less than I fear is the worst case, no one will be happier than me. "

posted by Espoo2 at 2:11 PM on May 11, 2006


Something I never see talked about is that these activities are anti-American.

They are the opposite of patriotic, because they do not defend the rights of Americans.

Bush has shown himself to be traitorous to America. He is anti-American.

The telco executives participating in his are traitors. They are anti-American.

The NSA creeps putting programs like this together are traitors to their country. They are anti-American.

I think all things like this should be spun as what they are - anti-American activities.
posted by Nicholas West at 2:13 PM on May 11, 2006


Speaking of Facism, WTF?
posted by AllesKlar at 2:22 PM on May 11, 2006


Espoo2: There's one aspect of it that even amigdala doesn't touch on & that's the importance of the algorithmic nature of social networks. People think that a crowd of people is essentially a random system with no discernable patterns in it. There's a feeling of safety & anonymity, that your actions will be lost in the noise of all those other peoples' actions. But thanks to the math of social network analysis, predictable structures can be found in huge masses of social transaction data. Just like a computer network has hubs, switches, repeaters, long distance links, broadcast nodes, etc., so too do social networks. And even if there's no transaction data proving which node is acting as a hub because the individual is using a channel not accessible to the program doing the mapping, the existence of them can be inferred & extra measures can be implemented to find them. There is no haystack for needles to hide in anymore. There's no such thing as anonymity anymore with this kind of system in place.
posted by scalefree at 3:03 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


CNN's JACK CAFFERTY:
"We better hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Judiciary Committee, because he might be all that's standing between us and a full blown dictatorship in this country. He's vowed to question these phone company executives about volunteering to provide the government with my telephone records and yours, and tens of millions of other Americans.

Shortly after 9-11, AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth began providing the super secret NSA with information on phone calls of millions of our citizens, all part of the war on terror, President Bush says.

Why don't you go find Osama Bin Laden and seal the country's borders and start inspecting the containers that come into our ports?

The President rushed out this morning in the wake of this front page story in USA Today and he declared the government's doing nothing wrong and all of this is just fine.

Is it? Is it legal?

Then why did the Justice Department suddenly drop its investigation of the warrantless spying on citizens? Because the NSA said Justice Department lawyers didn't have the necessary security clearance to do the investigation.

Read that sentence again.

A secret government agency has told our Justice Department that it's not allowed to investigate it. And the Justice Department just says okay and drops the whole thing.

We're in some serious trouble here boys and girls."
posted by ericb at 3:08 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


That's one thing Greenwald really emphasizes, that it's not merely the secret widespread wiretapping, but the way they've gone about justifying it: in the administrations opinion, the Executive can decide, by fiat, without going to court, which laws do and do not apply to him.

If the President decides that laws requiring warrants for wiretapping are unconstitutional, he does not first challenge that law in court, he acts and expects the rest of the government to fall in line.
posted by sonofsamiam at 3:26 PM on May 11, 2006


This is a brilliant plan for the GWOT. The terrorists hate us for our freedom, rule of law, and so on. Maybe if we had less of all these things, they won't hurt us any more.

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave and all that jazz.
posted by moonbiter at 3:54 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


That's pretty intense that a major mainstream newsmedia figure like Jack Cafferty would say something like that.

There's stuff abrewin'.
posted by Nicholas West at 3:56 PM on May 11, 2006


I just contacted my local Verizon customer service representative regarding this manner, being as polite, understanding, and unassuming about the situation as possible, in the hope of getting some answers.

Basically, their customer service representatives know nothing about it and have no statement available for their customers. That said, I registered a complaint, and asked them to request a statement for their customers.

What is needed now is an actual statement from Verizon, AT&T, and BellSouth as to their actions, rationale, and position on this. They may be loathe to give a public statement because of the potential embarassment and loss of customers it could cause, so I suggest that you all contact him, and encourage others to do so as well.

For this reason, I was told that I (and other interested parties) should contact :

Bob Varettoni
Executive Director
Media Relations
Verizon
(908) 559-6388

He can also be reached at robert.a.varettoni@verizon.com.
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:28 PM on May 11, 2006


Actually Cafferty's been mouthing off like that for several months now. I don't watch whatever network he's on but I see quotes like this from him on Atrios's blog all the time.
posted by scalefree at 4:37 PM on May 11, 2006


To request a statement from AT&T, you can contact either:

Larry Solomon,
Dir. of Corporate Issues,
210-351-3990
larry.solomon@att.com

or

Sue McCain
Dir. of Consumer Issues,
314-982-8664
smccain@attnews.us
posted by insomnia_lj at 4:39 PM on May 11, 2006



Today I called Verizon customer support to protest my information being divulged to the NSA. First I got the operator who wanted to direct my call. I said that this morning I read in the paper that Verizon was sharing my call records and personal information with the NSA, that this directly violates their own declared privacy policy, and asked the operator if she thought that was wrong. She hesitated at first, and then said that Yes, while she's just the operator, and she doesn't use Verizon, she lives in Alabama, she did think that was wrong, and that she'd gotten a lot of calls about that today, and she would be upset too. I thanked her, and she directed me to customer service. I said the same thing to the woman I talked to at Customer Service, and she directed me to someone higher up. The higher up got on the phone, and I said the same thing. She put me on hold for a second and then came back and read robotically from a script -- a statement to the effect that Verizon takes privacy concerns very seriously, but that because the NSA is a highly classified program they are not allowed to comment. Then she asked if I wanted to know her personal opinion, not Verizon's opinion, but hers personally. I said yes, surprised. She said that she's just an average American, she pays her bills on time, she doesn't do anything illegal, and you know what, if the government wants to listen to her phone calls, it doesn't matter to her at all, because she's confident that there's nothing in there that the government could hold against her, and besides, we don't even know if the article is accurate. Then she said that the media is sometimes a good thing, but it's a bad thing when it dwells only on the negative - and all they report is bad news. The government can do what it wants if it means protecting us. We had a lively debate. I said that eavesdropping on Americans violates the 4th amendment, specifying the need for probable cause and a search warrant, that this violates the Constitution. I asked if it made sense to give up the freedom we're fighting for. I asked her how Verizon sharing my calls with the government was any different from the behavior of a totalitarian police state. She asked if I thought I was taking that a little far - after all, there are no concentration camps. I brought up the CIA secret prisons in Eastern Europe and Guantanamo Bay, where thousands are held without trial, without a lawyer, indefinitely, and by all accounts routinely tortured. She said she's a passive person, there's nothing she can do about all this. I said that's what the Germans said. She laughed. She had a good sense of humor about it all, and argued her case pretty well - perhaps the most cogent example of comfortable middle class complacency I've ever heard. She repeated the No Comment script Verizon gave her a few times, interspersed in our discussion, and reiterated that her personal opinion had nothing to do with Verizon. She said that she thought going into Iraq was wrong, but it's over, it's done with, we're there, we just have to keep moving forward. I said It's not over, there are people dying every day. She said her son is going into the service this August, and while she doesn't know if she agrees with that, who is she to stand in the way of his decision? "Every person has the right to live as they choose." "Not every person, unfortunately," I said. "In America they do." "Do I have the right to not have my personal phone calls listened to by the government?" "Well, you don't know that the government is doing that." "Yes, but don't I have the right? How do I know that right is being respected?" "Again, we can't comment on whether or not the article is accurate." "Well, I believe you're directly violating my contract by going against your own stated privacy policy. Do I have the right to charge you $200 for violating my contract?" She laughed. "No, you don't." "See, well, not everyone has the same rights." She thanked me and said that she'd written my name and phone number down. "Good, give it to the Pentagon," I said. She laughed and we parted amicably.
posted by bukharin at 5:56 PM on May 11, 2006 [18 favorites]


Telcos Could Be Liable For Tens of Billions of Dollars For Illegally Turning Over Phone Records
"(1) It violates the Stored Communications Act....

(2) The penalty for violating the Stored Communications Act is $1,000 per individual violation....

(3) The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act doesn’t get the telcos off the hook....

In other words, for every 1 million Americans whose records were turned over to NSA, the telcos could be liable for $1 billion in penalties, plus attorneys fees. You do the math."
posted by ericb at 6:08 PM on May 11, 2006


Well, bukharin, thanks for the story. I guess we'll be seeing you around, when we join you in detention. Amazing how far the "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" has managed to get this insanity--I usually get around it by asking people if they really, honestly, NEVER do anything prohibited by law.

(Sodomy laws are a great one to bring up in connection to that, by the way...interesting how people often define "law abiding" as "abiding by the laws I think are reasonable.")
posted by trigonometry at 6:12 PM on May 11, 2006


Do it, people, if only for the kick of seeing something happen because MetaFilter got active!
posted by five fresh fish at 6:31 PM on May 11, 2006


Er, that was "Do it, people! Call up the telcos and ask for a statement! Challenge them on it!"

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:34 PM on May 11, 2006




I was really surprised and pleased that the manager dropped the No-Comment script and had a dialogue with me about it. I encourage everyone to call and try to do the same.
posted by bukharin at 6:38 PM on May 11, 2006


The NSA Has Your Number
"This sounds like a vast and unchecked intrusion on privacy. President Bush's assurance Thursday that the privacy of Americans was being 'fiercely protected' was not at all convincing.

We need to know more about this. The government, though, didn't offer confirmation or elaboration on Thursday. Based on the newspaper's reporting, this effort appears to go far beyond any surveillance effort that would be targeted at terrorist operations....

Why would the government seek and store records of every telephone call to your doctor, your lawyer, your next door neighbor?

Tell us."

[Chicago Tribune | May 11, 2006]
posted by ericb at 7:03 PM on May 11, 2006


Damn, the issue here has nothing to do with phone calls, data mining, who calls who, etc. It has to do with the fucking rule of law. b_thinky, your arguments are specious for a simple reason: you are rationalizing why it is OK for the executive branch of a representative, elected government duly formed under the Constitution of the United Sates of America, which provides for specific remedies and constrains specific forms of conduct, to tell the Department of Justice "Fuck off, you can't have security clearance!" when they come knocking on the NSA's door? That's the way you get to a Secret Police state. Impunity corrupts, yes. And the possibilities for corruption of this particular type of technological surveillance are stunning.

But it doesn't matter. It won't do to debate the niceties of whether this or that technique goes to far, or whether it might catch innocent people up in abusive situations, or whether, for that matter, it might actually lead to a "terrorist" some day.

Read my lips: it's against the law. A conservative response to that would be to express outrage -- the chief executive of the United States breaks a law encoded in our constitution, the same document that is supposedly no longer in need of interpretation, according to conservative jurists . . . and your response is to offer up reasons why it's not so bad, and might make us safer somehow?

If it mattered when Bill lied about a blowjob (and still managed to keep his approval ratings in the upper 50s), then it matters a lot more when Mister 31 Percent and Falling takes pride in his disdain for the 4th amendment. What rationalization can you offer up for this? Do you believe it is not illegal? Explain.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:05 PM on May 11, 2006


We can assume there are groups here in America plotting a revolution where we take back the country.

The election in November may be our last chance at doing this peacefully. Everyone must vote, all voting places must be watched, every vote must be counted.

If the neocons pull off another rigged election, we have a tea party in December. I think the Generals are with us. But....

We can also assume the neocons have planned for this silly up-rising too. I understand the feds are quietly buying remote farms. A few rag-tag rebels carted off to North Dakota snow for re-education, or bird flu isolation, and perhaps a majority of wimps would fall in line.
posted by BillyElmore at 7:10 PM on May 11, 2006 [2 favorites]


At the same time this started, Attorney General John "Let the Eagle Soar" Ashcroft blocked the FBI's access to gun records. (Unless they were lying about that, too.)

I got the No Comment script when I called AT&T, but they did give me Qwest's number when I asked for it.

Blast from the past, April 12, 2000:
The director of the National Security Agency, Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, and his boss, CIA Director George Tenet, testified Wednesday before the House Intelligence Committee.

They sought to dispute newspaper reports suggesting the United States and its allies were using a surveillance system to eavesdrop on private conversations of Americans and Europeans.
...
On Wednesday, the NSA director dismissed any suggestions that his agency violates privacy laws.

"We are not out there as a vacuum cleaner," Hayden said. "We don't have that capability and we don't want that capability."
...
Instead, they said that the NSA's surveillance capabilities were not being used to eavesdrop on ordinary Americans -- or for industrial espionage to benefit U.S. companies.

"We protect the rights of Americans and their privacy," Tenet insisted. "We do not violate them and we never will.
...
"There is a rich body of oversight that ensures that we stay within the law," [Hayden] said.
...
The unusual hearing was scheduled by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss, a Florida Republican, who said he was satisfied that the intelligence agencies were fulfilling their role of guarding national security interests without violating the rights of citizens.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:27 PM on May 11, 2006


You don't build the largest database in the world just to catch terror suspects. It doesn't make any logical sense. And this entire program inherently violates the 4th amendment -- you can't build predictive models and mine data without baselines -- controls. The terrorists are an unknown set of data. You would need to start with simpler sets of data and build up from there -- perhaps they're not targeting anyone but terrorists, but they're using everyone else in their analysis and one would have to assume that in order to do that, they would have to arbitrarily peer into private data. Perhaps, in modeling, they're even starting with simpler crimes and then building up... or maybe they're not going for crimes at all, but modeling peer social networks.

Whatever the case, you can't get to point B without starting at point A. Point A is all of our data.
posted by VulcanMike at 7:27 PM on May 11, 2006


Thanks for the information insomnia_lj and ericb, and the inspiration bukharin. Here is what I just sent:

Mr. Varettoni,


Would you please take a moment to explain to me (Verizon customer since 2001, telephone number xxx-xxx-xxxx) why you have sold information about my private phone calls to the U.S. government in violation of the Stored Communications Act (USCA Title 18, Part 1, Chapter 121, § 2701 et seq.) and the privacy agreement that was part of my contract with your company. Is this the respect that you show your customers? Selling their private information? I think that you owe the people of this country an explanation and an apology. I also think that you should be ashamed of yourself, and your company's actions. Please take a moment to think about where your life took a wrong turn that lead you to work for a company that would do something like this. I await an explanation.

Sincerely,

ND¢, Esq.


Probably not the most eloquent or mature letter that will be sent, but it made me feel a little better.
posted by ND¢ at 7:32 PM on May 11, 2006


I meant to add, the chief executive repeatedly breaks the founding laws of our land, admits (sometimes, roundabout) to doing so in our faces, stonewalls and hides from inquiries, dispatches propagandists across the land on the federal dime to confuse the issues and lie about the facts, and uses the national security apparatus to evade investigation . . .

Yeah, it's a problem.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:34 PM on May 11, 2006


Thanks for the action and the report, Bukharin.

I think this data-mining expose has ripped the mask off these people even for the mainstream.
posted by digaman at 7:36 PM on May 11, 2006


Backwash!
posted by EarBucket at 8:26 PM on May 11, 2006


I was really surprised and pleased that the manager dropped the No-Comment script and had a dialogue with me about it. I encourage everyone to call and try to do the same.

There is a non-obvious reason to do this, that I think can be applied consciously: It reinforces "whistleblower" behaviours. It encourages those people actually involved in the corporate beast to stand up and say "Hey, this is just wrong. We can not do this."

Americans need to bring pressure inside and outside the political-corporate hegemony that you are actively developing.

The more you can activate the average citizen, the better off your country is going to be. Get them talking about the big issues, so that when they go to vote they don't fall prey to the boogeymen and bullshit brigade.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:42 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well, I'd call my telecom to complain, but it's Qwest. So, I think I'll call em up and say "right on". (Though honestly they've not had a lot of reason to get that kind of reaction other than this).
posted by Eekacat at 9:27 PM on May 11, 2006


I feel a new House Un-American Activities Commisson needs to be formed, exactly like McCarthy's freak show but in reverse.

We need to start subpoening people who are traitorous to America and its Constitution, and get a serious line of questioning going, and get these fuckers out of action.

That means the President and his guys, the telco executives who sold the public out to the NSA, the NSA itself, and of course many many others. All of them traitors to this country, their own people, and our rights and freedoms.
posted by Nicholas West at 6:37 AM on May 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


"nothing to hide, nothing to fear" arguments are best argued with the question:

Would you allow the government to put 24 hour surveillance cameras in every room of your house, including bedrooms and bathrooms, because you aren't going to do anything wrong?

Very few people (i.e. all but the most stubborn who realise they've been beaten but won't admit it) would accept that level of intrusion.
posted by knapah at 8:20 AM on May 12, 2006


"i.e. all but" should simply be "i.e.", i think.
posted by knapah at 8:21 AM on May 12, 2006


With all this spying going on, why aren't we seeing federal busts of spammers? It's not like spam doesn't cost business big bucks in lost time and productivity.
posted by warbaby at 8:28 AM on May 12, 2006


>>With all this spying going on, why aren't we seeing federal busts of spammers?

Because spamming is parasitic avarice, which most conservatives seem to hold in high esteem.

Just a guess.
posted by SaintCynr at 10:20 AM on May 12, 2006


Two Words: Traffic Analysis

Anyone with realtime access to that database, and some serious computing power would be able to clean up in the stock market.

Clean Up.
posted by Freen at 1:14 PM on May 12, 2006


Huh, there's an idea. I wonder if the 9-11 stock shorting could have been motivated by some social network analysis/data mining program.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:21 PM on May 12, 2006


“A conservative response to that would be to express outrage...”

The reciever on my end of the phone melted early this morning.

/b_thinky’s a conservative?
posted by Smedleyman at 2:01 PM on May 12, 2006


Robert Tice alleges a broader wiretapping program, which we all know exists. By now, a denial by the administration is a good positive predictor.

But specifically, will this be Echelon, maybe?
posted by sonofsamiam at 2:52 PM on May 12, 2006


Shall we start a death pool on Tice? He says he's going to spill the beans in a week.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:18 PM on May 12, 2006






Lower in this story, Verizon is being sued.
posted by IronLizard at 12:21 AM on May 13, 2006


"Two New Jersey public interest lawyers sued Verizon on Friday for $5 billion, claiming the phone carrier violated privacy laws by turning over customers' records. The lawsuit asks the court to stop Verizon from supplying the information without a warrant or the subscriber's consent."
posted by IronLizard at 12:28 AM on May 13, 2006


Eekacat : " Well, I'd call my telecom to complain, but it's Qwest. So, I think I'll call em up and say 'right on'. (Though honestly they've not had a lot of reason to get that kind of reaction other than this)."

Haha. With Qwest, it's more like "Hey, looks like you guys got one thing right. 'bout time."
posted by graventy at 3:25 PM on May 13, 2006


Negroponte Had Denied Domestic Call Monitoring:
When he was asked about the National Security Agency's controversial domestic surveillance program last Monday, U.S. intelligence chief John D. Negroponte objected to the question and said the government was "absolutely not" monitoring domestic calls without warrants.

"I wouldn't call it domestic spying," he told reporters. "This is about international terrorism and telephone calls between people thought to be working for international terrorism and people here in the United States."
posted by kirkaracha at 7:09 AM on May 15, 2006


CNN is reporting the lawsuit is for FIFTY billion dollars -- $1000 for each customer.
posted by LordSludge at 1:16 PM on May 15, 2006


From an abcnews blog.

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

...

The official who warned ABC News said there was no indication our phones were being tapped so the content of the conversation could be recorded.
A pattern of phone calls from a reporter, however, could provide valuable clues for leak investigators.

posted by gsb at 2:51 AM on May 16, 2006


My favorite quote (about this scandal) so far:

Larose, who has written two other books on the subject, said data mining was like a knife. "You can use it to cut your birthday cake," he said. Or "you can use it to murder somebody in an alley."
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 3:19 AM on May 16, 2006


The two New Jersey lawyers who have sued Verizon, although they undoubtedly did it because they smelled big money for their own pockets, rock because their argument is clear and perfectly reasoned, undeniable and speaks for all of us. It has gotten the ball rolling and has already hit Verizon right in the groin, which is their stock price.

And I applaud their fearlessness and aggressivness in choosing to tangle with some of the darkest forces in this country; it is one of the bravest and most direct challenges to big government we have seen to date.

I must say, as a Verizon subscriber, I was completely horrified.
posted by Nicholas West at 8:13 AM on May 16, 2006


FCC Member Wants Telecoms’ NSA Help Probed
"The Federal Communications Commission, which regulates the telephone industry, should open an investigation into whether the nation’s phone companies broke the law by turning over millions of calling records to the government, an FCC commissioner says."

[The Associated Press | May 16, 2006]
posted by ericb at 9:17 AM on May 16, 2006


bukharin: Interesting phone call you had. Reading your post, two things jumped out:

1) I'm surprised the operators were so candid with you. That's atypical for corporate customer service IMO.

2) You classified the alleged program as "eavesdropping" or "listening in". At most, they have the records of numbers you dialed and the numbers that dialed you. You may very well consider this an invasion of privacy, but this is definitely not eavesdropping or listening in. To insist it is is intellectually dishonest.
posted by b_thinky at 11:51 AM on May 17, 2006


At most, they have the records of numbers you dialed and the numbers that dialed you.

As far as you know. But even this program was previously denied.

I mean, I take your point, but "at most" seems pretty naive at this point.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:56 AM on May 17, 2006


that Verizon was sharing my call records and personal information with the NSA

was my original complaint. Only later did the conversation move on to whether or not the government should be able to eavesdrop on calls, and it was actually the operator who introduced the subject of eavesdropping as part of a larger discussion as to how much privacy should be sacrificed for the sake of security..

She said that she's just an average American, she pays her bills on time, she doesn't do anything illegal, and you know what, if the government wants to listen to her phone calls, it doesn't matter to her at all, because she's confident that there's nothing in there that the government could hold against her,

Bush has admitted to "limited" eavesdropping, an operation we can assume is much broader than publicly acknowledged.

It was indeed surprising that she would be so candid, and I respected her for it. I don't believe I insisted on anything in an "intellectually dishonest" manner. The line between eavesdropping and sharing call records did tend to get blurred in the heat of debate. But my sole original point was that it violated Verizon's stated privacy policy to share my information with other people without informing me first.
posted by bukharin at 12:16 PM on May 17, 2006


Thanks for all this, bukharin.

I think maybe people are inclined to be more candid about something like this because it's such an obvious issue and it is pretty easy to see what the NSA is doing and why they would do it. It's easy to form an opinion and a lot of people have been thinking about privacy for a long time now. And this is at such an extreme level (eavesdropping on random innocent American citizens would have caused riots at some point, I'm sure) that it triggers a response even in the most deadened people.

It's very weird. I am sad that anyone would argue so earnestly for the nothing-to-hide-nothing-to-lose thing, but then, I have occasionally heard myself say that a transparent society would be alright, too. It's all so grey. On the other hand, in a 'transparent society' we would all be able to know what the NSA knows, too.
posted by blacklite at 9:34 PM on May 18, 2006


Nice play, bukharin.
posted by OmieWise at 9:15 AM on May 19, 2006


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