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NSA Has ‘Routinely’ Listened In On Americans’ Phone Calls, Passed Around ‘Salacious’ Bits
October 9, 2008 9:51 AM   Subscribe

"Ever since President Bush confirmed the existence of a National Security Administration wiretapping program in late 2005, he has insisted it is aimed only at terrorists’ calls and protects Americans’ civil liberties ("This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America — and I repeat: limited.")....However, ABC News reports [text with embedded video] that the NSA frequently listened to and transcribed the private phone calls of Americans abroad....These conversations included those of American soldiers stationed in Iraq and American aid workers abroad, such as Doctors Without Borders."*

A former military intercept operator: "These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East....personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism....[We] routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted....'Hey, check this out...there’s good phone sex or there’s some pillow talk, pull up this call, it’s really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy.'"
posted by ericb (75 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Who watches the Watchmen?
posted by cjorgensen at 9:54 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling wiretapping is going on in here!
posted by xbonesgt at 9:56 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to hear McCain's position on this program. And then I'd like someone to factcheck that opinion. And then a round of ponies.
posted by DU at 10:02 AM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


This and the Pope's religion, at 11.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'd like to hear McCain's position on this program.

To be fair to the other side, Obama did recently vote to grant immunity to telecom companies that conspired with the Bush administration on similar criminal activities.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:08 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


I recall a rumor that Christiane Amanpour and her producers had proof they were wiretapped, but nothing came of it. That'd be interesting.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:12 AM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Hold up. I thought it was never in contention that trans-border calls could be tapped. Hasn't Echelon or a similarly styled program been doing this all along?

The new issue I thought was strictly domestic wiretapping, within the States.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:16 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Obama's FISA vote and his recent bailout vote put a little tarnish on his brass for me. Three weeks ago I knew how I was voting down to my local representative, but now I really do want a "None of the Above" option without wasting my vote.

I'm still an Obama supporter, since I am not a one issue voter, but both those were damn important to me. And yes, I actually wrote my letters of distaste on the bailout plan and sent them to my representatives, and I will vote. This gives me the right to complain.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:16 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Serious question: am I a wacko conspiracy nutjob for just choosing to believe that this covers every domestic call and bit of internet data, anyway, and always has, whether they admit it now, later, or never? I mean, entire rooms of switches right at the telco hubs? And they can resist abusing that power? I have problems believing they don't abuse the hell out of it.

Whether they can keep up with the volume of data, or mine it effectively in a timely manner is a whole 'nother question (and an interesting one), but I've assumed for almost a decade now, since the first wisps of Carnivore and TIA, that TRYING to do this, at least, was already a very big part of the infinity-zillion dollars the NSA and Pentagon doesn't ever have to account for.

The semiannual "Oh, but it might cover some small bit of foreign military staff in embassies by accident" pseudo-scandal seems a little like misdirection to me.

I'd like to run some tests. I'll need a senator's help, or at least the use of his internet connection for a few hours. :)
posted by rokusan at 10:18 AM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


The issue is that they were wiretapping US citizens calling US citizens. The constitution doesn't cease to apply to you once you cross the border.
posted by cimbrog at 10:19 AM on October 9, 2008


you've just got to be pretty low to wiretap doctors without borders. jesus.
posted by msconduct at 10:19 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Obama's FISA vote and his recent bailout vote put a little tarnish on his brass for me.

As a coping mechanism, I tell myself it was purely political, in a calculated "I have to get elected before I can do anything to fix this." way.

Which I don't like either, but at least then I can have some... damn, what's that word for the sometimes-naive feeling of irrational optimism...
posted by rokusan at 10:20 AM on October 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


what's that word for the sometimes-naive feeling of irrational optimism...

Forget that word forever, rokusan. Let that part of you die and come join us hollow men of realpolitik.
posted by cimbrog at 10:22 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Hold on, hold on, hold on...

Okay, this is my stunned face.
posted by scrump at 10:23 AM on October 9, 2008


"I have to get elected before I can do anything to fix this."

a statesman is a politician who got himself elected
posted by matteo at 10:23 AM on October 9, 2008


you've just got to be pretty low to wiretap doctors without borders.

Dude, they're FRENCH. Forget wiretapping, you might as well black-bag them straight to Gitmo.
posted by rokusan at 10:25 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


To be fair to the other side, Obama did recently vote to grant immunity to telecom companies that conspired with the Bush administration on similar criminal activities.

Obama voted for an enormous bill that contained, among other things, telecom immunity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:25 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


[We] routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted....

This surprises me exactly not one bit. Anyone who heard about this wiretapping program should have immediately known that it was being abused from the moment it was put into place; It's just the nature of the thing.

What does surprise me is that this is coming out now. I didn't think we'd hear the gruesome details for the better part of a decade or two.
posted by quin at 10:27 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Earlier this summer, when I was still living in the West Bank, I finally got VOIP so I could call folks back home. I really just ended up talking to my zionist older brother on a daily basis. We'd have knock-down, drag-out shouting matches about the legitimacy of Hamas as an elected organization, the role that Hezbollah has played in Southern Lebanon, and a variety of other things. In angry voices.

It's nice to know that somewhere someone has some tapes of me and my big bro fighting over the phone.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:31 AM on October 9, 2008 [4 favorites]


FUCK these people.
posted by beerbajay at 10:32 AM on October 9, 2008


The issue is that they were wiretapping US citizens calling US citizens. The constitution doesn't cease to apply to you once you cross the border.

And powers aren't granted in an all-or-nothing fashion. If I wasn't being specific enough, I was talking about someone from within the U.S. calling someone outside the U.S., or vice versa. Not someone who has "crossed the border" making a call elsewhere, too. Are you imagining a sigint operation that knows the citizenship of a caller before they decide to intercept a call? Because I'm having a bit of trouble imagining that, myself.

Anyway, I'm not attempting to justify a damn thing. This is factual confusion on my part, but thanks for throwing the constitution at me.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:32 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


To be fair to the other side, Obama did recently vote to grant immunity to telecom companies that conspired with the Bush administration on similar criminal activities.

Frankly, I'd rather see the people who requested the spying be the ones held responsible. But that won't happen either. Sigh.
posted by milarepa at 10:32 AM on October 9, 2008


I'd like to hear McCain's position on this program.
Q: Does the president have inherent powers under the Constitution to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants, regardless of federal statutes?
A: There are some areas where the statutes don’t apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, no matter what the situation is. ... I don't think the president has the right to disobey any law.

................................

In a letter posted online by National Review this week, the adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, said Mr. McCain believed that the Constitution gave Mr. Bush the power to authorize the National Security Agency to monitor Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail without warrants, despite a 1978 federal statute that required court oversight of surveillance.
(sorry, no ponies...)
posted by jammy at 10:37 AM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Is anyone in jail for this yet? No? OK. I'll save my outrage for when anyone, anywhere, is actually punished in some meaningful way for this shit. Or for when the "free press" remembers it used to have teeth, and ideals.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:38 AM on October 9, 2008


And cimbrog, you only have to try to cross a border to find out how your constitutional rights differ under that situation from internal movement. I believe the situation is different in Canada, and I thought the States, with telecom monitoring, but I may have been mistaken.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:40 AM on October 9, 2008


It's nice to know that somewhere someone has some tapes of me and my big bro fighting over the phone.

Dude. Try a year's worth of calls with my girlfriend in the US while I was living in East Jerusalem. The thought of some NSA knucklehead in sansabelt pants and a clip on tie getting wet in the y-fronts over our efforts to keep a relationship going turns my stomach.

Fucking scumbags.
posted by felix betachat at 10:41 AM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


This is factual confusion on my part, but thanks for throwing the constitution at me.

Don't worry, it won't hurt when it hits you. It's just a piece of paper.
posted by rokusan at 10:42 AM on October 9, 2008


Don't worry, everyone. Once the stock market gets down to 3000 or so and we're using vodka and cartons of cigarettes as currency, we won't mind the secret police tapping our phones as much. We'll be too busy burning our furniture as we try to survive the winter.
posted by mullingitover at 10:46 AM on October 9, 2008


Are you imagining a sigint operation that knows the citizenship of a caller before they decide to intercept a call? Because I'm having a bit of trouble imagining that, myself.

The important point is that when at least one end of the call terminates inside the U.S. and one or more of the callers is even somewhat likely to be a U.S. citizen, you have to get a warrant. I don't think anyone has ever suggested that purely foreign calls cannot be monitored without a warrant.

There are additional nuances to explore. If you're interested I suggest Glenn Greenwald's Index of NSA Arguments.
posted by odinsdream at 10:48 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sorry, Durn, didn't mean it to come out like that. I'll only trow the constitution at someone when they let me under the glass case and make a paper airplane out of it.

And as far as I understand the technology, they should know where the calls are coming from and going to. So if they register a call from John Q. Citizen's cell phone going to Jane Q. Citizen's home phone, they shouldn't be recording it, even if John's calling from Iraq. Now if John's calling from a pay phone from somewhere overseas, that would be the gray area you're talking about. And that gray area is in contention, just not with anyone who actually holds power afaik.

And cimbrog, you only have to try to cross a border to find out how your constitutional rights differ under that situation from internal movement.

I knew I should have added the "YMMV" to that last sentence. The country you're in has no requirements (aside from treaties) to respect your homeland's laws. As for my own country respecting those rights when I leave, that's the part of what this hullabaloo is about as far as I can tell.
posted by cimbrog at 10:51 AM on October 9, 2008


Ok, thanks for the clarification, cimbrog. Sorry to get snappy there.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:03 AM on October 9, 2008


Oh, and your paper airplane quip reminded me of this.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 11:05 AM on October 9, 2008


Next up: the admission that yes, they recorded purely domestic phone calls, and yes, the results of those phone calls were used for political purposes by the Bush administration.
posted by vibrotronica at 11:07 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


...the results of those phone calls were used for political purposes by the Bush administration.

I called this the minute the story broke. Nothing else actually makes any sense. The arguments that it was too arduous to get the warrants approved or that it took too long for the secret FISA court to rubber-stamp the requests was always unbelievable.

The only rational explanation is that they were using this capability for widespread blatantly political purposes and that even the FISA secret court would have thrown it out, and that they knew that.
posted by odinsdream at 11:12 AM on October 9, 2008 [3 favorites]


Durn Bronzefist wrote: Hold up. I thought it was never in contention that trans-border calls could be tapped. Hasn't Echelon or a similarly styled program been doing this all along?


Actually, it is. The reason Echelon is clearly legal is that the US government doesn't wiretap US citizens. We wiretap the British, Australians, and whoever else is participating and share the results with them. In return, they wiretap us and share the results with our government.

It's still every bit as sleazy, but there is an important legal distinction there.
posted by wierdo at 11:20 AM on October 9, 2008


Next up: the admission that yes, they recorded purely domestic phone calls, and yes, the results of those phone calls were used for political purposes by the Bush administration.

Sans snark, that is what I expect to come out eventually. And we'll be told its "old news" and who cares and on and on.

I don't have a shred of evidence on this. But I do expect it. Like, is there a market where I can bet on this?
posted by rokusan at 11:28 AM on October 9, 2008


Oh! I just thought of something. Once upon a time this post would have merited a "Surely this..." comment right off the bat, but with the election coming up everyone's pretty much given up on kicking Bush out. "Surely this..." needs a new connotation.

Surely this will bury the McCain campaign?
Surely this will be the final piece of evidence in Bush's out-of-office trial?
Surely this will bring on the pardons?

What do you think, sirs?
posted by cimbrog at 11:36 AM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:39 AM on October 9, 2008


That's goddamn piece of paper, rokusan.
posted by cereselle at 11:40 AM on October 9, 2008


Obama voted for an enormous bill that contained, among other things, telecom immunity.

I would really like to know what else about the "larger" bill redeems this tragedy, because it doesn't seem obvious.

Nonetheless, I'll be voting for Obama in November, because while I don't expect to finally get Equal Protection for myself and my partner under a centrist Obama administration, I don't want to play the odds of us being get thrown into a gas chamber by a Palin-led Christian fundamentalist theocracy.

But let's be clear: The FISA act was devastating to the quaint notion of civil liberties, by an exponential expansion of Presidential power and diminished accountability and transparency.

Further, we will never get to learn the extent to which crimes were committed under the Bush administration — such as those outlined in the subject of this post, where extralegal surveillance and intrusion into privacy occurred repeatedly and will likely continue without much consequence.

Whatever other notions we may have where we agree and disagree about Obama, this vote was a genuinely ugly blemish on his record. I know he has to play the game, but for him to campaign about oversight is hypocritical in light of his recent voting habits that dramatically undercut that idea.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:47 AM on October 9, 2008 [6 favorites]


The reason Echelon is clearly legal is that the US government doesn't wiretap US citizens. We wiretap the British, Australians, and whoever else is participating and share the results with them. In return, they wiretap us and share the results with our government.

If our government hires someone to work for it in an evidence-gathering capacity, that evidence is, for all intents and purposes, gathered by the government.

There's a series of calls between me and my girlfriend they may have illegally tapped. The fact that I was calling a 416 number was doubly irrelevant.
posted by oaf at 11:54 AM on October 9, 2008


Pope Guilty writes "Obama voted for an enormous bill that contained, among other things, telecom immunity."

Yeah, after basically stating no compromise on civil liberties, no retroactive immunity for those who participated in violating our rights. Then he caved.

I'm still voting for him, but that sure as hell prevented me from joining the campaign as a volunteer.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:16 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Serious question: am I a wacko conspiracy nutjob for just choosing to believe that this covers every domestic call and bit of internet data, anyway, and always has, whether they admit it now, later, or never?

In the Army, back in the mid-60's, my dad was stationed at Vint Hill Farms, working under the NSA. He claims that even back then, they had the capability to monitor and/or record every phone conversation in the United States.

Of course, he's often full of crap, so who knows?
posted by designbot at 12:19 PM on October 9, 2008


Next up: the admission that yes, they recorded purely domestic phone calls, and yes, the results of those phone calls were used for political purposes by the Bush administration.

Yeah, quelle shocker, I'd say.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:32 PM on October 9, 2008


Is anyone in jail for this yet? No? OK. I'll save my outrage for when anyone, anywhere, is actually punished in some meaningful way for this shit.

Why would you be outraged then? That would be justice.

I am not a one-issue voter either, but I'm finding less and less desire (and need) to vote for Obama myself. He doesn't need my vote to win California (though for some reason the national popular vote is tracked as well, I guess...)
posted by mrgrimm at 1:10 PM on October 9, 2008


Threat Level points out that Adrienne Kinne has been speaking out about this since last year: US spied on Americans "just in case"
posted by homunculus at 1:16 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


“Who watches the Watchmen?”

Bob from Accounting. He’s on break a lot though.

Deeper than that though - who needs a watchmen there?

“Serious question: am I a wacko conspiracy nutjob for just choosing to believe that this covers every domestic call and bit of internet data, anyway, and always has, whether they admit it now, later, or never?”

No. I think a government as large as ours would be idiots if they didn’t do this (albeit on a more targeted basis). But, I mean - the post office doesn’t routinely open the mail (something coming from a known mobster - different story).
And indeed - it’d be a waste of time and manpower if they did - given their opening the mail was predicated on finding threats to the state.

You see, the NSA has always had the power (the ability, not the legal right) to listen to whomever they want whenever they want.
There just wasn’t a policy to do so.
There is a radical difference between cops roughing some informant up on the street to get some information and the creation of a policy that states “police can and will used light violence to get information out of anyone.”

In the first case - it’s done, but not as a matter of course.
In the second - it’s policy, and it’s done routinely.

Other concerns aside - if you’re doing something like this anyway, why tell people?
Clearly then the admission (and endorsement) of it serves a purpose other than the goal of the act itself.

I’d argue the goal is intimidation. Not information.

(And any decently sophisticated organization that’s at all dangerous is going to be using encryption and other methods of communication. Fishing is more or less a waste of time. At least in contrast to investigation. But y’know, equipment and such funnels bucks to corporate cronies and kickbacks, etc. etc. - salaried investigators, not so much)

Let me put it this way. You agree with me, right?
By the way, I’m sitting right outside for your convenience if you want to talk about it.

See how that last statement sort of puts an implicit spin there without really saying anything?
Same deal.
We’re listening. Oh, but not to you. *wink*

“There are some areas where the statutes don’t apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications.”

And this is obviously wrong in any argument on civil liberties. But in terms of detail - the 10th amendment covers it pretty well.
Even if the statues don’t apply - the federal government is limited only to the powers granted in the Constitution. Not that that’s really followed.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:16 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Smedleyman writes "I’d argue the goal is intimidation. Not information."

Well, if it's codified, theoretically such information gleaned from surveillance could be used as evidence. If it's done entirely in secret, the information could be used, but not "officially."

I think you're right on one level, that it does server that purpose. But that's not the only purpose.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:45 PM on October 9, 2008


designbot writes "In the Army, back in the mid-60's, my dad was stationed at Vint Hill Farms, working under the NSA. He claims that even back then, they had the capability to monitor and/or record every phone conversation in the United States."

Question is, did they? Having the capability doesn't mean they did. However, if you allow such an agency to work entirely in secret and don't have any accountability to the general public, it wouldn't be at all surprising if they abused the power they had. It would probably be a good bet that they did.

As Smedly said, probably so, but we don't really know. I think we really should, although I have my doubts it would happen in my lifetime.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:48 PM on October 9, 2008


I was actually shocked when all this first broke in 2005 to discover that there was a secret court that could approve warrants for wiretaps three days after-the-fact. The FISA Court granted 18,761 warrants through the end of 2004 and only rejected five, so I still don't understand why wiretapping when you can get secret warrants that are almost always granted by the secret court after you do the wiretaps wasn't enough for the Bush Administration.

Part of the impeachment articles against Nixon included:
...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...
FISA was initially set up to prevent presidents from repeating Nixon's impeachable acts. Bush repeated them. As a result, I'm not voting for Nancy "Impeachment's Off the Table" Pelosi.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:49 PM on October 9, 2008


oaf writes: If our government hires someone to work for it in an evidence-gathering capacity, that evidence is, for all intents and purposes, gathered by the government.

You'd think so, but it's all done as a courtesy for no charge, so all is well and no laws are broken. :p

They're just sharing "foreign intelligence," you see. It just so happens that some of the foreign intelligence isn't so foreign to us, it includes my phone sex with my SO when she's out of the country, for example. I'm always happy to provide entertainment to the chaps at the NSA (and their foreign counterparts). After all, their job must be so incredibly dull without us international sexy-chatters.
posted by wierdo at 4:15 PM on October 9, 2008


Surely this...
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:28 PM on October 9, 2008


US spied on Americans "just in case"

This is a great link, homunculus. My dismay is that the GWOT supporters would dismiss this as necessary to stop the Muslim turr-wrists, without ever logically being able to connect the two. Those people do not deserve the freedom they so readily yield for a false sense of security.

My real fear is that the information gathering has been put to effective political use. How much do they know about their political opponents that they can use to blackmail them? How much do they have on media and business leaders? How much on lower level government officials?
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:37 PM on October 9, 2008


We’re listening. Oh, but not to you.

...yet.
posted by Mental Wimp at 4:40 PM on October 9, 2008


terrorist bomb america jihad whitehouse president nucular explosion

...[hold on, someone just knocked on my door]
posted by clearly at 5:23 PM on October 9, 2008


I'm not a lawyer, and most legal scholars can't even agree on what the FISA law means. However, it is generally understood that there are loopholes big enough in the law to drive a stealth truck through.

My understanding of FISA, is that "electronic surveillance" does not include calls which are tapped outside of the US.

That is, if the NSA asks AT&T to give them a copy of every call passing though Ma Bell's San Francisco switching center, the spooks at Ft. Meade need to go through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). In the Terrorist Surveillance Program, the NSA did get a copy of those calls, but didn't go to the court, which is why we've had the huge legal shitstorm over the past few years.

If the NSA taps an undersea fiber optic cable in international waters (say, using its specially equipped submarine), then as far as FISA is concerned, it's not electronic surveillance, and thus the NSA can do whatever they want.

As the ABC article points out, the people making these calls were doing so using satellite phones, which are insanely easy to tap beyond US borders (i.e. tapped in space by spy satellites, or by electronic listening equipment at one of our many foreign listening stations). Thus, again, FISA wouldn't apply.

In any case - this issue involves both sex tapes and wiretapping, so it makes for a great story -- hence the press attention devoted to it since the Senate hearing earlier today.

If it takes a few NSA goons sniggering to the phone-wank sessions of married American soldiers before we finally get some real oversight of the NSA's efforts, then so be it. Even better, we get to accuse anyone on the NSA's side of not "Supporting the Troops," which seems to be the ultimate trump card these days.
posted by genome4hire at 9:13 PM on October 9, 2008


Ok, that's it. I've changed my mind. Now I think as president, Obama should keep Guantanamo around. It will come in handy to house this administration.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:17 PM on October 9, 2008


Widespread cell phone location snooping by NSA?
posted by homunculus at 9:41 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Government report: Data mining doesn't work well
posted by homunculus at 9:43 PM on October 9, 2008 [1 favorite]


Thanks for linking to the cell phone snooping article homunculus. I wrote it :)

One of my profs was one of the main guys behind that data mining failures report in your second link.

The take home lesson here, is that no one really understands surveillance law, and since the Bush administration still refuses to release the legal memos which clarify how the DOJ has interpreted the laws, we're all in the dark.

At a technical level, listening to all calls, sniffing all emails, and collecting real time location information from all mobile phones is totally do-able. The only thing that is really holding the government back is the law (since the NSA's budget is sky-high), or the willingness of the government to break the law.

80 years ago, if the government wanted to spy on you, they needed to perform a 'black bag job', and get a team of agents to break into your home when you weren't there to install microphones.

50 years ago, they at least needed to have someone listening around the clock to the wiretaps.

Today, they just flip a bit in a configuration file, and the servers they already paid for merely monitor an additional phone line. The cost of watching an additional citizen has essentially approached 0. This creates a really strong incentive for abusive surveillance programs..
posted by genome4hire at 10:02 PM on October 9, 2008 [2 favorites]


Join the club?
posted by ersatz at 8:35 AM on October 10, 2008


Government report: Data mining doesn't work well

Yeah, when you're looking for something with a prevalence of 1/10,000,000 and you have a specificity of 99%, even though your sensitivity is 100%, you're going to have to examine 100,000 false positives to get one real, live turrwrist. That's a really bad tradeoff and extremely expensive. Coulda told 'em that before they started if they weren't opposed to facts and reality and all.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:40 AM on October 10, 2008


Really, can anyone explain to me why this current crop are not under indictment? Seriously. Their sins have been some much more egregious than Nixon, Reagan, or, by far, Clinton. Dems have control of Congress, f'crissake.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:43 AM on October 10, 2008


Thanks for linking to the cell phone snooping article homunculus. I wrote it :)

My pleasure, genome4hire. Thanks for writing it!
posted by homunculus at 8:59 PM on October 10, 2008


Inside Operation Highlander: the NSA's Wiretapping of Americans Abroad
posted by homunculus at 9:04 PM on October 10, 2008


In other news, 60 Minutes did a report on aerial "persistent surveillance" technology in Iraq:

How Technology Helped Win Sadr City Battle: U.S. Military Gives Rare Access To 60 Minutes In Discussing Aerial Footage And Weaponry

I assume this is the new technology that Bob Woodward has been talking about.
posted by homunculus at 7:52 PM on October 12, 2008


James Bamford: “The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America.”
posted by homunculus at 9:16 AM on October 14, 2008


British Government unveils 'Big Brother' plan to log calls and emails of EVERY person in Britain

Life imitates art.
posted by homunculus at 10:42 AM on October 15, 2008


Can Private Companies Helping the NSA Be Watchdogs, Too?
posted by homunculus at 2:44 PM on October 16, 2008


EFF Challenges Constitutionality of Telecom Immunity in Federal Court
posted by homunculus at 12:40 PM on October 17, 2008


U.S. policymakers mull creation of domestic intelligence agency
posted by homunculus at 3:46 PM on October 21, 2008


Why did the NSA classify 'public' report on wiretaps?
posted by homunculus at 12:23 AM on October 26, 2008


Judge orders White House to produce wiretap memos
posted by homunculus at 4:41 PM on November 2, 2008


Judge orders White House to produce wiretap memos

As if the Bush administration pays any attention to judges. Criminals.
posted by Mental Wimp at 9:06 PM on November 2, 2008


Feds and Telcos Defend Spy Amnesty to Court
posted by homunculus at 3:24 PM on November 8, 2008


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