Thursday, May 11, 2006

CATCH ALL Program Confirmed

The scope of the NSA's extra-legal warrantless wiretapping program is wider than anyone except SMC has publicly indicated, according to today's USA Today.

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans--most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.

Looks like M1 nailed that one spot on.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made--across town or across the country--to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others...

The NSA's domestic program, as described by sources, is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop--without warrants--on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists when one party to the communication is in the USA. Warrants have also not been used in the NSA's efforts to create a national call database.

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. "In other words," Bush explained, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States."

As a result, domestic call records--those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders--were believed to be private.

Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. 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...

(Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary said) that all national intelligence activities undertaken by the federal government "are lawful, necessary and required for the pursuit of al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists." All government-sponsored intelligence activities "are carefully reviewed and monitored," Perino said. She also noted that "all appropriate members of Congress have been briefed on the intelligence efforts of the United States."

The White House is so sure that the program is legal because of the rumored existence of a classified United States Signals Intelligence Directive (USSID) which permits several practices that have previously been illegal.

The government is collecting "external" data on domestic phone calls but is not intercepting "internals," a term for the actual content of the communication, according to a U.S. intelligence official familiar with the program. This kind of data collection from phone companies is not uncommon; it's been done before, though never on this large a scale, the official said. The data are used for "social network analysis," the official said, meaning to study how terrorist networks contact each other and how they are tied together...

Among the big telecommunications companies, only Qwest has refused to help the NSA, the sources said. According to multiple sources, Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.

President Bush's divorce from reality became official today when commenting on the new revelation that all phone calls made and received by Americans (except Qwest customers) were being examined by the NSA:

"We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of Americans," Bush said. "Our efforts are focused on links to al-Qaeda and their known affiliates."

In that brief statement Bush affirmed that he considers all Americans to have links to al-Qaeda or "known affiliates" thereof.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Kev said...

You guys rock and amaze. Keep at it.

5/11/2006 3:25 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

Kev:

"I'd like to say 'thank you' on behalf of the group and ourselves, and I hope we passed the audition."

5/11/2006 3:41 PM  
Blogger DrewL said...

The funny thing is that, if they were truly only interested in communications among suspected al qaeda operatives, then why data mine all calls? We're talking about a small handful of calls relative to the billions upon billions of calls made in this country every day. Doesn't seem like a particularly efficient method of oncovering suspected terrorist plots. Does it? The proverbial needle in a haystack, if you ask me.

Little by little we seem to hear a bit more and a bit more about how intrusive our government is becoming. What else looms under the cover of darkness and the veil of secrecy? I shudder to think.

5/11/2006 11:00 PM  
Blogger Effwit said...

DrewL:

Some insiders are claiming that they need this capability, including archiving the take, in order to go back later--following an attack--and do a post-facto investigation to find out everyone the terrorist has been in contact with.

Operationally, that makes sense. But it is a simply outrageous violation of the rights that Americans have always had--"our freedoms" as one particular leader would term it.

What else looms under the cover of darkness and the veil of secrecy?

That's the $64 question. Where there is smoke, there is fire.

5/12/2006 7:37 AM  

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