Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Chance to Make Nixon Look Like Mr. Popularity

by Tom Bozzo

In the event you haven't seen it elsewhere, this is important. From USA Today*:
NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls

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.

Word to Glenn Greenwald:
...when the NSA scandal first broke, the administration’s principal political defense was to continuously assure Americans that they were eavesdropping only on international calls, not domestic calls. Many, many Americans do not ever make any international calls, and it was an implicit way of assuring the heartland that the vast bulk of the calls they make... were not the type of calls being intercepted. The only ones with anything to worry about were the weird and suspect Americans who call overseas to weird and suspect countries. If you’re not calling Pakistan or Iran, the Government has no interest in what you’re doing.

That has all changed. We now learn that when Americans call their Aunt Millie, or their girlfriend, or their psychiatrist, or their drug counselor, or their priest or rabbi, or their lawyer, or anyone and everyone else, the Government is very interested. In fact, they are so interested that they make note of it and keep it forever, so that at any time, anyone in the Government can look at a record of every single person whom every single American ever called or from whom they received a call.
See also Georgia10 at Daily Kos (here too).

P.S., Scrivener, too.

1. Elect Democrats to Congress in sufficient numbers to take the place over. 2. Impeach George W. Bush and Richard Cheney. Do it then!
What about cell phones? Are those calls being recorded too?
The phone records of TENS OF MILLIONS of Americans. So, they think there's that many al-Qaeda sleeper cells, eh?

And this adminstration hasn't been thrown out on its collective hiney, why?
My father fought in a war to prevent fascism from taking over our country. Thank God he is not around to see that we have a fascist government in place now. Shame on us all if we sit still for this insidious effort to nullify the Bill of Rights.
Mixter: Yeah, the old soothing "we're only interested in people with known ties to al Qaeda" cover story is out the window. No surprise that the other side of the aisle is running in every direction afforded by multi-dimensional spacetime.

Tonya: Who knows? I'd assume that cell phone calls terminating on one of the participating networks would be eligible; it's unclear if the "baby" Bells' wireless ventures were participating.

Mom: Who'd have thought that "fascist" would be a literal description of the government we have. It does figure, though, with all those Nixonites in the admin.
Calling this fascism is so lame. BTW, I just saw that 2/3 of people support scanning phone records for unusual activities, even if it infringes on their privacy. Talk about popularity!
Bryan: Small-f "fascism" is the combination of authoritarianism and corporatism. Given the Bush administration's efforts to put itself above the law on any matter deemed to have a nexus to national security (and some things not), and the obvious corporatist bias of its policies, it's just a nasty term for the facts of life.

(BTW, "Mom" really is my mom; she has an early-sixties Jesuit education and could, had she the time, decimate you in rhetorical battle as if you were a lone MiG-21 against the entire USAF.)

As for the Post poll, their question is worded to emphasize the administration spin that absolutely nothing untoward is being done with all these zillions of phone call records, even though it's been suggested in the media reports that these records may be shared by the NSA with other security and law enforcement agencies, among other things. Even still, the 63% "support" includes 22 percentage points of people calling the program "somewhat" "acceptable," which is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Since every revelation about the program has been in the direction of greater intrusiveness and less legal oversight, the real question IMHO is, what don't we know about what they're doing, even now?
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