Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 11, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

THE NSA AND YOU....I've written about this before (see here), but USA Today's Leslie Cauley has a major story today about the NSA's program to collect data not just on international calls, but on purely domestic calls as well. It started right after 9/11:

"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.

....Last year...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."

....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.

The rules for collecting data about phone calls are different from the rules about listening in on the content of phone calls, so I don't know what the legal situation here is. However, although most domestic carriers cooperated with the NSA, one of them didn't: Qwest.

According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that Qwest didn't need a court order or approval under FISA to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers' information and how that information might be used.

....The NSA told Qwest that other government agencies, including the FBI, CIA and DEA, also might have access to the database, the sources said. As a matter of practice, the NSA regularly shares its information known as "product" in intelligence circles with other intelligence groups. Even so, Qwest's lawyers were troubled by the expansiveness of the NSA request, the sources said.

....Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

This should add even more excitement to Michael Hayden's confirmation hearings to run the CIA, shouldn't it?

Kevin Drum 1:39 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (166)

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KEVIN DRUM: This should add even more excitement to Michael Hayden's confirmation hearings to run the CIA, shouldn't it?

Don't know about that, but it should add more customers to Quest.


Posted by: jayarbee on May 11, 2006 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

The fact that NSA were unable to bully Qwest into cooperation and refused to go to FISA to test the legality pretty much tells the whole tale.

If the Dems don't grab this and run . . . .

Also, Haydens interpretation of the 4th Amendment at the National Press Club in January should reassure everyone.

Posted by: notthere on May 11, 2006 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

I can't wait to see how the Bush apologists on this site spin this one.

Simply put, he lied. To everyone. Even those of you who imbibe the Kool-Aid.

Posted by: Stranger on May 11, 2006 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

This should add even more excitement to Michael Hayden's confirmation hearings to run the CIA, shouldn't it?

Yep. And the major question is why was Qwest so unpatriotic that it was willing to endanger the national security of our country by refusing to share the phone call records of suspected terrrorists with George W Bush? How many millions of American lives were endangered by their selfish, unpatriotic actions?

Posted by: Al on May 11, 2006 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

Wait a minute.

You are saying that Nacchio did the right thing? I'll be damned. Maybe I'll have to root for him in his upcoming trail.

Posted by: weichi on May 11, 2006 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

Al, you're killing me. How do you manage to get in so early on *every* thread? Do you have some kind of kevin-drum-watching bot running somewhere?

Posted by: weichi on May 11, 2006 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

The first wave of mass arrests will be pot smokers in swing states. The second smaller wave will be democratic contributers that utilize escort services.

Posted by: B on May 11, 2006 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

Man...

Karl's so gonna miss looking at all that NSA data...

...once he's in Federal Prison.

Or, if pardoned, after Bush is impeached.

It could happen, Republicans. And you know it.

Bush. Crime. Family.

Reject them. Now. For America.

Posted by: The Hague on May 11, 2006 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

Agree that Quest should pick up customers; if our representatives won't stick up for us, at least our cell carrier will.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim on May 11, 2006 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

The UK is perfecting their CCTV.

This administration has taken newspeak to near perfection.

Now we hear they are building their total, all-embracing database.

Big Brother is almost here. Wait 'til we all get our sub-dermal chip.

Just wondering . . .
do they run an analysis on their own calls too? You know, just in case one of them is not as Rovish, Cheneyish or Rummy as they seem. I sure as hell would.

Posted by: notthere on May 11, 2006 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

Under the USA PATRIOT act a warrant isn't required for pen/trace-trap for virtually any device, for "any investigation to gather foreign intelligence information". The only effective limitation is that it cannot be used "solely on the basis of activities protected by the First Amendment".

However, this isn't "anyone", it's essentially "everyone", which renders any limitation effectively meaningless. That the NSA wasn't willing to go to the mat with Qwest and FISA is telling.

Posted by: has407 on May 11, 2006 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

The Bin Laden family name was floating around back in Houston.

Back in the early '70s.

I'm just saying...follow the money...

Who was the Bush grandfather? What wars...have been in play?

Follow the money.

$400 million dollar bonus.

Posted by: NewsMaxFan on May 11, 2006 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

I am most concerned about the Islamic belt bombers finding me than the NSA, considering the insulting remarks I have made about Muhammed and his affair with his camel.


Posted by: Matt on May 11, 2006 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

Connect the dots people.
They are doing this to blackmail elected officials and the media.
Can it be more obvious?
They have the tools.
They have the motive (power).
They have the lack of respect for the rule of law.
They get off on it.
Can anything be more obvious?

Posted by: hopeless pedant on May 11, 2006 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

My question is "What if you are a patriotic American like Al, minding you own business when someone in Saudi Arabia places a call and misdials and connects to Al, who hangs-up. Since the call originated from overseas, does the NSA look at every call Al has made or received in his entire lifetime?" Al, that wouldn't bother you, would it?

Posted by: Tigershark on May 11, 2006 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

This American Democracy can rise up and prove itself again.

In order to do this, we have to set the example for the world, and remove false power.

This is something that both Democrats and Republicans are starting to realize is above politics.

Impeachment is a tool of democracy. Not a curse on the village.

These fools have got to go. Yeah, it's that bad, everybody.

Posted by: The Hague on May 11, 2006 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

There is a simple solution. If the White House will allow all of us to listen to all of their calls, then they can listen to ours.

Seems fair and balanced to me.

Posted by: craigie on May 11, 2006 at 2:26 AM | PERMALINK

If the NSA is listening to our overseas phone calls, then they should pay half the phone bill, its only fair.

Posted by: Matt on May 11, 2006 at 2:27 AM | PERMALINK

I would not expect an article like this from USA Today. Thanks, and good job Leslie Cauley. Oh yeah, be very afraid.

Posted by: Powerpuff on May 11, 2006 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK

You kind of have to admire the programming of the Al-bot. I didn't see how this news could be defended, but that Al software always manages to find a nugget of imaginary corn in the biggest piles of dung. Exemplary!

Posted by: craigie on May 11, 2006 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

Tiggershark:

..."What if you are a patriotic American like Al, minding you own business when someone in Saudi Arabia places a call and misdials and connects to Al, who hangs-up."

...NSA believe Al has been given the call to action, descend on him with Special Forces. Next time Al wakes up he is in a brightly lit cell playing imams calling the faithful to prayer VERY loudly. After 3 years in solitary and telling them "useful information to the security of this country" he finds himself dropped of in the uplands of uzbekistan with no money, the same skivvies he was picked up in, two broken ribs, poor eyesight and a distended bladder.

"...Al, that wouldn't bother you, would it?"

Posted by: Tigershark on May 11, 2006 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, I can dream, can't I?

NewsMaxFan:

you forgot to add who got flown out of the country pronto following 11th September.

Posted by: notthere on May 11, 2006 at 2:58 AM | PERMALINK

TIA. Poindexter got his panopticon. So, when the Democrats take the White House, the NSA will keep the database intact, won't it? Actually, I think the Al-bot exists to collect IP addresses from responders.

Anyway, the timing on this is interesting, isn't it? It chimes with the hints of other extralegal surveillance and data collection from the Gonzales hearing. So won't it be nice to get him and Hayden together, under oath, in front of both the Judiciary and Intel committees?

Because if the Dems participate confirmation hearings before this is dealt with, then they can fuck right off.

Posted by: ahem on May 11, 2006 at 3:27 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting that the talks between Qwest and the NSA apparently went on for 3 years before Qwest "pulled the plug". For a matter purportedly so important to national security, it's incredulous that during that entire time the administration could not or would not find a way to address Qwest's concerns.

Posted by: has407 on May 11, 2006 at 3:36 AM | PERMALINK

Are we sure this wasn't a Quest infomorercial?

Posted by: toast on May 11, 2006 at 3:48 AM | PERMALINK

has407

the inference is that Qwest's legal advice was not to cooperate, particularly as NSA could not define where the info would go and how it would be used, and they could be liable for dissemnating same information. Equally, NSA was not willing to risk an adverse FISA verdict.

Seems like only Qwest got the correct advice and hasd the balls not to be intmidated by typical fascist bullying (Got a better disciption?) from NSA. Doesn't say much about the other corporates.

Posted by: notthere on May 11, 2006 at 3:54 AM | PERMALINK

The freshly aroused American people will now roust themselves and rally behind the natural leader who stood up to the bunch of bullies...just like they did with Boxer, Feingold and Murtha...oh wait.

Hit them again Osama.

Posted by: professor rat on May 11, 2006 at 4:25 AM | PERMALINK

notthere -- Right... it seems that it either wasn't important enough for the NSA to provide safeguards sufficient to allay Qwest's concerns, which brings into question the "necessary for national security" justification; or if the NSA felt there was legal justification, then why did it not bring the full force of the law to bear to protect our national security? And if there was no legal justification, and the other telecom's did break the law, then it appears that there was a conspiracy to do so at the behest of the US government.

Posted by: has407 on May 11, 2006 at 4:28 AM | PERMALINK

Shorter: (1) the NSA isn't serious about national security; (2) the NSA broke the law; or (3) both.

Posted by: has407 on May 11, 2006 at 4:38 AM | PERMALINK

Let me try that again...

(1) this surveillance isn't important to national security; or (2) the NSA doesn't care about national security; or (3) the NSA broke the law; or (4) a combination of the previous.

Posted by: has407 on May 11, 2006 at 4:41 AM | PERMALINK

The article only briefly mentions the non-profit civil rights in technology group- the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF is suing AT&T for breaking the rules. (Verizon chose not to play with the NSA in part because it would be breaking the law.)

Of course, the feds are trying to squelch the lawsuit by throwing "states secret" at it.

Because the EFF started the lawsuit, it gave a reason for the AT&T technician to come forward, and his evidence gave the entire case more traction and much more press coverage.

Since the EFF works at the intersection of technological change with civil rights, the importance of what they do isn't always easy to explain. A tiny box sitting on a network isn't as obvious as a policeman doing an illegal search. But then a case like this comes along...

Technology allows one administration to authorize one box that breaks the 4th amendment millions of times a day.

Check out everything the EFF is doing:
http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/

and has done:
http://www.eff.org/legal/victories/

I'm a long-time supporter with friends at the EFF, and I know their big limitation is money- the more members, the more they can do. If you like most of what they do, consider donating.

(I write "most" because an effective civil-rights organization will always have one or two cases that seem too strongly focused on the org's core topic [free speech, say]. They won't 'tone it down' for PR. And with the EFF, taking technology cases means that they don't get the most sympathetic defendants- a government trying to get new powers goes after the least likeable defendants first. But if one skips the unsympathetic, then by the time the government is going after the angels, all the precedents have been set. So if you like most of what the EFF does, consider joining.)

Posted by: Kathryn from Sunnyvale on May 11, 2006 at 5:39 AM | PERMALINK

Well what did USAToday think "acces to the daytona database" means ;-)

This is precisely the accusation in the EFF lawsuit and third New york times article. We knew all this already (except for maybe the Qwest part).
(http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/24/politics/24spy.html?ex=1293080400&en=016edb46b79bde83&ei=5090)

And it has been clear since the first new york times article that this traffic data is most likely the only way to get the thousands of "dirty phone numbers" that are even a little bit more interesting than the average phone number. More interesting than average seems to be the "reasonable belief" test that is used for listening in on international traffic. But since only phone numbers are learned this way, not names and indentities, getting a warrant, even a FISA one, is impossible.

And the later stories about the FBI investigating thousands of leads without finding anything suspicious suggest that the NSA is as good at "datamining", or what used to be called traffic analysis when the NSA did it dacades ago on soviet traffic, as everbody else.

And most of the sources are still telco people. There is no way NSA people talk publicly about "the largest database in the world". This is someone who thinks his employer has been bumped of the #1 spot in the publicly known database size top-25 list. Not someone who actually knows how big NSA databases are, and have been.

The standard inteligence targeting misnomer applies. Inteligence agencies don`t just target terrorist, they target radicals, for example, islamic radicals.

I am sure there has been a renewed interest in clinic bombers and weather underground type groups since 9/11 as well. But with the "only Al qaida" white house line they may have been safe from the NSA. Then again, Al qaida has been redefined from Osama`s and friend to islamic radicalism in general... No doubt becouse Al qaida got more scared responces in the focus groups.

In other words, they target a group for its political believes, and then try and find the violent people in that group.... And then they might act, or just wait and gather more information.

Also, since telephone traffic data is about which phone connects to which phone it would be more accurate to talk about traffic analysis rather than social network analysis. Its a minor detail, until you end up in court where it matters what person was actually holding the horn when a call was made.

Traffic data analysis isn`t just an inteligence tool, law enforment and criminal inteligence groups have been using it as well. And it has been such a succes that they have been looking for access to much more data since well before 9/11. Just ask the Europeans who recently ended up with legislation because the UK figured pushing it thourgh the EU was easier than pushing it through in just the UK.... (http://cryptome.sabotage.org/ncis-carnivore.htm)

Posted by: ht on May 11, 2006 at 6:06 AM | PERMALINK

This is clearly a violation of our Constitutional guarantees of freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. 19 suicidal men in hijacked airplanes does not justify this outrageous and egregious fascist and unAmerican program.

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on May 11, 2006 at 6:07 AM | PERMALINK

Damn! I knew I shouldn't have used the name "Osama" that time I sent out for pizza!

Posted by: BC on May 11, 2006 at 6:25 AM | PERMALINK

If I could give all of my telecom dollars to Qwest I would...but all of this traverse the telecom backbone and unless the traffic stays within the Qwest network, I would assume this would not matter. Am I mistaken?

Posted by: justmy2 on May 11, 2006 at 6:54 AM | PERMALINK

Yep. And the major question is why was Qwest so unpatriotic that it was willing to endanger the national security of our country by refusing to share the phone call records of suspected terrrorists with George W Bush? How many millions of American lives were endangered by their selfish, unpatriotic actions?

I nominate the for Al parody of the year!!! An absolute classic!!! Two thumbs up!!!!

Posted by: justmy2 on May 11, 2006 at 6:56 AM | PERMALINK

If the NSA is listening to our overseas phone call

Just to clarify, the article states this is related to every single call made by the customers of these companies, regardless of source or destination location.

Posted by: justmy2 on May 11, 2006 at 6:58 AM | PERMALINK

Despite the wonders of computerland, I find it difficult to believe that it wouldn't take every single person in the NSA just to monitor the calls my bi-polar daughter makes every day! None are "international" as far as is known...but she COULD branch out...very needy and having to be constantly connected to SOMEONE SOMEWHERE! I say if that's all they can find to do with their time/personnel...no wonder we shouldn't feel safer!

Posted by: Dancer on May 11, 2006 at 7:16 AM | PERMALINK

If I could give all of my telecom dollars to Qwest I would...but all of this traverse the telecom backbone and unless the traffic stays within the Qwest network, I would assume this would not matter. Am I mistaken?

I am trying to determine the same thing at this very moment. Certainly your long-distance calls are fair game, since Qwest only provides local service (if I'm not mistaken). But even your local calls would go over the AT&T network. So that's the question.

This makes me literally sick at my stomach, for more reasons than I want to get into here.

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2006 at 7:30 AM | PERMALINK

Think of the potential economic value of this database. I wonder if the NSA sells the information concerning your telephone habits to advertizers.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 11, 2006 at 7:38 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, it seems that Bush authorized the NSA to wiretap Americans pre-9/11, AND, the NSA approached U.S. carriers for their cooperation in this 'data-mining' operation in early 2001.

This was all going on before September 11, 2001.

Is everybody in Congress:

1.) Cynical, corrupt, stupid, on the take?

2.) Forgetful and just doesn't remember that 9/11 had nothing to do with Bush's illegal spying on Americans and the NSA's grandiose democracy-shattering/Constitution-dissolving program?

3.) in bed with dead women and/or little boys?

Posted by: Maven on May 11, 2006 at 7:45 AM | PERMALINK


"If the NSA is listening to our overseas phone calls, then they should pay half the phone bill, its only fair."

I will ask again: why are WE PAYING to have these goons spy on us?

Posted by: van on May 11, 2006 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't it about time the idea that Bush's responses to 9/11, like his lack of vigilance beforehand, are basically incompetent? The FBI was concerned about the flight school antics of the hijackers. If memory serves me right, two of the hijackers were already on terrorism watch lists. 9/11 wouldn't have happened if Bush had been exercising even basic vigilance instead of dreaming up war plans for Iraq.

Cumbersome, paranoid programs like this one send a dual message: It reinforces the idea that no one could have anticipated and prevented 9/11 -- a notion that increasingly seems absurd, geven the Bush Administration's conspicuous incompetence -- and yet it also reinforces the idea that, having been caught napping at the switch, Bush had no idea how to fight terrorism. The clown show that is the Bush Administration makes loyal Americans long for good governance.

Posted by: Gregory on May 11, 2006 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

Who is this Al guy who wants to surrender his rights under the bill of rights because he's scared of terrorists? Why does the right wing attach so little value to the rights Americans have fought for over more than two centuries? Why are they scared off by a ragtag group of terrorists that doesn't even have an army, navy, or airforce?

Posted by: bn on May 11, 2006 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

I'm just shaking with rage.

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2006 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

Cue the Republican defense meme:

1. This report is not true.
2. Even if it is true, it's perfectly legal.
3. Even if it's not legal, the law is outdated and needs to be changed.
4. And in any event the President can ignore the law because of his inherent powers as kin- er Commander-in-Chief.
5. And this is a vital program necessary to protect the United States from terrorists who have the power to destroy life as we know it.
6. Democrats are pussies!

Did I get that right?

Posted by: Ugh on May 11, 2006 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

I will only feel truly safe once the government has installed cameras in my house to watch me 24 hours a day. That way I can be absolutely sure I'm not a threat to America! They will also be impressed with how many times a day I say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Posted by: A different wingnut on May 11, 2006 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Wait just a minute here. You're not suggesting that Bush lied or anything are you?

Posted by: dilbert on May 11, 2006 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

You stupid liberals! You can't enjoy your capital gains tax cut when you're dead!

Posted by: Wingnut next door on May 11, 2006 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

It occurred to me last night why Bill Niskanen's study for the Cato Institute found, contrary to the conservative "starve the beast" theory, that tax cuts were in fact associated with INCREASES in government spending.

It's because people obsessed with big government and tax cuts are also obsessed with the "war on terror" and having a "strong defense."

Grover Norquist's "drown the government in the bathtub and then drown it again" theory sounds like quaint, little old lady Republican sentiment from a bygone era in the face of the Bush-Cheney terror- and Iraq-driven spending onslaught.

Remind me again -- who is it who believes in big government???

Posted by: pj in jesusland on May 11, 2006 at 9:10 AM | PERMALINK

Who Watches the Watchman?

Sorry about being repetive but this recent story is even more relevant here.

The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter.
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12727867/from/RSS/

The NSA is above oversight and decides who and when anyone will review allegations of wrongdoing even when those allegations involve attorneys at the Department of Justice?

Posted by: Catch22 on May 11, 2006 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Sources within the DNC say that that organization is illegally obtaining SS#'s and address's and registering them as Democrats in strategic areas an attempt to bolster their poll results in the up-coming election. These sources state that this is a concerted effort by the DNC leadership to win the next election at any cost.

It's amazing what sources will tell you.

Posted by: Jay on May 11, 2006 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

If anybody has information about switching from SBC to Qwest DSL, please post it here. I predict the AT&T/SBC folks are scurrying around right now discussing strategies to prevent a huge loss of customers to Qwest. If I signed up for 12 months, can I get out of it by pointing out they have breached their contract protecting my privacy?

Posted by: Raj on May 11, 2006 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

"I'm all shook up ah a huh" - Elvis and shortstop.

Posted by: Jay on May 11, 2006 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Good for Qwest. Not sure it's reason enough to switch from Working Assets, but good for them...

Posted by: Mr Furious on May 11, 2006 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

They ought to invite someone from Qwest to the hearing and let them explain how they told the NSA and WH to screw off.

Posted by: jerry on May 11, 2006 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

That certainly settles the debate we were having a few threads ago on whether or not the administration was engaging in domestic spying - doesn't it?

They were massively. Anyone want to bet now that they're not looking at their political enemies.

If there ever were a time to filibuster on a nomination and demand a full briefing on what's going on - now would be it. Feingold's right on this one - it's a huge potential winner because it could get the base cranked up like no-one's business.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on May 11, 2006 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

"Inside the flat a fruity voice was reading out a list of figures which had something to do with the production of pig-iron. The voice came from an oblong metal plaque like a dulled mirror which formed part of the surface of the right-hand wall. Winston turned a switch and the voice sank somewhat, though the words were still distinguishable. The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely....

"Behind Winston's back the voice from the telescreen was still babbling away about pig-iron and the overfulfilment of the Ninth Three-Year Plan. The telescreen received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard. There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live -- did live, from habit that became instinct -- in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."

George Orwell, "1984"

Posted by: Stefan on May 11, 2006 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

I'm now sure that Al is not real. Nobody can be that clueless and jobless at the same time.

I think Al is Kevin Drum's alter ego. Just saying!!!

Posted by: GOD on May 11, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

When will the Democrats demand the NSA program be terminated??

Posted by: Down goes Frazier on May 11, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

Yep. And the major question is why was Qwest so unpatriotic that it was willing to endanger the national security of our country by refusing to share the phone call records of suspected terrrorists with George W Bush? How many millions of American lives were endangered by their selfish, unpatriotic actions?

I get it now!! Al just doesn't drink the "kool-aid" he receives enemas with the stuff!!!!!

Posted by: drinksforall except Al. on May 11, 2006 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Wasn't there a movie about how someone wanted to make all the phones in the world ring at once? Maybe that is the real plot behind this, and it has nothing to do with terrorists.
signed,
Lawnmowerman

Posted by: * on May 11, 2006 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Don't get to excited, Kevin. As you said, this is just a geeky thing called data mining. No big deal. IT's not like anyone's privacy is being violated.

And to hell with FISA. It's out of date. It's impossible to work with. How are you supposed to get warrants when you're wiretapping everybody? 300 million warrants? There aren't enough judges in the whole country to review that.

If you don't want the government to know your business, don't use third party carriers. Use a couple tin cans and a string.

Posted by: Drum and Drummer on May 11, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

The silence of the trolls is deafening. Of course, we have Jay reliably daring Democrats to campaign on the issue that THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION IS SPYING ON EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN CITIZEN - HEY ALL YOU FAG-HATIN', GUN-TOTIN', BOOT-IN-YOUR-ASS, MEAT-EATIN' GOOLD OLE AMERICANS - HE THINKS YOU'RE A TERRORIST TOO!

Posted by: brewmn on May 11, 2006 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

"I'm now sure that Al is not real. Nobody can be that clueless and jobless at the same time"

Hey "God" that hurts and its not funny. I'll have more to say about this later but right now my mom is yelling at me to make my bed in the basement!!

Posted by: Al on May 11, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

brewmn, unlike the incessant non-stop whining of the liberals, you only hear from the trolls on election days when we show up en masse and win elections. I thought you would have figured that out by now.

Posted by: Jay on May 11, 2006 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

NOW can we call it a "domestic spying program" Al, Freedom fries, Freq, Cnut, Bueller?

Posted by: ckelly on May 11, 2006 at 10:37 AM | PERMALINK

Lot of heat on this one. Dunno why everyone is so worked up over it. I did dB work with WorldCom back in the 90s and they had a database of every call coming over their trunk -- something like 2 billion calls/month. Of course we were using it to break down billing. But the TelCo had a record of every call.

Now, don't get me wrong. I think that having a dB of every call's start and end point can be open to abuse, but could also be very useful (the dukestir called MZM, and they called who?). It's also probably not legally authorized, and any use of it should be very carfully overseen (which I have no expectation of occurring in this admin), but again, datamining is a powerful tool. For both good and evil.

Posted by: cp1919 on May 11, 2006 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

Seems to me the Bush Family has many more ties to the Bin Ladens and Saudis and tarrists than Joe Public does. Let the surveillance begin.

Posted by: ckelly on May 11, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Jay you have to be the biggest fucking moron on your planet - which one is yours anyway?

Merrily you troll along - giving up everything this country used to stand for to coddle your false sense of security and then you chirp about elections.

Fuck off and phone home.

Posted by: ckelly on May 11, 2006 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Like nearly everybody else I have only the vaguest idea what this database program is about, but it strikes me that it probably involves you, me and everybody we know. None of the people I know are terrorists or have any terrorist sympathies.

This is just a question. Something to ponder. Do you think we, the people, had a right to debate the relative merits of this program? Not the really secret details, but the broad outlines. How much freedom are we willing to give to the President? Does this level of spying actually add to our safety?

Oh, you say that we have "intelligence oversight committees" and congress to make those kinds of decisions. Well don't you think that we the people have a right to know who decided what. Maybe the folks of Kansas wouldn't like to know that Pat Roberts would sell their freedom so cheap? Maybe the people of Califorinia would feel the same way about Mrs. Harmon?

Don't you think it is time we peeked behind the curtain just a little. Just so, we, the people, will be able to excercise our rights of oversight on election day.

I say vote against every member of the house and senate intelligence committees regardless of party. If some member of congress knew or should have known about this program, and didn't blow the whistle, vote them out. Vote them out NOW. They do not deserve our support.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 11, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Ugh -- you captured the Republican defense meme perfectly.

I long for the days when the greatest threat to our civil liberties was a dusty old box of FBI files sitting on a couch in the White House and right-wing talk radio screeched 24/7 about what a threat that box was to American democracy.

Posted by: Windhorse on May 11, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

fucking amazing -- a total scoundrel like joe nacchio turns out to have a few decent bones in his body after all.

who would have thought?

Posted by: auto on May 11, 2006 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

fucking amazing -- a total scoundrel like joe nacchio turns out to have a few decent bones in his body after all.

who would have thought?

Posted by: auto on May 11, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

As Jonathan Turley put it yesterday on Obermann, the loss of Civil Liberties is an irreversible process. I think he is right with the proviso that your time horizon is at least a few decades.

So we are all fucked, as is the concept of America as a real democracy. I do not count on Democrats to oppose this, effectively or even ineffectively.

Posted by: lib on May 11, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

lib, I heard Turley and think he is wrong. Civil liberties are always under threat. They are lost only until we demand them back. Sometimes we have to demand them more loudly than others.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 11, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Ron Byers

That's why I said that they are 'irreversible' on a reasonably short time scale. Once you lose them, it probably takes decades to get them back. So during this period they appear to be irreversible.

Posted by: lib on May 11, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

Damn! I knew I shouldn't have used the name "Osama" that time I sent out for pizza!

Posted by: BC on May 11, 2006 at 6:25 AM

Yeah, it makes me feel sorry for the guy who just bought a deli in my town, Usamah Hayyat. In a way, though, this is coming home for him, because he had a summer job there as a kid. He worked there before it was bought by the owners who just sold it, when the place was owned by a man named Jihad.

Needless to say, he went by his nickname, Baba.

So if this NSA program had existed when the place was called Baba's, would they have eavesdropped on everyone in my town who had ever ordered a pizza? What a silly question.

Posted by: Cyrus on May 11, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I am perplexed by Kevin's apparent quasi-neutral instance on this issue.

Where is the outrage?

Posted by: lib on May 11, 2006 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Don't think that it will stop with simple "traffic" analysis either. People are working very hard on realtime "conversation" analysis at this moment. Voice - text - sound - images.

Oh, you say, that is beyond existing computing power. Not necessarily. The problem scales up and down very nicely - that is the traffic is easily divided and fanned out to multiple processors. These processors could be in a highly multiprocessor super computer or, who knows, all the internet folks doing 'SETI' analysis may be co-opted to search domestic traffic.

So say I'm talking to my Mom who asks what I did over the weekend and I tell her I attended the local high school play that bombed. Next think I know My Mom and I are on a watch list because I said "bomb" and "school" in the same conversation.

Posted by: Tripp on May 11, 2006 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

that should be 'I am perplexed by Kevin's apparent quasi-neutral stance on this issue.'

Sorry.

Posted by: lib on May 11, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Jay: It's amazing what sources will tell you.

It's amazing to what lengths lying lemmings like Jay will go to in order to divert attention from the criminal activities of the Bush administration.

On the other hand, it really isn't that amazing, since that is what fascists do - protect totalitarian regimes.

Like Saddam Hussein.

And the Shah of Iran.

And Noriega.

And the Saudi monarchy.

And the Taliban.

Until they become political liabilities, of course.

Until then, however, no matter how much murder and mayhem they cause in the world, conservatives will support the totalitarians, especially those in the GOP leadership ranks.

And funny how conservatives believed such anonymous sources without question when Clinton was in office, even when those sources stories had no corroboration whatsoever and how they continued to promote those stories even after they had been debunked.

Face it. Conservatives are liars and questioning the sources in this instance by pretending that the journalists are just making those sources up out of thin air is just another lame lie.

Posted by: Advocate for God on May 11, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Cyrus,

You are starting to get it. Everybody is watched all the time - at least by the listening computers.

Certain 'filters' and pattern recognition algorithms are used in real time to try to distill the data down to something 'meaningful.'

Believe me, I know what I'm talking about here. For the computing all it takes is a properly arranged array of PCs with less computing power than you can currently buy at Best Buy.

Or did we all think that the whole point of supercomputers, funded by the government, was to play a good game of chess?

The real questions are what happens to all the archived data and who gets to decide what is 'meaningful.'

Posted by: Tripp on May 11, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

I'll try to keep this simple:

1) Monitoring call patterns is legal
2) There is no constitutional rigt to privacy
3) The government would be negligent if it didn't use all legal means at its disposal to catch terrorists.

This whole thread is an example of how liberals are fundamentally unserious on national security.

"Never try to teach a liberal to think, It wastes your time and annoys the liberal!"

Posted by: Bartleby on May 11, 2006 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

So, what would it look like if Evelyn Waugh and Stanley Kubrick collaborated on a movie? They would have thought the Bush Administration was too far out.

Here's an article where, for a year, the Pentagon was sending shipments of AK-47s from Bosnia to Baghdad, yet none of these planes ever landed!

And no one noticed. For a year.

Posted by: cld on May 11, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Jay: . . . you only hear from the trolls on election days when we show up en masse and win elections.

Not much "en masse" last two elections and even less projected for the next.

Unless you in your delusions think a bare majority of bare majority of Americans voting represents "en masse."

LOL.

Maybe you should actually look up words and phrases before you use them.

Posted by: Advocate for God on May 11, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, that article is,

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/tm_objectid=17055497&method=full&siteid=94762&headline=have-200-000-missing-ak47s-fallen-into-the-hands-of-iraq-terrorists---name_page.html

Posted by: cld on May 11, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Bartleby's whole post is an example of shameless troll shilling for a corrupt administration and shows how Republicans are fundamentally unserious about civil liberties, personal freedoms, and democracy.

Posted by: ckelly on May 11, 2006 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

So if I follow the latest logicgee, we aren't doing anything illegal even though we aren't using the FISA systemand we are talking to "some" members of congressbut they can't tell you anything because the information is totally classified.and gee, we are ok with some investigative oversightbut unfortunately we can't grant security clearance to the investigators.

Geeit looks to me like we have a dictator in charge. He breaks the rules, he rewrites the rules, he changes the rules, and he answers to no one.

I only hope we can soon finish exporting our "democracy" to Iraq and the rest of the oppressed world so they can have the same rights that we do.

more observations here:

www.thoughttheater.com

Posted by: Daniel DiRito on May 11, 2006 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

"Bartleby's whole post is an example of shameless troll shilling for a corrupt administration..."

How about addressing the points of the post instead of just saying it's trolling? You're demonstrating how true that quote from Rush about liberals and thinking is. Tell me what's wrong with the data mining program.

Posted by: Bartleby on May 11, 2006 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

3) The government would be negligent if it didn't use all legal means at its disposal to catch terrorists.

Which, I suppose, is why we should nuke Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea?

And yet we do not. Hmmmm. Could it be there are options between "None" and "All?"

Posted by: Tripp on May 11, 2006 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Because you're a waste of time,

1)Lawyers can and should argue whether what the government is currently doing is legal.
2)Scholars have argued this till the cows come home. I would argue that Article IX gives me right to privacy
3)I would also argue that our current government is doing illegal and incompetent and unfruitful actions in the "War on Terror".

Just because you proclaim your claptrap points as fact doesn't make them so.

Posted by: ckelly on May 11, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, Amendment IX.

Posted by: ckelly on May 11, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

"3) The government would be negligent if it didn't use all legal means at its disposal to catch terrorists.

Which, I suppose, is why we should nuke Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea?"

That's terrible. How you can take what I wrote and conflate it with a call to nuke anyone is beyond comprehension.

Would nuking them be legal? Would it catch terrorists? No and no. We're discussing a surveillance program, not obliterating nations.
That's just a sad attempt demonize conservatives. If you want to advance your cause, try an actual argument.

Posted by: Bartleby on May 11, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Bartleby wrote: You're demonstrating how true that quote from Rush about liberals and thinking is.

You are demonstrating that you are a brain-dead Bush-bootlicking neo-brownshirt mental slave who is incapable of doing anything but robotically typing the scripted, programmed drivel that you get from Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Fox News and other bought-and-paid-for shills for the Bush administration. You don't care about America. All you care about is reciting a script that's been fed to you by your controllers, and cheering "Rah! Rah! Red Team Wins!"

You are just another in the long parade of right-wing clowns who post here to impress themselves with their ability to slavishly regurgitate the turds that they gobble from Rush Limbaugh's stinking toilet bowl and the bile that they slurp from the toxic sewer that is Fox News.

You and your ilk are a tiny lunatic fringe that began as the Cult of Clinton-Hatred and then morphed into the Cult of Bush-Worship, and the most hilarious thing about it is your absurd delusion that you represent the majority of Americans.

You are not a "conservative". You are just a dumbass.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 11, 2006 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Tell me what's wrong with the data mining program.

Bartleby, you not being able to read is not our fucking problem, it's yours.

Posted by: Jim J on May 11, 2006 at 11:59 AM | PERMALINK

Really, the resistance of Qwest in these circumstances is astonishing. I'm really curious as to what the whole story is.

Posted by: cld on May 11, 2006 at 12:03 PM | PERMALINK

Bartleby quotes Rush and wants to be seriously considered.

B, you're a waste of time, a waste of bandwidth, and a waste of skin.

Posted by: ckelly on May 11, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I prefer using the full name - "Rush the drug addict."

"Bush who couldn't find oil in Texas" has a nice ring, too.

Back on topic - what is done with the data and who decides what is "meaningful?"

Posted by: Tripp on May 11, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

I seriously doubt that data collection is limited to phone numbers and the dates and times of the calls. It became clear when this story first broke that there is not just one NSA domestic spying program, but several.

I suspect that there are different levels of collection and analysis. If something fits a pattern it gets kicked up a level to say recording and speech recognition. The transcripts from those calls are then themselves data-mined. It is all automated so there is no opportunity to get a warrant.

Posted by: John Gillnitz on May 11, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

Nice bullshit statement from Bush, who was, of course, too cowardly to take a single question.

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2006 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

I'm wondering how that database is helping Rove and the GOP? Plame's a distraction from the real sheet these guys are pulling.

Posted by: the fake Fake Al on May 11, 2006 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

You're demonstrating how true that quote from Rush about liberals and thinking is.

Quoting Rush shows what an unthinking boob you are on more than one level. Didn't you know that Rush himself argued he had a Constitutional Right to Privacy in his recent court case?

Even your fat, drug-addled master has abandoned you on this one.

Duh.

Posted by: MH on May 11, 2006 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

bartleby:
1) Monitoring call patterns is legal
2) There is no constitutional rigt to privacy
3) The government would be negligent if it didn't use all legal means at its disposal to catch terrorists.

If the arrangement with the big telecom companies was legal, why didn't NSA go to FISA with Qwest's lawyers and get them the assurances they needed that the activity was legal?

Posted by: cowalker on May 11, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

The more apalling thing is they allow private companies access to these databases for 'analysis'.

Posted by: cld on May 11, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Sex toys tax deductible Down Under, if you use them in a professional capacity,

http://msnbc.msn.com/id/12683929/


Like lobbyist.

Posted by: cld on May 11, 2006 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Bartleby: That's just a sad attempt demonize conservatives. If you want to advance your cause, try an actual argument.

Not nearly like the sad attempt of conservatives to demonize liberals to advance their cause, instead of actual argument, by calling liberals traitors, terrorist lovers or aiders and abettors, or soft on national security.

Tell me what's wrong with the data mining program.

The communications companies likely violated the 1933 Communications Act in turning the info over. The government should not be encouraging, tricking, or extorting private entities to violate the law, even if the governmnet itself is not doing so. This undermines the integrity of the law.

The resources that are being used would be better used for activities more likely to identify terrorists and terrorist activities.

The Bush administration cannot be trusted to use this information solely for combatting terrorism.

The Bush administration cannot be trusted not to share this info with GOP groups and government officials engaged in partisan election activities.

The administration will be diverted to investigating numerous non-terrorist activities thus wasting precious national security resources in the same way that law enforcement officials are often diverted from finding missing children or other persons through false or mistaken tips when publically calling for information.

Because the administration cannot be trusted not to use this process as a wedge into more and more intrusive data collection - they want to slide down the slippery slope and they are greasing it up as we speak with this program.

Just a few objections.

How you can take what I wrote and conflate it with a call to nuke anyone is beyond comprehension.

How you can take what any liberal wrote and conflate it with supporting the terrorists is not beyond comprehension - it is what conservatives have been doing daily since 9/11.

Posted by: Advocate for God on May 11, 2006 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

For how long will we be complacent in this flusing of America? When generations look back to these years, the generations that follow will curse us.

That is, if they can even speak out at all.

Signed,
New York Inquirer

p.s. Shhh! They're listening!

visit www.nyinquirer.com

Posted by: New York Inquirer on May 11, 2006 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

I'll try to keep this simple:

1) Monitoring call patterns is legal

No it's not. THPHTHPHTHH!

I'm sure you would take that as an example of what you accuse ckelly of doing, so I'll spell it out for you. I'll even use short words: I did not present an argument for my belief about what the NSA is accused of. But nor did you. Asserting that this is legal does not make it true, and you give no logical argument and cite no law or court case. Why should we take your unsupported assertion any more seriously than ""THPHTHPHTHH?"

That being said, I do have reasons for my belief more than just reflexive support of or opposition to Bush. I'm not a legal scholar and I have neither the time or the inclination to fake it, but I assume Qwest's lawyers are. And apparently they thought they could get away with it. And apparently, the NSA agreed with them, if they let this slide.

So if the NSA didn't bother pursuing legal action to support their program, then why do you think their program was legal?

2) There is no constitutional rigt [sic] to privacy

In the language of the time, I think I've read that the word "privacy" applied only to toilet functions. So if the framers of the Constitution wanted to ensure a right to privacy, they would not use that word. Instead, they would write something saying that due process is needed for any legal action, and set a high bar for government intrusion on or even just interference with private property, and any rights not explicitly given to a government body are reserved for the people.

Oh, wait. That's what they did. How about that.

3) The government would be negligent if it didn't use all legal means at its disposal to catch terrorists.

Wow. I haven't seen such a perfect example of mindlessly parroting an excuse for a McCarthyist mentality in... hours, at least. I mean, are you quoting Orwell here? First there's the (again, unsupported) assumption of its legality. And then there's the assumption that the program is being used to catch terrorists. Now, that is completely unsupported beyond all sane debate. The issue underlying any complaint about the NSA is lack of warrants. Warrants, and the process to get them, are oversight. So how do you know the program is being used mainly to "catch terrorists"? (You make it sound like a game. "Look mommy, I got a terrorist!") You don't know. Barring personal involvement, you can't possibly know. You're just taking what the government says on faith.

This whole thread is an example of how liberals are fundamentally unserious on national security.

"Never try to teach a liberal to think, It wastes your time and annoys the liberal!"

Posted by: Bartleby on May 11, 2006 at 11:32 AM

You're quoting Rush Limbaugh on deep thought and honest debate. Riiight.

Posted by: Cyrus on May 11, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

During the Hayden hearings the Congress should call someone from Qwest to testify about how they told the NSA and Wh to go screw themselves.

Posted by: jerry on May 11, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

"The White House and Congressional Republicans [have] decided to make it easier to steal the money intended to rebuild Iraq.

Repeat it often and with fervor.

Posted by: Advocate for God on May 11, 2006 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

bartleby, we are dying to know why the NSA did not pursue legal avenues to get Qwest to sell them vital information to use in their perfectly legal spy program. Please tell us.

bartleby: "I prefer not to."

Posted by: cowalker on May 11, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

So, you all believe that they are only doing traffic analysis? Why do you believe that?

Posted by: searp on May 11, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

This sudden blind faith in government by conservatives is really touching. Don't worry, they're only going to be looking at your phone records for good purposes, nothing to to worry about. Sleep tight.

Posted by: Ringo on May 11, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

It's not about wiretapping, or even data mining precisely. It's about collecting biometric identifiers for US citizens and others.

We know that voice recognition software is being used wthin the NSA/AT&T link. We can surmise that the goal is to collect voice patterns, very small fragments will suffice. That voice data can then be stored for all callers, linked to the callers' demographics (e.g., billing information). Thus, we all have a unique biometric identifier. No need for fingerprints anymore.

Getting the data is easy since the service providers opened the doorto the NSA. Storing it and parsing it could only be done with the vast arrays of NSA computing power. No, this is not your father's basic Oracle application or even VLDB. The NSA has all of the time and MIPS to go way beyond listening to conversations. That's old and well established technology.

This database being discussed becomes the index to TIPS, Total Information Awareness. All we'll have to do is say, "Hello" on the phone and all of our voice, IP, and Demographic data flashes up together with a positive ID. Add that to network analysis and TIPS is in production today.

All of the issues need to be dealt with up front with the Senate and the legal infrastructure should be established.

Posted by: kck on May 11, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

SHOULD I drop Verizon as my cell phone provider?

Posted by: ChetBob on May 11, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

So, you all believe that they are only doing traffic analysis? Why do you believe that?

Who's "you all"? Two or three pathetic backwashers?

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Matt,

"I am most concerned about the Islamic belt bombers finding me than the NSA, considering the insulting remarks I have made about Muhammed and his affair with his camel."

Smart bomb Islamic belt bombers are hardly your problem as they tend to avoid asses like you.

Posted by: Sky-Ho on May 11, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Feds open an investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) ...

Remember when tbrosz and rdw said beware lest the corruption investigations touch as many Dems as GOPers?

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!

You wish.

Posted by: Advocate for God on May 11, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Feds open an investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) ...

Let's see if Tom Coburn's count turns out to be correct!

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2006 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

I would be the first one to accompany the liberals to go to the White House with pitch forks in my hand if they can convince me that the spittles oozing from their frothing mouths are in anyway related to any illegal activities by the administration, or for that matter, to any tactics that do not contribute to our total and complete victory in the war on terror.

Posted by: tbrosz on May 11, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Bartleby" wrote: There is no constitutional rigt (sic) to privacy

U.S. Constitution: Tenth Amendment

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

'Nuff said.

Posted by: Gregory on May 11, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

"Bartleby" wrote: There is no constitutional [right] to privacy . . .

Griswold and Roe say you're wrong (or a liar).

There is, however, no constitutional authority, at least by your method of analysis (which amounts to 'if it is not expressly in the Constitution it doesn't exist'), for the government to intercept electronic communications or to collect data on telephone usage.

Posted by: Advocate for God on May 11, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

A Constitutional right to privacy is provided in the Fourth Amendment, The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Everything a person does not themselves make public, as with the coat you wear walking down the street, is private unless described by a warrant.

There is a long history of practical law describing exceptions to this, but, basically, that's it.

The question here is, is your conversation on the phone the same as walking down the street? Or is it, in its' being intended narrowly for one, or a few, selected parties, a private thing?

Life and death are public matters. If I'm walking by and I see someone stab another through a window, it's not a private thing, but if I happen to see anything else, that's different.

Does this mean I am obligated as a matter of civic duty to go around looking in everyone's window to see if someone is being stabbed? Some Republicans seem to think they have that duty. Republicans like Dusty Foggo, who named his son after Brent Wilkes.

Posted by: cld on May 11, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

I've been up since 6:00 and I am still enraged by this.

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Here's my pathetic "little guy" letter to my cell provider Verizon:

Dear Verizon,

Why have you been giving my phone records to the National Security Agency without a court order and without my permission? News articles have detailed how my local line provider QWEST refused to give the NSA access to my and other citizens information because of a lack of court order. But based on quotes by new CIA chief nominee Gen. Haydon, the NSA cemented a deal with cooperating phone companies to provide private phone records to the government without a court order. Your name is at the top of current news reports of those cooperating companies.

Why are you profiting by selling my private information to the government or anyone else in violation of the law?

Under Section 222 of the Communications Act, first passed in 1934, telephone companies are prohibited from giving out information regarding their customers' calling habits: whom a person calls, how often and what routes those calls take to reach their final destination. Inbound calls, as well as wireless calls, also are covered....

Why shouldnt I switch providers to regain my privacy?

I look forward to your reply.

Posted by: ChetBob on May 11, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

I look forward to your reply.

It will go like this: "Thank you for writing. Our policy is not to comment on matters of classified information, but rest assured that we care deeply about our customers' security and we are complying with the law--the Law of Bushworld, that is!"

The last part might go a little differently in the actual reply you receive.

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Where's the outrage"

Drum doesn't see a need or justification for outrage. This is merely data mining. All businesses do it. The government is just catching up to the real world and acting more like a business. We are the government's customers. Wouldn't you like to understand more about your customers?

Besides, Drum never takes a risk of being caught on the wrong side of an issue. It may turn out that USA Today is relying on forged memos.

Drum and I say: Show me the fonts!

Posted by: Drum and Drummer on May 11, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

I don't want to be unclear. You have to ask, why is an 'unreasonable search and seizure' wrong? If it weren't wrong, what kind of world would we live in? What could you expect to be happening?

A right to privacy isn't defined explicitly in the Constitution because they didn't want to address matters they wanted to leave as a matter of personal conscience, specifically religion, and because they wanted the Constitution only to directly address public matters, the citizen and his relation to the state.

In those days life wasn't various enough to allow much in the way of anything in private life beyond religion that might create dissension so by excluding religion from the foundation element of society they thought they had it covered.

Posted by: cld on May 11, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Since I'm going to bet that 99.9% of the commenters to this post have never worked with NSA databases, have never had to review a request to collect information on phone call data in the course of a counterterrorism investigation, and have never had to actually sit down and determine where the boundary between a search and a non-search or between "reasonable" and "un-reasonable" lies, here's an education.

As you ought to have read in the USA Today article, the data being handed over to the NSA is "external" information; that is, the two numbers involved in a phone call and the date/time of the phone call. They do not turn over the actual content of what was said over the phone (because the phone companies don't record your phone conversations). Best analogy is the difference between the information on the outside of an envelope and the actual letter inside. There is a heightened protection for the content of your letter/phone conversation under the 4th Amendment (a constitutional provision) and is governed under Title III (criminal cases) or FISA (intelligence cases) (both statutes).

Pre-Patriot Act, there was a disconnect between Title III and FISA. If I were investigating phone calls made by members of the Mafia or the drug dealer in your hometown and wanted to collect the "externals" for their phone calls, there were no significant constitutional prohibitions or protections for the that information. The 4th amendment protected only the content. However, FISA granted protection to both the externals and the internals, or at least was interpreted to do so. Patriot Act, along with a review of the interpretation of FISA by competent, non-partisan government lawyers (many of whom I know personally and can vouch for their lack of fascist intent) led to the conclusion that there is a reduced level of protection for externals and that they should be treated just as criminal case externals ought to be treated.

Unlike criminal cases, however, the power of intelligence collection and database systems and the policies of their organizations allows for an extra level of oversight that compensates for the fact that unlike criminal cases that go to trial, there usually isn't a judicial review of government activity in intelligence cases). The scenario works like this: The external data of every phone call sits in a database somewhere. By itself, the data is useless due to the sheer amount. Because its nothing more than a bucket of bits and bytes, it hasn't been "collected" yet, and therefore, subject to rules on collection of US Person information. The data isn't relevant until someone sits at a computer terminal and queries the database: "tell me the phone activity of phone number X." This will reveal a lot of information, but again, mostly meaningless, unless number X has some prior relevance before you sat down at the computer terminal. Relevance would mean that the number came from a cell phone captured on a battlefield in Afghanistan, or its the number of an Islamic Radical in New Jersey who's suspected of providing logistical support to various terrorist networks.

Ahh, the moonbats and tin-foil hats ask, how do we know they're not putting Cindy Sheehan's number through the database? The answer is, who knows? However, several facts would lead a reasonable person to conclude the answer to be "ain't happening." First, NSA, while large, at some point has limited resources. Basic laws of bureaucracy dictate that NSA will only apply enough resources that will allow them to meet their basic mission - catching terrorists and agents of foreign powers. Second, at all levels of intelligence collection, from the terminal operator in the bowels of Fort Meade, to DOD (NSA's boss), to Congress, there are layers of individuals (intelligence oversight officials) who's only purpose is to find a reason why the operator's query of the database violates some or another policy. It's how these people justify their existence. They are separate from the normal chain of command and have all sorts of authority to shut down operations if rights and policies are being violated. No one loses sleep over running a phone number located in a foreign country, but I've also seen people lose their careers for running their girlfriend's cell phone number through the system. I've gotten calls from high level government attorneys asking me what the hell I'm doing running a US phone number through the system, and having them calm down after justifying the search by showing a link between the number and international terrorist activities. Third, what civil servant making $80-100K per year would flush their career down the toilet over Cindy Sheehan, or any other "administration enemy"? Intel folks sacrificing their CIA careers over "speaking truth to power" is one thing, but checking external phone call data for a political purpose is suicide at the worker level, the NSA management level, and the White House level. Bush may be stupid, but he's not Nixonian. Further, NSA has paid dearly (or, rather, they take seriously the fact that US taxpayers have paid dearly) for its programs and systems, uses them sparingly and guards them jealously. Why do something to rankle Congress and have them shut off funding not only for this program, but others like it. The NSA legal and oversight system is primarily designed to protect rights and keep Congress happy.

The majority of you on this board need to get the knots out of your knickers because you know not of what you speak. Good people who've worked their whole lives in this arena, under Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II, have made good faith efforts to apply the myriad laws and policies to quickly emerging technologies and assymetrical threats. They're acting in good faith and trying to achieve a difficult mission: find out where those who mean us harm are, what they are thinking, and whether they will strike again. Don't ascribe bad intent on people or organizations you don't know. Kevin at least has the temerity to not go off half-cocked. That's why he may be a liberal, but he's not a moonbat. And if the NSA is wrong, its wrong and it'll get straightened out. But not because of some of the "arguments" alleged on this (or other Kos-ish) boards.

Posted by: jdh on May 11, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

jdh

Your thoughtful post is welcome, but I think that the issues like this should not be left to the engineers and technolists of which you seem to be one.

Posted by: nut on May 11, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Since I'm going to bet that 99.9% of the commenters to this post have never worked with NSA databases, have never had to review a request to collect information on phone call data in the course of a counterterrorism investigation, and have never had to actually sit down and determine where the boundary between a search and a non-search or between "reasonable" and "un-reasonable" lies, here's an education.

That's where you're wrong. Quite a few commenters here are lawyers, and several have backgrounds in military intelligence.

Posted by: Stefan on May 11, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

all ears, no brain

Posted by: allears on May 11, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Bush may be stupid, but he's not Nixonian.

Bush is stupid and he may very well be Nixonian. Lord knows he's surrounded himself with former Nixonians.


And frankly jdh, what you're asking is to "trust" the government and NSA. They haven't earned nor deserve our trust. On the contrary, the Bush record deserves criticism and skepticism.

Posted by: ckelly on May 11, 2006 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Where's the outrage Drum ?

Now the NSA says they can't be investigated !

Noone has the clearance !

Where's the outrage Drum ?

.

Posted by: Michael McKinlay on May 11, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

And if the NSA is wrong, its wrong and it'll get straightened out. But not because of some of the "arguments" alleged on this (or other Kos-ish) boards.

Hmmmm.... And just how will it get straightened out, exactly? I don't know if you've noticed, but this administration goes to every length to avoid having judicial review of its activities, whether it's holding people without trial or tapping everyone's phone. And that's after they consistently declare that anything the president does or says is automatically legal and unchallengeable.

This calm, blind assumption that somehow the cosmos will sort us all out is exactly what will lead to us telling our kids "You should have seen it before - it was really great. Then we had to leave."

Posted by: craigie on May 11, 2006 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

That was a beautiful essay, jdh. Versions of it--nearly word for word--are appearing all over blog comments sections today. How 'bout that.

Posted by: shortstop on May 11, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

...Patriot Act, along with a review of the interpretation of FISA by competent, non-partisan government lawyers (many of whom I know personally and can vouch for their lack of fascist intent)

I know I sleep better knowing that someone whose name and identity I don't know, who posts anonymously on a message board, has vouched for the character of an anonymous government official....

Posted by: Stefan on May 11, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

competent, non-partisan government lawyers

The words "competent" and "non-partisan" should be the tip-off right there that is is, as Alphonso Jackson would put it, an "anecdotal story." Because otherwise both of those attributes would bar them from work in the Bush Maladministration.

Posted by: Stefan on May 11, 2006 at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK

Versions of it--nearly word for word--are appearing all over blog comments sections today

Really!?! Where else? - I'd be interested. And here I was gettin all teary-eyed about the dedicated NSA and my lack of trust. I mean what a cynic I am. But gosh, I am having trouble reconciling jdh's beautiful words with this

Posted by: ckelly on May 11, 2006 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Bush may be stupid, but he's not Nixonian.

And what evidence do you have on that?

Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice... won't get fooled again, eh?

Posted by: The Ghost of CREEP on May 11, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

The NSA tracks domestic phone calls?

Clearly, this means that we need to elect more Democrats so we can immediately implement a vast array of massive socialist programs akin to FDR's New Deal!

Posted by: Typical Democrat on May 11, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

1. Build a database of all communication connections between people in the US.

2. Tell people not to worry, because "we can't possibly mine all that data * right now.*

3. Wait a short time for Moore's Law to catch up. i.e. a supercomputer today will be just a laptop tomorrow.

4. Mine all the data.

Posted by: kathryn from Sunnyvale on May 11, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

jdh wrote: Bush may be stupid, but he's not Nixonian.

The Bush administration has repeatedly engaged in conduct that is far, far worse than anything the Nixon administration ever did. Beginning with the blatant theft of the 2000 election.

You provide absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that you didn't simply make up everything in your comment that you claim to know about the activities of the NSA.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 11, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

jdh, Third, what civil servant making $80-100K per year would flush their career down the toilet over Cindy Sheehan, or any other "administration enemy"? Intel folks sacrificing their CIA careers over "speaking truth to power" is one thing, but checking external phone call data for a political purpose is suicide at the worker level, the NSA management level, and the White House level.


Who sez? In Republican land that's street cred.


Posted by: cld on May 11, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK


my favorite rush quote is:

"This is what the tyranny of a one-party state is like, people!" - Rush Limbaugh 1993

Posted by: thispsaceavailable on May 11, 2006 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

jdh,

There IS NO oversight.

Posted by: ckelly on May 11, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

but checking external phone call data for a political purpose is suicide at the worker level, the NSA management level, and the White House level.

True, look how much Karl Rove has suffered for his political dirty tricks. Why, he's been forced to give up all political influence and power....

C'mon. If this regime doesn't punish torturing people to death, or betraying the names of undercover CIA agents for partisan political gain, we're supposed to believe that the one thing they wouldn't do is spy on their political opponents? Try again.

Posted by: Stefan on May 11, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

jdh: They're acting in good faith and trying to achieve a difficult mission: find out where those who mean us harm are, what they are thinking, and whether they will strike again.

No, they are not acting in good faith.

And, no, we don't believe you, if only because you use the word "moonbat" which paints you as a partisan hack who is full of his own righteousness and superiority, just like Bush and Dumbsfeld.

jdh: They are separate from the normal chain of command and have all sorts of authority to shut down operations if rights and policies are being violated.

Bullsh*t.

We've seen on numerous occasions where the Bush administration has adopted procedures to take such people out of the loop or punish them if they do their job, many times by losing their job.

So, double bullsh*t.

Posted by: Advocate for God on May 11, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

but checking external phone call data for a political purpose is suicide at the worker level, the NSA management level, and the White House level.

Yeah, it's career suicide, all right. Why John Bolton's career suffered so much he was made Ambassador to the UN!

During the past four years, Bolton asked for and received the identities of 10 different U.S. officials who were either involved in or talked about in top-secret National Security communication intercepts. (In his testimony, Bolton recalled he'd made such requests "on a couple of occasions, maybe a few more.") The identities of American officials whose communications are intercepted "are usually closely protected by law, and not included even in classified intelligence reports. Access to the names may be authorized by the N.S.A. only in response to special requests, and these are not common, particularly from policy makers." According to intelligence officials, a request for ten names is "unusually high for one person." It's thus far not clear how Bolton used this information, and Bolton "did not respond to a request for the names of those U.S. officials that he sought or which intercepts they appeared in."

Posted by: Stefan on May 11, 2006 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

JDH: coming out of nowhere, telling us not to worry about how they are breaking the law or even which laws. "Trust us. We are self-regulating." My ass.
The reason this is so damned serious is because there is no regulatory oversight. At All. Too classified. Sorry. These guys are tyrants. What kind of SOBs sends out fake JDH messages to calm down the people who are rightly concerned with the extra-constitutional coups that has apparently transpired? WTF? This is illegal, unethical, and threatens the core of our democracy. If you use the power of unlimited data collection against Americans, you can subvert democracy pretty easily. Especially if the words that set off the bells are things like "Diebold" "DLC" "civil rights" etc. Bush and company have already obstructed justice in this. They lied about the scope, intent, capability, and targets of their interest. They did this to mislead Congress and to stave off possible prosecution. Nice. Indict them immediately. Every damned one of them.
99.9% of the people can't be wrong, can they JD?
What a nightmare! If you own stock in Verizon, ATT or the the others involved, yesterday would have been a good time to sell. Jiminy.

Brosz: you obviously are no fan of law and order. I expect you only to bring a fork to the trough--no pitchfork. You are completely dishonest and misleading as to your intent and real focus. Look at what these schmoe's have wrought. Fascism is close upon us. These people learned nothing in the Cold War.

Posted by: Sparko on May 11, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

They are separate from the normal chain of command and have all sorts of authority to shut down operations if rights and policies are being violated.

If we've learned one thing the last few years, it's that no one in this government has any authority if Rove and Cheney say they don't.

And those who do engage in whistleblowing when they see a crime being committed, whether about torture in Iraq, or Bush regime incompetence, or corruption in the government, are routinely ignored, demoted, silenced, shunted aside or otherwise punished.

Posted by: Stefan on May 11, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK

jdh: The scenario works like this: The external data of every phone call sits in a database somewhere... The data isn't relevant until someone sits at a computer terminal and queries the database...

You suggest that the linkage between collection and use is far more tenuous than in the past, and that collection is not the issue, but use. Fine, and in any case that is a necessary and reasonable distinction that should be better addressed.

Hoewver, if that is the litmus test is use, not collection, then there should be no reason for FISA or the PATRIOT act to specify any constraint whatsoever on collection of externals--only use--and the laws should be changed to reflect that. Whether that'll pass muster is questionable...

You can imagine the reaction if the government put a pen/tap register on every phone, with a sticker that read: The information gathered by this device is necessary for national security. Use of the information is subject to the strictest beurecratic and extrajudicial oversight. Trust us.

Posted by: has407 on May 11, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan: I love the line "all kinds of authority."
Makes me proud. What authority do you invoke to stop an unconstitional action by the chief executive? "Well, all kinds. You know--the good kind!" Don't worry, we ave all kinds of ethics. All kinds. Big Tent you know.

I can scarce believe what these morons have done. It has been a continuous nightmare since 9-11. Congress: stop these guys before they send you home and appoint a new one.

Posted by: Sparko on May 11, 2006 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

To use jdh's analogy, that they have assembled a database of all the addresses and return-addresses on every envelope that goes through my mailbox is not an invasion of privacy because no one will ever look at it except as part of an investigation.

What if he said that about a video camera planted outside every window of every house? No one could ever look at all that video, so your privacy is just as secure as ever. When in the Fourth Amendment it says, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated. . ."
I do think 'papers' includes mail, and, though we entrust it to a government functionary to deliver it, we still do not give up an expectation of, at least, confidentiality, and that's with a public service. With a private service like UPS, or a messenger service, our expectation of confidentiality would be even higher because they are asking us to pay them to be trusted, much like a medical doctor, and that would be analogous to a phone company.

Is there a precedent of a mailman testifying to having delivered something a dispute over which was material to the case? Or a doctor providing the details of his patients medical files as a general principle?

Posted by: cld on May 11, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see, there was a story a while back where a TelCo wouldn't give parents the location of their missing kid's last cell phone call without a police request/court order.

Now, some want the TelCos to give my complete telephone records to the RNC (or the FBI, or the CIA, the State Patrol, or a political crony) simply because the NSA asks for them?

My Home is My Castle. My Body is My Own.*

*except for landlines, wifi, infrared detection devices, long range audio and laser beam listening devices, community political signage regulations, medical diagnosis, library records, internet browser history, credit card transactions, garbage inspection, and effluent analysis.

Posted by: fracas_futile on May 11, 2006 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

Understand this trolls: this program is so patently illegal, unconstitutional and unethical that there is no defending it. It is an insult to every veteran, living and dead, who fought to defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. To use the power of the Presidency as a political tool to subvert democracy, establish a KGB-like hold on the country, and as a means of enrichment is the greatest perversions of American ideals I have ever witnessed. I am with Shortstop. I am furious.
Has anyone noticed how "safe" police states like Russia really are? This is ludicrous on its face, and does nothing to ensure or improve our security. Indeed, it introduces a galaxy of chaff to an already diffuse spectra of possible intelligence.

Posted by: Sparko on May 11, 2006 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see, there was a story a while back where a TelCo wouldn't give parents the location of their missing kid's last cell phone call without a police request/court order.


Yes, and that was in the heat of the moment, a clear matter of life and death.

This is more like requiring that everyone have a tiny bomb implanted in their skulls so the police can set it off, if they ever really need to.

Posted by: cld on May 11, 2006 at 6:45 PM | PERMALINK

I know I sleep better knowing that someone whose name and identity I don't know, who posts anonymously on a message board, has vouched for the character of an anonymous government official....
Posted by: Stefan

Well, I sure hope they get my name right.

Posted by: tuttle, not buttle on May 11, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

If you are a customer (victim) of AT&T, etc, you now have grounds to sue their asses off. I don't recall the specifics but I heard on NPR today that there is a law that calls for a $100,000 for every violation along this line for each and every "hit". Every time AT&T passed on your calling information sans warrant, they are liable for $100,000.

I wish I were an AT&T, et al, customer because I would be all over them with filings in a heartbeat.

I want to see each one of these criminal phone companies driven out of business from lawsuits. C'mon people, get on it. The law is clear and you are in for some big bucks.

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on May 11, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Praedor Atrebates wrote: The law is clear and you are in for some big bucks.

Mmmmmm ... all this talk about civil liberties, privacy, big brother and whatever goes right over my head, but that got my attention!

Posted by: The American Public on May 11, 2006 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK
The Democratic Party needs to devote itself to restoring this nation and its government to being a nation governed by people who believe in and respect the rule of law.

The People of the United States need to do that. The Democratic Party can come along for the ride, or not, depending on whether it wants to be thrown on the scrapheap of history. Sure, I'm a Democrat, and I wish the party would get its act together, but the party is merely an instrument for policy, not something important in its own right. It doesn't ultimately matter to me so much what the mechanism is by which we, as a nation, restore the rule of law.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 11, 2006 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

"The rule of law--a quaint idea from a bygone age in America. Someday, someone will try to explain where it all went wrong."

It all started going wrong when we didn't send everyone in the South to re-education camps after the Civil War.

Posted by: The South is Facist on May 11, 2006 at 7:53 PM | PERMALINK

It all started going wrong when we didn't send everyone in the South to re-education camps after the Civil War.

Which political group is known to favor re-education camps, again?

Posted by: Irony on May 11, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

Time for a corporate death penalty!

ATT, Verizon, and SBC need to be tried, convicted, and dissolved via a criminal trial.

Posted by: wtf on May 11, 2006 at 9:16 PM | PERMALINK

Responsible citizens should drop the domestic carriers who voluntarily cooperated with the NSA surveillance program. Americans as citizens can make Bush pay by voting out Republicans in the upcoming elections, and as consumers can make the domestic carriers pay by dropping their services. Those companies that refused to cooperate without a court order (Qwest) should be rewarded by consumers, and those who cooperated should be punished by citizens who are also consumers. Hurt their bottom line and the CEOs will think again.

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