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 â€” 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.
Sure they are.
“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.
For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made â€” across town or across the country â€” to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.
Cauley reminds us that
In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. “In other words,” Bush explained, “one end of the communication must be outside the United States.”
As a result, domestic call records â€” those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders â€” were believed to be private.
In a related note, the Associated Press reports —
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.
The inquiry headed by the Justice Departmentâ€™s Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., on Wednesday saying they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyersâ€™ role in the program.
Jane H. asks, “Can we call it a dictatorship yet?”
Pretty close, I’d say.
Later in the day there will be more reaction from the Kool-Aiders, but so far we’ve got the NSA story must be a lie. This is coupled with “I bet a little research into the political leanings of the people who are making these claims will ferret out a motive.” Protecting the Fourth Amendment has become subversive.
Stephen Spruiell at NRO assures us that “this is not an eavesdropping program,” so what are we worried about? And cleverly anticipating objections from us liberals, Spruiell adds, “Data mining programs like this one might or might not be effective tools in the war on jihadists, but one thing we know for sure is that the left will not be joining us in a rational debate.” Be advised that any objection we lefties raise will be, by definition, irrational. On the other hand, it is perfectly rational to accept whatever the government tells us without question. They wouldn’t lie to us, right? Those righties are always so logical.
Another excuse — “this data is already available. The NSA could previously get it from the phone companies. The new program just cuts out the constant step of asking for updates.” Oh, and warrants. (We don’t need no steenking warrants!)
As for the other story on the NSA refusing clearance for the Justice Department — well, obviously the NSA must be free of legal oversight. If the Justice guys find violations of the Constitution, they’re just going to blab about it. I mean, duh.
What we’re observing is a textbook example of how people who have a choice allow themselves to become subject to dictatorship. We’re like one big social science demonstration of How Good Democracies Go Bad. I hope other nations are taking notes.
Update: Here’s a heartwarming story about a rightie who calls the leak of the phone call database “treasonous” and is rewarded with a biscuit and pat on the head by Laura Ingraham herself.
Noting that Qwest has so far refused to take part in the NSA program (unlike AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth), rightie blogger Sister Toldjah asks, “Thanks to this
whistleblown leaked story, if youâ€™re a terrorist and you donâ€™t want to worry about your call being datamined, what telecommunications company are you going to turn to? Hmmmm â€¦ I wonder.” The Sister totalitarian toady links to other rightie blogs, so I don’t have to.