May 11, 2006

“NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls” (UPDATED)

More attempts by our “adversarial” press (and their leak-happy counterparts in the CIA) to gin up controversy, this time, presumably, to try to scuttle the appointment of Gen Michael Hayden as DCI.

From USA Today:

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

“Secretly” being the sinister aspect to all this.  Because we prefer our intelligence work to be done in the open, so that armchair intel specialists can keep tabs on things in between visits to the Starbucks bathroom.

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.

[my emphases]

And there you have it:  the big blockbuster here is that the NSA, using it’s giant neocon-controlled talons, is “reaching into homes and businesses” of “ordinary Americans” and “amassing information” about phone traffic patterns.

Note that the calls are not recorded.  Or listened to.  Rather, they are analyzed for patterns that could help identify where terrorist cells are located.

Which, were Safeway to use their Super Saver’s Card to track potential terror cells rather than to predict, say, the general soft drink buying habits of their customers, would be approximately the same thing. [note: unable to see a connection between the use of cards that track buying habits in order to predict inventory levels and consumer buying habits and the use of similar information tracking to find calling trends and predict potential spots for investigation, David Anderson of In Search of Utopia calls this the “stupidest comment of the day.” “Stupid” having evidently become a synonym for “things stupid people can’t seem to comprehend, and so try to dismiss by calling them stupid.”]

Although USA Today and it’s source make it sound far more devious:

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 — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.

The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret.

…And because they know that such a tale wouldn’t pass muster under whistleblower protections.  It is meant only to inflame those predisposed to being inflamed.

To be clear, under normal circumstances (which does not apply to being at war with those whose m.o. is to install itself in a host country and attack from within), I am not a big fan of these kinds of databases or data mining.  I don’t, for instance, give my phone number to Radio Shack or Best Buy.

But these aren’t normal circumstances, and besides—there is nothing here to suggest that the database can or will be used for purposes other than those the NSA and the DoJ have already been forced to reveal:  the targeting of terrorists both inside and outside the country.

But rather than dignifying what is a rather clear rehashing of what we’ve already covered with respect to the NSA surveillance program and FISA (except to note that USA Today is hoping we’ll conflate Uncle Susie or Grammy Lola’s gossip-filled conversations with their general behavior as part of the larger group called “ordinary Americans, the idea being that analyzing habits and trends to focus in on a target group—often called marketing, under different circumstances—is akin to a gross violation of civil liberties, and proof of a power-drunk administration gone MAD with proto-fascism), I’ll just point you to AJ Strata:

First off most recordings related to a warranted search cover the innocent. Picture yourself as the target of a surveillance warrant (drugs, organized crime, terrorism – pick one) and then realize how many people you contact via phone and compter. You parents, siblings, children, neighbors all get monitored and their phone number and address recorded.

That is why there is a distinction in the law (though I am not sure I am using the exact legal terms here) between the target of a surveillance and the contacts of the target. Everyone gets swept up in a surveillance. That is why judges are the only ones authorized to make a person in America or an American a target of surveillance. That includes FISA and normal courts depending on the suspected crime or activity.

Now the NSA has two roles: one to monitor our enemies overseas (their legitimate, warrentless targets) and one to investigate communications in response to warrants from US courts. What this means is they monitor a lot of targets and sweep up a lot of information regarding innocent contacts with those targets. This role is clearly stated in the NSA response:

The White House would not discuss the domestic call-tracking program. “There is no domestic surveillance without court approval,”

This is the same FISA-leak all dressed up in different spin.

[…]

Prior to 9-11 NSA would note who inside the US (or what American citizen) was in contact with our enemies while monitoring our enemies. If your neighbor had called Bin Laden prior to 9-11 the NSA would know (if they were listening in on Bin Laden) and note it. But prior to 9-11 they would retain that information and not distribute it within the government to law enforcement (who must submit permission for warrants to monitor Americans and people in the US). After 9-11 this changed. Now when the NSA gets a contact with one of their targets overseas they pass that to the FBI who investigates and, if concerned, takes a request to the FISA court for a warrant to monitor.

Interestingly, the same folks who are predictably affecting OUTRAGE over this story did not affect the same outrage over a Clinton-era initiative that was far more invasive.

But then, to many of those who are vociferously opposing the program, this isn’t about civil liberties concerns.  It’s about a hatred of Bush and “his” war(s), and a desire to pin crimes on his administration—which itself is really just the useful idiot component of a CIA and media attempt to undermine our foreign policy so that those two shadow branches of government can re-assert their power over the cultural discourse.

In the process, however, they continue to aid the terrorists, however inadvertantly.  For instance, today’s USA Today story, as both Strata and John Stephenson note, points out that Qwest is the only major communication company that refused to cooperate with the government—which means, were I a terrorist (the exploding kind, not just an evil Bush Kultist whose terrorist-tendencies include a desire to destroy the Constitution and roll-back civil liberties to the salad days when women and blacks couldn’t interfere with government), I might think about switching to Qwest, after reading this piece.

Which is great for Qwest, I suppose, but not so great for national security. 

But be that as it may.  GroupIntel puts this kind of traffic analysis into perspective:

[…] With regard to personal data on citizens, the government only cares if you are a terrorist or some other kind of security threat. If a recently deceased member of al-Qaida has your phone number stored in the memory of his cell phone, someone is going to pay you a visit. It should become apparent fairly quickly if your number is actually one number off from a US-based terrorist (the Tommy Tutone effect) at which point your data is going to get tossed. The goal of mining for data, like mining for gold, is to find valuable nuggets, not useless rock.

Despite all the hard work put forth by our intelligence community there are still major problems associated with efforts to find terrorists.

Recent reporting on the failure of NSA’s TRAILBLAZER program comes to mind. Designed to do on a large scale the kind of work that the much-disputed NSA terrorist surveillance program is carrying out now, TRAILBLAZER is a bottomless money pit. Let us not forget the recently deceased Virtual Case File fiasco at the FBI, the myriad of problems and the expense of the US VISIT system, and the penchant for Customs and Border Patrol computers to just flat out quit. The icing on the cake of course is the DOD’s Able Danger program, which pointed out the threat to the USS Cole and the 9/11 hijackers, but was canceled when it was thought that the effort – you guessed it – spied on citizens.

But what about that other data-hungry group that seeks to vacuum up your information and monitor your activities for purposes that might run contrary to your personal welfare? Unlike the intelligence community these organizations have mastered the technology necessary to know exactly how to most effectively gather and exploit your personal data.

When any of the tens of millions of Capital One credit card customers call the company, the firm’s computers correlate the data they have on their buying patterns and recent purchase activity to predict why they are calling. The call is routed to just the right customer service representative who knows with near certainty what he needs to do to solve their problem and what additional products or services to offer that their likely to buy. All of this happens in a fraction of a second.

ChoicePoint is one of nation’s largest brokers of personal information. They can reach out and grab criminal records, motor vehicle records, credit histories, business records and a wealth of other data about you. Unlike the government, ChoicePoint allowed personal records of nearly 160,000 citizens to be compromised last year.

You hate telemarketers so you signed up for the Do Not Call Registry. Then you turned around and called in a take-out order for pizza, signed up for the grocery store discount card, pet store discount card, coffee shop discount card, etc. Guess what? Those companies consider those transactions as the establishment of a business relationship, so by the rules they can call all they want. If the fine print in their privacy policy says they’ll share your information with other businesses then you’re going to get more calls and be stored in more databases.

Unlike the government, private business will almost never get rid of your information as long as there is a hope of selling you something. Maybe you didn’t want the personal loan or the vacation package, but an analysis of your recent buying habits shows the purchase of a lot of baby clothes and diapers; watch how fast you start getting offers for life insurance or cord-blood storage services. And when they’ve tapped you out they’ll sell your data itself to someone else for one last buck.

Terrorists want to separate us from the corporal world. Does it make any sense not to pursue them with all the means within our power – including the very limited use of personal information – with at least as much skill and vigor as the people who are just trying separate us from our money?

Of course, none of this will be enough to calm the shrieking hysteria of Glenn Greenwald and his civil liberties acolytes (who, because they’ve seen 3 Days of the Condor several times, consider themselves fit to pronounce on the still classified intricacies of the NSA program).

But that’s precisely the point of re-introducing this into the news cycle now:  to get these hysterics riled up and hopefully apply enough political pressure put in jeopardy the nomination of Michael Hayden as the next head of the CIA.  Because Hayden will pick up where Goss left off and plug the remaining leaks—and both a certain contingent within the CIA and the media rely upon leaks to control the message.

Which, if you haven’t already done so, I recommend watching Condor.  Because there is a wonderful irony in viewing it today and recognizing that the NYT has become Cliff Robertson, and Robert Redford is the rogue CIA agent who has taken it upon himself to decide on US policy.

****

update:  Matt Heidt (now writing at Black Five) emails to point me to his post explaining the purpose of today’s leak (which expands nicely on many of the themes covered in the original post):

[…] What the USA Today article is describing is a tool used by law enforcement (without a court order) to attempt to find additional bad guys who associate with a known bad guy.  Let’s say, you bust a guy for smuggling dope into the country and he has a cell phone on him.  You seize the phone, and you copy the recent numbers and maybe even his entire phonebook from the phone down and submit it to a law enforcement data base.  They throw those numbers in with everybody else’s numbers and if you’re lucky, some other agent is looking at a guy whose number was in your smuggler’s phonebook.  Then you call that agent up so that you can get some more information about your guy and vice versa.  It gives you some additional avenues for investigation, but it isn’t evidence of a crime. 

So the big outrage of the day is that terrorist phone numbers are being collated and cross referenced to see if any connections can be gleaned from their communications patterns.  There is no contention that the calls themselves are being monitored in any way. 

The likely reason that this database is so large is that terrorists typically employ more elaborate countermeasures to detection than dopers do. For a narcotics investigation, it would be a waste to go any further than one level on these numbers; not so for terrorists.  For example, a terrorist might call a number (perhaps a persian rug store) and ask if they have received the order for Mr. X.  This rug store could actually be an communications intermediary who would then call an Al Qaeda guy to pass along a message.  By analyzing the links several levels down, the government might be able to figure out if a couple of guys they suspect are terrorists are calling or being called by the same persian rug store.  And if so, then it might be a good idea to focus some investigative effort on that store. 

I don’t call this an evil attempt by the Bushitler McHalliburton regime to crush civil liberties.  I call it thorough investigative work that has the potential to yield positive results and identify previously unknown terrorists.  Can you imagine knowing that this capability exists, that it has been shown to be effective in the past, and deciding that it is simply too politically dangerous to enact?  Now that would be an impeachable offense.

[my emphasis]

For another take, try Cranky Insomniac, Radley Balko, and Orin Kerr.

Posted by Jeff G. @ 4:51pm
101 comments | Trackback

Comments (101)

  1. Do you think that this leak came out now, while the CIA head is in transition, or it’s just a timing coincidence?

  2. I think you’d see alot of this so called outrage disipate if the so called War on Drugs was strongly revamped.  There is obvious some reason, beyond civil liberty concerns, that gets people both sides of the aisle jumping up and down about this.  But think about it- if you’re talking to your folks, shooting the shite with an old college budy, etc, do you really care if the government is “monitoring” you ?  I doubt it.  So I think its drugs- you get your monthly bag of ganga and you’re concerned the gvt. hears the conversation and is on its way to pick you up.  I have no doubt many many people on the left side of the aisle think thats the way it works.

    I was extremely aggravated when I saw how much “anti-drug” crap they attempted to attach to the Patriot Act.

  3. Which, were Safeway to use their Super Saver’s Card to track potential terror cells rather than to predict, say, the general soft drink buying habits of their customers, would be approximately the same thing

    Except for statutes covering phone records. And also the fact that there is a difference between private sector and the government having information. You can refuse to shop safeway. You can’t refuse to have the NSA know who you call and for how long.

    But these aren’t normal circumstances, and besides—there is nothing here to suggest that the database can or will be used for purposes other than those the NSA and the DoJ have already been forced to reveal:  the targeting of terrorists both inside and outside the country.

    If only this article leaked something GOOD.

    Interestingly, the same folks who are predictably affecting OUTRAGE over this story did not affect the same outrage over a Clinton-era initiative that was far more invasive

    A lot of civil liberties groups made noise about echelon. It never went anywhere though. Congress wasn’t too interested. Who knows whether Echelon stopped or not.

  4. Wake up and smell the coffee, Actus. The telecomms have been supplying customer billing data sets to various government branches for many years now. This sort of connect data is not protected from the government LEA’s, either state or federal, in any way, shape or form. Try dodging your child support payments sometime and see.

    Hint: it ain’t just the telecomms, bubela. Gas companies, banks, etc. etc…

    SB: thats

    da truf

  5. It never went anywhere though.

    I wonder why that was…

  6. Those BASTARDS!  How DARE they keep billing information!

    BECAUSE OF AL QAEDA’S RIGHT TO MKE UNMONITORED U.S. PHONE CALLS!!

    In other news, Qwest announced they are changing their name to Qu’est, and launching two new ad campaigns:

    “The Best-Run Terrorist Organizations Use Qu’est”

    and

    “Qu’est Rated Best for Remote-Detonated Vests! Inshallah, the Last Network You’ll Ever Need! (Allahu Akbar!)”

  7. The telecomms have been supplying customer billing data sets to various government branches for many years now.

    I know. There are statutes that authorize this. Whats unclear about this program is whether statutes prohibit it.

    But now all terrorists are going to switch to Qwest. And we all lose.

  8. But then, to many of those who are vociferously opposing the program, this isn’t about civil liberties concerns.  It’s about a hatred of Bush and “his” war(s), and a desire to pin crimes on his administration

    Hellooooo, metanarrative! So good to see you again.

  9. So I think its drugs- you get your monthly bag of ganga and you’re concerned the gvt. hears the conversation and is on its way to pick you up.

    I think I just shit my pants.

  10. Hellooooo, metanarrative!

    Care to explain away the “booga booga” aspect of the reportage, beet? Or are you just going to ape actus today?

  11. Please don’t feed the acthole! Every time you respond to actus, a baby bunny dies.

  12. This is such a fart in a tornado.

    Our leaders are taken to task for not conecting the dots five years ago.  Now, they’re connecting dots, and the same armchair spies screech “HOW DARE YOU CONNCT DOTS!!”.

    Even with Bush’s numbers at serious lows, this is one issue that Americans are going to back him on, esp. once they know that content isn’t being tapped.  The media and the political opposition is barking up the wrong tree, but maybe it’ll finally get this shit on the table so we can stop playing political football with it.

  13. Hayden did not know that the 4th Ammendment, of the Constitution requires “probable cause” in order to get a warrant to spy on American citizens. Stupid or corrupt Hayden, ain’t fit for his current job or the job at the CIA . Peace

  14. Another dead architect heard from…

    SB: mind

    head

  15. What few people realize it that between internet marketing technology and the wirelesss industry, we have already lost our privacy. It disappeared without remark sometime in the 90s. This issue is a big fat zero.

  16. I wonder what these civil liberties watchdogs would have thought of this type of monitoring on 9/12/01. We all thought the same: do what’s necessary to prevent this from happening again. We were upset to learn that the CIA couldnt’ in reality match our bitter-sweet image of it as a wonderfully omnipotent anti-spy agency.

    To complain now that a government agency has oh-so-obvious access to telephone billing statements just demonstrates that one is mindlessly adrift in a sea of narcisistic emotional sensation, having no historical bearings, no memory of tragedy, and no foresight. Yet these slaves to immediate, mindless emotional sensation are the base to which the Democratic party panders.

  17. Matt from Blackfive has it exactly right. So do you.

    Data mining in this case with call detail records (CDR) is a high level sifting of huge amounts of data, from which can be culled those clues that will lead to investigation, follow-up, and (perhaps) surveillance.

    As you say, the operaiton is after gold nuggets, not rocks. Your Aunt Sally’s calls (and yours and mine) are piles and piles of rocks.

  18. January, 2001 in the US: “How dare you attempt to look at Moussaoui’s phone records or his laptop!! Do you think he’s a terrorist just because he has brown skin??? You saying a 30 year old Muslim with a sketchy past shouldn’t be able to take flying lessons??? RACIST!!!

    October 2001 in the US: “Anyhow, anyway, using whatever means necessary, find and kill every single last one of these bastards.”

    May 2006: “Wait, you want to see my phone records because I keep calling known terrorists? Is it because I have brown skin? RACIST!!!”

    December 2007 in the US of Islam: “Allah be praised, we have finally restored our Islamic liberties. In which by liberties I mean well, nothing. How’s that burka treating you Ethel?”

  19. Your Aunt Sally’s calls (and yours and mine) are piles and piles of rocks.

    So…..repeated calls to Madam Woo’s Poultry Farm and Nutscrubbery would basically be ignored?

    I’m asking for a friend.

  20. I’m asking for a friend.

    It’s OK al.  I can ask for myself.  But..thanks for the thought.

    Oh..this is the obligatory ignore the acthole post.

    Please don’t feed the acthole.

  21. Please be patient while I drop a non-sequiter…But anyone who tries to tell you that the Democrats are the “Protectors of Civil Liberties and All that is Holy” needs to do a google search for “Know Your Customer”.

  22. Hayden did not know that the 4th Ammendment, of the Constitution requires “probable cause” in order to get a warrant to spy on American citizens.

    – Ummmm…. I guess that would be a good indication HES NEVER SPYED ON AMERICANS YOU TWIT!

    Have.too.resist.the.trolls

  23. ahem sez:

    What few people realize it that between internet marketing technology and the wirelesss industry, we have already lost our privacy. It disappeared without remark sometime in the 90s. This issue is a big fat zero.

    Yep. For the right price, you could walk into Verizon et al, and buy the records the NSA is looking at. For the right price… Anyone who thinks their communications are secure is laughably ignorant. And anyone who thinks Uncle Sam should ignore the potential in such data is an abject idiot.

    But what the hell, let’s spin it into the ground anyway. It’s not like the NSA has a fucking job to do or anything. And God knows the Democrats need something to talk about.

    Now then, let’s rummage through every shipping container that comes into America, shall we?

    The moral: Separation between intelligence work and stupid people must be maintained.

  24. Yep. For the right price, you could walk into Verizon et al, and buy the records the NSA is looking at

    Not Verizon.

    And the Bush FTC is going after the shady people that trade in these records.

  25. Well, in the first place (re 4th amend), the CDR data doesn’t belong to the customer, but to the telecomm. There is no Personally Identifying Information (PII) included, just the bare connect data. So forget the 4th, it doesn’t apply.

    And yes, the telecomm gets paid ( typically a contracted “handling fee”) for supplying the data sets.

    So, y’know, everybody’s happy.

    I really reccomend you folks interested in this read a book called “Database Nation” by Simpson Garfinkel

    SB: inside

    intel

  26. I just wanted to say that I was contacted by a shadowy group of spooks called “Cingular” who had a record of every call I made on my cell phone.  I think I’m being extorted because they want me to send them over a hundred bucks.  What should I do?

  27. Well, in the first place (re 4th amend), the CDR data doesn’t belong to the customer, but to the telecomm.

    Why is ‘belong’ relevant to the 4th amendment? the CDR data isn’t protected by the fourth because of cases like smith v. md that have said you don’t have an expectation of privacy in the numbers you tell the phone company you’re dialing.

  28. “So…..repeated calls to Madam Woo’s Poultry Farm and Nutscrubbery would basically be ignored?”

    Gimme a break willya!  My ten year old e-mail addy has been datamined by Madam Woo and she’s selling it to the highest bidder.

    Like … I really need another dose of codeine.

  29. Not Verizon.

    /ignore acthole off

    Yes Verizon. Now piss off.

    /ignore acthole on

    Condolences and apologies to the deceased baby bunny’s loved ones.

  30. I think I’m being extorted because they want me to send them over a hundred bucks.  What should I do?

    Are they Nigerian? Run away, L.M.C., run away.

  31. Yes Verizon. Now piss off.

    Well, Verizon has been giving hte NSA data. But you can’t call Verizon and buy data on other people. You have to call the sketchy people that the FTC is going after.

  32. hte

    T-H-E rolleyes

  33. Obligatory ignore wassisname ….

    Verc!  You’re not paying attention!

  34. Hmmmm.

    The *phone companies* use this same data to analyse calling patterns to predict where and when expansions will be necessary for trunk and artery lines.

    No dropped calls= good

    Stopping terrorists= bad

  35. No dropped calls= good

    Stopping terrorists= bad

    Can you hear me NOW?

  36. heh, Diana, but a smiley, or a rolly in this case, is immune from comment; even actus cannot make a snarky comment from a single observation…that actus sucks donkey cock and I am too polite to do but look away (thus the rolling eyes).

    big surprise

    The only response to that is to make in kind with an emoticon.  tongue laugh

    And thus the idiot wars shall rage until Narylothep strides the stage and performs the end-time miracles.

    mad  smirk  LOL  blank stare

  37. Evidently our infantile media continues to soil its diapers and call it news.

  38. .that actus sucks donkey cock

    Er..I believe that the correct quote is, “that acthole sucks dead donkey dicks”

    Dicks…being plural.

  39. Ummmm….Nutscrubbery.

  40. cheese Noted … but don’t expect me to do double duty.  I’ve only contracted to “Oh, Christ!  Here we go again.”

  41. This is disturbing.

    I just got my Verizon bill, and there were quite a few 1-900 calls to some outfit called “Camel Love.” Probably the damned kid next door who waters my plants.

    Am I in trouble?

  42. people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

    Is it just me or is that the lamest “anonymous tipper” notation ever?  The McCarthy gang strikes again…

  43. Headline at huffpo….BUSH ADMINISTRATION SPYING ON MILLIONS OF AMERICANS.

    You have got to be kidding me?

    Again I say….how stupid can people be? Does BDS control every fiber of a lefty’s body only to prevent them from discerning the truth from fiction?

    I am at a loss.

  44. uh oh, better get on the phones and contact the FBI! it looks like Trent Lott is busy working to undermine our national security!

    and remember, kids – if you don’t immediately alert the authorities to Lott’s treasonous activities, you’re no better than an enabler to treachery.

  45. .that actus sucks donkey cock

    Er..I believe that the correct quote is, “that acthole sucks dead donkey dicks”

    Technically, in that case, it is that “acthole TAKES dead donkey cocks”; and “actard swallows deep mule shafts”. There is a difference in the type of verb we use, the active verb and the passive. In one vignette, we see the actard performing the action of slobbing on a Shetland’s knob. In the other one we see the acthole enduring a rump ram from the Animal Farm.

    It all boils down to whether we are talking about [act]holes and [act]tards as active or passive players in the age-old game of barnyard bukkake.

    TW: Your serve.

  46. In one vignette, we see the actard performing the action of slobbing on a Shetland’s knob. In the other one we see the acthole enduring a rump ram from the Animal Farm.

    Well…since you put it that way, I guess what I was thinking was that he does both at the same time.  That would then make it an actardhole, I guess.

    By the way, I did laugh.

  47. Cleek,

    Congratulations, you’re our new leader for the much treasured “Barbra Boxer Dumbest Post of the Thread” award.

    Hell, you’ve won. No one will be able to catch you.

  48. That would then make it an actardhole, I guess.

    Or a conspiracy of two or more holes? [Twilight zone music]

  49. Metabeet,

    Stop trying to add “metanarrative” to the Koskid list of buzzwords. It means something but it isn’t an excuse to avoid the substance of an argument.

  50. “Barbra Boxer Dumbest Post of the Thread” award.

    I like it Old Dad, but I make a motion to rename it to something more like the “Prozacula” or the–dare I hold out hope–the “Vercie”…

    How about the “Prozacula Dumbest Post of the Thread Award”? and we can have the “Order of the Vercie” for the most classless, gratuitious, insensitive bashing of our librul friends?

    Anybody second?

  51. I haven’t read enough yet to determine whether all this is legal, and neither has anyone else on this site.  (It does seem that the phone companies may have subjected themselves to civil lawsuits and fines under the Communications Act, among others, but we’ll see.)

    But from a practical standpoint, this is a horrible concept.  Do you really want the government possessing a database that contains every number you’ve called, when you called it, and how long the call lasted?

    I don’t.  And I find it interesting that Jeff places more trust in the government—this hapless, lumbering, idiotic federal government filled with and run by twits from both parties –than his local Radio Shack when it comes to divulging his phone records.

    And I would also point out that if the NSA is “plugged in” to the phone companies—i.e., it is getting its data in real time (and I assume it is, otherwise how helpful could it really be?)—then it may be violating FISA, which prohibits warrantless interceptions that reveal even the existence of the call.

  52. It’s amazing what’s going on with the government these days. The country promotes freedom of speech but it seems nothing is free. We are raised to have some form of privacy in or lives, but it seem nothing is private. Nothing is sacred. I can’t believe what’s going on with the NSA and Americas telephone records. What is going on in this country? Why are some people so thirsty for power. I can’t understand why companies would voluntarily give up phone records? Can somebody explain to me what is going on? Can someone tell me why this is OK. They cannot because it is not OK. It is not right. It seems the further along America gets, the more ass backwards it becomes.

  53. Too bad we can’t just copyright our personal information. Just because I buy a magazine doesn’t mean I’ve purchased the rights to sell it’s contents. But that’s exactly what happens when I buy a chainsaw from Sears: they sell my personal information and then claim that our transaction gives them the right to do so.

    :peter

  54. On Capitol Hill, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he would hold hearings on the secret program.

    I am determined to get to the bottom of this,’’ said Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican…

    …but insider’s with knowledge of the Senator speculate that it may be impossible for him to sink any lower.

  55. “MF Dumbest Post of the Thread Award”

  56. But from a practical standpoint, this is a horrible concept.  Do you really want the government possessing a database that contains every number you’ve called, when you called it, and how long the call lasted?

    I am a fairly imaginative person, but I just can’t come up with a single scenario of how this could be used against me.  Can any of the naysayers please enlighten me beyond just telling me I should be horrified?

  57. Have you considered that the Qwest info may be disnformation so that the terrists use Qwest and make it easier to track them?

  58. Verc,

    I second the “Vercie” award for the best troll slam on a thread, but there’s got to be a better handle for the dumbest post. Prozacula is extraordinarily stupid, but I think he’d like the publicity. But then, so would Boxer.

    I’ll gladly accept the judgment of the posting community so long as everyone emails me their credit card numbers…no, wait..don’t bother, I can get’em on Ebay.

  59. Just out of curiosity.  Do the cops have to obtain a warrant before looking at an individual’s phone records?  And for the record (before I get a bunch of you unnecessarily riled up), even if they do, I still support the Admin on this (the whole international thing being a bit of a significant difference).

    T.W.: death (I shit you not)

    Make of it what you will

  60. Yes, let’s stop it.  We can all vote Republican, because they’ll shrink the government and then they won’t be able to afford this program…

    Nevermind.

    TW:  Doomed.  Those of us who would prefer to be left alone are doomed.

  61. And I thought Cleek had the Boxer wrapped up.

    MF is in the hunt.

  62. “Barbra Boxer Dumbest Post of the Thread” award.

    I like it Old Dad, but I make a motion to rename it to something more like the “Prozacula” or the–dare I hold out hope–the “Vercie”…

    “MF Dumbest Post of the Thread Award”

    Hey, I want an award named after me too. How about “The Peter Jackson Memorial ‘Most Retch-Inducing Fart in an Elevator’ THRED KILLA” award.

  63. Peter Jackson,

    Would that be a “Jackie”? Careful their stallion.

  64. Damn it, this session of junior civics is going to have to go to overtime. Let’s all email Jeff for our own vanity awards; Imperator Bush Kultist does have its perks, after all.

  65. Nothing is sacred. I can’t believe what’s going on with the NSA and Americas telephone records. What is going on in this country? Why are some people so thirsty for power. I can’t understand why companies would voluntarily give up phone records? Can somebody explain to me what is going on? Can someone tell me why this is OK.

    Well, that’s why one is supposed to read the post

    But hey, sometimes you just gotta throw up your hands and curse evolution.

  66. so, we’ll put Old Dad down as “objectively pro-leaker”.

    any other takers?

  67. What about an award for posters who don’t know “there” butts from a “whole” in the ground?

  68. Cleek back way in front for the Boxer.

    I prefer scallions.

  69. MarkD:

    I think the folks who were in the Towers on 9-11 probably wanted merely to be left alone as well.

    Their doom, however, was perhaps a little more reality-based, a little less metaphysical than the doom of having one’s phone records incorporated into a relational database.

    But that’s just me.

  70. Of course there’s a way it could get used against you, B Moe. Just imagine that instead of kindly, God-fearing President Bush, our dear leader was someone like, I dunno, Stalin. Or even worse, Hillary! What could Stalin do with this kind of power and technology and little to no oversight? Still defy your imagination?

    I remember when the conservatives in this country believed in smaller government, freedom of the individual and non-intrusion. The good ‘ol paleocons. Have they been driven to extinction? You guys seem to slob the knobs of this administration every chance you get. Tools.

  71. Would that be a “Jackie”? Careful their stallion.

    I prefer the “Blappity Pete.”

  72. Cleek,

    Once, completely by accident, I found myself at a “shower party” with a girl who was all into rational self-interest.  I was way wasted, but I kinda liked it.

    So I guess you could call me “pro leaking on the objectivist”.

  73. Once, completely by accident, I found myself at a “shower party” with a girl who was all into rational self-interest.  I was way wasted, but I kinda liked it.

    YER AN EIGHT!!!  YER AN EIGHT!!!

    She thought she was a TEN – so she leaked.

  74. What could Stalin do with this kind of power and technology and little to no oversight? Still defy your imagination?

    Yes.  So please tell me, what could Stalin do with my phone records?

  75. Well, that’s why one is supposed to read the post. 

    But hey, sometimes you just gotta throw up your hands and curse evolution.

    My statement was rhetorical. I read the post. Of course getting telephone records of people without probable cause is wrong. It violates our <a href=http://www.abanet.org/publiced/conversations/constitution/topics_searchandseizure.html>Fourth Amendment right.</a>

  76. ?

  77. Are you serious? Why do you think the admin has been retrieving this info? Would it be doing so if it had nothing to gain? If there were no possible way to use the information to further an interest then there would be no point in accumulating it in the first. Stalin would have used it to Gulag your ass. Bush is using it to Gitmo someone’s ass. Which is great, yay, kill ‘em all. But who’s watching the Watchmen? Too much power, too much Big Brother. Don’t trade your liberty for safety.

  78. getting telephone records of people without probable cause

    Can I say “blindingly stupid” again?

    Just for fun.

  79. But hey, sometimes you just gotta throw up your hands and curse evolution.

    And sometimes, you’ve just got to drop your pants and crap on the carpet. Apparently…

  80. SuperCedar, hmmm, is that what they use to line your cage?

  81. I am a fairly imaginative person, but I just can’t come up with a single scenario of how this could be used against me. 

    You really don’t mind your phone records being released to anybody? Or is it just the government you don’t mind? And you don’t think its just plain old none of their business?

  82. SuperCedar, hmmm, is that what they use to line your cage?

    Yes. It’s the only thing that keeps me from bitch slapping the crap out of you wherever you are.

    What happened to that conservative paranoia about government? Ah well. We’ll see it again after the D’s have controlled congress for the next decade. Until then you guys can continue to have your love-in. Holding hands with Big Business and Bigger Government. Your ideological underpinnings have snapped at the base. You stand for nothing but bend over for everything they want.

  83. You really don’t mind your phone records being released to anybody? Or is it just the government you don’t mind?

    My phone records, address and email already get spread all over hell and back by tele-marketers, I try to keep it under control, but put up with it because the conveniences of the electronic age far out weigh the negatives to me.  If the NSA start calling me in the middle of the evening trying to sell me spy-cams and listening devices, I may change my mind, but otherwise I really don’t give a shit.

    And you don’t think its just plain old none of their business?

    What the fuck is the business of the NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY then, actus?  That is like saying the building itself isn’t any of the Fire Departments business, they should just fight the fire only and leave the building alone.

  84. What happened to that conservative paranoia about government?

    I am not conservative and I am not paranoid.  You do understand paranoia is a mental disorder?  It is not particularly healthy?

    Yes. It’s the only thing that keeps me from bitch slapping the crap out of you wherever you are.

    I am in Lawrenceville, Georgia.  I can give you detailed instructions if you want to come visit, I haven’t been bitch slapped in a very long time.

  85. TheSuperCedar,

    Here’s the deal. The phone companies collect the data that we’re bitching about because they need it to bill you. It’s not private. It can’t be. When you (hypothetically) call the phone company to contest a 1-900 call, Mr. or Ms. Susie Joe Bob in customer service has access to your phone records. Read the fine print on your service agreement. The SCOTUS has ruled that these records aren’t private. Don’t like it, don’t call.

    The Feds have been “spying” on your phone calls for years–legally. Don’t like it? Change the laws.

    The kerfuffle of the moment is mostly media BDS intended to scuttle the Hayden appointment. Scuttle away.

    My advice….you want more privacy? Cut up your credit cards, cancel your telephone–especially the cell, cancel your internet, close your bank account, and pay in cash.

  86. The country promotes freedom of speech but it seems nothing is free.

    And our buildings are taller but our tempers are shorter. George Carlin has a message for you.

  87. - Personally I kind of like the ring of the “Verc award”, maybe with degrees like 1 to 10 on big white cardboard signs or something. Then say after 10 awards, the mentally deranged winner could be permenently inshrined as a full fledged TTP* of rank “x”. Maybe even a great TTP Poobah Grand Wizard or something. In the footsteps of Godwins law, without the sheets…..

    *Typing Telephone Pole(tm)

  88. @#$!

    The message is here.

  89. Leftist trolls are such cowards! They’re afraid to have the government know who they call. Phonewimps!

  90. Quick show of hands, how many of you who are OUTRAGED! at the government seeing your phone bill would have no problem at all turning over your medical records to them?

  91. So the big outrage of the day is that terrorist phone numbers are being collated and cross referenced to see if any connections can be gleaned from their communications patterns

    The description of this program is not that it is about specific phones, about building up from connections to a known terrorist phone. It’s a blanket program to get suspicionless data.

    At least, that’s what it sounds like when the USA Today article says:

    The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.

    But maybe the guy you linked to is in on the superduper secret briefings. And is not giving out his info. And hurting the war on terror too.

  92. Quick show of hands, how many of you who are OUTRAGED! at the government seeing your phone bill would have no problem at all turning over your medical records to them?

    If they follow the principles of fair information practices, then not that much. Why would I be turning over my medical records?

  93. The description of this program is not that it is about specific phones, about building up from connections to a known terrorist phone. It’s a blanket program to get suspicionless data.

    At least, that’s what it sounds like when the USA Today article says:

    The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.

    Yeah actus, that’s it, they are just putting together a huge fucking database on a double dog dare from the CIA.  No real reason behind it at all.

    Why would I be turning over my medical records?

    You really are dumb as a damn post, aren’t you?

  94. Why would I be turning over my medical records?

    – Hmmmmm , I’d give that about a Verc4.4….Good mind numbing stuck on stupid vibs, but a little too much splash on entry…..

  95. 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.

    Ummm… Yeah.  So?

  96. Yeah actus, that’s it, they are just putting together a huge fucking database on a double dog dare from the CIA.  No real reason behind it at all.

    I suspect the reason is data mining. Which works better when you have all the data.

    But the description we have is not of a program of getting records based on individualized suspicion. Not even slight suspicion. But it looks like the linker dude knows more than USA Today.

  97. Omar: depends

    “Any penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the act.”

    — Navy Regulations (I think)

    SB: lines

    of inquiry

  98. I suspect the reason is data mining. Which works better when you have all the data.

    orz

  99. Yes.  So please tell me, what could Stalin do with my phone records?

    Call all your friends and try to sell them long distance services.

    I shudder at the thought.

    Fortunately, I don’t keep any phone records, so I have nothing to look through. I suspect that the phone company is a bit more meticulous, and whatever the product of that is, it belongs to them.

  100. Just because I buy a magazine doesn’t mean I’ve purchased the rights to sell it’s contents.

    no kidding, but they’re happy to sell your info.

    TW: earth.  where on earth did anyone get the idea i was a lesbian?  was it the Redbook subscription?

  101. I really like the layout and colors that you chose for this website! It certainly is incredible! :)

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