Friday, May 12, 2006

Bush Administration logs every phone call in America as part of its illegal domestic spying program

Think Bush has any respect for your privacy? Think again sunshine. Look at USA TODAY's "NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls"

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

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime.

...The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders...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.

...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 Feds are tracking every single phone call placed by Americans. How does that make you feel?

But the Bush Adminsitration continues to lie about their activities.

The White House would not discuss the domestic call-tracking program. "There is no domestic surveillance without court approval," said Dana Perino, deputy press secretary, referring to actual eavesdropping.

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

The data are used for "social network analysis," the official said, meaning to study how terrorist networks contact each other and how they are tied together.

Only problem in this "no domestic surveillance without court approval" hoax is that one company said no.

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

If there's court approval, where's the warrant? If they're analyzing terrorist's "social networks" why slurp up all Americans' networks? Because Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon makes every single American a theoretical node in some so-called terrorist's network.

This isn't about Del.icio.us bookmarks or MySpace where people intentionally make information public. There's a long standing expectation by Americans that who they telephone is nobody's business but their own. The problem for Big Telecom is this pesky little law that prohibits them from disclosing call data.

The concern for the customer was also based on 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.

The financial penalties for violating Section 222, one of many privacy reinforcements that have been added to the law over the years, can be stiff. The Federal Communications Commission, the nation's top telecommunications regulatory agency, can levy fines of up to $130,000 per day per violation, with a cap of $1.325 million per violation. The FCC has no hard definition of "violation." In practice, that means a single "violation" could cover one customer or 1 million.

And then there's the whole, if you build it someone will use it phenomena.

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.

There's tiny glimmers of hope that Congress might actually be offended by this latest assault against the Constitution, the rule of law, and our civil liberties by Bushco. NPR had a story, "NSA Domestic Spying Report Roils Washington", this morning with real live members of Congress supposedly displaying pulses and asking questions. Good.

The same story has Bush bald-faced lying (NPR story time stamp 2:08-2:25) saying they're "not mining" and not "trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans". Yeah. Right. I'll take that as a description of exactly what they're doing.

Call your Senator. Call your Congressperson. Write a letter to the editor. Stand on the corner and shout. Because NSA is already listening in... let them know their violations of privacy are un-American and not acceptable to a free people.

Don't forget about the EFF class-action lawsuit against AT&T. Make a donation if you can or become a member.

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