Monday, March 10, 2008


Wall Street Journal:

Two former officials familiar with the data-sifting efforts said they work by starting with some sort of lead, like a phone number or Internet address. In partnership with the FBI, the systems then can track all domestic and foreign transactions of people associated with that item -- and then the people who associated with them, and so on, casting a gradually wider net. An intelligence official described more of a rapid-response effect: If a person suspected of terrorist connections is believed to be in a U.S. city -- for instance, Detroit, a community with a high concentration of Muslim Americans -- the government's spy systems may be directed to collect and analyze all electronic communications into and out of the city.

The haul can include records of phone calls, email headers and destinations, data on financial transactions and records of Internet browsing. The system also would collect information about other people, including those in the U.S., who communicated with people in Detroit.

[...] The NSA, which President Truman created in 1952 through a classified presidential order to be America's ears abroad, has for decades been the country's largest and most secretive intelligence agency. The order confined NSA spying to "foreign governments," and during the Cold War the NSA developed a reputation as the world's premier code-breaking operation. But in the 1970s, the NSA and other intelligence agencies were found to be using their spy tools to monitor Americans for political purposes. That led to the original FISA legislation in 1978, which included an explicit ban on the NSA eavesdropping in the U.S. without a warrant.


  1. The NSA surveillance program is illegal and unconstitutional and Congress thought they killed it back in 2003 when they terminated Total Information Awareness.

    Also, it's completely ineffective because Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke just told us they have "no credible information" about terror threats.

  2. Agreed.

    It's easy to focus on the principled opposition to warrantless surveillance and setting the precedent of immunity for compliant corporations from a Constitutional interpretation, but even if one can get past that, there remains the issue that no information supporting the retrieval of relevant or believable intelligence has resulted from the betrayal of civil-liberties. For many (unfortunately), that would justify giving up their freedom.

    This entire debate is about protecting the administration and willing accomplices from accountability, not national security.