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Thursday, May 11, 2006

NSA UNDER FIRE AGAIN

Just when the unwarranted coverage and accusations of the NSA foreign surveillance program had begun to lose its news worthiness USA Today blasts a headline about the collection of a data base of phone numbers by the NSA. It seems extremely suspicious that this article makes headlines only two days after President Bush nominates General Michael Hayden the former NSA Chief as his new CIA Director. The suspicion comes from the release of this information that dates back to just after 9/11 and seems obviously held to coincide with the nomination. Once again it looks as if a Congressional leak about the data base became convenient to the nomination announcement. The fuss over this data base is actually rather stupid. First the Congressional over sight of this program and each aspect of it including the data base has been known by the necessary members of Congress since the inception of the NSA program shortly after 9/11. That is what makes me suspicious of the timing of the leak of this data base information. Second, this data base is in essence similar to a phone book or more precisely phone records that contains only phone numbers to give the NSA the capability of detecting a possible calling pattern with suspected terrorists. At no time are the numbers used to tap into conversations of Americans unless they are involved as an operative with Al Qaeda or other terrorist elements. For Congress to attempt to deny or act surprised at the existence of this Data Base is an absolute absurdity since from the beginning they have been informed of every part of this program. Once again political grand standing at it worst. I will admit that the addition of Tony Snow as Press Secretary seems to be making a difference in the Bush PR. The President immediately came out to explain and defend the necessity of the data base and to assure Americans that they had nothing to fear concerning invasion of privacy. We are at war and the enemies agents have to be flushed out and this is but another tool to allow that to happen. When asked about their participation in gathering the data base AT & T said, "We prize the trust our customers place in us. If and when AT&T is asked to help, we do so strictly within the law and under the most stringent conditions." The legalities of this aspect of the program have been checked and verified by the Administration as well as the companies who have participated. Once again as I mentioned in my post on Tuesday concerning the nomination of General Hayden, when confirmation hearings begin the nation and the Congress will receive an education as Hayden takes them to school. He is an ardent professional who knows his job and what it takes to legally gather intelligence. I do not believe that this USA Today revelation will hamper Hayden's nomination but rather make the hearings that much more interesting as he embarrasses Senators who will attempt to crucify him as he ultimately receives confirmation and appointment as the new Director of the CIA.

Ken Taylor

23 Comments:

Blogger Rob said...

Why does the U.S. Government need to know who I have called and who has called me over the last four years? For my protection? Unless you contend that there are 200 million terror suspects, there is no reason for the U.S. Government to maintain such data.

It is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment. Of course, Hayden did not know what the 4th Amendment actually said. Look at the last question and Hayden's response on the transcript - then read the 4th Amendment and you will see how stupid Hayden looked.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/library/news/2006/intell-060123-dni01.htm

I agree that the hearings will be interesting, but if Hayden isn't confirmed, it will be because Republicans walk away from him (and Bush). They have the votes right now to confirm him. We'll just have to see.

11:51 PM, May 11, 2006  
Blogger The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

First Rob the data base is only 10 million. Second it consists of those numbers that are suspect and this data base has been around since 1999 and its use was broadened by the NSA after 9/11 because of the suspect numbers and the need to investigate a pattern. Yes its for security and the media lie about a general domestic spy progam is absurd and ridiculous.

Ken

7:18 AM, May 12, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

Check your facts Ken. It is tens of millions of Americans. The three companies at the center of the program have 224 million customers. This program is new and only came online after 9/11.

Read the Fox News story:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,195198,00.html

Even if your "facts" are correct, do you really believe that there are 10 million "suspect numbers" in America.

Ken, are you a big government guy? Allowing the government to have this power is a huge expansion of its power.

9:55 AM, May 12, 2006  
Blogger The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

No I am not big goverment but I do support means necessary to defend this country. This is not , "Big Brother!" The records that the NSA accessed are readily available on the internet through a simple Google search. Additionaly if phone numbers were not a part of the public record then why do we have to pay for a phone number to be unlisted or private ? They are not protected by any law because they are publicly available. The NSA requested them from phone companies and the phone companies varified the legality and cooperated accordingly. These recorde are used to detect patterns. for instance if a suspected terrorist in Saudi Arabia calls a number then through the database that number is investigated, not the conversation, to detect the number of times of contact and also a pattern as to what numbers may also be contacted in order to find a pattern that may lead to intercepting intelligence which may prevent an attack, capture a terrorist etc. This is not a law violation and key members of Congress have known about it since its inception. I ask you, why the leak two days after Hayden's nomination. Coincidence ? I think not.

Ken

7:25 PM, May 12, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

You are just completely misinformed. The NSA has a database that contains the phone records of tens of millions of Americans phone calls - who they called and who called them. They are using search algorithms to try to find hidden patterns - data mining - that may provide clues about how terrorists operate.

The government asked for the phone company data and got it without a warrant from Verizon, Bell South and AT&T. Qwest chose not to provide the information because their legal counsel did not think it was legal. In fact, they told the government to get a FISA warrant.

Read about it:
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,195326,00.html

10:21 PM, May 12, 2006  
Blogger C.I.R. Deputy said...

"The government asked for the phone company data and got it without a warrant from Verizon, Bell South and AT&T."

THEY ASKED FOR IT. If you take issue with it then switch phone companies. If certain companies want to aid the Government in the War on Terror they are not allowed?

If you have someone you suspect of murder and see blood on their shirt and ask them for the shirt and they give it to you to test, you do not need a warrant.

What next Rob, are you going to start telling me what I can and cannot do with my own information?

They asked, they were given. Do you believe that everyone in the military is a horrible person Rob? Huh, I am a horrible person for military service? Because hell, the Government asked for my service and I delivered. So if you want to help the US you are bad? Good philosophy to go with!!! That’s the good old fashioned American Spirit.

Be pissed at the companies not the Government. These are phone records not you medical charts.

1:22 AM, May 13, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

CIR Deputy you really like to jump to some peculiar conclusions.

First, please explain to me when and where I have ever said ANYONE in the military is "horrible." I have no idea what you are talking about on that one.

Second, you are welcome to give your personal information about who you called and who has called you to the government - that is up to you. Explain to me when and where I said you can't.

Third, why should I let the government know who I am calling and who is calling me? It is nobody's business but my own.

If you think it is appropriate for the government to collect, store, and analyze detailed phone records of 200+ million Americans, that is up to you. However, there are serious legal questions. The relevant laws that protect Americans include the Communications Act (first passed in 1934), and various aspects of the Electronic Communications and Privacy Act, including the Stored Communications Act, passed in 1986. Under current law, phone companies that provide private customer data to anyone - including the government - without a warrant put themselves at risk for at least $1,000 per incident. In other words, if 100 million Americans file and win, that comes to $100 billion in fines.

AT&T is already in the middle of a civil court case, and yesterday a $5 billion lawsuit was filed against Verizon. There are sure to be numerous other challenges.

The phone companies who gave away the data better pray they did not get bad legal advice or we will all be customers of Qwest.

3:04 PM, May 13, 2006  
Blogger C.I.R. Deputy said...

1st) You are condemning the Government for asking for the records and the companies for giving them the records. So I just carried out the logic. Government bad, govt. asking bad, complying bad. That would ultimately include military.

They are all questions, I never stated you said it, I was asking.

2nd) Once again a question. You just seem so involved with privacy it sounds like you want everyone to keep to themselves, for their own good. "Privacy first, safety last" is how I see this whole thing.

3rd) Those records are the property of the phone company. If they want to cough them up, they can. Like I said before, you may need to change companies.

"Under current law, phone companies that provide private customer data to anyone - including the government - without a warrant put themselves at risk for at least $1,000 per incident."

Well, there you go. These records of phone number X called Y is not private. The name of the customer, address, that may be. Those were not given! Why do you think you have to pay extra to be UNLISTED?

And you still cannot prove that there is no FISA warrant. With all the talk of there is a "secret court" for this... what good is a secret court that hears everything behind closed doors then posts the warrant on the front page NYT?

9:22 PM, May 13, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

I do value my privacy, and certainly do not want to have the government keeping records of who I call and who calls me - it is none of its business. I cited relevant statutes that may very well have been violated and we will just have to see how it plays out in the courts.

While my phone number may be public, it is not public record what numbers I called and who called my phone number. Also, having an unlisted number does not exclude you from the government's database, so having an unlisted number is irrelevent to the discussion of this program.

You are clearly a big government guy and like I said that is fine. We will simply have to disagree.

Since it appears that you are a "safety first, privacy second" kind of person, why not just allow random government searches of Americans' homes?

10:39 AM, May 14, 2006  
Blogger C.I.R. Deputy said...

I think I will just have to come to terms with us not seeing eye-to-eye on much of this.

As for random searches, in an impulse I say "yes." I personally would feel safer. There are no drugs or illegal "things" in my house. All my firearms are registered. But obviously that is a violation of the Constitution. However, the founding fathers never spoke of the prohibition of gathering information on peoples phone calls.

Which I am sure, dare I guess (not to put words in your mouth)...but as a guess you will bring up the 4th 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."

1) Your number and even voice going through a wire or air is not listed there. But, I guess you will provide the court cases saying that it does apply.

2) "unreasonable searches"
It doesn't specifically say a warrant is required. Yes, I know that is how it is read by the courts now. But it speaks of the “secure” aspect then in a second part talks about warrants. They are almost separate from one another, which the more I read it seems quite weird.

3) In the end it comes down to the expectation of privacy. Police can do many things you may not like, but you leave your shades open and the police look in your window from a public place... legal.

I felt it was fine anyway, as I believe all see from my statements. But now that it is all out there (the NSA programs) you are not "expecting privacy" anymore with your phone records and/or calls. So the 4th doesn't apply.

I do look forward to your response.

11:48 AM, May 14, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

The 4th Amendment issue aside, there are multiple violations of other laws that may have taken place. I have already cited laws that may have been broken, but it is for the courts to decide.

You must agree that such a massive database that gives the government the ability to see who average, law-abiding Americans are talking to is at the very least questionable legally. There is no doubt that it represents a major step toward an even bigger, more intrusive government.

Beyond whether the program is legal or not - which we appear to disagree on - the discussion of individual civil rights and how big and powerful we want our government to be will continue.

12:45 AM, May 15, 2006  
Blogger Vern1966 said...

Unwarranted coverage?!?! The American people have every right to know what the government wants to know about us and what we do. That's why laws are passed to dictate limits. And since Bush & Co. have no reservations about breaking these laws and lying about it, what makes you think that the program is "only so big" or that they are "only collecting this or that or the other thing"? No one knows, and it's probably a lot more than you'd think. But hey, who cares, right? We can trust Bush, right?

1:15 PM, May 17, 2006  
Blogger C.I.R. Deputy said...

How about people that work on the program?

11:58 AM, May 18, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

It does not matter if people working on the program are good, trustworthy people. We are a nation of laws. It is irrelevant how trustworthy the folks working on the program are if there is violation of the 4th Amendment and other applicable laws. That is a question for the courts to decide.

12:52 PM, May 18, 2006  
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