12 May 2006

Doesn't this scare you?

From today's Democracy Now broadcast:

Three Major Telecom Companies Help U.S. Government Spy on Millions of Americans

USA Today has revealed the National Security Agency is secretly collecting the phone call records of millions of Americans with the help of AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others. One source told the paper that the NSA is attempting to create the world's largest database — big enough to include every call ever made within the nation's borders.

USA Today has revealed the National Security Agency is secretly collecting the phone call records of millions of Americans with the help of AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth. For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others. One source told the paper that the NSA is attempting to create the world’s largest database — big enough to include every call ever made within the nation’s borders.

This spy program is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, President Bush admitted he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on calls and e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists.

On Thursday, President Bush discussed the NSA’s spy operations but did not directly address the report in USA Today that the NSA was creating a database of phone call records.

President Bush: Today there are new claims about other ways we are tracking down al Qaeda to prevent attacks on America. I want to make some important points about what the government is doing, and what the government is not doing. First, our intelligence activities strictly target al Qaeda and their known affiliates. Al Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans. Second, the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. Third, the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of congress, both Republican and Democrat. Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans.

On Capitol Hill, Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter — Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — announced he would call officials from AT&T, Verizon and Bell South to appear before the panel for questioning. Meanwhile there have been a number of other developments about the NSA's spy program.

On Wednesday the Justice Department announced it had to close an investigation into the NSA's domestic spy program because the NSA had refused to grant investigators security clearances.

On Monday, President Bush nominated General Michael Hayden to become the next director of the CIA. Hayden was the head of the NSA in 2001 when President Bush ordered the agency to begin warrant-less spying of Americans.

General Hayden spoke with reporters yesterday about the NSA spying program.

Michael Hayden: Everything that NSA done is lawful and carefully done and the appropriate members of congress, the house and senate are briefed on all NSA activities and I will just leave it at that.

But the NSA spy program is even being criticized by former top NSA officials. On Monday the agency's former Director Bobby Ray Inman said “this activity is not authorized.”

To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for Democracy Now’s online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.

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At 5/12/2006 02:45:00 PM, Anonymous patrick said...

yes, it does. it's like josephs stalin and mccarthy are back - and this time they're kicking ass and taking names - or phone numbers

At 5/12/2006 06:05:00 PM, Anonymous rcofchs said...

This would scare me if the information were being used for political gain vs national security. One cannot argue that the Bush administration is gaining any political ground by continuing to support the wiretaps. In fact, it has hurt them politically. My understanding is if you make international calls to a country that has terrorist, your records may be tracked. This makes much more sense than frisking little old ladies at the airport.

At 5/13/2006 08:44:00 AM, Anonymous HollyC said...

It would scare me if we didn't track likely terrorist calls that came FROM OUTSIDE THIS COUNTRY, and keep up with who inside this country is receiving them....

At 5/13/2006 06:43:00 PM, Anonymous paul said...

Hey, at least the Gays can't marry! That's the important thing.

Gotta run. I need to buy some 4$ gas.

At 5/14/2006 09:29:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

I'm a little surprised that the libertarians in this comment room have no problem with the NSA wanting records of every single phone call made in America. It's an absolute invasion of privacy, it violates our basic rights, and I have yet to be convinced that it's lawful. And think of the precedents this could set.

At 5/14/2006 12:05:00 PM, Anonymous rcofchs said...

I do not support breaking the law, but that has not been proven. As a Libertarian I want government to only to do three things; build roads, fight wars, enforce laws. I beleive that tracking phone calls from this country into countries that support terrorism falls into the category of fighting wars and enforcing laws.

As for privacy issues, I am much more concerned with the government requiring that I provide proof of income and documentation for any tax deduction including a copy of my phone record.

At 5/14/2006 03:00:00 PM, Blogger Scrivener said...

rcofchs, where do you get the idea that all they're doing is tracking calls from outside the country? They've got a database of every single call placed by anyone inside or outside the country for the last 5 years!

And let me get this straight: you object to being required to provide a copy of your phone record for tax deduction purposes, but you do not object to the government secretly seizing that same information for every single person in the country? And I guess you don't object to the gov't using that information to justify searching your home and wiretapping your phone calls without a warrant? How do you feel about the administration's claims that they have the right to seize you and hold you incommunicado, for an indefinite period of time, without ever filing charges against you? Oh, and by the way, top Bush officials have argued that if it serves the President's purposes, he has the right to order the military to torture your children in front of you to compel your testimony.

But you're upset that you need to provide receipts to get tax deductions, because that is an affront to your rights?

At 5/14/2006 05:55:00 PM, Anonymous rcofchs said...

Srivener, I don't think you and I will ever agree on this subject. But, I will make one more attempt to explain.

There are countries such as Iran, who's leader says on a daily basis he wants to "remove Isreal from the face of the earth in a cloud of smoke." He also wants to destroy the USA. We know from 9/11 that there are probably sleeper cells in our country. Those sleeper cells are likely to make phone calls to their cohorts in places like Iran. If we have the technology to gather data from those phone records and catch terrorist before an attck, I am all for it.

At 5/15/2006 09:23:00 AM, Blogger Scrivener said...

The NSA, by most accounts, used to be our most effective intelligence agency, specializing in eavesdropping and gathering data that we could use to track terrorists and other threats. Now all they do is spy on American citizens' domestic phone calls. They're so buried under the masses of information they've got from spying an perfectly law-abiding Americans that they can't do anything to actually track the enemy anymore.

Meanwhile, the White House is asserting that the 4th Amendment is outdated and that it doesn't apply to the executive branch anymore. They support seizing and torturing US citizens without so much as a probable cause hearing. The unitary executive people have taken over and are claiming that the president is entirely above the law and that there is no need for the judicial or legislative branches of government.

And there are scads of libertarians still running around saying the major civil liberties issue is that they don't want to pay taxes. This is what libertarianism has come to.

At 5/15/2006 07:39:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

I have to side with Scrivener. It would be one thing if they were tracking just the calls by those fitting a terrorist profile. BUT THEY'RE KEEPING RECORDS OF ALL DOMESTIC CALLS. Why does the NSA need the records of my calls to the wannabeau, or you, or Renae? What sort of pattern do they see from that?

There have been serious threats against this country throughout our lifetime -- Communist Russia, Libya and North Korea, just to list a few. And it won't end, especially with our current worldwide reputation.

Don't get me wrong; I'm frightened about what Iran may do. After all, according to the Bible, the end battles will be fought in the Iran/Iraq region. But does that mean the President can thumb his nose at the Constitution, Congress, and the Surpreme Court? There's a reason why we have in the United States.

It appalls me that members of this administration feel they can twist and interpret the Fourth Amendment. And, with Dubya's approval ratings hovering around 29%, I don't think I'm alone.

At 5/15/2006 09:21:00 PM, Blogger Scrivener said...

And now it's beginning to come out that the gov't is using its database to track phone calls by journalists at the NY Times, the Washington Post, and ABC News? I said as soon as the warantless wiretapping story broke that it would not surprise me in the least to learn that Rove was using the NSA and CIA to spy on Kerry's campaign and on the journalists reporting on the campaign. It is starting to look like I might have been right.

Let me ask you a question, rcofchs: if Hilary Clinton or another Democrat wins the next presidential election, will you continue to be untroubled by the idea that this president has set the precedent that the White House has the right to track and listen in on phone calls by every single person in the country, with absolutely no check from either the legislative or the judicial branches? Do you trust the gov't so much that you can't believe that a president with that kind of power will abuse it for political purposes? What's to stop him from using the NSA to spy on all the members of Congress and all the candidates in the midterm election? Maybe you believe that Dubya is so perfect that he would never, ever abuse such power, but remember that he isn't going to be in that office forever (no, I'm not quite ready to believe that the GOP will declare him Dictator for Life in two years, though I suspect that Rove and Cheney have spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way to do so), and remember that just because you think he's so beyond reproach doesn't mean that everyone else is so willing to trust him either. So long as he's proclaiming that he has the right to ignore more than 750 laws and that he can spy on and detain anyone he wants, I'll suspect that he's abusing that power to keep him and his friends in positions of authority.

At 5/16/2006 09:14:00 AM, Anonymous rcofchs said...

Schrivener, It looks like we have found the lowest common denominator in this debate. You hate George Bush and I hate taxes that are caused by wasteful government spending. Fortunatly for you, George Bush will be President for only two more years. I will be stuck with confiscatory taxes for much longer.

You have made many wild accusations about the Bush administration, most I have never heard. It reminds me of the hatred that was directed at Bill Clinton. I read the Wall Street Journal every day and believe if there were any merit in your claims it would appear in the WSJ. This is a paper that has published articles by Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton,John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, Wesley Clark, Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, and last but not least George Soros. One would think that this group of radical lefties would have mentioned things such as George Bush wanting to torture your child during interogation.

I am not in favor of breaking the law by anyone including George Bush or Hillary Clinton. So, until someone produces the "stained dress" I consider your allegations as hatred for your political enemies.

At 5/16/2006 11:52:00 AM, Anonymous renae (avoiding exams that need grading) said...

Not to scare anyone in this lofty group who might have ever called me, but I have made and received several phone calls from the Middle EAst since Sept 11, 2001. I would bet money that my phone is being tapped, and you all know what kind of terrorist I really am--an aesthetic terrorist.

And given that hollyc and rcofchs provided me with the actual phone that I probably used for those calls, they had better especially watch out! The road that the government builds to their house may bring a war from within that will find something illegal--even if they didn't know it was there. But don't worry--I'll fight to get you out. I still love you even when I don't agree with you.

OH, and BTW if the stained dress equals breaking the law to the extent that you will take that as evidence of some horrific crime being committed, you better watch out because the bar has been set awfully low. I hate to think what would happen to the sanctity of marriage, much less the over-crowding of prisons in this country if every single person was put on the witness stand, sworn to tell the truth, and then asked whether or not they had cheated on their spouse. And you know, experts say that simply thinking about cheating is cheating.

At 5/16/2006 12:41:00 PM, Anonymous rcofchs said...

Renea, if your phone is tapped, it would be done with a warrant. Do you think that anyone is really interested in what you or I talk about on the phone if it does not involve a terrorist threat? In Roswell, GA the city has installed cameras that take a picture of cars as they run red lights. Do you think officers are spending time looking at all the other cars that did not break the law. No, they only are interested in the law breakers, so if you do not break the law you have no worry.

Oh, and BTW it was not the stained dress or the sex that was the crime. It perjury for lying under oath. Bill Clinton only started publicly backpedalling after the dress was revealed. So, until some real evidence is produced that the law has been broken and George Bush starts saying things like "it depends on what the meaning if "is" is, I will not rush to judgement. Remember all you saviors of the constitution that one is innocent until proven guilty.

PS: I love you too, you are a wonderful smart person, we just do not agree.

At 5/16/2006 01:54:00 PM, Anonymous Renae, still avoiding those exams said...

My point exactly. HOw many people would perjure themselve rather than be caught cheating on their spouse? Probably more people than would elect to send thousands of soliders and civilians to die without long deliberation and the support of their allies.

Uh, and the whole point of this debate on wiretapping is that the government has NOT asked for warrants. And given that I have been arrested for protesting illegally they probably would come up with a good case against me. I have a record of civil disobedience, I have made calls to persons in the Middle East who have moved around the world quite a bit and I"ve been engaged in left-wing political organizations. I"m sure that's enough to consider me suspect. (But don't worry, I haven't lost a wink of sleep over it.)

And do I think the government cares about all those little things? Yes, absolutely. Information is the new gold: it can be mined for all kinds of tidbits that no one thought were interesting enough save. Put enough tidbits together and you've got a nugget big enough to arrest someone on. I bet we could find a few nuggets in your past and present life that you would just as soon keep buried.

At 5/16/2006 02:30:00 PM, Anonymous rcofchs said...

Wow, civil disobediance, arrested for illegal protesting, but you still have lost no sleep. I must confess that I once voted for a man who was a former actor that co-starred with a monkey, but at least he cut my taxes. If they come and get you, call me and I will dial into the secret nugget department and get one of my fellow rich white male friends to set you free.

At 5/16/2006 03:12:00 PM, Anonymous Renae (with some papers done) said...

YOU'VE got a secret nugget department?

I paused to give Beth time to giggle and Holly to smile.

Can I keep this as a "get out of jail free" card? If I don't get my grading done I may lose my job, start robbing my neighbors, and end up in jail. Hmmm, maybe there I will get a chance to know some of your fellow rich white males--at least the ones in politics!!! (Coming from CT that means quite a bit--on both sides of the aisle.)

At 5/16/2006 04:22:00 PM, Blogger Scrivener said...

rcfochs: You can go here and listen to the audio of John Yoo, the chief legal expert in the White House and the primary "intellectual" voice behind the unitary executive idea espoused by Samuel Alito and others, saying that neither Congress nor any power in the court system has the authority to stop the president from crushing the testicles of childen.

Gosh, you mean the Wall Street Journal failed to run a story criticizing the White House's policies regarding torture? I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you, that such a bastion of liberalism is failing to tell the story straight to the American people.

At 5/16/2006 04:26:00 PM, Blogger Scrivener said...

John Yoo, by the way, is also the guy who got promoted after he drafted, and Dubya signed, that executive order saying that the president has the authority to set aside any law whenever he feels like it and that declared that the Geneva conventions and all the treaties the US has signed promising not to engage in torture just didn't apply anymore becuase the president didn't want to follow them, and that defined torture such that you had to actually kill the person being questioned for it to count as torture.

But I'm absolutely certain that all those liberals in the media would have reported information like that. No, it just couldn't be that our government has secret torture camps set up all over the world. I'm sure someone at Fox News would tell us if that were true.

At 5/16/2006 04:31:00 PM, Blogger Scrivener said...

Any person who claims to be a libertarian but is so willing to say that the government would never abuse its police powers has got some serious ideological problems. When did libertarianism fall into being nothing but a complaint about taxation? Didn't you guys used to have a consistent set of intellectual prinicples about the kind of society you wanted to establish? Now it's just a bunch of rich white males sitting around complaining because they have to pay some taxes? Not that, despite the horrible burden of those taxes, the rich white males are doing too shabbily in our economy, by the way. Funny how even as their income skyrockets, in both real terms and in percentage terms, their complaints about having any sort of responsibility to the society that allows them to reap such windfalls only gets louder and more insistent, no?

At 5/16/2006 07:29:00 PM, Anonymous rcofchs said...

I think that the mainstream media and the Wall Street journal have not covered the remark by John Yoo because it is rediculous to think that the President would crush the testicles of children. I am not obligated to follow every position of the Libertarian party, but I am sure you would not understand as you seam to blindly follow the party of Hitlery and Der Slickmeister Clinton.

I am sorry you do not like us rich white males, because we sure have alot of fun laughing at you.


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