NSA Defines "Above the Law"

One day after the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsiblity gave up trying to investigate the National Security Agency's domestic spying program, USA Today fronted a story about how the government is amassing billions of phone call records made by tens of millions of Americans.

If there are appopriate checks and balances in place to ensure that the program and its cousins are being run legally, they are not nearly as apparent as they need to be.

The feds believe that creating and maintaining the massive data base -- without warrants issued to telephone customers or to the companies themselves -- will help them track patterns in calling behavior by terrorists within the United States. And they maintain that only the phone records, and not the substance of the calls, are being monitored. The sources in the USA Today story also note that there is some sort of oversight -- by whom or what we do not know.

All we know is that last year, the White House denied that any such warrantless intra-U.S. spying was going on at all. We know that this week, the NSA basically told the Justice Department to buzz off when it tried to undertake an investigation into the legality of the program (other investigations still are ongoing). We know that means that even within the executive branch of government, there is precious little oversight. And we know that the Senate Judiciary Committee is still hemming and hawing about pushing the Administration to better explain and justify these programs. If this week's news doesn't jolt Congress into swifter action, what will?

Meanwhile, how about those telephone companies -- AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon were the ones mentioned by USA Today -- that cooperate with the NSA in its domestic spying? Think they have some explaining to do as to why they have entered into contracts to provide the information? Think it's interesting that Qwest has reportedly refused to go along with the program? That tells me that there is no law that requires companies to provide such material to the government without even the formality of a warrant. So, why would those other companies so willingly give up their customers' privacy rights?

The USA Today story merely confirms what most of us thought anyway. That the domestic spy program is far more comprehensive and significant than we were led to believe. Now, that doesn't mean it is necessarily wrong, or undeniably illegal, it just means that an Administration that keeps telling us to trust it keeps coming up with new way to foster distrust.

By  |  May 11, 2006; 11:15 AM ET
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Just the latest outrageous thing the Administration has done. What have we come to as a nation?

Posted by: Chris | May 11, 2006 01:52 PM

"So, why would those other companies so willingly give up their customers' privacy rights?"

Money.

The article hints at just that: 'The sources said the NSA made clear that it was willing to pay for the cooperation.'

Posted by: Cap Hill, DC | May 11, 2006 01:55 PM

Remember the furor post 911? Why didn't we know about the terrorist's plans? Etc. Good intelligence takes years of sorting and filtering "meaningless" data. If it can be proven that NSA is deliberately violating the stated mission, then prosectue.

Posted by: Ro Tolar | May 11, 2006 02:03 PM

Spell check, please.

Graf 1: Responsiblity vs. Responsibility; graf 2: appopriate vs. appropriate.

Posted by: Need a copyeditor | May 11, 2006 02:08 PM

I recommend anyone who's interested in this issue check out Glenn Greenwald's article in Unclaimed Territory:

http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/05/no-need-for-congress-no-need-for.html

I agree with him that the most troubling aspect of this particular program is that it is yet another example of the Bush Administration's consolidation of the powers of all three branches of government under the executive. The balance of powers is the only thing that keeps us from becoming a dictatorship, and this is rapidly being eroded away.

Posted by: Cujo359 | May 11, 2006 02:09 PM

I am outraged (not that I am a customer of one of these companies, but I am outraged, because I am sure this is just the tip of the iceberg. I also think that the data collected, if not now, then later will be used to data mine not only terrorists and affiliates, but for other 'groups of interest' too. If they can find a pattern for terrorists they can find a pattern for ACLU members, peace activists or what ever else they see fit. A pattern emerges, that this government has no interests in our freedom or our privacy and I question that their motives are only to protect us from foreign terrorists. "TRUST US"!There was also hinted before that creditcard records are also given 'voltarily' to the goverment and we all know that our libery records are analyzed too. The combination of all this information makes us the 'glas citizen' even worse then George Orwell has ever imagined.

Posted by: Oliver | May 11, 2006 02:13 PM

Congress killed the Pentagon's Total Information Awareness program. GOP legislators DO NOT want to know about these programs because it will force them into a confrontation with their own President who has gone behind their backs and under cover to circumvent the very activity that they are on record as opposing.

Posted by: Clay | May 11, 2006 02:14 PM

When will we as a nation say "Enough is enough!"? What will it take, federal cops busting people for disagreeing with the administration in the town square? Government sanctioned book burnings? How long will Congress let the administration get away with anything it wants?

Posted by: Harry | May 11, 2006 02:19 PM

The phone companies need to face a class action suit to realize that they should not be giving away information without a subpoena to the government. Hope they have a multi-billion dollar hit on this one. And as for Bush, its becoming more and more likely that calls for impeachment will be seen as a mainstream reaction to an abuse of power and incompetence. Everyone, both Democrats and Republican, should fear that Bush's approach is not constrained and can be used to pummel anyone who resists his policies and appointments. 911 did not aboilish the need for constitutional checks and balances. Osama would be applauding Bush's national security state, because it makes the US more quasi fascist and less a democracy than it was before. It appears Osama won and our citizens lost.

Posted by: Sue the phone companies and impeach Bush | May 11, 2006 02:19 PM

Given the number of instances in which this administration has been caught abusing power, the Republicans need to do their job and do some oversight. It seems to me that the Republicans are loyal to bush not america. This country already is a dictatorship. Unfortunatly the dictator is a mentally ill dry drunk.

Posted by: Rechelle | May 11, 2006 02:26 PM

I must say this is not surprising and is utterly frightening. This is most assuradely being used to track those the government sees as undesirable, such as environmentalists, animal rights activists and anti-war groups. You are still free to say what you want in this country but you are certainly subject to consequences if the NSA deems your words "troubling."

Posted by: You | May 11, 2006 02:27 PM

Searching for patterns to find terrorists?

Please, can someone tell me how the pattern may be different between members of a terrorist cell planning an attack and, say, five or six friends calling each other to plan a camping trip for next weekend?

Posted by: corbett | May 11, 2006 02:28 PM

This is unbelievable! We have a pattern now of lies, half truths, deceit, and corruption on a scale that defies the imagination. And, now, if we are to believe what we read, we find that the Whitehouse is filled with sexual perverts, headed by Karl Rove, too! It's time to run these scumbags out. I may not like the Democrats much, but I sure as hell aren't going to take any more of this from the Republican's.

Posted by: Mike | May 11, 2006 02:31 PM

This is probably the most horrible and decitful act by our President and his administration and the telephone companies. But please note the recent TV ads by ATT saying that ATT is a reliable and totally honest company which can be trusted and follows very nobel and high values. What lies they publically declare!

Posted by: Gus | May 11, 2006 02:33 PM

I am outraged too. Outraged at people who consider this effort an outrage. Outraged at all those of you who hate George Bush so much that you would put the well-being of this country beneath your need to hate. Creating this database doesn't bother me, nor does it seem to violate law or constitution. Monitoring calls made in this country to or from international locations (numbers) of known al Qaeda members is likewise not against the law nor the consitution. I understand you think we should hang up on those calls -- which I why I would never vote for anyone who advocates your position. You are the reason we were attacked and the reason we would never triumph against those who want to kill us. You are far too willing to submit to any risk as a way of expressing your hate towards all things Bush - well, I see your hate and raise you one.

Posted by: Crook in CO | May 11, 2006 02:34 PM

Qwest didn't cooperate because it hasn't been on an acquisition/consolidation spree like the other companies - they needed govt good will to get these mergers approved, and Qwest didn't.

Posted by: timbnyc | May 11, 2006 02:34 PM

If the Republicans don't shut this one down then they should ALL be voted out and if that does not happen, they should all be impeached for at best negligence and at worst treason.

Posted by: gfergy@aol.com | May 11, 2006 02:35 PM

Funny how this latest furor has erupted, when this program was reported late last year by the New York Times - among other news sources. I guess USA Today has now become the paper of record and nobody pays attention to the Times.

And btw, the Justice Department probe that was dropped today was not looking into the legality of the NSA wiretapping issue. It was solely attempting to determine whether any Justice Department lawyers had violated their professional/ethical obligations as government lawyers.

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 02:36 PM

Oh and do you have a link to where the Administration "denied that any such warrantless intra-U.S. spying was going on at all."

I'd be interested to see what was actually said, versus your characterization of it.

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 02:37 PM

Crook in Colorado is aptly named... birds of a feather indeed flock together.

Posted by: Jim J | May 11, 2006 02:37 PM

"I'd be interested to see what was actually said, versus your characterization of it."

No, you wouldn't, 31-percenter. You aren't interested in anything but propping up your failed president.

Posted by: Jim J | May 11, 2006 02:39 PM

The Truth is Top secret!

Posted by: MH | May 11, 2006 02:39 PM

It sounds like all the phone companies except Qwest have violated the law. Where do I sign up for the big class-action lawsuit that runs these freedom-hating companies into the ground?

Posted by: galt@eskimo.com | May 11, 2006 02:40 PM

I wonder how many members of the senate and the house of representives have had their phone lines taped, they should be looking over their shoulder.First they came for the ?

Posted by: Andre | May 11, 2006 02:40 PM

Andrew Cohen almost makes it sound like the problem with the program is that they might be actually listening to the calls. Perhaps he is unaware that these three phone companies are breaking the law (Section 222 of the 1934 Communications Act ) simply by turning over phone records without a warrant.

Posted by: Private citizen | May 11, 2006 02:42 PM

I for one am never going to trust one of these companies again for my telecommuncation needs. Sign me up for the first class action
lawsuit filed. This situation is reprehensible.

Posted by: bill | May 11, 2006 02:42 PM

So now that a government agency has all this stuff, why can't we get it with a FOIA request?

Let's start out with how many times somene at Abramoff's place called a certain limousine service .... how many times the limousine service called a certain escort service ...

Posted by: Bob | May 11, 2006 02:43 PM

I have a question for "Crook in CO". Terrorists might want guns, so it might be a good idea for the NSA to compile a database of all gun owners in the US. Would THAT be OK with you?

Posted by: Cabin John | May 11, 2006 02:45 PM

I love you too Jim. Although you seem a little bitter for a 69%'er.

Anyway, can anyone actually answer the question?

I took a look back at Attorney General Gonzales testimony after the original NSA leak, and he pretty clearly says he's not going to talk about other activities beyond the specific program that was leaked. Transcript here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/06/AR2006020600931.html

for those of whatever % who might be interested.

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 02:48 PM

oh my god paranoid echo chamber rants anybody? "oh they're tracking environmentalists, aclu activists, blah blah blah"

stop being obtuse.

Posted by: james | May 11, 2006 02:48 PM

Just simply rediculous. I am amazed at the fact that we are letting them get away with this. I suggest we go camp on the WH lawn like we did with the last Dick. Whos with me?

Posted by: jason | May 11, 2006 02:49 PM

You Americans sure complain alot but you never do anything.

I hope you find a leader soon.

Posted by: loran | May 11, 2006 02:50 PM

For years I have been annoyed at the Democratic party (though I lean toward some of their positions), and especially the last 6 years been too suspicious about the Republican party's leanings to even consider them a party to which one should affiliate themselves. So, I'm non-partisan, and Independent -- and don't think you can lump me in to the "Bush hater" crowd that people like Crook in CO refers to.

What I can't believe is that this type of lying and misinformation by our President and those that work for him can somehow be justified or supported by anyone -- this is so clearly overstepping privacy thresholds in a democratic country. No court would ever allow millions of home inspections, or millions of random car searches "just looking" for suspicious patterns....

Those that think that such activities are doing "good" and contributing toward making progress in "protecting" our country should read the many GAO reports that show how little progress has been made since Sept. 11, 2001 -- don't fool yourselves. Take this President and this Congress to task for not doing a better job, DESPITE their many new survellience programs and the expenditure of billions and billions of dollars.

What a shame. Our country should be doing better than this.

Posted by: Ask the NSA | May 11, 2006 02:52 PM

This is really serious folks. Here's what can happen:

When the WH wants to know who leaked to a reporter, just call the NSA to get the phone records.

When Karl Rove wants to find out what a democratic advisor is up to, check his phone records.

When Dick Cheney wants to know how a reporter found out about secret prisons in Europe, call the NSA and ask for her phone records.

Want to get some dirt on a democratic senator, get his or her phone records and see who they have been talking to. Maybe it will be someone other than a spouse.

If you do not think this information will be abused, or has not been abused, think again. Its way too tempting to see who Hillary is talking to when a big vote is coming up. America is no longer America. It is somthing else now. The government can now control us instead of us controlling it.

Posted by: Sully | May 11, 2006 02:53 PM

George W. Bush has become a bigger threat to this country than any 50 Osama bin Ladens. OBL and his cohorts may kill some Americans but it is Bush and his toadies who are destroying the core principles of liberty, due process and separation of powers that have always enabled us to find path to a better society.

I'm grateful that at last even conservatives are realizing this president is a liar and a fool and that no day of his administration passes without more damage being done to our national character and reputation.

Maybe this latest NSA story will be the final straw. In the meantime, consider boycotting any phone company that does not follow the example set by Quest.

Posted by: ETM | May 11, 2006 02:55 PM

Sully,

And imagine if we have an independent counsel investigating the outing of a CIA agent. The IC could subpoena the reporters and compel their testimony by jailing them. And subpoena their phone records as well. And do all that in a quest to investigate what now appears not to have been a crime.

May I assume you were equally upset by that abuse of power?

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 02:58 PM

The Constitution is dangling over a paper shredder. I sincerely hope that this is the last wake-up call the citizens of this country needs to finally see how corrupt and dishonest this adminstration is and how inept and ineffective the Congressional majority truly is. Yes, the Democrats have their share of problems, but the current adminstration along with the Congressional majority are destroying this nation and need to be held accountable. The 2006 mid-terms is our only chance to oust this miserable Congress and lessen the impact of this self-serving, arrogant administration. Enough is enough!

Posted by: CC | May 11, 2006 03:00 PM

So can anyone point me to the "lie"?

Here's what Gonzales said in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee:

"Before going any further, I should make clear what I can discuss today. I am here to explain the department's assessment that the president's terrorist surveillance program is consistent with our laws and the Constitution.

I'm not here to discuss the operational details of that program or any other classified activity.

The president has described the terrorist surveillance program in response to certain leaks, and my discussion in this open forum must be limited to those facts the president has publicly confirmed: nothing more.

Many operational details of our intelligence activities remain classified and unknown to our enemy. And it is vital that they remain so."

Anyone hearing that had to assume there were other programs which were not being disclosed. Is the failure to disclose them a lie?

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 03:00 PM

The New York Sun is not my favorite source for news or insight. However, the Sun ran a long story in February about how the Department of Justice is using Patriot Act provisions to prosecute crimes unrelated to terrorism.

http://www.nysun.com/article/28232

DOJ rolled a Federal magistrate in Florida who wouldn't give them a warrant for a nationwide search for a non-terrorism crime. From the Sun story:
""The statutory language is clear and unambiguous in limiting district court authority to issue out-of-district warrants to investigations of terrorism, and that language controls this court's interpretation. The government has shown no legislative intent to the contrary," the magistrate wrote. He also noted that many of the examples given during legislative debate involved terrorism. The then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, described the nationwide-search language as applying in terrorism cases, the court noted.

"Magistrate Glazebrook denied the search warrant, but it was recently disclosed that the government appealed to a federal judge, G. Kendall Sharp, who granted it without explanation."

Maybe the government will now check on all phone calls to and from Washington Post reporters who write articles about secret CIA prisons. What's to hold them back at this point?




Posted by: stellar | May 11, 2006 03:01 PM

Getting back to basics:

Does anyone realize the amount of computer storage and computing power it would take to maintain such a database(s) ? I would question the degree this data mining is going to and compare it to reality. This is not Oz and the NSA is not the Wizard. Current technology prohibits what this suggests.

Posted by: JLemon | May 11, 2006 03:08 PM

It's so vogue to hate our government now. So many Americans ooze fear that they are loosing their rights and the police state is just around the corner ready to pounce on any personal freedom that pokes it's head up from the ground.

Honestly people pull your heads out of the sand. The government has more important things to concern itself with than squashing the next ACLU uprising. To pan gold you have to sift through mountains of dirt. The dirt is just that, dirt. Nothing useful or interesting. The bulk of the information collected is filtered by software created by people far smarter than you. The flagged data is reviewed by people far more intelligent than you and examined again by those with more information about current terrorist activities than any news agency will EVER know about.

Let the people do their jobs, what else would they have in mind other than the best interests of the country.

Your rights will never be squashed because the American people will not allow it. It's clear that we are willing to stand up and fight for our rights when there is evidence of injustice, but pick the fights that mean something. Don't fight because it's the "in" thing to do today.

Prove that something has been wrongly done to you. Prove that you have lost some freedom, or been denied something specific. Tell the people of our country and the people of our country will stand behind you. Until then I say let the protectors of our country have what they need to do the job.

Posted by: Hubbub | May 11, 2006 03:09 PM

oh for god's sake simmer down. there is a difference between listening to phone calls and tracking phone calls, and there is a difference between tracking individual phone calls within the united states and tracking where clusters of calls are placed from pakistan or afghanistan or wherever.. it's one way of tracking down terror cells when the only intelligence organization able by law to operate within the us makes the CIA look like the picture of competence (this would be the fbi).

why don't you read exactly what's going on, and think about the differences between your orson wells nightmare scenarios and what is actually happening.

and hope the steps being taken now are doing a good job, because after another large-scale terrorist attack on american soil, you can bet we won't be arguing if it's "constitutional" that calls from terrorist cells into the united states and vice versa are being analyzed.

Posted by: james | May 11, 2006 03:10 PM

What worries me is that three weeks from now the poll results are going to come in to the question, "Do you think the administration should be allowed to wiretap suspected Al Quaeda members?" The country will be split along the middle. Members of Congress are going to read the results, and the issue will disappear. And they'll turn towards the central issue: three dollar gas. Hate to sound cynical, but....

Posted by: jrb | May 11, 2006 03:12 PM

You want a lie? Here:
"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires - a wiretap requires a court order."
- George W. Bush, April 20, 2004, Buffalo, New York

Posted by: John Warner | May 11, 2006 03:17 PM

"fascist" is generally meant to mean "oppressive," "intolerant," "chauvinist," or "aggressive," all concepts that are at least loosely inspired by the ideology of actual fascism. For example, one might accuse an inconviently placed police road block as being a "fascist tactic" or an overly authoritarian teacher as being a "real fascist." George Bush is this and more .We need a revolution to get OUR COUNTRY back fron our unelected so called leaders

Posted by: Andre | May 11, 2006 03:18 PM

I do not fall for the party line that military action is normal. In my view, murder is not OK. Nor is murder and/or war an appropriate policy instrument for a nation whose integrity and reputation are founded on democratic ideals. In documented fact, Rumsfeld and Cheney sold Saddam all the chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction he ever possessed. The current administration is composed of criminals, some of whom were pardoned by Bush I. Their actions have been criminal as has the so-called "war" in Iraq. This president has lied to Congress, as has his vice-president, a violation of Title 18, sect. 1001, U.S. Code. He has violated his oath of office to protect the Constitution through enactment of the "Patriot" Act, which cancels the Bill of Rights for those whom he declares to be terrorists or supporters of terrorism. Under this administration, the US has violated the Geneva Accords and even broken the rules of the Nuremburg trials. Worse, in our name he has sanctioned the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, Afghanis, and over twenty-five hundred American family members who died in the service of their country for NO GOOD REASON. This phone tapping is merely the latest in a long list of lies. That there is no shame in making huge and unaccountable profits from these military actions is consistent with the quality of character of those whose decisions brought our service men and women to their deaths FOR NO GOOD REASON. There is nothing to debate. These are criminal acts, perpetrated by criminals. Worse, they strengthen our enemies and weaken our economic and moral foundations. Are Americans going crazy?
Can they overlook murder and dictatorial powers? Where is the outrage from the religious leaders? Where is the courage of the "free press"? If you all can accept murder in your name FOR NO GOOD REASON, then this is not the America I believe in, this is no longer the America with a future. Evil begets its own downfall, and sooner or later, everybody will know everything. Bush's secrets will not be kept long.

Posted by: martin weiss | May 11, 2006 03:21 PM

You are right to be cynical, jrb. This administration is empowered by the willful ignorance of so many people in this country who just want to believe that our liberties are somehow guaranteed by Providence and do not need to be protected at all times.

Still, the majority seem to be waking up now.

Posted by: ETM | May 11, 2006 03:22 PM

Getting Back To Basics
A 250GB hard drive (available from TigerDirect for $69.95) could hold 250 bytes of information (from,to,time,duration) on a billion phone calls. Do you think the NSA can afford $69.95?

Posted by: John Warner | May 11, 2006 03:22 PM

AMENDMENT I (It was at the top of the list of the founders of this nation!)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

(Notice that it addresses Congress creating laws. They didn't envision an out-of-control EXECUTIVE having that role.)

This program CLEARLY allows Big Brother to keep watch over the right to freely assemble or petition for redress of grievances against an unpopular government. An unaccountable government could even use the data to intefere with the exercise of church members who simply use the telephone to try to organize.

SPEAK UP, AMERICA! You're NEXT!

One way to do it: There's already a class-action lawsuit. Become involved!!!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.

AT&T Corp. maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans' telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.

The lawsuit alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers' communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit's class members.

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte "Daytona" database of caller information -- one of the largest databases in the world. Moreover, by opening its network and databases to wholesale surveillance by the NSA, EFF alleges that AT&T has violated the privacy of its customers and the people they call and email, as well as broken longstanding communications privacy laws.

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T continues to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of Americans. EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government's domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public.

The United States government filed a "Statement of Interest" announcing that it plans this Friday (tomorrow) to "assert the military and state secrets privilege" and "intervene to seek dismissal" of the case.

Apparently, illegal activity must remain a state secret?

Much of the evidence in the case is currently under seal, as AT&T claims public release of the documents would expose trade secrets. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for May 17th.

Posted by: OUTRAGED | May 11, 2006 03:23 PM

Thanks John.

For folks interested, that's from a speech on the Patriot Act. Here's the surrounding context:

"So the first thing I want you to think about is, when you hear Patriot Act, is that we changed the law and the bureaucratic mind-set to allow for the sharing of information. It's vital. And others will describe what that means.

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

But a roving wiretap means -- it was primarily used for drug lords. A guy, a pretty intelligence drug lord would have a phone, and in old days they could just get a tap on that phone. So guess what he'd do? He'd get him another phone, particularly with the advent of the cell phones. And so he'd start changing cell phones, which made it hard for our DEA types to listen, to run down these guys polluting our streets. And that changed, the law changed on -- roving wiretaps were available for chasing down drug lords. They weren't available for chasing down terrorists, see? And that didn't make any sense in the post-9/11 era. If we couldn't use a tool that we're using against mobsters on terrorists, something needed to happen.

The Patriot Act changed that. So with court order, law enforcement officials can now use what's called roving wiretaps, which will prevent a terrorist from switching cell phones in order to get a message out to one of his buddies."

And in the context of the Patriot Act, the President is correct that wiretaps do require a court order.

Although I guess Bush shouldn't have assumed that the government wouldn't have to "talk about" top-secret NSA and other national security related programs which every President has used without court orders.

Any quotes related to the latest leak and the "lies" that preceeded it?

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 03:23 PM

Andre, do you really think that our country's foundation is supported by a man whos job lasts 4 years, 8 at best? This thinking that if you remove the president then all will be right and good is just more "vogue hate".

The president is a temporary employee of the people. Removing him only wipes off the desk. Everything in the file cabinet is still there. Stop running with the other lemming and come up with an original thought about current topics.

Posted by: Hubbub | May 11, 2006 03:26 PM

Vote with your feet, people. I'm a soon-to-be-ex-BellSouth customer. If corporations want to rollover to this fascist, they're going to have to start paying a price.

Posted by: amg | May 11, 2006 03:27 PM

Yeah everybody, simmer down. There's a difference between rule of law and rule by executive fiat, but our little terrorized minds have forgotten what it is, so it can't be that important. Relax, we're "conservatives", so it's okay.

(Just what it is conservatives "conserve" is beyond me anyway, unless maybe it's the effort of thinking.)

"Do you think the administration should be allowed to wire-tap al Quaeda members" is a question for a *court* dumbkopf, about a specific case, not a general question to the public, nor a policy matter for the executive branch.

Posted by: | May 11, 2006 03:27 PM

Sometimes, I wonder if the Constitution is even worth the paper it's written on. Thank you, George Bush, for yet another violation of the Bill of Rights. I've opposed the rumblings of impeachment up to this moment, but now I believe it's time to seriously consider it.

Posted by: Robert Westerman Jr. | May 11, 2006 03:29 PM

Mr Warner

With indexing and cross referrencing, etc, you are talking terebytes beyond readability.

Posted by: JLemon | May 11, 2006 03:30 PM

this is all outrageous, people say. however, when 9/11 hit people were outraged at why the US didn't know it was going to happen, etc, etc etc.

hopefully we never have another attack, that's why these measures are implemented.

but it seems to me that people are forgetting the not so far back past.


also, there's been data collection going on for years, with echelon and carnivore etc etc.

this isn't the first admin to collect info on people. its been happening for decades. get with it people, learn your history. be outraged that people are protesting at fallen soldier's funerals, not at the measures that the govt takes to make sure we are safe in our suburbia cocoons.

Posted by: no-one | May 11, 2006 03:31 PM

This is obviously illegal!

Please see:
US CODE 2703 TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 121 > Section (c)(2)(C)
Required disclosure of customer communications or records

http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode18/usc_sec_18_00002703----000-.html

Posted by: MySoCalledRights | May 11, 2006 03:32 PM

Does anyone want to start a rally against the big phone companies that are doing this, instead of complaining on line? Not enough people read this website, just those that may share the same opinion. We need to make our voices heard and not our words scrolled over. If more people knew about this maybe there would be a mass change of phone companies. I would rather support a company (Qwest) that keeps my info safe, than pay my verizon bill and have them dish out my info like its candy at holloween.

And not only that, but we should write letters to our phone companies and tell them to cut it out, or I am switching.

I cant do this alone, I need more people to get involved. I will set up an email address that can be reached so that we can communicate. We need to organize, and not be so spread thin on this huge internet.

Posted by: mcp | May 11, 2006 03:33 PM

Let's see, Osama Bin Ladin overtly threatens us to kill us all. He says very very clearly that he hates America and pretty much everybody else on the planet. So, in essence we know where he stands vis-a-vis us, and hence we can work to protect ourselves and hopefully some day knock him off.

Bush overtly promises to protect us from the likes of Osama Bin Ladin. He says very very clearly that he loves America. So, we bless him with the powers to lead and control us. He covertly trashes our freedom to protect it, covertly saves Iraq by destroying it, covertly glorifies the sacrifies of soldiers and tax dollars in Iraq war by continuing the war.

So, which enemy is more deadly.

Osama Bin Ladin who is overtly and voilently wants to get rid of you. He is a wolf dressed as a wolf.

OR

Bush who covertly and lovingly wants to get rid of you in the name of protecting you. He is a wolf dressed as a sheep.

Posted by: s6m98 from CA | May 11, 2006 03:34 PM

I'm starting to see a pattern here - When John Roberts was nominated to the Supreme Court and a bunch of records were found that showed him to be a corrupt racist, they Whitehouse lawyer's appeared at the National Archieves to "review" those records and stole them. At HUD, a businessman who was flat out asked if he supported Bush and stated he detested the man, lost his contract. We get Cheney and Bush touting flatbed trucks as mobile WMD labs when they knew full well they were not. We get critics of the administration like Mr. WIlson's wife destroyed, people with children in the military suddenly finding them transferred to front line units (my son!), people with very odd and sudden tax audits, etc. We had domestic spying, we read today about NSA gathering information about telephone calls, medical records, credit records (these later two will be reported in the days to come) and other information about ordinary American's. And, James, they are collecting information about YOUR gun ownership and Attorney Genral Rodriguez was asked by the WHitehouse and has issued an opinion that citizens DO NOT have a constitutional right to own firearms, and we actually can see U.S. intelligence operatives reading these very posts and other online forums, tracing posteers name, email addresses. and other information. Where, indeed, does it all end? It is time to get rid of Bush, impeach him and Cheney and Roberts, and all the rest of this crowd, undo all of the insane tax cuts, "Homeland Security" laws, and all of the rest, wipe the slate clean and start over. I'll admit it, I voted for Bush. I actually believed the propaganda from that little pervert Rove, that Bush was a Christian and moral man, and not an utterly ruthless dictator wannabe. Oh how I regret that vote. Let this be a notice, however, to every Republican, every Democrat, we want Bush out of office, we want him impeached, and we will not tolerate him going onto retirement and a Presidential library. We want this SOB in prison for the rest of his life.

Posted by: Mike Brooks | May 11, 2006 03:35 PM

Dear Hubbub:

So you say the bulk of the information is being collected "by people far smarter than you" and then is reviewed "by people far more intelligent than you..."

Yessiree, I feel so much better with your reassurance. These are the same people who scrambled around like clueless chickens in a barnyard while thousands whom they had been sworn to protect died a few blocks from where I live.

I will give you this much of your argument, though, Hubbub: Those "intelligent" people to whom you refer ARE probably far smarter than YOU.

Posted by: OUTRAGED | May 11, 2006 03:35 PM

I have a simple question for Crook in CO and Hubbub: Would you still think all of this was ok if Hillary was president?

Remember, what Bush does sets the precendent for all who assume the job in the future. If he enlarges the power of the president it stays enlarged for future presidents unless Congress and the courts fight really hard to take those new powers away. History has shown that power between the branches of government does shift but only slowly over much time.

Posted by: A reader in TN | May 11, 2006 03:38 PM

It's time for impeachment ... should be the first order of business if the democrats win back the house and senate.

These people don't know how to tell the truth ... and they shouldn't be leading anything (especially a democracy) if they can't figure out how to do this.

Posted by: Bob | May 11, 2006 03:41 PM

Impeach.

Posted by: Cincinnatus | May 11, 2006 03:42 PM

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T for its illegal collaboration with the domestic spying program on 1/31/2006. See the details here: http://www.eff.org/legal/cases/att/. You can support their causes by joining and becoming a member.

Posted by: Redwoodgirl | May 11, 2006 03:42 PM

Re: Crook in CO

Crook, your diatribe reveals a betrayal of the fundamental values that this nation stands for. It is time for true patriots - those who uphold the liberal values that made this nation great - to call BS on fascist apologia. The term "traitor" is bandied about carelessly by right-wing militarists - perhaps it is time to apply it to those who disregard our democratic values and advocate dictatorship.

Posted by: Can see through right-wing BS | May 11, 2006 03:43 PM

People keep wondering when will Congress step in. I say the time for that is well past due. It's time for Americans - you, me, her, them, us - to do something. Compare this generation to other past generations and there is a thick characterization we'll never shake when the history is written - lazy, complacent and comfortable. When will people as Americans finally stand up to this? I don't see any action from the media, from our elected officials, and from every day common folk.

We need to demand answers from the people we elected, well ... not exactly but that's a whole other can of worms, and reorganize this massive mess - they answer to us not the other way around. Let's wake up, America.

Posted by: MDR | May 11, 2006 03:43 PM

Mr. Cohen,
Since I believe you are a lawyer, or have access to one at the Post, perhaps you can get a question answered for me. I am a Verizon customer. Since this information was obtained without a warrent and ilegally under Oregon State law (where I live) and likely under federal law, where can I go to sue the snot out of Verizon for abusing my right to privacy?

Posted by: Mike Brooks | May 11, 2006 03:44 PM

OUTRAGED, Let me guess, that was Bush's fault? He should have been taping phone calls and collecting communication data from everyone in america to prevent it...oh wait, that's what we're all so angry about now. Well hell, stop it we might discover "OUTRAGED" is a member of mensa.

Posted by: Hubbub | May 11, 2006 03:49 PM

Hubtub Bet the German people did't see it coming but it did and it did not take long for it to happen. It was just the little things that they let go by

Posted by: Andre | May 11, 2006 03:54 PM

AT&T and Verizon are also ISP's. How is a phone number that I dial different than a website that I look at? I'm not much on conspiracy theories and Big Brother paranioa, but as the revelations continue to trickle out about the intelligence gathering going on by this administration, internet activity transcripts (despite the enormous amount of data they would generate) don't seem that far-fetched.

Posted by: Ed | May 11, 2006 03:54 PM

Terrorists kill people. Bush attacks our liberties. Give me liberty or give me death.

Posted by: Ernie Kent | May 11, 2006 03:56 PM

All I gotta say is vote in November.
Does not have to be Dem or Republican but a candidate who will hold the Executive Branch accountable...

The American people get what they deserve

Posted by: Texas Jones | May 11, 2006 03:56 PM

Most of the Republicans in Congress are Bush toadies. Their loyalty is to the success of their party's power grabs, not to the Constitution.

If we are going to once again protect liberty and the rule of law in the U.S., we must vote in a radically altered Senate and House in 2006 and a President comitted to civil liberties in 2008.

Today's Democrats are not the best we could hope for, but they are a lot better than what we have now. Until the Republican party reforms, go Democratic.

Posted by: ETM | May 11, 2006 03:56 PM


Isn't it time for Congress to repeal the Patriot Act and start all over? Get it right, be specific, remove any loophole that W can wiggle his way....

While doing that, start real oversight, Congress.

Posted by: Constitutional Patriot | May 11, 2006 03:59 PM

'The right of the people to be secure in their ...papers...against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated.'
I don't understand understand how you can say that this type of action isn't 'undeniably illegal'. The text of the fourth amendment seems extremely clear to me.

Posted by: RicSF | May 11, 2006 03:59 PM

It's time to reduce or eliminate all funding for the NSA. But I'm not sure congress has the backbone.

Posted by: Doug | May 11, 2006 04:00 PM

Just to address the people who think these phone calls being investigated only cover international calls to suspected terrorists:

The records are for TENS of millions of americans. That means they cover the phone records of 5-10% of Americans! Do you really think 5-10% of Americans are calling overseas to suspected terrorists?

J

Posted by: jup | May 11, 2006 04:01 PM

Basically its seems that NSA is creating a pen registry (i.e., every # called from) for every phone # in the USA. If so, on an individual basis, although the President asserts that the gov't is not listening to every call, whenever a gov't agency w/ access to this information decides it needs to it can then pull up all that information and find out just what #'s that individual called, and who those #'s called as well. Given that reverse phonebooks are public domain, it takes very little time to identify ever person you ever called.

Posted by: Mike, NYC | May 11, 2006 04:01 PM

Andre,

That brings to mind the old quip about how fascism is always descending on America but manages to land in Europe.

You do understand that European intelligence services have much more extensive and invasive monitoring of domestic activities. Just take a look at the recent reporting about the London bombings and how the authorities knew in advance about telephone calls from the bombers to suspect numbers in Pakistan, but didn't have enough information and/or manpower to follow up.

One can hope that the data mining efforts by the NSA will permit more focused follow-up where necessary.

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 04:02 PM

RicSF,

The key bit is "unreasonable" and the Supreme Court's interpretations of that term. In addition, the court has limited the application of the 4th Amendment to national security activities (contrasted with criminal investigations).

So you may think it should be plainly illegal, but it is by no means as straightforward as you assert that it is, in fact, illegal.

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 04:07 PM

Hubbub:

As I said, I have to view that horrible pit that was once the WTC almost every day. Go ahead and stoop to trying to smear me as some liberal elite. I'll PROUDLY wear that badge as an AMERICAN who's obviously more concerned about traitorous conduct than you.

I am an American citizen who is no more reassured by my government spying on ME than I am by a government that -- TO THIS DAY -- can't seem to figure out how to secure our OWN BORDERS or even inspect potential WMD's from simply being shipped into our own ports.

Go ahead and try engaging in a battle of wits if you wish, Hubbub. You're half way there.

Posted by: OUTRAGED | May 11, 2006 04:07 PM

NOW will Congress finally investigate? I mean how much more has to come out before they are shamed into doing their job?

Washington Post please do a follow-up on the phone companies who so willingly gave up private information about their customers (I am a BellSouth customer).

Posted by: pmorlan | May 11, 2006 04:07 PM

IMPEACH!

Posted by: OUTRAGED | May 11, 2006 04:08 PM

This is not Europe this is my America and we need to be protected not spyed on

Posted by: Andre | May 11, 2006 04:08 PM

Everyone call your senators and congressmen and stop this secret information gathering, what Bush is doing is the same thing that Hitler did when he consolidated all branches of government into the office of homeland security or SS as it was called then. We all know how that ended. It's not like we can trust these people as they are compulsive liars, I think even well meaning republicans are starting to see that now.

Posted by: Marko | May 11, 2006 04:09 PM

Hubbub said "Prove that something has been wrongly done to you. Prove that you have lost some freedom, or been denied something specific. Tell the people of our country and the people of our country will stand behind you. Until then I say let the protectors of our country have what they need to do the job."

This reminded me of a little passage I once read:
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
Pastor Martin Niemöller

Posted by: Kaessa | May 11, 2006 04:12 PM

JLemon: You, sir, are an idiot. You really think that a relational database of this size is beyong our reach? What do you work in, level one support?

I direct you to this: http://www.informationweek.com/story/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=17701611

'France Telecom topped the list of big decision-support databases with its 29.2-terabyte data warehouse, followed by AT&T and SBC Communications'

Please, go back to your A+ book, schmuck.

Posted by: Colin Longhurst | May 11, 2006 04:12 PM

Yippy. We have now officially reached the explicit Hitler comparison stage.

Things can only get more enlightening from here.

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 04:15 PM

Dbett: While being an apologist for the government is certainly a popular job, I think most people are stunned at your credulity. I guess, according to you, we should just trust Bush to do the right thing.

I mean, who cares if he 'technically' is breaking the law. I mean, laws are for CITIZENS, not the President, right?

'It's a fact that reality has a well-known liberal bias.'

Posted by: Colin Longhurst | May 11, 2006 04:17 PM

No to compare Bush to Hitler is a insult

to Hilter

Posted by: Andre | May 11, 2006 04:17 PM

Can anyone seriously believe that the executive, having seized power through means fair or foul (mostly foul) will ever relinquish it? The "signing statements" and the spying capabilities set in place by this administration will be available to whoever next occupies the White House - and they will find it irresistible.

We have become a banana republic; run by thugs for the benefit of the landlords.

South America must be smiling.

Posted by: ModeratelyInterested | May 11, 2006 04:19 PM

Let's not use Hitler analogies. Bush is no Hitler, just a remakably incompetent and ignorant fool.

We, the American people, deserve the criticism for putting him in office, especially for a second time, since it has always been obvious that he has little going on above his neck.

In 2006, we can all but end his reign of incompetence. Let's do so.

Posted by: ETM | May 11, 2006 04:22 PM

It does not surprise me in the least that the Bush administration has been less than honest regarding NSA domestic surveillance programs. I may not be the brightest crayon in the box, but I have not believed anything touted by the Bush Administration since the President was appointed to his first term by the Supreme Court, without investigating the details independently. This is not rocket science, just basic civics. The Executive Branch is out of control and the Republican-controlled Congress is afraid to speak out against Bush or to take any action to impeach an incompetent, criminal leader. The best action for the people to take is to VOTE in the mid-Term elections and seek a phone service provider who will not sell its customers records to the highest bidder or in exchange for some cushy government approval of its latest merger.

Posted by: Mountain Mama | May 11, 2006 04:25 PM

Mountain Mama wrote: "It does not surprise me in the least that the Bush administration has been less than honest regarding NSA domestic surveillance programs."

Perhaps the fact that they are top secret might have something to do with it as well.

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 04:30 PM

Andre wrote: "No to compare Bush to Hitler is a insult

to Hilter"

A good illustration of why the Democrats have such an uphill battle taking advantage the Republican's incredible weaknesses in the run up to the 2006 elections.

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 04:32 PM

JLemmon: Storage is a non-issue.

As Mr Warner noted, 250 bytes per phone call (way excessive) means a billion calls on a $70 250GB disk. Let's assume indexes blow the size up by a factor of 16 (more than I can imagine) - now we're at 4 terrabytes. There's more storage than that in a cube near my office, never mind down the hall in the server room, and I'm at a pretty small company.

Now, a billion calls is not enough. My quick and dirty estimation says around 10 billion calls a year, so say for the last 10 years, 400 terrabytes, at the very outside. I could put that together if I had a reason to. On NSA scales, it's trivial.

Posted by: 2Short | May 11, 2006 04:32 PM

$500 fines are due to the U.S. government, if I recall correctly, for each telephone call made in violation of the Do_Not_Call rules. How about it, FCC (or whichever agency is in charge of Do_Not_Call enforcement), you want to do a good deed and take in a big bundle of cash? Put this NSA telephone call data base to some good use! Find those calls from commercial telemarketers to numbers registered on the Do_Not_Call list! Thoughts, anybody? :-)

Posted by: batmansion | May 11, 2006 04:33 PM

Hey Crook, I have a question for you and all the "CROOKS" in Washington, if we cannot close or patrol our borders and allow millions of illegals into this country, not knowing where they come from, if they have a criminal record, if there terriorist etc., then exactly what are those phone numbers of millions of americans going to do for our safety! I for one would rather know who is being allowed into this country as opposed to who ordered KFC last night! This whole group including Bush and Cheney need to be ran out of town on a rail! There are laws to take care of this and it's called THE CONSTITUTION, except Bush cannot read so it's not important to him, and Cheney well he said it was simply a Piece of Paper. I hope every politician in Washington is voted out of office this November and we start fresh, at least maybe that way Bush can't do anymore damage to our country for the next couple of years! Sadly there are still people out there like Crook, who thinks these guys are better then sliced bread! Go figure! Thanks Sue F

Posted by: Sue F | May 11, 2006 04:34 PM

Colin Longhurst,

Not sure where I said we should simply trust Bush and the NSA. Although unlike some in this thread I do trust them to look out for my interests more than Osama Bin Laden.

As for the rest, I'll let my actual responses - rather than your characterization of my motives - speak for themselves.

Beyond that, a couple of points for people to keep in mind:

(1) Congressional leaders from both parties have almost certainly been briefed on this program numerous times.

(2) The lawyers for all the telecoms (except Quest) were satisfied that the fed's requests were lawful.

Posted by: dbett | May 11, 2006 04:35 PM

dbett wrote:
"And imagine if we have an independent counsel investigating the outing of a CIA agent. The IC could subpoena the reporters and compel their testimony by jailing them. And subpoena their phone records as well. And do all that in a quest to investigate what now appears not to have been a crime. May I assume you were equally upset by that abuse of power?"

Hmmm, you are comparing warrantless NSA evasdropping and warrantless review of any American's phone records with subpoenaed documements in the investigation of a specific potential crime refered to the IC by the Justice Department. Do you see that there is no comparison? The first is an unconstitutional abuse of power and breaks existing laws. The second is constitutionally sound since a subpoena is a writ issued by court authority and thus has oversight.

Posted by: Sully | May 11, 2006 04:39 PM

Re: hubbub's comment "The government has more important things to concern itself with than squashing the next ACLU uprising."

That's what the average Fred in the street thought before Joe Stalin put them in a the gulag without evidence, a trial or even a pizza.

Guess where you're going if they don't like you?

And don't forget the accent when spelling Guantánamo on your postcards to civilization!

Posted by: Papa Joe | May 11, 2006 04:46 PM

Hey dbett,

For your point about Congressmen being briefed. If I remember correctly from the previous wiretapping scandal, the debriefings occurred shortly after 911, when most people in the government were willing to let the president do what he thought was necessary. I believe there weren't follow-up briefings after things had settled down somewhat.

It could be different in this case, but my impression was that the administration took early concessions as a sort of carte blanche for all time forward...

J

Posted by: jup | May 11, 2006 04:55 PM

It's a great diversionary debate tactic to slam-dunk the other side as soon as comparisons to Hitler's Germany come up, and I would not (at this stage) suggest at all that Bush has risen to the level of a Hitler. Thank God. But please -- PLEASE -- don't drop the comparisons to the run-up of what happened then, and what these kinds of things can eventually lead to. Hitler is exactly why we all have to scream -- loudly -- for a stop to all of this, BEFORE it reaches those levels.

"Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it." - Santayana

Posted by: OUTRAGED | May 11, 2006 05:05 PM

It looks that the Bells are going to be rewarded very generously for the sellout of their clients.
They will be able to push through their 2 tiered net as reward and nobody is going to be able to stop them from doing so. I guess the only one left out is Quest for not cooperating with the authorities.
Why else do you think the bosses of the Bells were able to announce their 2 tiered net with so much balls, bravour and arrogance, they know they have all the decisionmaker at their side.

The american people loses again and again and again from their own arrogant elite.
Ah well, soon the dollar is going to plunge deep so most americans have other wories at their hand.

Posted by: Yaa101 | May 11, 2006 05:13 PM

Shame on ATT and Verizon. Kudos to Qwest.

This administration is unbelievable! Laws, right to privacy, honesty mean nothing to them.

What Bill Clinton did and was investigated for was minor compared to any of this. He was harrassed for years by special investigations and nothing came of it.

Where are the investigations and impeachment process when it comes to the Bush administration? Everyday seems to bring something new that they have done that is totally outrageous.

Where are are elected officials when we need them?

Posted by: Fern | May 11, 2006 05:19 PM

The NSA aren't spying on you. They're using the ultimate loophole - get the limeys to do it (no court order required) and share the info (we spy on you / you spy on us). That's why there's so many UK working in DC & US working in Yorkshire UK. It was on TV here years ago (it did feature some anonymous interviews & speculation but was worthy of consideration). If it makes you feel any better, the same's happening here. There was a newspaper article about a guy who sent his favourite song lyric via a text message. The lyric was subversive so a few days later he got a call from the police. I'd put money on that your text messages are being scanned also.

You all have a nice day & remember - The truth always comes out eventually & the rules of nature means that the needs of the majority always wins in the end.

Apologies for the limey spelling.

Posted by: Sprouty UK | May 11, 2006 05:21 PM

I can understand why people are resistant to compare Bush to Hitler. Usually it is because they see Bush as a nice guy just having a difficult time of it. But most are unaware of certain historical facts... both these men:

1) Joined an occult society involving rituals with skulls and bones.
2) Were not elected by a majority but were appointed when election was called into question.
3) Gave out lucrative contracts mostly to very large corporations.
4) Allowed and encouraged large corporations to consolidate the media into a very few corporations.
5) Created the illusion of prosperity through the use of government debt and military spending.
6) Were fervent Christains involking gods name in speeches.
7) Promoted family values.
8) Provided moral and financial support to faith based initiatives.
9) Were illedgedly attacked by terrorists from the Middle East which rallied the people to give him new powers.
10) Suspended many constitutional guarantees after the terrorist attack.
11) Cleared protesters so that no one saw the protests when they were in the area.
12) Put a 4 year time limit on the constitutional suspensions.
13) Held "suspicious" persons without access to laywers or courts.
14) Determined that they needed to consolidate many agencies into one that would protect the homeland (the SS).
15) Claimed they had the right to strike pre-emptively in self defense.
16) Claimed that after the first invasion, they came as liberators.
17) Said "You are either with us or you are with the Terrorists".
18) Would repeat the same things over and over and would manufacture news with paid reporters.
19) Tied support for the war to support for the troops.
20) Claimed a second country had WMD's and needed to be attacked also (in Hitlers case this was Poland and non-exstant poison gas)
21) Used a war technique of "Shock and awe" or "Blitzcreeg".
22) Often refused to listen to their generals.
23) Removed from around them anyone who disagreed with them.

If you don't believe this please check it, the history lesson is good for everyone afterall those who dont know history tend to repeat it. Seems to me like a lot of stuff that is similar.. one big difference is that Hitler started a World War. We know Bush wouldnt do that.

Posted by: marko | May 11, 2006 05:21 PM

But Mr. Brooks,
You'll never win Brooks v. Verizon.

Verizon will shrug their shoulders and say they were following orders, and the judge will ask for details, and the NSA will say 'classified'. And if you are lucky, they decide you are not a threat and you will not simply disappear.

In 2005, 834,536 missing person records were entered into NCIC. There are 2.1 million americans on that list. That's 1 in 150 americans on the missing persons list. What do you think your odds are if you irritate the NSA?

Posted by: not_an_attorney | May 11, 2006 05:25 PM

I do not understand the JLemon comment. If there is so musch data that it is impossible to interralate the data then why is it being done at all. How will the government find the terrorist "patterns"? This argument seems to suggest there is no way to use this data. If so it seems to conclusively prove it cannot be used as suggested. Any explanations?
While the legal issues of interpreting the 4th amendment are complex in many cases I am not aware of any precedent for this sort of warrantless search of everyones records. Does anyone have a specific citation that supports this notion? If it is OK then in what circumstances would the 4th amendment restrict the government in any way?

Posted by: john henry | May 11, 2006 05:30 PM

dbett,
It seems to me that they're seizing my records with no reason at all. Does my being a citizen with a phone constitute reasonable cause? If that's not unreasonable, it's hard for me to imagine a situation that meets the criteria for unreasonable. Can they use the same reasonableness criteria to search my house, my car, and my pockets?

The huge semantic stretch needed to call such a seizure reasonable looks suspiciously like an attempt to weaken the bill of rights rather than a legitimate defense of the action. I realize the courts might have taken such a stance and I think it shows a shameful disregard for the clear intent of the fourth amendment.

Posted by: RicSF | May 11, 2006 05:55 PM

Our C- President, George Bush, needs to be impeached. If this recent privacy violation actually catches a terrorist I'd be surprised. The Department of Homeland Security is a joke and should be abolished --- along with a good shakedown of the NSA. Oh, and what about that newly appointed CIA director?? This country had really taken a turn for the worst.

Posted by: Independent | May 11, 2006 05:58 PM

Don't worry the anarchist revolution is coming, and all the people of the world with rise up and overthrow all oppressive governments. In the meantime, use encryption.

Posted by: Amnesty for all undocumented | May 11, 2006 06:10 PM

If it is as easy as the President says to get an OK on the wiretap from the court, and if it can be done up to 72 hours after the fact there is only one reason why it is not being done. Someone has something to hide. The House and Senate need to get to the bottom of this, this - what to call it? Cover up?

Posted by: MikeM | May 11, 2006 06:13 PM

It begs the question, it there anything the republicans would admit they don't have the right to do? There is no check on these people, this party, that has seized this country. It's Germany after the Reichstag Fire Decree all over again. The Patriot Act is just a revisitation. Absolute power... People died to free us from this, and we just gave it away. Maybe we'll have an election in November, maybe we won't.

Posted by: Anonymous for a reason, NSA! | May 11, 2006 07:42 PM

In reply to being called an "idiot"
Let me see, you read somewhere that someone has a machine or machines reading 29T ?
Getting emotional about what I said means you are not exactly up to snuff yourself.
\Picture this: AT&t does a daily download of data to the NSA repository. What do ya think"
1T ? 2T ? X several other phone company contributions. This (if I havn't lost you already} is in a 24 hour period. Now, thats just data for one day. In a relational database, let's take Oracle for instance. The software will probable access unlimited amounts of storage. Take that one day's input times one year and also be aware you intend to archive all this. Just the data
is now going well past a world record. The data might just be the smallest part of the
project.
My question to you is "do you believe everything you read ? Or - have you seen any database of even near this magnnitude ?
I think this issue is "disinformation" aimed at people like you that think they know something.
If you think a database of this magnitude is in existance, please tell me what kind of equipment currently can do this ?
Which begs the question "if such data can be stored and accessed - the equipment capible of this would hardly be used for storing phone numbers or ISP's. You best not be so opinionated and wake up.

Posted by: JLemon | May 11, 2006 08:11 PM

The internet is a database easily that big and I can search the whole thing with Google in about 2 seconds. You think with NSA's practically unlimited budget they cant put this together with advanced compression technologies and arrays of data storage. These people are very bright not like the fools who tell them what to do.

Posted by: Marko | May 11, 2006 08:55 PM

They sell it to marketing companies all the time. Why shouldn't it be used to protect citizens!

Posted by: Denis | May 11, 2006 09:58 PM

There are many such huge databases, and the majority were assembled by the private sector. There is even a searchable index by telephone number corresponding to each individual or household in America that can link the data mined by the NSA to real names and your most intimate personal information. A distinguished Washington Post reporter wrote a book titled No Place to Hide (http://www.noplacetohide.net) where well documented technical details are available on how this is done. The US government is a regular customer, sponsor and protector of information brokers. From womb to tomb, all is recorded. You are a suspect if you DON'T have a dossier by now!

Think about it the next time a sales clerk asks you for your phone number, even when you pay cash. Some brazen retail outfits keep their sales database indexed by phone number at the cash register terminal, right in front of your nose (i.e., Sears, GoodYear), and insist on creating a customer record. Ever wonder why? How convenient for Big Brother...

Posted by: O'Harrow Fan | May 11, 2006 10:09 PM

This is not a difficult data storage task. If 200,000,000 people in America make five calls a day that is a billion calls a day - that's might be a reasonable estimate of the number of calls in the country in a day. As was mentioned above, you only need four pieces of information (from number, to number, call start time, call end time) which can fit in 100 bytes easily. So, we're talking about 100 Gigabytes, not a Terabyte, per day. About 100 Terabytes in three years. Analysis would require less additional storage, not many times more storage, than the original data - you would be creating summaries and reports which would be smaller than the call records.

If you seriously think this is beyond the means of the US government, then I can't help you. The NSA has spectacular computing resources available to it.

That's not the issue - the US government wouldn't be asking for the information if they couldn't use it. And the fact that they are not listening to the calls doesn't make it any less an unjustified and unconsitutional violation of our privacy: you can get enormous amounts of *information* out of traffic analysis of these *data*.

This issue is what is each of us going to do about it? Tonight, tomorrow, and in November.

Posted by: IT Manager | May 11, 2006 10:18 PM

Bush is and has been a disaster for the nation. This is not new information!!!! Don't vote for compulsive liars again! And, if he is allowed to pick a fight with Iran over the ability to play with nukes, then consider the hypocracy of our position with Isreal. They also have nukes against UN resloutions with our 'USA' stamp of approval on the several hundred warheads they have. Iran is not a threat to anyone and if left alone their government would moderate over time. Isreal has hundreds of nukes and Iran has none. Its not likely Iran will pick a fight that they will lose in a flash! Also, our nation has been led to a resounding defeat in Iraq. I only hope we 'the people' vote out this tyrannical lot of lackies and its playmates. I am sick of the Plutocracy which our government has become.

Posted by: Nufu | May 11, 2006 10:44 PM

given the attention span of the average american, this will be swept under the rug if team USA makes it to the 2nd round in the upcoming World Cup.

Posted by: what was that, again? | May 12, 2006 01:33 AM

When the GOP essentially declares that the 2006 and 2008 elections are not going to be held, OR BushCo declares that the problems of the world will be solved by eliminating ethnic/religious categories, or when the DNC is stifled, or when political opponents are banished or jailed, or when we roll the tanks through our neighboring countries, or when newspapers and blog sites are shut down, or when the first citizen is threatened because of who he/she talks with, when any one of those things is even proposed or attempted, call me. That would get my interest in terms of "being destined to repeat it". Until then, let's get real about the dictatorship thing.

This? I don't know if it is foolhardy or valuable. Dangerous in some substantive way? I don't think so. Could we all just take a deep breath here and get our wits about us? Thanks.

Posted by: Terry Ott | May 12, 2006 01:44 AM

Some CEOs really are razor sharp financial geniuses.

The Qwest CEO who refused to hand over the shop keys was indicted on 38 counts of insider trading. No doubt it's easy for the SEC to do that when the NSA hands them a record of every call he's ever made and told them to make a federal case out of it.

But what was his motivation? Why stall the NSA? He knew they would squeeze him hard. So why?

It would be terrible publicity if a national story broke that the phone companies had handed out every scrap of personal information on every customer they had, 200 million americans, every phone call for 4 years. And even short term, cooperating costs money, these costs could continue for years, and it wasn't ever going to generate profit or positive publicity. Eventually the story would break and then his companies stock value would go down for violation of privacy, perhaps including a class action lawsuit. So instead the CEO stalled on cooperating, took the retaliatory hit as a personal 38 count insider trading indictment, and now the story has broken Qwest stock will go up substantially, increasing their total value by several hundred million dollars over the next year. It's likely many customers of the big-3 telephone companies will switch to Qwest.

Any ideas who the secret source was that broke that story to USA Today?

Now that's a man that's earned his retirement package. His 3 biggest competitors will lose stock value and market share perhaps permanently, while Qwest gains it.

Posted by: Have_you_heard? | May 12, 2006 10:01 AM

Look, I think we all agree that this country is held together by one important document. That document being the constitution. I know there are some that would love to burn parts of it, but we can't do that. Our boys are fighting and dying to protect that document. And the president has sworn to protect it (Yea.. I know). But anyway he did swear to protect it and it is the document that all other laws come from, it overrides all other laws including these convienent "Executative orders". So if you people want to allow the government to listen in on our phone calls in the name of fear, then I suggest you get enough of you all to create another amendment to the constitution that states the president can do whatever he wants and get it passed with a 2/3 vote in congress and the senate. Until that time don't be surprised that the rest of us will make sure that the constitution is protected, and that our ancestors and sons and daughters who died in battle to protect "Freedom", are respected by protecting that which they fought for.


Posted by: Marko | May 12, 2006 10:48 AM

I still dont understand. If JLemon is right the government cant use the data. So what is going on? Is he saying the story isnt true because such a data base would be unuseable? Or is he saying the data base could only be used to find terrorist patterns but not for any other purpose because of its size. Sorry Im having trouble understanding the point.

Posted by: john henry | May 12, 2006 10:56 AM

He's a technological fossil.

Perhaps he's never heard of NSA's Echelon or FBI's Carnivore, both of which start by recording everything before mainframe computer banks run it through voice recognition software looking for keywords that flag 'potential threat' messages for review by analysts, who separate false-positive flagging from potential threats using context. This means THEY MUST RECORD AND ARCHIVE EVERY CALL. If it is useless as intelligence it gets written over eventually (<6 months.)

In this way a haystack of information is winnowed down to a much more managable pile of digital recordings and transcripts. This is why if you say certain words on the telephone, somewhere, a number of people are collecting a salary to decide what you meant by that.

The NSA were caught using this program for industrial espionage. The were using Echelon to determine exactly how much a french company's secret bid to build aircrafts for Brazil was. They gave this information to an american company, Boeing who outbid Airbus by a hair to get the contract. It got a lot of publicity and was the first time most had heard of echelon, and Airbus was understandably upset.

That is why one of the keyword phrases that gets flagged by echelon is 'Japanese Trade Agreement.'

Nothing in this message is classified, it can all be found in previously published news articles.

Posted by: JLemon_doesn't_get_it | May 12, 2006 07:23 PM

And Clinton was impeached... for what reason again? Oh yeah, something everyone in Washington has: an affair.

It proves once again that outsiders like Bill Clinton-- who were a threat to the ruling class- had to be dealt with.

Bush IS the ruling class- so he can get away with anything. And the mainstream news media (including The Wash. Post) will not dare create the public outrage the way it did with Bill Clinton.

It proves we live in an oligarchy- not a democracy-- when a president can subvert the U.S. Constitution any time he wants.

He's beholden only to the ruling class. If he should somehow get a conscience and start screwing with the ruling class, then and only then will we see him get into hot water and impeached.

Posted by: wf | May 12, 2006 09:15 PM

What astonishes me is the public, even credible newspapers like the Washington Post are buying this "it's a pen register database" argument.

Bottom line: every telephone conversation globally is recorded. It hasn't been a secret for almost a decade. Voice Recognition Software can recognise unique voice signatures on any phone call in real-time for persons of interest, multiple language keyword flagging, & gps triangulation of the call. All of this has been public since 1993.

When you hear administration retorts that no one is listening to your calls, of course not, no one 'listens' to your call until the software flags it. But for a long time now, anywhere in the world you pick up a phone, it's recorded, it's reviewed... that's just the way it is.

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