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The Gravest Assault on Privacy in U.S. History

Posted on May 11, 2006
Big Brother is Watching
Illustration: Blair Golson

Late coming to the story about the NSA’s massive telephone record collection program? The Washington Post does a 360-degree report.

  • Neither Bush nor his aides denied any facts in the original USA Today story.

  • Senate Intel Chair Pat Roberts wants to shoot the messenger (USA Today).

  • Bush’s pick for CIA chief, Gen. Michael Hayden, oversaw this program at the NSA, a fact that guarantees fireworks at his confirmation hearing.

  • Check out the original story.

  • Washington Post:

    The Bush administration has secretly been collecting the domestic telephone records of millions of U.S. households and businesses, assembling gargantuan databases and attempting to sift through them for clues about terrorist threats, according to sources with knowledge of the program.

    The “call detail records” enable U.S. intelligence agencies to track who calls whom, and when, but do not include the contents of conversations, the sources said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the program. The companies cooperating with the National Security Agency dominate the U.S. telecommunications market and connect hundreds of billions of telephone calls each year. Intelligence analysts are seeking to mine their records to expose hidden connections and details of social networks, hoping to find signs of terrorist plots in the vast sea of innocent contacts.


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    By George S Semsel, May 12, 2006 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    It’s not just your phone calls, my friends, I suspect it’s your travels on the internet, too. It seems the emperor learned a lot from the workings of the USSR.

    Report this

    By roothogg, May 12, 2006 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    It all seems pretty clear to me.

    Of course Big B knows spies don’t phone home, but won’t this make Katherin Harris’s job a lot easier to purge felons AND maybe democrats next time we pretend to vote. Diebold, ESS, Choicepoint &


    Report this

    By David, May 12, 2006 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    You have no power.  You have no voice.  Your representatives have been paid off for their silence.  You may scream your throat raw but no one cares.  You will not roit.  You will not revolt.  Your votes will not count.  You will not be allowed to dissent.  You will all meekly go back to your homes and be silent.  You will take your $20.00 tax cut and you will say ‘Thank you, sir’.  If you are in the military you will not be allowed to leave.  You will go to work every day and do your job as well as you can and you will be thankful that you have a job.  You will not gather in public places without a permit.  When asked by the police you will immediately produce your papers and identification without hesitation.  If federal officers come to your house you will allow them to search and take what they see fit.  Any uncooperative citizen will be imprisioned without trial at the discresion of any federal official.  You will be issued a federal identificaion card with your social security number on it.  This number will also be tattoed on your upper right forearm.  A rfid will be implanted under your skin just above your right collar bone.  A history of your movements, conversations, communications and contacts will be kept by the NSA until you die.  Upon death you will be processed for cattle feed.  Thank you president Bush.  A new America is dawning.

    Report this

    By rex, May 12, 2006 at 10:36 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    NSA has failed to stop daily “terrorist attacks” in Iraq by monitoring the cell phones of insurgents so why would it work in the United States with thousands of times as many calls to monitor?
    NSA also failed to monitor the calls between Hamburg, Germany and Afghanistan in 1998 and 1999 when the 9/11 plot was being planned despite the fact German authorities were
    suspicious of Al Qaeda connections.
    Obviously it is the people of the United States who are the subject of this surveillance and have been since the NSA was created in 1952. The Church Committe uncovered telegram intercept programs going back to the 1940s.
    Bush says NSA is not “listening to phone calls” but that does not
    mean they are not recording them for future listening when they
    determine who to target.  Probable cause requires the target
    and reasons for the spying be specified before intercepting and storing the communications not at some unknown future date.
    Nobody has asked if the GPS location data of cell phones is also being recorded to monitor the movements of US citizens.
    I would suspect it is.
    This is only the tip of the iceberg as all of this data is “layered’
    into a 3 dimensional data map of the entire country down to a few inches in scale   that is constantly being updated by the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency who the news media has so far failed to connect to this controversy. The goal is to
    incorporate images from thousands of video and infrared surveillance cameras and unmanned aircraft into this map to provide real time video coverage with GPS precision of anyone anywhere.
    This is the “freedom” we are bringing to the world at great expense in blood and treasure.

    Report this

    By John Hall, May 12, 2006 at 10:25 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    The first thing we should be doing is changing our phone service!
    Then, screaming bloody murder at our Senators and House Representatives to stop sitting on their hands or having their lips locked on the President’s ass and do the right thing: protect the liberties of Americans.

    Report this

    By joe, May 12, 2006 at 9:44 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    This is truly getting out of hand. They break any law and then ask the public if they approve.

    All of a sudden public opinion trumps the law. Isn’t that what happens in fascist states?

    Report this

    By Susan McKeon-Steinmann, May 12, 2006 at 9:10 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    No, not careful big brother is watching.  I disagree.  I write it large so the King can read it-THIS IS A VIOLATION OF OUR BILL OF RIGHTS AND CONSTITUTION.  I have sent a letter to my whole e list that everyone should call the DNC, their Senators, their Representatives, protesting this.  It is not anyone’s right to give our citizenship rights away.  My senator’s aide told me that people had called and said they don’t mind since they are not doing anything wrong.

    This is not the issue, whether you are doing something wrong(who knows what Bush will think is wrong next week, the Alabama Democracy for America just had its hard-drive confiscated by some government agency).  It is not the issue whether you mind.  If we no longer have a Bill of Rights or U.S. Constitution then we have full blown fascism.  We have to stand up against this.

    I urge everyone to contact everyone they know and send a deluge of protest to our representatives and letters to the newspaper.  We cannot claim thirty years from now, after Bush starts disappearing people, that we did not know or see it coming.

    Report this

    By Sanna Lowrance, May 12, 2006 at 2:38 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    If they’re only collecting numbers, they’re probably looking for links by building outward from numbers originally collected from known terrorist phones, the numbers collected from those phones, etc.  By building the web outward and outward and outward, they’re attempting-probably successfully-to link social networks,  in this case, terrorist cells.  The problem is how many innocent people will have their lives and associations put under the government microscope to be thoroughly examined, catalogued and stored in an NSA computer for eternity perhaps simply because they know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody who might or might not be a terrorist?

    Take the web out far enough and, as I understand it, everybody is connected to everybody else at what??  six degrees of separation?

    Report this

    By Brian S., May 12, 2006 at 2:08 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    I am currently a contracted slave of the U.S Army. The things I see my government do in the name of national security disturb and disgust me more than I can ever say. When I am freed from the service, I will move my family to Canada.

    George Bush and all the corporations that pay him to do these things should be dismembered and fed to animals.

    Report this

    By Tony Litwinko, May 11, 2006 at 11:37 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Ecco! Mussolini’s definition of fascism gathers another example. We are almost there and the last mile won’t hurt a bit, did it?

    Report this

    By JD, May 11, 2006 at 10:44 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Fascism (see also G W Bush)

      1. A system of government marked by centralization of authority under a dictator, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppression of the opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism.

    Report this

    By Deke Slater, May 11, 2006 at 8:10 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    If you wonder why the NSA has been tap tap tapping into our lives and why they have been growing such a mega-massive database you only need to know a little history. Technology wasn’t quite as sophisticated in the 1930s. Hitler didn’t have the Internet but he did have IBM, which he used to collect data on every German citizen into a massive database. That’s how he knew everything about everyone (who was gay, who was a Jew, who was a Gypsy, who protected “enemies” in their homes, etc. etc.) and therefore how he knew who was to be sent to concentration camps (i.e. the well-publicized $380 million Halliburton contract to build a “detention” camp). The numbers tattooed on their bodies were generated by IBM. And then there is Hitler’s little Enabling Act to destroy the German democracy and make it into a dictatorship. This parallels the Patriot Act. You have Homeland Security (der Faderland) and so many other similarities between the Bush-Hilter regimes. And why wouldn’t Bush be so enamored of Nazi style? Okay, everyone, say it after me…He was raised by Nazis (i.e. Prescott Bush, his grandfather, supported Hilter’s cause).

    Report this

    By R. A. Earl, May 11, 2006 at 7:51 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    I’m not sure, but I think I can understand where GWB & Co are coming from on this.

    If the “government” isn’t keeping one step ahead of the “bad guys” then it sure won’t be long before the “bad guys” will be in control, if they aren’t already.

    While those we elect are, for certain, no angels, is it not better for them to have the technological “upper hand” over the Osama’s of this world?

    It’s like arming the police with ever more deadly force. Scarey stuff. But certainly better than having our police wandering around with Colt 45s while Organized Crime sports AK-47s, don’t you think?

    The question is, of course, where does it all end? It’s an upward spiral, I guess, until it all goes out of control.

    Ah… the human frailties! We couldn’t think our way out of a wet paper bag! We just keep making the same stupid mistakes over and over again. The only thing that changes is the potential for global disaster. THAT has gone through the roof.

    Report this

    By Michael L, May 11, 2006 at 7:32 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Guess I’m not all that surprised. Had an interest in intelligence as a teen and knew that the earliest Cray supercomputers went to the NSA for code breaking and other things. Then in the late 90’s I read about Project Eschalon, which was/is basically a joint venture between US/UK/Aussie signals intelligence agencies to try and intercept all international communications (primarily phone) in the world—though focusing on former Soviet states, Europe, and the Far East. A committee in the European Parliament got peeved over this (concerns about silly things like diplomatic conversations and personal privacy) and issued two reports, spaced about a year apart—seems the last one came out around ‘99, or so.

    April ‘Atlantic Monthly’ had a piece by James Bamford, who has written THE books (2) on the NSA. In this piece he rapidly dispenses with the twaddle peddled by W. that the surveillance is closely targeted on only a few persons in the US, and their communications. The NSA operates communcations intercept stations, catching all international calls from the satellites they are routinely bounced off; optic cables laid undersea can carry (is it hundreds or thousands of simultaneous conversations PER fiber?) and “selecting” just one out of them all is a preposterous proposition to make, or believe. As Bamford puts it, the NSA operates a giant electronic vaccuum, ‘hoovering’ up anything in sight . . . or should that be earshot?

    Report this

    By Truthclaw, May 11, 2006 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    When is he going to be impeached?

    Report this

    By Let's impeach the president for spying, May 11, 2006 at 1:48 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Let’s impeach the president for lying
    And leading our country into war
    Abusing all the power that we gave him
    And shipping all our money out the door
    He’s the man who hired all the criminals
    The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
    And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
    Of why we have to send our men to war
    Let’s impeach the president for spying
    On citizens inside their own homes
    Breaking every law in the country
    By tapping our computers and telephones
    What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
    Would New Orleans have been safer that way
    Sheltered by our government’s protection
    Or was someone just not home that day?
    Let’s impeach the president
    For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
    Dividing our country into colors
    And still leaving black people neglected
    Thank god he’s racking down on steroids
    Since he sold his old baseball team
    There’s lot of people looking at big trouble
    But of course the president is clean
    Thank God
    Neil Young

    Report this

    By Druthers, May 11, 2006 at 1:19 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    This is the logical organization of domestic spying when this Republican controlled Congress refuses to protect its power of oversight and our right to privacy.
    These companies, AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth have accepted betraying their customers—and for what?  Who profits from this crime?
    Change to Quest, buy homing pidgeons, do anything but fight back.
    Call your Senators, call, call and call again.

    Report this

    By stupid ass, May 11, 2006 at 1:14 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    You people are funny. The so called constitution has been violated constantly,ever since its creation. This is nothing new.It might be news to you but violation of constitutional “norms” is a regular occurence. This is how the ones in power(not just the pres and his cab and party) have maintained control.

    Report this

    By P.H., May 11, 2006 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Well what do ya know?  Fascism!  And in the land of the free and the home of the brave.  What to do about it?  We the people rise up and change the world, that’s what.  Anything else will be a complete waste of time.

    Report this

    By One of the Watched, May 11, 2006 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Careful whay you say, big brother is listening!

    Report this

    By Jim Michie, May 11, 2006 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Is it any wonder that this nation has come to what it is?  All one must do to validate our tragic state of affairs as a nation is to turn TV to the “news”—on any of the outlets, but especially CNN, MSNBC and FAUX NEWS—and watch these wannabee “reporters” read whatever is placed before them and whatever is fed to them by DUBYA and his minions.  It has come to be promoting instead of reporting.  These newzies don’t even bother to attribute what they read to the self-serving source who would have us believe that there is “no data mining and no trolling” in the NSA’s galactic dragnet on phone records in the good ole’ USA.  Yeah, Right!  Just as we were told by the Liar in Chief that “we don’t do torture.”  Remember?

    Report this

    By Paul Dezurick, May 11, 2006 at 11:45 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Shouldn’t we all try to mention Osama, Al Quada, Castro, Chavez, Putin or some other forbidden topic in every phone call.

    Report this

    By felicity smith, May 11, 2006 at 11:23 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    No terrorist worth his box-cutters is about to develop a “history” of phone calls to his counter-parts here or abroad. So, what’s really going on.  What information can be gleaned and for whom by amassing the “largest data-base ever assembled in the world?”  Any ideas anybody?

    Report this

    By jim, May 11, 2006 at 11:21 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    For some historical perspective on this, visit Barry Vogel’s Radio Curious website -
    for an interview with Mike Frost in 1999. He’s a former Canadian spy and gives extensive details about the collaboration of spy agencies in the U.S., Canada, Britain, and Australia. This aint nuthin new, folks!

    Report this

    By ENRON ...... breeds within the Military TOP, May 11, 2006 at 9:50 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Why do you think everything is shifting to the US MILITARY?  Alot less leaks. Tighter controls.  Generals while in can’t speak.  But when they leave they can.  And they should speak “the truth” if they have any morals and ethics.  I have great respect for the ones that have spoken out!

    Myers would NEVER speak against BUSH, as his family is employed by the US government and has gained financially.  The ENRON General of 4 stars!

    Ask any individual about General Tommy Franks….he sold the troops out with his lies!  And left the ranks as Bagdad burns like h… but he collected his financial rewards! Another ENRON General!

    When HISTORY reviews these past Generals it will speak of the their PROFITS and the LIES attached to each.  Ask americans while waiting in grocery store lines (in a non-military state) what they think of these ENRON generals. 

    The American Public isn’t so stupid!

    OBL = DEAD
    Zarqawi = Dead (gota keep the game alive with the bogeyman video’s).

    Needle in the hay stack = sitting in the US White House!

    Report this

    By JP, May 11, 2006 at 8:34 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Three questions:

    Why wasn’t this information volunteered earlier this year when the first reports surfaced?

    Why were we only given part of the truth as an answer?

    Are people still willing to sacrifice all manner of personal liberty in exchange for security, after being continuously scared by the Bush administration regarding terror threats?

    Report this

    By Maurice E Hardy, May 11, 2006 at 8:21 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Beyond the privacy of US citizens; this practice has compromised the confidential communications and private interests of every small and large company in America. Normal conversations between Product Design & Operations, Intellectual Property, Doctor/Patient, Client/Attorney, and Confidential Agreements have been violated.

    Report this

    By Mike Mahr, May 11, 2006 at 7:43 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Who is Big Brother?

    Big Brother hides in box in your living room. More affluent Americans have several such boxes scattered around their houses, even in the bathroom. These boxes pose as mere entertainment devices but they are in reality a direct link from Big Brother to you. It amuses, entertains, shocks and titillates, but mostly it brainwashes you.

    When our political leaders allowed media consolidation to occur it spawned a monopoly controlled by a half dozen corporations who choose what they deem expedient for us to know and not know. Don’t underestimate Big Brother’s ability to deceive you.

    The good new is, there’s another relatively new box available called Big Momma that can protect you from Big Brother. If we protect her from Big Brother.

    Report this

    By Jack, May 11, 2006 at 7:28 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Here is a way to throw them off, “I’d like to make a collect call from Osama…”

    Report this

    By Nunez, May 11, 2006 at 7:26 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    If his actions look like those of a liar, and if his words sound like those of a liar, and when put to the test of a liar, he fails that test, then what we have here in our President is a liar. 
      Likewise, if his actions are those of a dictator, and his organization is that of a dictator, then what we must have in our President is a dictator.
      What will it take for the American people to rise up in righteous indignation and demand an accounting of our appointed leadership?  Will it take the imprisoning of immigrants in concentration camps, the wholesale arrest of people who have criticized the fueher’s policies?  Has the nation become so complacent that as long as they can at least own cell phones and garbage disposals, they believe they have freedom?  It is utterly appalling to witness the daily disintegration of our Constitution by a second-rate President whose 750+ Presidential Signing Bills should be proof enough that he thinks he is above the law—an attitude of every petty dictator in the known world.

    Report this

    By jt, May 11, 2006 at 7:02 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    What an affront to our basis for a republic’s granting of 1st and 4th Amendment rights.  What unmitigated danger these oil patch charlatans pose.  Americans have been had; their kids are dying for it. Must America herself also take their rounds - in the back?

    Report this

    By R. E. Bullis, May 11, 2006 at 7:01 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    As a draftee during Vietmam with an engineering background, I was given a top secret clearance to work with what’s now known as KH-11 satellite photography. During my briefings, I was informed that there was also a parallel electronic “eavesdropping” capability that was much more impressive than the KH-11 program. That was in 1972, and knowing what the “Keyhole” program could do, impressive.

    Given the advances in technology in eavesdropping and computing power since then, I can assure you that as citizens, we need to make very sure that the proper governmental checks and balances are in place and working to ensure our civil rights. That erosion of our civil rights commenced the first time the NSA eavesdropped on a U.S. citizen without court approval.

    Report this

    By John Hall, May 11, 2006 at 7:00 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Big Brother W. Is Listening. Freedom Of Speech (Be Careful What You Say).

    Report this

    By Steven Pasquantonio, May 11, 2006 at 6:53 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    Since my wife calls Syria, I guess we are definitely on some list. How long to we have to wait to check out our FBI file under the Freedom of Information Act?  Ben Bagdikian has a great article on the ineffectiveness of mass wiretapping.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely!

    Report this

    By Hilding Lindquist, May 11, 2006 at 6:46 am Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    What we have now known for some time is that leaders who will sanction this kind of activity will sanction anything to stay in power. “This kind of activity” is a growing list of subversive and radical acts by Neocons mirroring the Nazis. Neocons have violated the spirit and the letter of our Constitution.

    We have to start by asking ourselves whether what I just wrote is the truth or is not the truth?

    If it is the truth then when will we the people hold them accountable for their criminal—no—treasonable acts?

    The Neocons are a bunch of thugs

    The Cheney/Rumsfeld Doctrine

    Folks, this is fascism

    Report this
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