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Truthdigger of the Week: Leslie Cauley

Posted on May 12, 2006
Leslie Cauley
Images: From "The Charlie Rose Show"

USA Today reporter Leslie Cauley discusses her new book on “The Charlie Rose Show” (May 12).

Truthdig salutes Leslie Cauley, the USA Today reporter who broke the blockbuster story about the NSA’s program to amass the records of every phone call made in America. Her scoop laid waste to President Bush’s assertion that his domestic spying targets only a handful of suspected terrorists living in the U.S. In the wake of her story, GOP Sen. Arlen Specter is calling for congressional hearings.

Biographical info (from Simon & Shuster):

Leslie Cauley is a telecom writer for USA Today. She has been a business journalist for more than twenty years, spending nine years as a staff writer and editor for The Wall Street Journal in New York. Over the course of her career, Ms. Cauley has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize three times. She lives in Manhattan.

Original Story in USA Today (May 12, 2006):

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.


Square, Site wide

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans—most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA’s activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made—across town or across the country—to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.

The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated Monday by President Bush to become the director of the CIA, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. In that post, Hayden would have overseen the agency’s domestic call-tracking program. Hayden declined to comment about the program.

The NSA’s domestic program, as described by sources, is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop—without warrants—on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists when one party to the communication is in the USA. Warrants have also not been used in the NSA’s efforts to create a national call database.


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By Jason, May 22, 2006 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Bellsouth has just proved her a LIAR!
wow, who’d a thunk it would come from democrat journalist? I mean, they always tell the truth, right? hahahaha what a fuckin retard.

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By Tomack, May 16, 2006 at 1:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well, at least our e-mail is still sacred…said the harlequin.

Who said that? Hello?

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By Mace Price, May 15, 2006 at 11:36 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Ya know Ga you’re right. It is tabloid jounalism. Over written, over hyped, fear mongering—-It’s goddamned near as bad as mine is!

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By Ga, May 15, 2006 at 7:53 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Too bad she is not a very good writer. Here is the lead:

1) “The NSA has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth…”

Here is a re-write: “The NSA asked for and received phone calling records from AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth…”

2) “The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime.”

Re-write: “The phone records are of ordinary homes and businesses, not only those suspected of something.”

Typical USA Today tabloid journalism. Over-written, over-hyped, fear mongering to sell newspapers. Yawn.

Here is the crux of this whole thing:

“But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. What else is new. Calling pattern recognition and keyword searches have been in the works since before 9/11. Just like the text of the Patriot Act was written before 9/11 (it just never could pass before 9/11).

The Bush Administration was caught with all their pants down on 9/11. Nobody “thought of planes being flown into buildings” (Rice) because those at the top were all completely ignoring their owns jobs. (“We America! We strong! We can do anything without any consequences!” Yawn.)

So, after 9/11, the Bush Administration woke up and were afraid. Scared, they scrambled like hell to figure out what happened. Nobody at the top knew anything because they all bought into their own sense of invulnerability.

Nobody at the top will ever admit to having made a mistake let alone a misjudgement because they, beleiving so much in the “John Wayne” image of manhood, that “to apologize is a sign of weakness” crap, would never, ever, let anyone think of them as anything but absolutely strong and manly. (“We don’t want be no Girly Man!”) And even in their own circle they can’t admit to mistakes or even show any emotion but anger.

Makes me ill.

They were scared. They scrambled to figure out what to do. They were desperate. They had to figure out where the “bad guys” were because they did not know!

The CIA foot soldiers knew! But they “men” at the top don’t ask others what to do. They act!

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By HEATHER, May 14, 2006 at 5:05 pm Link to this comment
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By c woof, May 14, 2006 at 11:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you want to scare yourself even more, google ChoicePoint, one of the companies contracted with the gov’t to do the data-mining. ie,;=&ie=ISO-8859-1&safe=off&q=ChoicePoint

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By Mike Corbeil, May 13, 2006 at 6:10 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Peculiar, hmmm yes, certainly seems it anyway:

Truthdig’s above excerpt from the USA Today article says that Ms Cauley said that only the records of calls being made, from ... (phone/fax/email) number/address to ... number/address, are recorded, that the NSA is not listening in.  Meanwhile, other articles have reported that the NSA is parsing the conversations themselves, it would have to be doing this, for these articles state that the NSA is looking for key words.

Ya don’t find key words merely in numbers and addresses, now the kind of key words being sought anyway.  Ya gotta listen in.

Of course they won’t be listening in the typical sense, as in fully.  They’re using a software program to parse the conversations, but this means that these must be recorded, instead of only the source and destination numbers and addresses being recorded.

They could try to parse the conversations in real-time without recording, but then they’d have no data records to refer to, when key words are found.  To have those, to be able to adequately capture such data, they need to record the conversations, or at least I conjecture for now anyway.

Or, they could record the numbers and addresses, without recording all conversations these communications are for, and when a key word is detected, then record the conversation along with the number or address data.  Yet what if the key word happens to be mentioned half-way through a conversation or at the very end?  In this case, NSA would not be able to record more than what remains of the conversation, unless the NSA temporarily buffered complete conversations.  In the latter case, then the NSA would be able to fully keep recorded complete conversations or communications when key words are detected.

The latter, however, and speaking of only the buffering part or phase, and even if only temporary, is recording the conversations or communications.  And that is the same thing as tapping people’s phone lines, when phone calls are concerned.  When it’s emails being captured, then it should be illegal, for if we take regular postage mail, f.e., it is against the law for anyone to tamper with, confiscate, open up and read, ... mail that is not destined to them. 

(It does not matter how the communication is made, whether it’s regular postage mail, or telephone calls, or email exchanges, it’s all equivalent, the only difference being the means employed to communicate, slow or faster, and on paper or only vocally.  In any case, it’s all communications, and that’s all these should be treated as.  Just because the people who defined the federal laws against prying into other people’s ground mail did not foresee technological advances for communicating, this is no justifiable excuse for treating these other means as any less deserving.  They should all be protected by the same law, which at most only requires changing ‘ground mail’, or however it’s referred to, as simply communications.)

Maybe someone can prove that the above is not entirely accurate, but until then, I’ll stick with it.

If someone can do that, though, then I’d question why or how it is that this Bush et al-NSA op. constitutes creating the largest db, i.e., database, in the world.  After all, if they’re only recording source and distination phone numbers and email addresses, then for each communication there are only two of these pieces of data (putting aside multiple party conference calls, which by far constitute a very small percentage of all communications), and it can be recorded with a matter of few bytes, nowhere near even kb, kilobytes, being needed.

And such a db would be clearable on a, say, weekly, or bi-weekly, or monthly basis, instead of accumulating the data for all of the tens of millions of calls made every day for many months, and which would likely be futile to do, for the volume would become huge and basically impossible to work with.

Yet, only source and detination numbers and addresses, of tens of millions of Americans, this is ridiculous, unless they also (still ridiculously, and illegally and immorally, but nevertheless also) record the conversations for parsing.  After all, from the former, there is absolutely no way to detect if anything suspect is going on, except in rather very rare cases.  Being able to parse the conversations, however, now this would be what real covert intel. ops would need to do.  After all, that is where first detection is made, the numbers and addresses by themselves being rather useless, for the NSA et al.

That’s what I find peculiar about that story and while putting aside other major and related matters.

If we now consider the latter, however, then what we get is a strong image that, like Raja Hornstein and Mace Price say, well, as I’ll put it anyway, this is serving as a major distraction, although perhaps also like those two or one of those two people added; to instill fear in Americans so that they lemmingly cease their relentless and increasing opposition.

It’s a distraction from the extreme cases of urgency that the wars of entirely criminal aggression on Afghanistan, Iraq and Haiti, f.e., are.  While people are all caught up with this Bush et al-NSA criminality and despotism, and/or fascism, they’re not concentrating on opposing these hellbent wars of aggression, and their natures of genocide (Haiti’s case), and omnicide (Afghanistan and Iraq).

I mean, after all, we’re looking at what for Iraqi casualties now, 250,000 to 300,000, and all the more time Americans waste with less issues, all the longer the peoples of these other countries continue to be CRUSHED, pillaged, etc.  And let’s not forget the huge and expensive US military bases for permanent purposes being constructed in Iraq, and for which the US has absolutely no justifiable grounds for doing this (it’s totally hellbent).

This is not the first time that I would have thought that Bush et al were up to creating diversionary distractions.  I’m not sure, but the war of aggression (foreign-sponsored and backed, buttressed, and fueled, and initiated) coup d’etat on the democratic government of Haiti, what was this all about, when the US was already “tied up” with Iraq and Afghanistan?  The latter, particularly Iraq, were getting the most of Americans’ attention, so maybe Haiti was considered an act (a side stage act or performance) that might distract Americans, even just a significant minority of antiwar activists, from these other wars of aggression.  (Instead, Americans should be focusing, and very carefully so, on all three of these cases, as well as the Israel-US-Palestine conflict situation of genocide, eco- or agri-cide, and apartheidism.)

After all, it made absolutely no sense at all to do anything to Haiti, other than to provide aid, instead of continuing to obstruct it, and the US was “tied up” with these other wars.

When criminals act and they’re going to do so when there are plenty of people around, distractions will be used by the savviest.  Only the most naive criminals would try to pull off a crime in front of others without using distraction or diversion.  (Recent articles from the UK and on the ‘Robin Hood’ “gang” of people stealing from the rich to give to the poor, in Germany, provides a concrete example of how truly organised and savvy thieves operate when doing so right in public.)  And GWB et al have a lot of people in the audience, it’s a world stage, and to be devilish in their act, they have made this very evident, already.  They may not fool everyone, but have fooled many, and want to take the former fooled and make them so again, over and over and ....

Yes it’s unconstitutional, illegal, and immoral to be spying on Americans like this, but it’s not a big issue, compared to the rest of all that’s going on.

Mike Corbeil
Canadian-American-Canadian (born and raised in US, of immigrant parents from Canada, and later obtained dual status in 1981)

P.S. If readers of this wonder what that Robin Hood “gang” matter is about, then the following is one article.

“‘Robin Hood’ Gang Rob Gourmet Stores in Bid to Feed Hamburg’s Poor”, by Tony Paterson, Indep/UK,

Those are funny and greatly welcome comic gangsters, but imagine that if they do this kind of diversionary distraction act, then heinous criminals will surely have much more to hide from.  After all, even if these Robin Hood folks were caught, it’s a truly minor crime they’ve committed, being only a matter of some dollars worth of cost, really hurting no one.

Ya simply can’t obtain key words without listening in.  Whether it’s human ears doing that, or a software program that is real-time parsing conversations (and they do need to be recorded in case key words are detected), it’s listening in.

Rumsfeld recently was quoted as saying that all the accusations about his lies are “fantasy land”.  He et al are the ones living in that sphere, being extremely full of fanatasy, of the, both, horror and terror kind.

Terror, people will easily understand, but when it comes to horror, some people may wonder.  For such people, if they have strong hearts, health-wise, the following explains quite well one horrific reality.

“Death Made In the USA: Wondering if your conscience is still anesthetized: Exclusive to”, by Mohammed Daud Miraki, MA, MA, PhD, April 29, 2006,


“Extreme Birth Deformities - Iraq”,

The latter is from a 1992 report, and matters are going to be of that order for many more Iraqis, now.  GWB et al, the US military forces, have dumped thousands of tons more DU on Iraq during the present war on Iraq, than what was “dumped” on Iraq in the 1990-91 war (both of gangsterish and evil aggression).

American’s should be far more concerned about such realities, than being worried about what the Nazi-ish Bush et al-NSA team is doing.  Constitutionally, it’s important, and politicians, members of Congress and the Senate definitely need to place focus on this, but definitely not only or even mostly on this.

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By GibbonsT, May 13, 2006 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

...well, I watched a TV interview with Ms. Cauley yesterday on her NSA ‘scoop’—and was quite unimpressed with her personal level of knowledge about the NSA and general data-collection issues. She did not seem to be any sort of hard-nosed investigative reporter… who could dig this news out of the super-secret NSA system.

My guess is that she/USA Today was merely ‘handed’ the story by some 3rd-party—and that Ms. Cauley primarily functioned as convenient front.

This news remains very important—but is likely just the tip-of-the-iceberg on domestic-spying activity.

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By Mace Price, May 13, 2006 at 10:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No, “Raja Hornstein” you’re not completely nuts. In fact you are far from nuts. And the reality that makes you as deeply suspicious and fearful as I am doesnt make you nuts either. This doesn’t mean that The State couldn’t qualify you as insane down the road. But we’ll save pleasant thoughts like that for later. Truth is, Domestic spying-surveillance, trolling, mining, data bases, de facto Pentagon control of the State Intelligence Organs is nothing new whatsoever—-But USA TODAY with very wide distribution and to my mind [this despite their editorial condemning such authoritarian measures] an adult version of My Weekly Reader; breaking conviniently timed story this controversial? Yes, that is a departure, have no doubt. Which means they wanted to make Goddamn sure it was circulated. Basically this serves a dual operation of The State: A. It distracts the public focus from your aforementioned topics, i.e. those that more directly effect their existence, and on to the, continuing, War on Terrorism and B: It serves as as both declaration and warning to the public that: Yes we are watching you and will continue to watch you and its perfectly legal. Spooks with electric sticks in lieu of politicians with candy carrots if you will my dear Hornstein. The symptoms are unmistakable to the least discerning watcher of Television and Internet Surfer…The real tragedy is that the consolidation of Police State Policies/Authority is being effected right under our Goddamned noses will be little opposed by the American Public at large, and this is of small wonder. Why? Because fear works, and worse than that? 70% of the American public is said to be convinced that The US Government has had covert dealings with Space Aliens…Yes, I said Space Aliens…
  So accordingly Hornstein, once more: Don’t think you are “Completely nuts.” Trouble is this will only get worse. There’s an old saying in boxing. “If you can hit a guy once? Then you can hit him twice.” And we have just been hit. USA Today even let ya know about it…The States Philosophy on this? “Want some more asshole?”

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By Tim Bickford, May 13, 2006 at 10:36 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I don’t doubt that what we know is only a small piece of Corporate influences gaining access into the activities that occur in every American hiusehold.  How else would they be deemed able to write our energy policy, pharmacutical policy, and receive so many no bid contracts that cost so much and do so little? 

Our right to privacy has been sold years ago by our government.  They will lie, cover up, and deceive using a cloak of secrecy at every corner.  It is not “We The People” who our government is responsive to.  It is the secret international Gods of Commerce that orchestrate our circus in Washington.  Its quite a show but nothing gets fixed and the middle class pays and pays while the criminals make up stories.

I’m glad that someone is looking behind the curtain.  I fear my government far more then I fear any other terrorist organization.  Maybe we all will wake up and figure out that what they are selling is not security and we are the biggest terrorists in our world today.

Maybe we should replace our Congress and our administration with illegal immigrants since it seems they are jobs that Americans won’t do.

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By Artist General, May 13, 2006 at 10:14 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


(AG apologies to the Beatles / Back in USSR)

Drove in from Miamied Speech, (DOA-see!)
Didn’t get to bed last night
Oh, the way the paper flag was in my Tea
Man, I had a “NO-FLY” flight
I’m back in the USSA
You can’t say how “lucky” you are, boy
Back in the USSA, yeah

Been away so long I hardly know the place
Gee, it’s sad to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to make my case
Honey doncha use this phone
I’m back in the USSA
You can’t say how “lucky” they are, boy
Back in the US
Back in the US
Back in the USSA

Well the Ukraine polls really knocked me out
They leave the west behind
And Moscow’s vote make me think about
OUR “Red"state’s always on my my my my my my my my my mind
Oh, come on
Hu Hey Hu, hey, ah, yeah
yeah, yeah, yeah
I’m back in the USSA
You don’t know how lucky you are, boys
Back in the USSA

Well the Ukraine Vote really clocks me out
They leave the west behind
And Moscow’s rights make me wonder about
OUR Georgia’s always on my my my my my my my my my mind

Oh, show me round your $now jobbed
mountin’ way down south
Take me to you Daddy’s $marm
Let me hear your “Bush-I-Like”-uhs ringing out
Come and keep your “Rapture” warm
I’m back in the USSA
Hey, You can’t say how $ucky they are, boy
Back in the USSA
Oh, let ‘em $ell you WarFair Honey…

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By Rolando Blackman, May 13, 2006 at 6:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Sadly, according to various MSM polls more than 60% of Americans think it’s OK for the Feds to accumulate and comb through personal phone records of the U.S. citizenry for whatever reason without a warrant.  They obviously do not hear the sound of hob-nailed boots, marching ever closer…RB

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By Raja Hornstein, May 12, 2006 at 10:43 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Pardon me for suspecting everyone these days, especially former writers for the Wall Street Journal. Remember that USA Today isn’t well known for earth shattering scoops. Then factor in the Republicans who are saying that Bush would much rather be talking about terrorism and the war on it again rather than gas prices, Iraq, Katrina, or what have you. I smell the hand of a very clever Rovesque planted leak. Lets watch how Tony Snow handles this one. So, am I completely nuts?

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