Phone Call Data Collection

I have to admit, reading the USA Today’s big story on the NSA collecting call data has me troubled. Not because they are collecting the data, but the manner in which the data has been collected. The way the collection is described, it is like the NSA is a big telemarketing research firm.

According to the USA Today Story:

"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.

So the NSA sets up a secret contract by which it buys the call records from three of the four largest phone companies in America. (Why is Qwest not participating? Were they not asked?) So we are being hit twice with this program, first that our call records are being sold to the NSA without our knowledge and second, that our tax dollars are paying for the sale. I don't understand, it is the federal government, if it wants the records it could simply ask for them, get legislation to require the records to be turned over or get a court order.

Of course, in order to do that latter two options it would require some public knowledge of a program that is supposed to be secret.

For a contract that has been in place since late 2001, almost five years, I wonder how much of our tax dollars has gone to pay for this program. Of course, given that it is a government contract, the price paid for the data is surely exorbitant. I realize that much of the NSA's budget is kept secret, and the price of this particular program was simply swallowed by the budget boost the agency got in the wake of 9/11, but did anyone question the budget line item for this? On a differnt note, how do the phone companies disclose this income on their financial reports (which by law must be somewhat detailed)?

While, right now, I have no problem with the concept of collecting the data to analyze patterns for security purposes, I am worried that the NSA has decided that buying the call information is the best means of collecting the data.

Posted by Matt Johnston at May 11, 2006 8:37 AM
Comment #147167

This is really important because Gen. Hayden reiterated time and again in January that the NSA spying was focused and targeted ONLY to those transmissions between suspected terrorists or their associates and only Americans who may be communicating with them.

If the reports of this article are true, then Gen. Hayden not only admitted he operated the NSA programs under the wrong interpretation of the 4th Amendement when he said the standard which applied was reasonable suspicion, instead of the correct interpreation of probable cause, but, he is now caught in bold faced lies about the limited, focused, and targeted nature of the spying, if blanket sweeps of communications are taking place and the goal. Gen. Hayden in January in a press conference stated emphatically that this was not the case.

These reasons are cause enough for me to contact my Senators and demand that Hayden’s confirmation not be approved. As in NOW!

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 11, 2006 9:15 AM
Comment #147190

OK DAVID THE SHIT IS ON !Lets have this debate this is perfect timing.THE YELLOW will run deep in the halls of congress and the senate.You still just dont get it.

Posted by: saying at May 11, 2006 10:25 AM
Comment #147191

“THE YELLOW” being those so cowardly they’ll gladly give up all of our civil liberties, right?

And weren’t you banned?

Posted by: Arr-squared at May 11, 2006 10:29 AM
Comment #147193

David, are you kidding? Your more worried about the cost than the deed? Who are you guys? Don’t you ever read the Constitution? This is a violation of the 4th amendment not to mention possible violations of the first. And you are more concerned about cost?

Are you so afraid that you are willing to sacrifice the very freedoms we say we stand for? What ever happened to “give me liberty or give me death?” You need a good dose of the libertarians, who may be considered conservative by some; I suggest you read on a daily basis.

Peace, cml

Posted by: cml at May 11, 2006 10:33 AM
Comment #147196
(Why is Qwest not participating? Were they not asked?)

According to the USAToday article,

Among the big telecommunications companies, only Qwest has refused to help the NSA, the sources said. According to multiple sources, Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.

Here’s the article about this on Slashdot. Not that it’s solid journalism, but you might get insight into the geek perspective on the issue.

Posted by: LawnBoy at May 11, 2006 10:38 AM
Comment #147199


Maybe I’m missing it, but where does David focus on the cost. Did you mean Matt?

Posted by: LawnBoy at May 11, 2006 10:40 AM
Comment #147200

The latest slogan seems to be “give me military, or give me death”.

Posted by: Rocky at May 11, 2006 10:41 AM
Comment #147205

Mayhaps we should all develop secret communication codes with those we speak to in meaningful conversation so that the NSA will have to deal with both the contact and, the content.

Posted by: steve smith at May 11, 2006 10:46 AM
Comment #147212

Steve Smith,

“Mayhaps we should all develop secret communication codes with those we speak to in meaningful conversation so that the NSA will have to deal with both the contact and, the content.”

Teenagers have been doing this for years.

Posted by: Rocky at May 11, 2006 11:00 AM
Comment #147213

Carefull guys… Big Brother is reading this…

I, myself, find nothing wrong with losing our basic fundamental principles for a sense of security from a threat that we have no idea how to fight.

Come on, RightWingers!!! Defend your Leader!!!

Posted by: Aldous at May 11, 2006 11:00 AM
Comment #147214

I am sure I am missing something really important here, but here goes:

1. This is not spying/snooping/eavesdropping
2. This IS data mining, which is done in the public sector every minute of every day.
3. The government SHOULDN’T be paying for it, they should be requesting the records.
4. They aren’t listening to the calls. They are inspecting and sorting the calls based on statistical analysis.
5. If you think the US Government is breaching some Amendment, you don’t need to go back very far to find precedence.

I, for one, am good with this, and am glad to find that this administration is being proactive in the hunt for terrorists. If a democrat was in the White House, you would be lauding him for being proactive. In fact, it seems to me that the left has consistently lambasted this administration for not being better prepared to defend our country. So now we find that they are doing what is necessary (at least we hope) and now they are going “too far”.

Hypocrites. Nothin’ but. Wait… Partisan Hypocrites.

Posted by: Bruce at May 11, 2006 11:04 AM
Comment #147216


You are right. Can we assume that the teenagers have already beaten the system?

Posted by: steve smith at May 11, 2006 11:13 AM
Comment #147218

Government collecting information about phone calls. To what purpose? Who’s calling or faxing their representative? Who has affiliations with which political party? Who are their friends?

Is my phone number my serial number, not tatooed to my arm, but instead available by asking some company? I’m beginning to not feel safe, and this has nothing to do with foreign terrorists.

Posted by: Thomas R at May 11, 2006 11:15 AM
Comment #147219

Bruce, we are supposed to be fighting to protect our liberties and freedoms from intrusive and authoritarian governments, NOT sacrificing our liberties and freedoms to it. It’s in the Constitution, all them amendments, ya’ know!

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 11, 2006 11:16 AM
Comment #147222

Local police as for telephone records all the time. The only difference is, they have to get a warrant.
They have to get a warrant because of the 1934 Communications Act. In it is states:

(h) Disclosure of information to governmental entity pursuant to court order

A governmental entity may obtain personally identifiable information concerning a cable subscriber pursuant to a court order only if, in the court proceeding relevant to such court order -

* (1) such entity offers clear and convincing evidence that the subject of the information is reasonably suspected of engaging in criminal activity and that the information sought would be material evidence in the case; and
* (2) the subject of the information is afforded the opportunity to appear and contest such entity’s claim.

There’s a court order that’s required.

Posted by: john trevisani at May 11, 2006 11:17 AM
Comment #147226

Arr-Squared, if saying wasn’t banned before s/he was warned, and s/he is banned now. The name calling and flame baiting is not tolerated here.

Posted by: WatchBlog Managing Editor at May 11, 2006 11:22 AM
Comment #147229

Of course they’re running it like a telemarketer list. They’re also dataminning off of credit report sites and sites which track online purchasing. They are developing the databases to track everything everyone does in terms of commerce, and why shouldnt they, its in their best interest to know more about us, that way they can more strictly enforce the gradually stricter laws.

Thomas Jefferson said “Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add “within the limits of the law” because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.” What I take that to mean is that we should not give to much creedence to those who wish to track our every action, because they may come for us tomorrow for something which isn’t illegal today. Not necessarily ex-pos facto laws, but making normal dissent illegal, that sort of thing.

Concentration of power is never a good thing.

Posted by: iandanger at May 11, 2006 11:32 AM
Comment #147239


It’s called encryption. For email, PGP is the way to go. For phone, I’m not sure but I think I remember hearing something about certain VOIP packages supporting encryption, though I believe it screws with voice quality at this stage.

Posted by: Jarandhel at May 11, 2006 11:59 AM
Comment #147242

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! This is no more nefarious than the information you give up or leave available everytime you log onto the internet, fill out a form, enter a ‘sweepstakes’ or is readily available to anyone who wishes to search hard enough, already. It’s a database.

Posted by: pige at May 11, 2006 12:07 PM
Comment #147244


I’m thinking that any encryption on a “private” phone, those doing the listening detect, would send up all kinds of red flags.

Posted by: Rocky at May 11, 2006 12:08 PM
Comment #147252

You might be talking about something like this:

Posted by: john trevisani at May 11, 2006 12:19 PM
Comment #147254

Yeah, it seems that all of us can play at being 007.

When did it become nescessary for the American public to worry about “confidential” phone calls?

Posted by: Rocky at May 11, 2006 12:22 PM
Comment #147256


When did it become nescessary for the American public to worry about “confidential” phone calls?

On January 20, 2001.

Posted by: john trevisani at May 11, 2006 12:24 PM
Comment #147257

I’m a bigtime leftie, and I definitely see this as one step down the slippery slope, but more important to me is the fact that it was done so secretly.

However, in an attempt to find common ground, have any of you righties considered the admissability of any evidence gathered through these data collections? It seems to me the NSA may have tied a lot of hands by basically making telephone records inadmissable as evidence in ANY case tried in ANY court.

The reason privacy laws are as they are, as with most civil liberties, is so the justice system is completely transparent. Once you cloud that transparency, you cast doubt over the entire system.

Posted by: David S at May 11, 2006 12:27 PM
Comment #147262

You guys need to look at that article again; it clearly says that they have millions of “phone numbers” from Americans. It doesn’t say that they were listening in. They were not listening in on us calling grandmom. Jeez some of you fall prey to the MSM so(ooo) easily…

Posted by: rahdigly at May 11, 2006 12:46 PM
Comment #147264

To any and all:

‘Datamining’ seems very different to me than ‘eavesdropping’. Its very different if someone knows that I made 1342 phone calls during a certain time frame (my cell phone provider knows this for billing purposes) than if someone knows the content of those phone calls. I’d hope everyone can see that distinction clearly.

Granted, it may not make a difference to some, but it is indeed a difference nonetheless.

When we log onto websites, we give up some of our personal information. Most of us don’t have a problem doing that, for in return we get access to the website. Is the concern about the phone calls that the government is doing it, or that it is being done at all? That’s a question to start with.

We certainly require warrants to wiretap a phone—that is, to listen in on the conversations. Datamining is an entirely different thing, and may or may not require warrants. Its really just the ability of computers and statisticians to make predictions out of large amounts of raw data. Its when the data isn’t raw that its a concern to me.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at May 11, 2006 12:57 PM
Comment #147267

Quest is not participating becasue they did not feel comfortable giving this information without warrants..Hmm… So as I understand it, NSA requests the information and AT&T, Bell South and Verizon voluntarily give it to NSA.

So who is the Vilian here? NSA or the big three phone companies? I for one am switiching from Verizon to Quest…

Posted by: Steve at May 11, 2006 1:11 PM
Comment #147276

The problem is that for years government agencies have required a warrant in order to obtaion phone records. The precedent is set. I think the NSA acted in bad faith, but the phone companies are wide open for massive class action suits.

Posted by: David S at May 11, 2006 1:50 PM
Comment #147277

The dialog going on here, is to me, another example of the arrogance of the human spieces. In the same light as human beings thinking they could possibly destroy the Earth, what makes any of you think the NSA gives a rip about your phone calls? Do you really believe that some nerdy looking dude is sitting there with a headset on waiting for you to make a call? And do you really think they care about your call to your mistress to set up your next secret meeting at the Snugg Inn Motel? And how many people would it take to listen to all these calls? It is interesting to me that you would be all upset about the government data mining call trace information. What is it that you’re doing that is unlawful? Hmmmm? Why is it that you think the US Government is interested in who you call? I would think they are looking for very specific types of calls that have distinctive features or routes that my lead to terrorist activities. There is not the time nor resources to inspect every call made in a day. This is not a movie on the big screen…..this is real life….with real life consequences. The 3000 or so people in the twin towers are really dead!

Unless you are committing unlawful acts, the NSA really doesn’t care about you at all, I would suspect. If the US government gets their jollies listening to me make make plans for Easter dinner at Grandma’s, then I feel sorry for their pitiful, boring lives.

Posted by: Patrick at May 11, 2006 1:51 PM
Comment #147280

Right, this is the New America! We do not need probable cause to conduct searches. That was the old constitution. Everyone knows we can trust this government, and all future governments with such information. Absolute trust should be given, without oversight, always and forever. No politician would ever, ever, ever abuse it by, say, wiretapping a political opponent. No! Never! If history has taught us any lesson, it is that we should always trust the government.

And when the NSA forces a DOJ investition to shut down because NSA says the information desired is classified, we should trust the NSA. Obviously, no administration, not now, not ever, would ever ever ever classify information to conceal wrongdoing. And clearly, some Americans can be trusted, but others, such as DOJ lawyers, simply cannot be trusted.

This is the New America. The President has Unitary Powers. Come on, Bush Supporters, support the New America!

Posted by: phx8 at May 11, 2006 2:06 PM
Comment #147284


Are you sure the data isn’t going to be used to sell morgages?

Posted by: Rocky at May 11, 2006 2:13 PM
Comment #147289

Well, once again the President with the Unitary Powers in his Eyes is caught lying. We do not even think twice about that anymore. The nominee for the CIA appears to have committed perjury. That does not really count since he had good intentions.

What is interesting is the way the NSA attempted to strangle this investigation. They refused to allow Department of Justice investigators to look into the matter. The NSA claimed it was classified, so the lawyers of our own government cannot see it. Incredible.

Posted by: phx8 at May 11, 2006 2:22 PM
Comment #147291


Unitary powers?

Is that what that bunny-in-the-headlights look is?

For me all it takes is for someone to say “trust me”, and my trust level drops right through the floor.

Posted by: Rocky at May 11, 2006 2:28 PM
Comment #147292


You have to admit, Bush did say he knew what he was doing.

Posted by: Rocky at May 11, 2006 2:32 PM
Comment #147295

what makes any of you think the NSA gives a rip about your phone calls? Do you really believe that some nerdy looking dude is sitting there with a headset on waiting for you to make a call?

Actually, no. They don’t need to with a database of all your calls. If you do make a mistake, or someone wants to incriminate you somehow, they just look back at your records and say on such-and-such a date, you made a call to so-and-so a place.

And who cares if it’s “criminal” behavior. Let’s say you’re trying to join the Bush social club. They go through your records and see a call to the donation line of the Democratic party 4 years ago. Sorry sir, you don’t seem to have a reservation…anymore.

Privacy is important. The Constitution is important. People keep talking about a “slippery slope”, but think about what that means. There are already people in Europe who’ve read about the administration’s moves and telling us that it’s already too late for the people of the United States. Too much has been done to infringe on our liberties. Too much has been ignored by the citizens.

I don’t know if I agree with that, but there are still two years left and no sign of any of our infringed Constitutional rights coming back. And who’s to say the next president will return them anyway?

Posted by: Thomas R at May 11, 2006 2:45 PM
Comment #147301

Check this out. (Sorry, requires a site pass; you gotta watch a commercial or pay.) Sidney Blumenthal outlines how BushCo is dismantling the CIA out of anger that its professionalism prevented them from making a clean case for invading Iraq. These wingnuts is dangerous.

Posted by: mental wimp at May 11, 2006 3:11 PM
Comment #147302

rahdigly, the President said today: “We’re not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans”.

Now that statement raises a third grade question. If the government is not mining and or trolling through the lives of millions of innocent Americans, HOW THE HELL DOES HE KNOW THEY ARE INNOCENT?

Maybe by party affiliation, race, religion. How does he know? And if he doesn’t know, then why he is lying? Logically, he either doesn’t know they are innocent and he is lying, or he is listening in, and lying.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 11, 2006 3:25 PM
Comment #147309

“Now that statement raises a third grade question. If the government is not mining and or trolling through the lives of millions of innocent Americans, HOW THE HELL DOES HE KNOW THEY ARE INNOCENT?”

I am waiting for a conservative reply……

Posted by: Vincent Vega at May 11, 2006 3:45 PM
Comment #147327
what makes any of you think the NSA gives a rip about your phone calls?

The fact that NSA IS collecting the information on all of my phone calls makes me think they “give a rip.”

Do you really believe that some nerdy looking dude is sitting there with a headset on waiting for you to make a call? And do you really think they care about your call to your mistress to set up your next secret meeting at the Snugg Inn Motel?

Wow. I wonder how THAT information could be misused by the party in power…

What is it that you’re doing that is unlawful? Hmmmm?

This is the best justification you can dream up? You don’t mind the government monitroing your call activities because you haven’t done anything unlawful? On that premise, why not let them gather up information on every facet of your life? Oh, wait…

I would think they are looking for very specific types of calls that have distinctive features or routes that my lead to terrorist activities.

You “would think?” It is clear that the government actually does have a record of every phone call I make. Now be a good little right-winger and go read the privacy policy of your telephone carrier. You’ll find that they are in clear violation of it. In what universe do they need the phone records of every citizen in this country to find “terrorist activities?”

Call this what it is. An unwarranted search.

The 3000 or so people in the twin towers are really dead!

Nice non-sequitir. How many have dies from the Iraq adventure? And what does this have to do with my personal and business phone records?

Unless you are committing unlawful acts, the NSA really doesn’t care about you at all, I would suspect.

There you go again. (“I would suspect.”)

If the US government gets their jollies listening to me make make plans for Easter dinner at Grandma’s, then I feel sorry for their pitiful, boring lives.

Again, that’s a lousy justification for tossing out a constitutional right.

Posted by: Jeff Seltzer at May 11, 2006 4:35 PM
Comment #147330

Finally, the Bush adminitration is being fiscally prudent!

Imagine the savings! Since they are only looking at the calls made by the guilty, think about all the costs avoided by not having to try these nefarious, “guilty by dialing” people. We can ship them straight to Gitmo or Eastern Europe and be done with it.

We won’t even have to bother with using the Constitution. Unfortunately, the cleaning bill for defecating all over it will be quite nasty (let alone the stench of Elephant dung everywhere…)

Posted by: CPAdams at May 11, 2006 4:47 PM
Comment #147335

I know who you’re calling… and I’m going to tell your mother. Oh, and your boss might want to know who you’re calling when you’re at work (oops! He already does… I forgot.)

Posted by: Don at May 11, 2006 5:08 PM
Comment #147338

The ACLU has an interesting flash web page that demonstrates the value of trying to preserve our privacy.

It’s not pointed at the government, so it doesn’t directly apply, but it is interesting.

Posted by: LawnBoy at May 11, 2006 5:13 PM
Comment #147340

I have been listening to this today and ave already heard the Republican defense forming.

It goes like this: AT&T, Bell South and Verizon volunteered this information. It is not illegal to collect volunteered information.

The lawsuit against AT&T will now be fought on the basis of refusing to cooperate on the basis of national security.

It’s a tidy dodge.

If you believe in liberty, we need new legislation to stop this dodge. Your vote in November is a vote on your belief in liberty.

“Give me Liberty, or give me Death.” “If we do not hang together, then we will surely hang separately.”

Your country is at stake here.

Posted by: gergle at May 11, 2006 5:28 PM
Comment #147344

I have been listening to this today and have already heard the Republican defense forming.

It goes like this: AT&T, Bell South and Verizon volunteered this information. It is not illegal to collect volunteered information.

The lawsuit against AT&T will now be fought on the basis of refusing to cooperate on the basis of national security.

It’s a tidy dodge.

If you believe in liberty, we need new legislation to stop this dodge. Your vote in November is a vote on your belief in liberty.

“Give me Liberty, or give me Death.” “If we do not hang together, then we will surely hang separately.”

Your country is at stake here.

Posted by: gergle at May 11, 2006 5:35 PM
Comment #147373

Attention Neocons,
You all say that the NSA wiretapping is done to prevent the “terrorists” from winning, well my friends, they have won if our basic freedoms and rights are taken away and trampled upon.
What is the point of living without liberties and privacy, tell me, WHAT IS THE POINT OF LIVING WITHOUT ONE’S GOD GIVEN LIBERTIES!?

Posted by: greenstuff at May 11, 2006 7:45 PM
Comment #147374

While I find this sort of thing very uncomfortable, the data itself is almost useless, for fighting terrorism that is. I can run a program such as Skype and encrypt the traffic from my PC to the far end PC and there would be no CDR for the government to look in to. If terrorists are using regular phones to communicate with each other, then they are likely stupid terrorists. My fear is why the goernment wnats this dats. What purpose would millions of call detail records show? Perhaps pinpointing habits, such as calls to Democratic organizations? Or calls to liberal causes? Will this information be used to track voters? I believe the information is much more useful in a retail setting, such as an election, than it is in The War Against Terror. Any information gathered by the government on its citizens should be scrutinized and abuses should be held accountable.

Posted by: Jim at May 11, 2006 7:52 PM
Comment #147375

To Steve:
Qwest probably is unable to provide these records to the government, since they are the telephone version of the Keystone Kops…. They are simply using the excuse of legality to keep their exposure from being seen as incompetent. Maybe they are the RBOC version of the Bushco… Inept and incompetent.

Posted by: Jim at May 11, 2006 7:57 PM
Comment #147377


These sorts of things have been done throughout our history. I bothers me not one bit. IT would not bother you either if it was not Bush who did it. In fact, had he not done it, he would not be doing his job.

Re terrorist winning, do you really think Islamic terrrorists goal is to make us crackdown? Their goal is to dominate the Middle East. Our type of government matters little to them.

And what liberties do you feel you have lost? How has this affected you or anybody you know? I know the answer will be “we don’t know”. Well, usually if you are harmed you figure it out. Or maybe you have not been harmed.


Patrick Henry or Ben Franklin would not be surprised at this sort of information gathering (once they understood the technology). Franklin’s job descrition included such things. Their only question would be WHY so many people were helping their country’s enemies, inadvertently or on purpose.

Posted by: Jack at May 11, 2006 7:59 PM
Comment #147386


You said, “…we are supposed to be fighting to protect our liberties and freedoms from intrusive and authoritarian governments, NOT sacrificing our liberties and freedoms to it.”

When our country is under attack from enemy combatants (which we are), our President’s #1 job is to protect us. Yes, I will sacrifice some liberties and freedoms in order for our government to protect us from foreign attacks.

John T.

I couldn’t disagree more. That information is for sale with every phone company out there. They SELL THAT INFO FOR PROFIT. The fact that the government shouldn’t be able to ascertain that information is ludicrous. They are using it to see patterns. They are not eavesdropping. They aren’t reading transcripts; unless, of course they determine that a possible transgression is taking place. At that point the court-ordered argument can come into place.

My opinions, that’s all.

Furthermore, I don’t believe that the government will “grow” this into anything more than it is. I hear on talk radio all day long about how people are okay with what they are doing “now”, but what if they try to make it the de facto standard in domestic intel? They won’t. It’s not feasible, cost effective, or necessary.

Posted by: Bruce at May 11, 2006 8:26 PM
Comment #147388

You write: “Their only question would be WHY so many people were helping their country’s enemies, inadvertently or on purpose.”

I do not think General Hayden intends to help the enemies of the country, nor do Bush Supporters in general. They do not mean to be cowards or traitors. They are simply blinded by their own fear. It is a fear out of proportion with reality, but the Bush administration has successfully played upon this fear, not to further foreign policy goals, not to prosecute some vague War on Terror that involves catching people in mud huts in Pakistan, but to further domestic goals. We see the consequences.

Posted by: phx8 at May 11, 2006 8:31 PM
Comment #147391

If you have any doubt, see the post by Bruce.

Posted by: phx8 at May 11, 2006 8:33 PM
Comment #147392


“Re terrorist winning, do you really think Islamic terrrorists goal is to make us crackdown?”

I would submit that through their acts on Sept. 11th, they have forced us in America to drasticly change our way of life.

And yes, I think that they have also forced us to look at each other differently, and as a result contributed to the polorization we all face in this country.

“IT would not bother you either if it was not Bush who did it.”

Wiretaps with out a warrant it would bother me if was Washington that was President.

Posted by: Rocky at May 11, 2006 8:34 PM
Comment #147396

Should read;

Wiretaps with out a warrant would bother me if Washington was President.

Posted by: Rocky at May 11, 2006 8:53 PM
Comment #147399


For a guy who avoids posting his email address at Watchblog, you are pretty unconcerned with other people’s information.

Perhaps you would like to post your name and email below? I promise to forward it to a duly assigned army recruiting officer.

Posted by: Aldous at May 11, 2006 8:59 PM
Comment #147405

Wel, Jack, I presume you are much older than the rest of us and have consulted with those men seeing how you have such insight into Ben and Patrick’s thinking.

What exactly do you think Patrick Henry and Ben Franklin were talking about? They were guilty of Sedition. If the NSA was doing then what it is today, America would still be a colony and our forefathers would have died as traitors.

Posted by: gergle at May 11, 2006 9:14 PM
Comment #147413

Bruce, if telecoms are selling phonecall records then they are violating FCC regulation. You are simply wrong on that point.

That does not apply to internet hit records, however.

Posted by: gergle at May 11, 2006 9:29 PM
Comment #147419

My apologies to David. I meant Matt. Thanks for the correction.

Slippery slope or not this “data mining” is wrong! It clearly violates the 4th amendment and might be considered an abridgement of free speech too. And some of you don’t really worry about this activity? After Abu Gharib, references to the Constitution as a “GD piece of paper”, calling the Geneva Conventions “quaint”, violations of FISA?

ANYTHING this bunch in Washington does, based upon what we know, should immediately be suspect. Yes, maybe the sky is falling, at least on our Constitution.

Peace, cml

Posted by: cml at May 11, 2006 9:45 PM
Comment #147424


If you have a better place to be, go. The point of all this is so that we can maintain our freedoms. If we lose this war, you will have decidedly less personal freedom than you enjoy today. For instance, trashing your government in a public foru.

Posted by: Bruce at May 11, 2006 9:58 PM
Comment #147428

Oh God, I’m using verizon dsl now and i’ve been running my mouth. How am I going to get out of this mess. I know.

I think George Bush will be considered one of the greatest presidents because he has the guts to stand up to the terrorists and those terrorist loving liberal constitutionalists who are being mamby pamby about a few little rights.

I am all for data mining of all Americans even if we don’t catch one terrorist. I think we should use the wire taps to go after the liberals, especially those dangerous anti war Quakers. Those people are weird anyway. Can you believe that they actually took Gods word to heart when he said thou shall not kill. How can we trust a bunch of people like that.

Alright, I feel better now. Jack, I don’t think you or I have anything to worry about.

Posted by: jlw at May 11, 2006 10:17 PM
Comment #147432

It is just that nothing I have heard about the terrorist surveillance program has led me to believe it will impact innocent Americans.

Privacy is an interesting and expanding category. I lived in several European countries. People have different sorts of privacy rights. They are generally not as strong as ours. They have more intrusive reporting and people have mandatory types of identification. But people are not oppressed. Privacy also was not such a factor in our own recent past and we were not particularly oppressed. My opinion is that privacy is a means to an end (of not being oppressed) but not an end in itself.


I don’t talk to terrorists. If I did and/or if terrorist are talking to me, I want my government to know. As for the most recent data gathering, I suppose they gathered information about my telephone number too. If the statistics they gather help catch some of the bad guys, that is good.

I am also beginning to resent this Army recruiter crap. You don’t know much about me or the kind of work I do or have done. Given the policies you advocate, you should probably be living in Cuba or North Korea. So when you move permanently one of the socialist paradises such as North Korea or Cuba I will entertain some of your other suggestions.


Washington would have done it. (You recall how he foiled Benedict Arnold) and he would have been right to do it.


I have read several biographies of Franklin. Given the nature of his work, it seems highly unlikely he would have objected to his side gathering information on the other side and/or people from his side who were in touch with the enemy. In fact, I am fairly certain that had Franklin acted in accordance with the principles you mention, his mission in Paris would have failed.

Justification of supervision also depends on the situation. Surely you are not comparing the terrorist to our patriots. We do agree that they are the bad guys, right?

Posted by: Jack at May 11, 2006 10:49 PM
Comment #147433


Yeah, I like this logic. “They do it all the time, so don’t worry.” “If it hasn’t affected you directly, then it isn’t a problem.” “The terrorists don’t care about how we govern.” (But, of course, your fantasy leader Mr. Arbusto sez “the tear wrists hate our freedom,” so apparently he disagrees with you.) And, above it all, the lulu: “Ben Franklin would love this; he did the same sort of thing.” You make some sense when you talk about economics. About this you’re in lala land. Ben Franklin did not enter his neighbors’ house or search his neighbors’ property without probable cause and appropriate warrants. Do you have any evidence (Fox News doesn’t count) that he did? The question is why you are blowing smoke for this administration? What do you have to gain?

Posted by: Mental Wimp at May 11, 2006 10:52 PM
Comment #147439

The issue, boys and girls, is not, as the pathetic defenders of all things Bush would have you believe, is not whether the government can conduct espionage. It is also not, as they try to imply, whether rampant unwarranted invasion of privacy is a useful activity in catching bad guys. The gummint guys can monitor communications and if they knew exactly what everyone was doing and saying, they could prevent domestic terror (as well as nearly all crime, I’d wager). No, boys and girls, the issue, no matter how hard the Bushies try to cloud it, it that the settled law has been that in order to accomplish the monitoring of communications, the government must obtain a warrant in a court of law. As a concession to the occasional need to be secretive, the FISA court was set up. BushCo has blown this off, claiming all sorts of imperial rights for the office of the Presidency and the executive branch, none of which are mentioned in the Constitution (unless you accept the stretching of words far beyond any recognizable meaning now or when they were penned). The reason they have been historically forbidden to have such power in this country is the realization by the founding fathers that such power would quickly lead to corruption. The availability of the power to spy on ones political enemies is just too tempting to mortal politicians who will do just about anything legally to stay in power. Without the monitoring of a second branch, the judicial, there is no check or balance on this power. Everyone, demo, repub, conservative, liberal, libertarian, should be screaming from the rafters about this. The only ones who aren’t are those who are so far in bed with the manifest agenda of the administration (rolling back the progressive and salutary changes in society of the last 70 years) that nothing else matters and they are willing to continue to support all the administration’s actions so long as they continue to attack the New Deal and the Great Society. As Shrub’s approval rating shrinks, the remaining nub of society will reveal itself as exactly these greedy and selfish few. We’ll know then who the real enemy is.

Posted by: Mental Wimp at May 11, 2006 11:09 PM
Comment #147441

If you generally assume the situation is worse than the administration is telling us, you will be rarely proven wrong. From deficit spending to Iraq civil war, to pre-war planning and evidence manipulation, to Katrina response, to global warming, to spying on US citizens, etc. The longer Bush loyalists take to learn the lesson 70% of Americans already know, the hearder that lesson will be.

Matt says he’s not bothered by the “collection of data.” Of course you’re not. You wouldn’t be a Bush loyalist if you were. So in 6 months when we learn that they weren’t just “collecting data” and the situation has been much worse than any loyalist claimed, what won’t you be bothered by then?

Posted by: Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout at May 11, 2006 11:12 PM
Comment #147448


It astounds me how much you defend Shrub The Decider.

First, they said they would wiretap specific foriegn calls.

Then, they said they wiretap all calls going to terrorist countries.

Then, it was ALL foriegn calls.

Then, it was specific domestic calls.

Now, its ALL domestic calls.

Can you enlighten us as to where your line stands? At which point will you scream, “Enough”, Jack?

Or will you wave the flag when they start putting all Arab Americans into detention camps.

Posted by: Aldous at May 11, 2006 11:34 PM
Comment #147462

So many Good Posts. By so many (at least NOW) Concerned True American Patriots.

I count at least three occasions in this thread where I was Beat To The Punch on righteous (and humourous) replies: you guys know who you are - good going! (Finally, I just gave up trying to say what had already been said - and so, so well - and settled on this post instead.)

So here it is: Is Betty still the Madwoman of Irish-America? Is she still uNnEcEsSaRiLy FrEaKiNg OuT?

And, if not - if Betty is not wrong about just how much you have to worry/lose - then what else might Betty be right about?

Food for thought. Chew it over.

Posted by: Betty Burke at May 12, 2006 12:19 AM
Comment #147485

Good point. The ground of the debate keeps shifting. Now, instead of eavesdropping on terrorists, we are debating datamining Americans.

When this issue initially appeared, it could have been a simple matter for the Bush administration to resolve. If it were merely a matter of conflict between Executive, Legislative, & Judicial branches, this could have easily been resolved; after all, Republican Bush controls the Executive branch, Republican congressman control the legislative, and the judiciary is generally conservative; I do not think any judge serving on a secretive FISA court could be considered liberal in any meaningful sense of the word.

Instead of solving this problem through negotiations, the Bush White House chooses to obfuscate and stonewall. The ground shifts. The lies become grossly obvious. Only Repubican Bush Supporters willing to surrender their constitutional rights continue supporting the president.

Most alarming of all, how much further will the ground shift? Just how far over the line did this president go?

Posted by: phx8 at May 12, 2006 1:26 AM
Comment #147511

phx8, a couple wisdoms come to mind from your comments. Slippery Slope, and ‘give an inch, take a mile’. The minute power in government detects an opening for even greater power, it will widen that opening indefinitely and infinitely if allowed to do so. That is the nature of power. It is why power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 12, 2006 2:43 AM
Comment #147512

Bruce said: “Yes, I will sacrifice some liberties and freedoms in order for our government to protect us from foreign attacks.”

Good luck getting them back when Hillary is President and the House is controlled by Democrats. That’s the problem with surrendering liberty. Once surrendered, you almost never get them back without a fight. Only, it will be your kids trying to get them back for themselves after you so cavalierly surrendered them.

Good Night, and Good Luck!

Posted by: David R. Remer at May 12, 2006 2:49 AM
Comment #147536

May God help us if Hillary Clinton becomes the first Woman President of the United States of America.


Heaven forfend…

Posted by: Betty Burke at May 12, 2006 4:01 AM
Comment #147542

Liberty is my right and cannot be taken away from me regardless of who is in power.

If you are a customer of the 3 telecoms involved, you might want to express your outrage directly. So, phone calls, emails, sms message are not scanned for content? The administration’s credibility on this topic is ZERO.

Amazingly, like most big companies, they have whole departments entrusted to ensure ethical behavior.

Corporate Responsibility, Ethics and Governance…lity/contactus/

Your Customer Proprietary Network Information Rights…policy? pid=2576

Office of Ethics and Compliance

Also, file a complaint with TRUSTe and demand they revoke their seal of approval.…? page=complaint

Liberty is my right!

Posted by: Hermes Trismegistes at May 12, 2006 4:39 AM
Comment #147548

i think you’re mistaken. Here’s why i think so.
Phone companies know very well what information that they are allowed to sell. They can sell marketing information (age, sex, address, etc..) but they are specifically prohibited from releasing information pertaining who their client calls and their client receives calls from. It’s all in the Communications act of 1934.
Which is why local authorities are required to get a warrant to search your phone records.

Haven’t you ever watched Law and Order? :)

Posted by: john trevisani at May 12, 2006 7:43 AM
Comment #147553


is the communication act of 1934 still the salient law on the books about this kind of stuff? What effect did FISA have on the CA of 1934?

Seems unlikely that a law from 1934 would still be the law at the forefront of an industry that has changed so dramatically. I’d be interested to know how outdated the law is, or whether it has been updated. Thanks for any help you can provide.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at May 12, 2006 8:13 AM
Comment #147556

CML wrote earlier:

Slippery slope or not this “data mining” is wrong! It clearly violates the 4th amendment and might be considered an abridgement of free speech too.

Be very careful here. As you have probably heard, the Supreme Court ruled in 1979 (the Burger Court) in Smith v. Maryland, that people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the phone numbers they dial. People neither own or have exclusive control over their phone numbers. The numbers are assigned by a third party, and in modern times with caller ID and other such technologies, phone numbers are generally public information. Furthermore, you have no expectation of privacy at all in someone else’s phone records. the reasonable expectation of privacy is the linchpin in all 4th Amendemnt search and seizure cases, if you don’t have a reasonable expectation of privacy, the government doesn’t need a warrant.

Second, this is nowhere near a First Amendment free speech issue. Even if you can make a 4th Amendment case, you have zero grounds of a Free Speech case. The government is not regulating the content of your speech nor prohibiting you from speaking. Let’s not fly off the handle into unrelated legal areas.

And some of you don’t really worry about this activity? After Abu Gharib, references to the Constitution as a “GD piece of paper”, calling the Geneva Conventions “quaint”, violations of FISA?

Do you have a credible source that Bush Administration officials actually said these things?

ANYTHING this bunch in Washington does, based upon what we know, should immediately be suspect. Yes, maybe the sky is falling, at least on our Constitution.

So datamining is bad, but Echelon (a Clinton Administration program) was OK? I suggest you make sure you are not supporting a double standard, as apparently many Democratic members of Congress are. In my book, either program is permissible.

“Anything” done by the Bush Administration is worthy of distrust? I believe in a health skepticism of government, but I don’t allow it to creep into the zone of paranoia about the government.

Furthermore, what do we know about this program? Only what has been printed in the paper—and that is, at least in legal terms, double hearsay, first from an anonymous source that we don’t know for sure knows about the program then filtered by the reporter and editors.

Posted by: Matt Johnston at May 12, 2006 8:25 AM
Comment #147558

Yes. i believe so. The 1934 act has been amended continuously to adapt for technological changes. You will remember the most recent change in 1996 during the Clinton Presidency that created a significant amount of controversy.

Posted by: john trevisani at May 12, 2006 8:31 AM
Comment #147566

If it’s just data-mining, than do it legally with judicial supervision. Is that too much to ask?

Think of the future - a president like Nixon would have been legally listening into all kinds of phone calls and spying on citizens. Things aren’t always so black and white. I just don’t get why this operation has to be some super-secret affair.

Posted by: Max at May 12, 2006 9:03 AM
Comment #147594

Matt, thank you for your response. You seem to be a logical sort of person. So, let’s have at it.

What bothers me most is that the previous NSA “monitoring” of phone calls apparently does violate FISA as I understand the law. What upsets me about the newest revelations is the lack of any legal permission to data mine. I do not know about you, but I don’t want this government or any (including Democratic ones) to data mine my records without some kind of court order and truly reasonable cause.

Why don’t I trust this bunch? Because they lie, and then they lie about the lies. What public statements do you wish as corroborating evidence? The Attorney General is widely reported as referring to the Geneva Conventions as “quaint.” The President is reported to have referred to the Constitution as a “GD piece of paper.” Do we really need to go into the Downing Street Memo as further evidence of the possible malfeasance of the administration? If so, fine, I’m ready. All of these examples I, of course, did not personally hear or read original source documents; as Will Rogers said, “all I know is what I read in the papers.” One has to function based upon the evidence one can reasonably ascertain as reliable. This is not, I submit, paranoia. Although maybe a little paranoia is warranted at times. Even a paranoid may have enemies.

I do not want the government to mess around with first amendment or other Bill of Rights freedoms without some kind of close, court supervision. Elemental government 101 points out the efficacy of separation of government powers. I am not a pure libertarian except in Bill of Rights matters, then I come pretty close. I do believe that listening in on my conversations and data mining my records puts a big foot on my ability to communicate; is that not a first amendment concern?

BTW have you read Great website. You can pick up there a lot of the sources and information there about the truthiness of this administration.

Peace, cml

Posted by: cml at May 12, 2006 10:54 AM
Comment #147601

Keep in mind, part of what caused this uproar was the NSA refusing to give Department of Justice lawyers clearance to look at what is going on. The White House refuses to allow oversight or any checks and balances on the unitary power of the president, because we are supposedly in the midst of a war.

No checks. No balances. No oversight.

And remember, the oversight would come from fellow Republican congressman, and lawyers from the Bush administration, and judges who already oversee secret courts.

Posted by: phx8 at May 12, 2006 11:08 AM
Comment #147605

Max & others,

Is data mining legal? That is the question. If Sony, Kellogs and P&G do it, should I be concerned that the Gov is doing it too???

Posted by: Brazosdog at May 12, 2006 11:12 AM
Comment #147610

Here is a good article:

Here is another one, from December:

The question is, what is the government doing with the data? You would think this would be easy to resolve, as I mentioned in previous comments. Obtaining a warrant before a search, having probable cause, these are understood, and FISA courts allow warrants to be obtained even after a search has already occurred.

Instead, the Bush administration keeps changing its story, and keeps refusing to allow oversight, checks, or balances.

So what the hell is going on?

Are we a nation of terrorists? Is the government protecting itself from us?

Posted by: phx8 at May 12, 2006 11:36 AM
Comment #147621


“If Sony, Kellogs and P&G do it, should I be concerned that the Gov is doing it too???”

I think these manufacturers are more interested in your buying habits than who you call.

Posted by: Rocky at May 12, 2006 11:58 AM
Comment #147632

AS to the question of whether this is illegal or unconstitutional, there is an excellent bit of citaton to actual court decisions and to the FISA law on National Review on-line that shows that the Supreme Court has specifically stated that we have no privacy rights in the identification of the numbers we call, and that FISA does not prevent collecting the numbers called without a court warrant.

In a nation as large as ours, and where we are trying to prevent large-scale disaster on short notice, this could sometimes be a powerful tool to locate terrorists or those who have knowledge of terrorist activity. Good for the government.

At the same time, the fact that the databases exist at all is the real threat to our privacy. Whether or not it is the government that misuses that data, someone (perhaps a foreign government, a terrorist or mafia member) can misuse the database once they get their hands on it. Once the database exists, the genie is out of the bottle. Why shouldn’t our government be permitted to use the database?

This just shows how scary the concentration of power is - we need to keep an open government, prosecute those within government that violate the law, root out corruption wherever it is found, and in general be diligent about our own self-government here. This has nothing to do with the party in power and everything to do with our own need to pay attention to government, to insist on principles of good government that are not tied to Party or ideology.


Posted by: Mark at May 12, 2006 12:32 PM
Comment #147634

The difference, Brazos, is Sony, Kellog, and Proctor and Gamble cannot jail you. They cannot send the CIA or FBI to raid your house or plant evidence because some despot decides your political views are un-American because they interfere with his despotism.

History of illegal spying

Reagan ‘s persecution of El Salvadorans and Quakers

Posted by: gergle at May 12, 2006 12:43 PM
Comment #147663


Congratulations, you have become conservative.

Sony, Kellog, P&G cannot jail you. You now see the reason why we need limited government and why firms are not the danger.

I still, disagree the the terrorist surviellence is a problem and that we need our government to protecting us. I hope I have not become a liberal.

Posted by: Jack at May 12, 2006 2:03 PM
Comment #147697

President Bush, January 26, 2006:

…we will not listen inside this country. It is a call from al Qaeda, al Qaeda affiliates, either from inside the country out, or outside the country in, but not domestically.

Doesn’t it bother any Republicans that Bush doesn’t mean and won’t stick to anything he says? Now he’s saying he won’t use the data except to get terrorists - bullshit!

Posted by: Max at May 12, 2006 3:43 PM
Comment #147721

gergle reassured us:

Sony, Kellog, and Proctor and Gamble cannot jail you. They cannot send the CIA or FBI to raid your house or plant evidence because some despot decides your political views are un-American because they interfere with his despotism.

Bill O’Reilly and Fox Security can!

I’m fightin’ for WalMart - who’re you with??”

Posted by: Betty Burke at May 12, 2006 5:07 PM
Comment #147722

Thanks Jack, but I always have been, just not authoritarian.

I have always believed that government should be limited, in fact, I’m almost anti-federalist. Almost.

That said, government can and should be the moderator on the free market. Corporations especially when mixed with government can become a problem.

I was reading a biography of John D. Rockefeller the other day and was reminded about the reasons for anti-trust legislation. Laisse Faire government doesn’t work well either.

Posted by: gergle at May 12, 2006 5:07 PM
Comment #147727


You posited, “If it’s just data-mining, than do it legally with judicial supervision.”

It IS legal, as can be found in the Supreme Court case Smith v Maryland (1979). They found that law enforcement agencies can request that type of information in the course of law enforcement WITHOUT a warrant.

But you’ll never read that in Newsweek, Time, NY Times, LA Times, etc.

Posted by: Bruce at May 12, 2006 5:47 PM
Comment #147770


It isn’t O’reilly who comes after you, it’s Bush. O’Reilly and his loofa may be scummy, but he’s all talk.

Posted by: gergle at May 12, 2006 8:11 PM
Comment #147895
The point of all this is so that we can maintain our freedoms.
Right. Welcome to “1984” - a “how-to” book to the necons. Where Big Brother can say anything they want.
We’ve going to war with Iraq to maintain the peace
We’re fighting religioius extremists by invading a secular country that didn’t attack us
We’re running up a massive deficit in order to keep a strong economy
We’re “saving” Social Security by dismantling it
We’re saving the environment by weakening the environmental laws
Welcome to 1984, gang.

Posted by: ElliottBay at May 13, 2006 12:34 PM
Comment #148233

And ya know, Elliot: the real year 1984 wasn’t such a great year for America either…


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Apple iPhone 8GB —- $170
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Tom Tom Go 510 ——- $140
SIDEKICK II ——- $115


GARMIN 396—$130
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Playstation 2 —- $130
Playstation 3 —- $175
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Nintendo Wii —- $155

Xbox 360 Core System ——- $160
Xbox 360 Prenium pack —$190
Xbox 360 Platinum Bundle Console ——- $155

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Xbox 360 Core System…………..$163
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Xbox 360 Platinum Bundle Console…$140
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AC Adapter for Toshiba Portege 4000/4010/M100/M200/R200…..$13

Your Prompt Enquiry Will be Greatly Appreciated.
Your’s Sincerely,
Mr. Dennis Grant
Sales Representative for the company.

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