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American spy agencies spy on Americans. [Copy link] 中文

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Post time 2006-5-15 00:13:20 |Display all floors
The American National Security Agency has said spying on Americans was necessary because it needed to use the call time, place, location, duration, and destination as part of a pattern analysis program to detect terrorist cells in the USA.  While the USA public is generally supportive of the program, there are ways the data can be easily abused for political purposes.  For example, if the President were to learn that an important fundraiser was also placing calls to senior Democrats, then he might wonder what the conversation is about.  Likewise, businesses always want to know what their competitors are doing.  Misconduct is always first assumed, but competitive conduct is most important.  The example always cited in the media is one where a person is cheating on his or her spouse, not where a major business owner is working through financiers in a different city to expand business lines.  Defending a person's right of privacy while commiting adultery is a poor example to defend, but it's all the media can imagine.  

What is always mentioned in the discussion of NSA activity within the USA is that it is a new area of work for the NSA, but it is not a new activity for the NSA generally.  It's reasonable to expect that before the NSA embarked on the USA project, it had completed similar programs in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, South America, Asia, and Japan.  So while some people say the NSA is on a fishing expedition and doesn't know what it's looking for or how to analyze the data, in fact the NSA has tons of data that it has already finished, or is still analyzing.

This is an important point, because the NSA's need for data on American phones that have been connected for decades and American phones that do not fit a terrorist profile is that it needs normal phone activity data to contrast with terrorist phone activity.  But the NSA has been studying phone activity in other industrialized countries for decades.  In fact, guessing about what's being said in a USA conversation based on call data is more precise because the NSA has been studying the conversations and the data of others outside the USA.   

The NSA already knows what it's looking for in phone data, both from an anti-terrorism standpoint and especially from an economically and politically movtivated invasion of privacy standpoint.  After all, that's within their sphere of its authorized activity in other countries -- helping the USA government get into the middle of everyone else's business in other countries.

Also not mentioned is that the USA frequently coordinates activities with the foreign intelligence services of allies like the UK when it is prevented by law from spying on Americans.  So while the NSA activity in the USA may be new, the snooping activity of Americans on Americans could have been accomplished through the UK intelligence service for decades past.


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Post time 2006-5-15 10:27:56 |Display all floors
Is it any different than German/Dutch/Britz/etc police suddenly catching would-be terrorists in their OWN country?  I think not.  Actually, the difference might be that the German guy reading the newspaper the next morning might be happy they caught 'the bad guys', and probably would never ask how, whereas Americans would scream "we are having our rights trampled on', or 'we don't know for sure what they were  going to use an apartment full of TNT for"...quick, someone call Ted Kennedy!!  wahhh wahhh..


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Post time 2006-5-15 19:21:08 |Display all floors
You think there is a country that can afford this stuff that does not have it?

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Post time 2006-5-15 19:50:40 |Display all floors
I'm sure many governments do this.

The technology to snoop through every call has been around for a while, as has voice recognition software for home computers.  So this type of activity has happened for a while I'm sure.

What I don't understand is why the NSA needed to analyze the data from calls placed by phones that have been operational for decades.  They said it was because they needed normal phone activity to contrast it with terrrorist phone activity.  But they already had billions and billions of calls from Europe, South America, Japan, China, India, and Canada to test.  In those countries, the USA can and does monitor the phone conversations.  So they already knew the call patters associated with terrorist activity before the received the phone records from any American phone companies.

300 million Americans with 244+ million phone lines is a big database.  However, if they could narrow it down to the 2 million or 3 million most wealthy Americans, then snooping becomes much more feasible.


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Post time 2006-5-16 05:03:04 |Display all floors

I don't trust any government.....for good reason.

I have always assumed the government was collecting information anyway so I act accordingly.

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Post time 2006-5-16 06:49:42 |Display all floors

Well it's good

We should all be patriotic, and help each countries grow.... as foreigners we are ambassadors of our countries right?!!

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Post time 2006-5-17 07:53:08 |Display all floors
FISA Court Justices told of spying...

and the NSA has it on tape!

Article below says two FISA Court Justices, in America's super-secret court that hears spy cases, were aware of the NSA's plans to build a database of every phone call placed in America, with day, time, duration, and the phone numbers of calls dialed and received.

NSA would know if a network anchor was calling bad guys in Iraq, and then they could explode a huge bomb next to such a man when he traveled to Baghdad.  That's just what happened to ABC News anchorman Bob Woodruff in January, except no one has suspected the NSA of planting the bomb (news people are always suspected of treason).

Just as likely though is that the NSA could investigate the Chairman of General Motors for suspicion of links to al Qaeda.  Upon investigation though, they learned that he had placed more than a dozen calls to the same law firm in New York that an Arab Sheik also used.  However, that firm has a large corporate bankruptcy practice, so after careful review, it was agreed that GM's Chairman was just planning to take the company into bankruptcy.  The panic that ensued when all of Fort Meade sold off their shares last year cost small investors tens of billions when world markets tanked mysteriously.

Published: May 16, 2006
Filed at 7:05 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two judges on the secretive court that approves warrants for intelligence surveillance were told of the broad monitoring programs that have raised recent controversy, a Republican senator said Tuesday, connecting a court to knowledge of the collecting of millions of phone records for the first time.

President Bush, meanwhile, insisted the government does not listen in on domestic telephone conversations among ordinary Americans. But he declined to specifically discuss the compiling of phone records, or whether that would amount to an invasion of privacy.

USA Today reported last week that three of the four major telephone companies had provided information about millions of Americans' calls to the National Security Agency. However, Verizon Communications Inc. denied on Tuesday that it had been asked by the agency for customer information, one day after BellSouth said the same thing.

Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said that at least two of the chief judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court had been informed since 2001 of White House-approved National Security Agency monitoring operations.

''None raised any objections, as far as I know,'' said Hatch, a member of a special Intelligence Committee panel appointed to oversee the NSA's work.

Hatch made the comment in answering a question in an interview about recent reports of the government compiling lists of Americans' phone calls. He later suggested he was also speaking broadly of the administration's terror-related monitoring.

When asked if the judges somehow approved the operations, Hatch said, ''That is not their position, but they were informed.''

The surveillance court, whose 11 members are chosen by the chief justice of the United States, was set up after Congress rewrote key laws in 1978 that govern intelligence collection inside the U.S.

The court is charged with secretly considering individual warrants for physical searches, wiretaps and traces on phone records when someone is suspected of being an agent of a foreign power and making the request to a regular court might reveal highly classified information.

Since 9/11, the court has been led by U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth, and then by U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who succeeded him.

Bush was asked Tuesday about the reported lists of calls.

''We do not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval,'' Bush said.

He appeared to acknowledge the NSA sweep of phone records indirectly, saying that the program referred to by a questioner ''is one that has been fully briefed to members of the United States Congress in both political parties.''

''They're very aware of what is taking place. The American people expect their government to protect them within the laws of this country and I'm going to continue to do just that,'' Bush said.

Spokesman Tony Snow later said Bush's comments did not amount to a confirmation of published reports that the NSA's surveillance included secretly collecting millions of phone-call records.

Verizon, meanwhile, called into question key points of a USA Today story that has led to wide coverage by other news media in the past week.

''Contrary to the media reports, Verizon was not asked by NSA to provide, nor did Verizon provide, customer phone records,'' the New York-based phone company said in an e-mail statement.

A day earlier, BellSouth Corp. had said NSA had never requested customer call data, nor had the company provided any.

A story in USA Today last Thursday said Verizon, AT&T Inc. and BellSouth had complied with an NSA request for tens of millions of customer phone records after the 2001 terror attacks.

USA Today spokesman Steve Anderson said Tuesday, ''We're confident in our coverage of the phone database story, but we won't summarily dismiss BellSouth's and Verizon's denials without taking a closer look.''

The Senate Intelligence Committee is to hold a confirmation hearing Thursday on Bush's nomination of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA. Hayden is sure to face vigorous questioning. As the NSA director from 1999 until last year, Hayden oversaw the creation of some of the government's most controversial intelligence surveillance.

The Senate and House intelligence chairmen -- Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich. -- announced Tuesday that their full committees would be briefed for the first time on Bush's warrantless surveillance program. The operations have allowed the government to eavesdrop on domestic calls when one party is overseas and suspected of terrorism.

Democrats have demanded such information for months, saying the administration was violating the law by withholding it from committee members.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., another Intelligence Committee member on the select NSA panel, said the administration had given the public only part of the story.

''Once they start characterizing the program, it seems to me they have to start characterizing the parts of the program that average Americans would care about, which is access -- if it existed -- to the phone numbers that they call,'' Levin said. ''There is a serious privacy concern.''

Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., another member of the select NSA panel, said the Intelligence Committee's legal counsel concluded that basic information, such as phone numbers dialed, is not protected under the Constitution's Fourth Amendment.

''For as long that I know of, the government has always had an opportunity to look at business records without a court order,'' he said. ''Business records are not personal property.''

He said that concept hinges on a 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Maryland. Later law, he added, allows the government to do legitimate surveillance on telecommunications.

But some legal experts have raised doubts about that rationale. Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said that after that 1979 case Congress required courts to approve the use of electronic devices that capture basic information about calls in real time -- or get a court order or a subpoena for phone records stored by phone companies.

On Capitol Hill to meet with senators about his nomination, Hayden declined to discuss surveillance programs or Hatch's comments about consultations with the surveillance court judges.

Some experts also questioned the legal significance of advising any of the surveillance court judges, outside of a case they would formally consider.

''There's really no clear legal significance to that because it's not a formal opinion,'' said Michael J. Woods, a former senior FBI lawyer who argued cases before the court. ''It obviously gives some comfort to the administration on their theory of this program, but it's much less than a formal legal ruling.''


Associated Press writers Ted Bridis and Philip Elliott contributed to this report.

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