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Monday, March 10, 2008

They didn't stop the Total Information Awareness program, they just buried it.
Posted by Jill | 9:18 PM

Remember Total Information Awareness, that Big Brother-esque effort complete with its Masonic / Illuminati imagery and its ominous motto, "scientia est potentia" (knowledge is power), to be led by Iran-Contra bigwig John Negroponte? Remember how the program was killed by Congress?

Well, since the Bush Administration don't need no es-teenking Congressional permission for anything, they just moved it to the NSA. No longer was NSA spying and data mining about foreign terrorists; now it was about scooping up every piece of phone, e-mail, and other communications traffic in the U.S.

This horrific bombshell report appeared in Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, of all places:

Five years ago, Congress killed an experimental Pentagon antiterrorism program meant to vacuum up electronic data about people in the U.S. to search for suspicious patterns. Opponents called it too broad an intrusion on Americans' privacy, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the data-sifting effort didn't disappear. The National Security Agency, once confined to foreign surveillance, has been building essentially the same system.

The central role the NSA has come to occupy in domestic intelligence gathering has never been publicly disclosed. But an inquiry reveals that its efforts have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people's communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Congress now is hotly debating domestic spying powers under the main law governing U.S. surveillance aimed at foreign threats. An expansion of those powers expired last month and awaits renewal, which could be voted on in the House of Representatives this week. The biggest point of contention over the law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, is whether telecommunications and other companies should be made immune from liability for assisting government surveillance.

Largely missing from the public discussion is the role of the highly secretive NSA in analyzing that data, collected through little-known arrangements that can blur the lines between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering. Supporters say the NSA is serving as a key bulwark against foreign terrorists and that it would be reckless to constrain the agency's mission. The NSA says it is scrupulously following all applicable laws and that it keeps Congress fully informed of its activities.

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called "transactional" data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA's own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge's approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA's enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world's main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

The effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called "black programs" whose existence is undisclosed, the current and former officials say. Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach. Among them, current and former intelligence officials say, is a longstanding Treasury Department program to collect individual financial data including wire transfers and credit-card transactions.

It isn't clear how many of the different kinds of data are combined and analyzed together in one database by the NSA. An intelligence official said the agency's work links to about a dozen antiterror programs in all.

A number of NSA employees have expressed concerns that the agency may be overstepping its authority by veering into domestic surveillance. And the constitutional question of whether the government can examine such a large array of information without violating an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy "has never really been resolved," said Suzanne Spaulding, a national-security lawyer who has worked for both parties on Capitol Hill.

I wonder if this is how they nailed Spitzer.

Before Congress votes to give the telecom companies retroactive and open-ended immunity, I hope they read this article.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
This is (choose one) :

a - The reason that Comer and other top DOJ threatened to resign if the program was re-authorized (Bush went ahead anyway without the reauthorization; they didn't resign)

b - The crux and nub of the retroactive telecom immunity debate; this is what BushCo must not allow to come to subpoena and discover in a court of law

c - Likely to have been used against Bush's real enemies (Democrats, a few journalists like Seymour Hersh, environmentalists, ACLU) rather than his nominal enemies (terrists)

e - A thousand times worse than Watergate

f - Facism.

g - All the above.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I don't understand what this means. Isn't a pregnant blonde missing somewhere?

Blogger Jennifer Briney said...
I've got something to add to this for ya: it's a whistleblower named Mark Klein. Short story: he worked for AT&T in San Francisco and worked on the installation of a "splitter cabinet" for the NSA. The splitter cabinet takes everything that goes over the main fiber optic wire, makes exact copies, and records them all for the NSA. This includes everything that AT&T is in charge of - phone calls, emails, text messages, internet searches. It also copies and records the information with non-AT&T customers because these fiber optic lines act as information transfer hubs. It's all recorded.

He found out that these have been installed in San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose (a major internet hub), Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Here is a link to a post I wrote summarizing Mark Klein's testimony (this information was revealed during a lawsuit called Hepting vs. AT&T - hence why the Bush administration is so desperate to stop anymore lawsuits). It might connect a few more dots for you relating to this fantastic post of yours.


Blogger Jennifer Briney said...
Looks like my link got cut off - if you go to my blog and look on the right hand side, it's the first post listed under "Must Know Info".