April 08, 2006
NSA Vacuuming Data
From an Electronic Freedom Foundation lawsuit we might know a little more about how the NSA is wiretapping terrorists. It has been suspected the spy agency vacuums up monsterous quantites of data and has powerful computers dig through the mess looking for keywords or patterns. According to a former AT&T employee a special room in the company's office in San Francisco taps into the network.
The dates in the employee's statement are later than when President Bush ordered the NSA to begin warrantless monitoring of domestic-international terrorist communications. But the method mentioned is certainly a way to do it.
What has been missing in the debate over the legality of the NSA program is whether this amounts to an "unreasonable" search. Terrabytes of data on NSA computers will make many uncomfortable but might not about to anything illegal since it hasn't been "searched" because it lacks certain keywords or identifiers NSA spooks are looking for. Data is pretty harmless if no one is doing anything with it. With all the complaints about the Bush administration failing to "connect the dots" about the impending Sep. 11 attacks should we really be scared the intelligence community will start oppressing the citizenry?
As for the politics there will only be serious fallout if it's found the President used the NSA to spy on political enemies. Only then will the calls for his impeachment actually sound reasonable even justified. He's safe as long as he's using the long tentacles of government to fight America's enemies.
Don't expect these rooms or the databases created to vanish. Only a court order will do that. Democrats aren't calling for the end to terrorist surveillance, not even Sen. Russ "Censure Bush" Feingold. Start looking into encryption and anonymizing technologies. Just don't expect the spooks to sit on their heals. They'll work on some method to conquer the new tech. It's another cost brought upon us by Sep. 11.
"Whistle-Blower Outs NSA Spy Room"
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