May 11, 2006

The NSA can hear you now.

Right after posting about how the Justice Department is blocking its own ethics office from investigating the decision to approve the NSA's wiretapping program, I ran into a USA Today story on how the NSA has been building a database of all domestic phone calls in the US.

According to reporter Leslie Cauley, the NSA is using phone call records provided voluntarily by the three biggest US phone companies — AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth — to trace calling patterns in the country. These call records are for 'tens of millions of Americans,' almost none of who are suspected of committing any crime. Billions of records have been collected and handed over to the NSA.

"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....

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. "In other words," Bush explained, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States."

As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were believed to be private.

Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information. [Emphasis mine]

You really need to read the rest of the USA Today article on the latest revelations about the NSA's domestic spying. It's here.

After you've read it all, I dare you to argue that we're not this close to living under a police state in the US.

For more information about the NSA's domestic surveillance operations, you might want to check out this Magpie post from earlier in the year.

Posted by Magpie at May 11, 2006 12:43 PM | War on Terrorism | Technorati links |