A long article in WaPo today packed with info on the wireless spying on Americans. Here are parts. There is much more.
Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.
How many Americans have been spied on in the last 4 years…
Two knowledgeable sources placed that number in the thousands; one of them, more specific, said about 5,000.
The program has touched many more Americans than that. Surveillance takes place in several stages, officials said, the earliest by machine. Computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears.
Successive stages of filtering grow more intrusive as artificial intelligence systems rank voice and data traffic in order of likeliest interest to human analysts. But intelligence officers, who test the computer judgments by listening initially to brief fragments of conversation, “wash out” most of the leads within days or weeks.
The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light on Bush’s circumvention of the courts. National security lawyers, in and out of government, said the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the program’s lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment, because a search cannot be judged “reasonable” if it is based on evidence that experience shows to be unreliable. Other officials said the disclosures might shift the terms of public debate, altering perceptions about the balance between privacy lost and security gained.
Why they Didn’t go to FISA…..
The minimum legal definition of probable cause, said a government official who has studied the program closely, is that evidence used to support eavesdropping ought to turn out to be “right for one out of every two guys at least.” Those who devised the surveillance plan, the official said, “knew they could never meet that standard — that’s why they didn’t go through” the court that supervises the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
Bush has said we would not listen inside the US without a warrant but they have….
Yet a special channel set up for just that purpose four years ago has gone largely unused, according to an authoritative account. Since early 2002, when the presiding judge of the federal intelligence court first learned of Bush’s program, he agreed to a system in which prosecutors may apply for a domestic warrant after warrantless eavesdropping on the same person’s overseas communications. The annual number of such applications, a source said, has been in the single digits.
One thing the NSA wanted was access to the growing fraction of global telecommunications that passed through junctions on U.S. territory. According to former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who chaired the Intelligence Committee at the time, briefers told him in Cheney’s office in October 2002 that Bush had authorized the agency to tap into those junctions. That decision, Graham said in an interview first reported in The Washington Post on Dec. 18, allowed the NSA to intercept “conversations that . . . went through a transit facility inside the United States.”
They collected meta data from calls and emails(origin, destination, duration and time, numeric address of each network switch) ……
Intelligence lawyers said FISA plainly requires a warrant if the government wants real-time access to that information for any one person at a time. But the FISA court, as some lawyers saw it, had no explicit jurisdiction over wholesale collection of records that do not include the content of communications. One high-ranking intelligence official who argued for a more cautious approach said he found himself pushed aside. Awkward silences began to intrude on meetings that discussed the evolving rules. “I became aware at some point of things I was not being told about,” the intelligence official said
The article goes on to discuss the different types of analysis to gain info, their uses, drawbacks and legal issues involved
And this to think about…
Many features of the surveillance program remain unknown, including what becomes of the non-threatening U.S. e-mails and conversations that the NSA intercepts. Participants, according to a national security lawyer who represents one of them privately, are growing “uncomfortable with the mountain of data they have now begun to accumulate.” Spokesmen for the Bush administration declined to say whether any are discarded.
I was joking around when I did a post in December called “Let’s Play 6 Degrees of NSA Separation” at my old blog and I include Below. It becomes less outlandish as we learn more and more and more…..
NSA collects phone numbers and where it leads….who knows????
NSA picked up a phone call from
Al Qaeda #2 Ayman al Zawahri to…
Al Qaeda #3 Al Libbi
who called the head of Al Qaeda Iraq…
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
al-Zarqawi then attempted to call his #2
but dialed wrong number and instead got Sampson an Iraqi driver who was running late….
to pick up his American fare so he called ….
the visiting Sean Penn to say he’ll be there soon……
So while Sean waited he called “Mystic River” co star ………..