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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Gonzales: data mining is the dodge

Posted by: Hammer / 8:57 AM

Looks like the part of the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program which was excised due to disagreement involved some form of broad-based data mining. The New York Times and Washington Post have dueling stories.

Terrorist Surveillance Program, right? Who, in fact, was surveilled? Just about all of us:

The warrantless surveillance program, which was authorized by presidential order after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was first revealed publicly by the Times in December 2005. Bush confirmed aspects of the program at that time, defining it as monitoring communications between the United States and overseas in which one party was suspected of ties to al-Qaeda.

The Washington Post reported in February 2006 that the NSA targets were identified through data mining efforts and that thousands of Americans had been monitored. USA Today later reported that the government had the help of telecommunications companies in collecting millions of phone records.

So the NSA went through our phone calls and emails, without a warrant. From that data they identified suspects. Then they monitored those suspects, without a warrant. Even when the communications involved U.S. citizens living in the United States. Still, no warrants.

Important note -- it is not clear from either news report how deeply the NSA looked into the communications. It is clear that the NSA reviewed the logs of communications. That's the evidence that the communications took place. It is not clear whether the NSA looked at the content of the communications.

Two points here. First, I'm not impressed with the distinction that the NSA was intruding on our right to freely associate rather than our right to freely speak. Second, given the objections to the program, I suspect the NSA was listening in to at least some of these communications.

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