It doesn't take a member of Mensa to figure out that the government of the United States is not limiting its collection of hundreds of millions of Americans' daily telephone records to those served by Verizon. There can be no doubt that the feds are collecting and analyzing what's known as “metadata” from just about everyone's carrier, have been for many years and will continue to do so. And, on its face, it's supposedly perfectly legal, per the Patriot Act (though an author of the act disputes that).Funny how when this story broke:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.In May of 2006 - a story accompanied by this picture (included so we know who we're talking about here):
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.
Our friends on the Scaife Braintrust had this to say:
There's lots of heat and woefully little light regarding the news that the National Security Agency has been compiling a "massive database of Americans' phone calls," aided by three of the four-largest telecoms.Indeed when Bush signed that reauthorization in 2006, he issued a signing statement that read (in part):
The NSA is collecting records of -- not listening to -- tens of millions of telephone calls made domestically. Running the calls through a database, the intent is to look for patterns that might signal terrorist planning activities.
But this is not illegal.
Not only does the recently renewed Patriot Act provide for such activity, there is case law that upholds it as constitutional (ironically in a case involving the media). [Italics in original.]
The executive branch shall construe the provisions of H.R. 3199 that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch, such as sections 106A and 119, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties.Yea, the funny thing about section 106A. The that section of the law reads:
The Inspector General of the Department of Justice shall perform a comprehensive audit of the effectiveness and use, including any improper or illegal use, of the investigative authority provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation under title V of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978...And the signing statement just said, "...yea, but only if we think so."
Funny how a change of party in the White House can color (such an interesting pun in this context, huh?) the braintrust's whole outlook on the NSA data-mining.
And for the record, I am not a fan of the NSA data-mining, the Patriot Act or any of the other distasteful (at the very least) anti-terror projects started by the Bush administration and continued by the Obama administration.
But Obama let Bush get away with war crimes - so what's a little harmless data-mining between friends?