The NSA and You

THE NSA AND YOU….I’ve written about this before (see here), but USA Today’s Leslie Cauley has a major story today about the NSA’s program to collect data not just on international calls, but on purely domestic calls as well. It started right after 9/11:

“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.

….Last year…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.”

….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.

The rules for collecting data about phone calls are different from the rules about listening in on the content of phone calls, so I don’t know what the legal situation here is. However, although most domestic carriers cooperated with the NSA, one of them didn’t: Qwest.

According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest’s CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA’s assertion that Qwest didn’t need a court order ? or approval under FISA ? to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers’ information and how that information might be used.

….The NSA told Qwest that other government agencies, including the FBI, CIA and DEA, also might have access to the database, the sources said. As a matter of practice, the NSA regularly shares its information ? known as “product” in intelligence circles ? with other intelligence groups. Even so, Qwest’s lawyers were troubled by the expansiveness of the NSA request, the sources said.

….Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest’s lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

This should add even more excitement to Michael Hayden’s confirmation hearings to run the CIA, shouldn’t it?