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.
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.
"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.
The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.
The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret.
Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated Monday by President Bush to become the director of the CIA, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. In that post, Hayden would have overseen the agency's domestic call-tracking program. Hayden declined to comment about the program.
Meanwhile, the Executive Branch is has given up pretending to investigate itself without letting itself investigate itself (yes, I know how convoluted that is; I'm just the messenger!):
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter.
The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., on Wednesday saying they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyers' role in the program.
What, is America becoming a totalitarian, Big Brother nation that manipulates its citizens with fabricated fears, ignores any semblance of restraint or respect for rights, and exists to serve the transnational corporations that fund and feed our representatives' power? Why oh why hasn't anyone told us about any of this before now?
(Digression: buy Glenn Greenwald's damn book, please! At
President Bush, of course, responds by asking: who are we gonna believe, him or our lying eyes? And nearly all of the Senate Democrats, who ran bravely away when Russ Feingold introduced his censure resolution, are no better than the Republicans: they've forsworn their oaths of office, to support the Constitution and serve the American people instead of their factional interests.
Here, hot off the presses, is the press release from the office of Jay Rockefeller, senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee and a good guy on this issue, who had earlier called for hearings into the NSA program but was rejected on a party-line vote:
For Immediate Release
May 11, 2006
Statement by Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller iv
“As I have said for some time, we need the full Intelligence Committees briefed on all NSA related activities. Current congressional oversight is woefully inadequate. Significant questions remain surrounding the legality of the program and whether the White House has misrepresented the program to the public through selective declassification.”
On the first day that Senator Rockefeller learned about the NSA warrantless surveillance program in July 2003, he expressed concerns that the program raised complicated legal and technical questions that required the careful evaluation of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He continues to believe that all aspects of this warrantless program, or any related program, require a great deal of oversight, and that congressional oversight to date is wholly insufficient.
Early this year, Senator Rockefeller pressed for the full Senate Intelligence Committee to conduct an objective, bipartisan review of the NSA program’s legality and effectiveness. Senate Republicans blocked this effort and the Administration only agreed to brief 7 of the 15 members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Regular VDems readers know all about that vote -- the partisan huddle in the hallway outside the meeting where the deal was cut but that no one in the mainstream press reported, etc. We got sandbagged.
So, now, what to do, what to do?
1. Call your own senators and tell them to admit that Russ Feingold was absodamnlutely correct to call for censuring the President, and tell them their constituents want hearings into ALL domestic surveillance programs NOW. Not later. Not after a nonexistent "investigation is complete." NOW.
2. Also tell them: NO on Hayden as new head of the CIA. His previous Congressional testimoney made it clear that he has insufficient respect for and understanding of the Fourth Amendment. J. Edgar Hoover is dead; may he remain so.
3. Call Hillary Clinton and give her an earful about cuddling up to Fox News. It's all part of the same damned corporate oligarchy, and real patriots won't stand for it, whether the enablers are from the other party or their own.
4. Call Russ Feingold and tell him: go, man, go!!!
The Senate switchboard, toll-free, is: 888-355-3588.
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