USA Today tries its hand at scare-mongering today with a piece disclosing a secret–well, not anymore– NSA program analyzing phone call patterns and data that private phone companies AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth collect:
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.
Translation: NSA–gasp!–is doing its job.
Confederate Yankee adds:
The meat of the article is simply this:
The government is collecting “external” data on domestic phone calls but is not intercepting “internals,” a term for the actual content of the communication, according to a U.S. intelligence official familiar with the program. This kind of data collection from phone companies is not uncommon; it’s been done before, though never on this large a scale, the official said. The data are used for “social network analysis,” the official said, meaning to study how terrorist networks contact each other and how they are tied together.
The NSA is consolidating and analyzing already collected data to try to stop terrorist attacks before they happen.
What exactly is the legitimate complaint against this program?
The article adds this detail:
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.
I will be sure to continue to do business with Verizon, in support of its willingness to cooperate with the government to prevent another September 11.
More blogger reax…
AJ Strata highlights a paragraph in the USA Today article that shows how the leak may have undermined security:
…here is why this reporting is dangerous. Of course the leftwing nuts want to point out the brave groups ’speaking to power’, so they alert the terrorists to shift all their communications over to Qwest because Qwest is not partnering with the NSA to help find potential 9-11 terrorists here in the country:
Among the big telecommunications companies, only Qwest has refused to help the NSA, the sources said. According to multiple sources, Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.
Qwest’s refusal to participate has left the NSA with a hole in its database. Based in Denver, Qwest provides local phone service to 14 million customers in 14 states in the West and Northwest.
USA Today just tipped off the terrorist how to avoid detection and put the people in Qwest’s areas in danger because now it is known those areas have the least protection and should be targeted! What are these people THINKING! Someone needs to go to jail.
Rick Moran on the same wavelength rounds up the moonbat hysterics over the story: Just another day at the office for the leakers Moran concludes:
…this story has been leaked as a transparent attempt to embarrass General Hayden and stop his nomination. While it will probably cause outrage on the left and among that ever more curious contrarian Senator Specter, the brouhaha over this will pass and Hayden should still be on track for confirmation.
USA [T]oday has taken upon itself to “declassify” more classified information about programs aimed at protecting us. Obviously they decided that there wasn’t already enough damage done to national security.
James Joyner at OTB:
To be clear, since it has been a while since I have written on this matter, security and liberty are both highly desirable goals for which we strive. They are, unfortunately, conflicting. Ben Franklin’s dictum, “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security” is oft misquoted as an absolute (”They who would give up liberty for security, deserve neither liberty or security”); Franklin was, alas, not that simpleminded.
I am willing to give up trivial amounts of liberty (carrying a passport when traveling abroad, e.g.) when it provides some significant amount of additional security. I balk at even modest surrender of liberty (friskings by government travel agents at the airport) when I feel that the gain in security is negligible.
In this case, I believe the surrender of liberty is infinitesimal while the potential gain in security is huge. If it turns out that my premise is wrong (i.e., there have been some large number of people harassed because of perfectly legitimate calling patterns or other abuses), I am prepared to reevaluate my position.
Much more from Allah Pundit.
And a Pajamas Media round-up here.
Plus, the Great One Mark Levin asks: “Where’s the 4th?”
And John Hinderaker juxtaposes the NSA-bashing with an account of a report earlier today by Britain’s Intelligence and Security Committee on the subway bombings in London last July. Read it.