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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Power To The Politicians?

Ted Rall writes (http://www.uexpress.com/tedrall/?uc_full_date=20060516),

As USA Today reported on May 11, the NSA purchased the complete "call-detail histories" for every customer of the biggest three phone companies: AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon. "It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," USA Today quotes a source. Your government, paying your tax dollars to companies you already paid to place calls you presumed to be private, is trying "to create a database of every call ever made."

Rall asks why our government would want to do such a thing:

Then why--why really--are government spooks sorting through our phone records? Because information is power. Calling logs, coupled with analogous databases of e-mail, wire transfer and fax transmissions, could give the FBI the information it needs to pressure a reluctant witness to turn state's evidence in a crucial case. The SEC could scan for calling clusters between corporate officials and investors in its investigations of insider trading. Politicians could neutralize their rivals by threatening to reveal their personal indiscretions.

If the NSA were truly interested in monitoring and capturing Islamist terrorists, it wouldn't give a damn about your call ordering a large pizza, half pepperoni/half onions. It would buy records from outfits like the satellite telephone company Thuraya, the dominant telecommunications provider in the remote regions of Middle East, Central and South Asia where America's enemies live. Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban, uses a Thuraya.

Where does the Constitution give the federal government the power to do such a thing? Has anyone seen the Fourth Amendment recently? Has it gone AWOL? (On this point, see Laurence Tribe at http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/

It's The Power, Stupid!


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