Sunday, December 25, 2005

Finally Paying Attention

In the roughly ten days since the NY Times published the original article describing the NSA's domestic spying program, the White House and its supporters have twisted themselves into pretzels to make the case for the legality and neceesity of the program. The contortions do not appear to have worked, because the NY Times has continued to publish articles on the program, and now Congress is looking to expand its inquiry into the matter. In yet another NY Times article, word is emerging about congressional concerns.

Congressional officials said Saturday that they wanted to investigate the disclosure that the National Security Agency had gained access to some of the country's main telephone arteries to glean data on possible terrorists.

"As far as Congressional investigations are concerned," said Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, "these new revelations can only multiply and intensify the growing list of questions and concerns about the warrantless surveillance of Americans."

Members of the Judiciary Committee have already indicated that they intend to conduct oversight hearings into the president's legal authority to order domestic eavesdropping on terrorist suspects without a warrant.

But Congressional officials said Saturday that they would probably seek to expand the review to include the disclosure that the security agency, using its access to giant phone "switches," had also traced and analyzed phone and Internet traffic in much larger volumes than what the Bush administration had acknowledged.

"We want to look at the entire program, an in-depth review, and this new data-mining issue is certainly a part of the whole picture," said a Republican Congressional aide, who asked not to be identified because no decisions had been made on how hearings might be structured.

Current and former government officials say that the security agency, as part of its domestic surveillance program, has gained the cooperation of some of the country's biggest telecommunications companies to obtain access to large volumes of international phone and Internet traffic flowing in and out of the United States.
[Emphasis added]

The discovery of this double-super-secret program in which the NSA eavesdropped on American residents without first obtaining a warrant is troubling in and of itself. However, the further discovery of the extent of the illegal eavesdropping is absolutely shocking. Frankly, it appears that the government wants us to believe that there are more terrorists here in the US than in the rest of the world combined, which certainly puts the lie to the regime's meme that we are fighting terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here.

The tortured explanations on the justification for such activity haven't really impressed too many folks, for good reason. Anyone with half-a-brain must surely be left cold by the constitutional exceptions carved out by the Resident and his minions.

Lisa Graves, senior counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "There's no data-mining loophole in the Fourth Amendment."



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