[IP] Summarized -- Warrantless NSA program involved massive data

David Farber dave at farber.net
Fri Dec 23 19:58:50 PST 2005

collection (NYT)
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 - The National Security Agency has traced and
analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications
flowing into and out of the United States as part of the
eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept.
11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity,
according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and
voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than
the White House has acknowledged, the officials said.

...One issue of concern to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Court, which has reviewed some separate warrant applications growing
out of the N.S.A.'s surveillance program, is whether the court has
legal authority over calls outside the United States that happen to
pass through American-based telephonic "switches," according to
officials familiar with the matter.

...Since the disclosure last week of the N.S.A.'s domestic
surveillance program, President Bush and his senior aides have
stressed that his executive order allowing eavesdropping without
warrants was limited to the monitoring of international phone and e-
mail communications involving people with known links to Al Qaeda.

...The use of similar data-mining operations by the Bush
administration in other contexts has raised strong objections, most
notably in connection with the Total Information Awareness system,
developed by the Pentagon for tracking terror suspects, and the
Department of Homeland Security's Capps program for screening airline

...But the Bush administration regards the N.S.A.'s ability to trace
and analyze large volumes of data as critical to its expanded mission
to detect terrorist plots before they can be carried out, officials
familiar with the program say.

...A former technology manager at a major telecommunications company
said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the leading companies in the
industry have been storing information on calling patterns and giving
it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists.

"All that data is mined with the cooperation of the government and
shared with them, and since 9/11, there's been much more active
involvement in that area," said the former manager, a
telecommunications expert who did not want his name or that of his
former company used because of concern about revealing trade secrets.

...The switches are some of the main arteries for moving voice and
some Internet traffic into and out of the United States, and, with
the globalization of the telecommunications industry in recent years,
many international-to-international calls are also routed through
such American switches.

...Now that foreign calls were being routed through switches on
American soil, some judges and law enforcement officials regarded
eavesdropping on those calls as a possible violation of those decades-
old restrictions, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act, which requires court-approved warrants for domestic surveillance.

...But the N.S.A.'s backdoor access to major telecommunications
switches on American soil with the cooperation of major corporations
represents a significant expansion of the agency's operational
capability, according to current and former government officials.

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