Michelle Malkin has a must-read post on NSA phone surveillance of Americans (a subject that I touched upon in an earlier footnote).
She starts by reminding about the NSA phone surveillance of the Bush administration:
The Bush NSA’s special collections program grew in early 2002 after the CIA started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah. The CIA seized the terrorists’ computers, cellphones and personal phone directories. NSA surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible. As a result of Bush NSA work,the terrorist plot involving convicted al Qaeda operative Iyman Faris was uncovered — possibly saving untold lives…
Normally, the government obtains court orders to monitor such information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. But the window of opportunity to exploit the names, numbers, and addresses of those associated with the top terrorist leaders was obviously small…
So the Bush administration had the NSA track Americans’ overseas phone calls, insofar as captured terrorist phone numbers might show up. But the Obama administration? Not so
much…err, so little:
The new Obama order covers not only phone calls overseas with the specific goal of counterterrorism surveillance, but all domestic calls by Verizon customers over at least a three-month period.
[Malkin now links/quotes an article at Politico:] Trevor Timm, a digital rights analyst at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, called the order “shockingly broad.” …The “top secret” order issued in April by a judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court at the request of the FBI instructs the telecommunications giant Verizon to provide the NSA with daily reports of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
I’m willing to preserve our counter-terrorism efforts. And I don’t know much about the legal ins/outs of all this. But, all domestic calls by Verizon customers? Sheesh! This surely goes beyond the Bush NSA surveillance that the public debated in 2005-6.
So, it’s worth discussing the rightness (or wrongness) of the broadened surveillance. The more so if (note IF) the War on Terror is over, as some international observers thought Obama to be implying in his speech last week.
By way of counterpoint, Senator Feinstein implies that the broadened phone surveillance did start under Bush, in 2007. But that still wouldn’t make it right. Or make it anything that the public has approved, because we haven’t learned about the broadened efforts (or been able to debate them) until now.
As always, please feel free to post whatever more you know about this issue, in the comments.