Monday, May 15, 2006

NSA Phone Data

Discussions with a friend last night finally produced a reason for the NSA to put together the database of every phone call ever made. She argued that it might be that there might be a substantial efficiency gain from having all the records in one place. That is, in a time sensitive situation obtaining records from each different company might be time consuming (because of the need to contact different entities who might not produce the information quickly). While this is an argument for increasing the efficiency of this process (assuming that it was, in fact, hard to obtain phone records quickly), it doesn't mean that the program is ok.

We all agreed that the lack of oversight or any clear rules governing the process is not cool. Further, even if it is somehow necessary for the government to keep the big database for efficiency reasons, we agreed that they shouldn't be able to access it without a warrant (keeping in mind that the FISA court can grant warrants ex post when necessary).

Update -- in case you are still in the group who thinks this stuff doesn't matter (f/ABC News):

A senior federal law enforcement official tells us the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

"It's time for you to get some new cell phones, quick," the source told us in an in-person conversation.

We do not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation.

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