Thursday, May 11, 2006

Big Brothah's Got Yo Numbah

The government is secretly collecting records of ordinary Americans' phone calls in an effort to build a database of every call made within the country, it was reported Thursday.

AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth telephone companies began turning over records of tens of millions of their customers' phone calls to the National Security Agency program shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said USA Today, citing anonymous sources it said had direct knowledge of the arrangement.

The program does not involve listening to or taping the calls. Instead it documents who talks to whom in personal and business calls, whether local or long distance, by tracking which numbers are called, the newspaper said.

The president said last year that he authorized the NSA to listen, without warrants, to international phone calls involving Americans suspected of terrorist links.

One big telecommunications company, Qwest, has refused to turn over records to the program, the newspaper said, because of privacy and legal concerns.

Bush's reply: "Our intelligence activities strictly target al-Qaida and their known affiliates," Bush said. "We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans."

Bush said any domestic intelligence-gathering measures he's approved are "lawful," and he says "appropriate" members of Congress have been briefed.

First, let me just say that I have no idea if this story is accurate. If it is true, then I think it's safe suggesting that Bush intentionally has engaged in deceit regarding the extent of the government's snooping in telecommunications. Certainly this is far wider in scope than the monitoring of international callers suspected of terrorist links.

I don't have all the answers, but let me make a polite suggestion: for those who support Bush, please, for the sake of all that is sacred, don't utilize the argument, "Well, if you're innocent of wrongdoing and have nothing to hide, then this shouldn't bother you." This is specious reasoning, in my opinion. I can use the exact same rationale for giving you a full body-cavity search at the local airport, using a jar of Vaseline, a pair of rubber gloves, and a plunger.

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