And, the story did not break today… It was first reported in December!
Investors Business Daily nails the national security story leaked to the media today who eagerly rushed to print despite the consequences on national security:
Exploiting a leak timed with Michael Hayden’s nomination as CIA director, a USA Today headline screams that his former agency, the NSA, has a “massive database” of your phone calls. It has no such thing.
This story is much ado about nothing, except maybe an attempt to derail the nomination of Gen. Hayden, who used to run the National Security Agency.
Under a contract with AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, the list is collected and analyzed through a program launched by the NSA after Sept. 11, 2001, that uses a technique known as data mining to detect patterns in seemingly random data.
In this case the data are used to study how terrorist networks organize and contact each other and their members. Such a list might be useful if we have the next Mohammed Atta’s phone number and want to know all the numbers he has called or that have called him.
So is compiling such a list illegal? No, says Paul Butler, a former U.S. prosecutor who specialized in terrorism crimes.
“FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978) does not prohibit the government from doing data mining,” he says, as long as there are no “personal identifiers” such as names or street addresses included as part of the search.
And, as Judge Allan Kornblum, a U.S. District Court judge and one of FISA’s authors, told a Senate hearing recently, FISA does not override the president’s constitutional authority to spy on suspected international agents under executive order.
The point is, the “mainstream media” have a responsibility and a duty to keep America’s secrets in wartime. And they should never, ever give aid and comfort to that enemy.
A NSA spokesman defended the practice:
Don Weber, a senior spokesman for the NSA, told FOX News that the agency operates within the law, but would not comment further on its operations.
Despite their Golden Globe performances today, Congress has been kept in the loop on all of the NSA programs:
Senior administration officials said the number of members of Congress who have been briefed on “the totality of NSA operations” has been expanded in recent months. Without confirming the existence of the program, the officials suggested it would be disingenuous for members of the Legislature to act surprised about its existence.“
Here is what the phone companies had to say about the national security matter:
AT&T spokesman Michael Coe, in an e-mailed statement, said, “We do not comment on matters of national security, except to say that we only assist law enforcement and government agencies charged with protecting national security in strict accordance with the law.”
BellSouth spokesman Jeff Battcher said the company “does not and has not provided any confidential customer information to the NSA or any governmental agency without proper legal authority.
And, BellSouth also says the information they hand over does not even warrant a subpoena:
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“We have not provided any information we would need a subpoena for.” – BellSouth Corp. spokesman Jeff Battcher.
And, although this information is not being reported, in interviews today, General Hayden argued in a FOX NEWS interview that Congress has known about the NSA programs.
Newsbusters also reports that this story broke in December and was reported in the New York Times.
Pajamas Media has a big roundup on this story today.
And, this is really pathetic. The ACLU apparently has its own database double standard.