Thursday, May 11, 2006


Gen. Hayden... gotta lotta 'splainin' to do:

USA Today said that calls originating and terminating within the United States have not escaped the NSA's attention.

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," the paper quoted one source as saying. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within U.S. borders, it said the source added.

The NSA has "access to records of billions of domestic calls," USA Today said. Although customers' names and addresses are not being handed over, "the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information," it said.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and was nominated by Bush on Monday as director of the CIA, would have overseen the
call-tracking program, the paper said.

Hayden, as well as NSA and White House officials, declined to discuss the program, USA Today said.
Um, just a guess, but I think his odds of becoming CIA director just dropped precipitously.

This also explains former NSA director Bobby Inman's rather
interesting -- and somewhat cryptic -- comments the other day.

So, in essence, the Total Information Awareness program that caused bipartisan alarm when it was revealed a few years ago -- partly because of the involvement of old Reagan hand John Poindexter -- survived in a slightly different form. Or maybe it was a parallel operation.

Either way, I have a feeling that this rather surprising post by La Shawn Barber may only be one of the first of several blogs on the right where the I-word starts getting bandied about.

And please read that as an observation, not an exhortation.

UPDATE: The full article -- with updates.

The president's response:
First, our international activities strictly target al Qaeda and their known affiliates. Al Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans. Second, the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. Third, the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat. Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities.

We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda and their known affiliates. So far we've been very successful in preventing another attack on our soil.

As a general matter, every time sensitive intelligence is leaked, it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy. Our most important job is to protect the American people from another attack, and we will do so within the laws of our country.

This person would, apparently, not be considered an "appropriate" member of Congress:

"I don't know enough about the details except that I am willing to find out because I'm not sure why it would be necessary to keep and have that kind of information," said House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

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