This is really the big one, isn’t it? USA Today’s blockbuster confirms what many observers have suspected since last December, when the New York Times revealed that the National Security Agency had been engaged in no-warrant wiretaps of calls between the United States and foreign countries.
I’m not going to look it up right now. But if you think back, there’s been a lot of speculation about data-mining, and whether the fact that no humans need be involved in sifting through such information might be cited as a legal fig leaf. Well, now it’s all coming out.
I’m sure you’ve read it already, but read the lead of Leslie Cauley’s USA Today story again, slowly, letting the import of these words sink in:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.
“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA’s activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.
A database of every call ever made. Wow. Students will be reading this story 100 years from now and studying what went wrong. That is, if we can get our country back.
Let’s impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones
At 9:45 a.m. today, I took that verse as artistic license. At 3:40 p.m., as I’m writing this, it looks more like simply an accurate description of what’s going on in what used to be the land of the free.
Arlen Specter is angry again. Perhaps this time he’ll actually stay angry long enough to do some good.
Instant update: The Nation broke part of this story two months ago. Click here.