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Is Big Brother Watching?

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The latest controversy about the NSA spying on Americans once again takes facts, twists them to the breaking point, and then panics that the sky is falling. The sole source for this program has been the USA Today article that alarmingly says the NSA is spying on Americans.

The program was voluntary.

According to the USA Today article, giving the information to the NSA was not required. In fact, one carrier (Qwest) declined to participate. This means that the federal government did not require these companies to participate, it merely asked them. In fact, it paid the companies for the information and it was provided “under contract.”

The NSA’s domestic program began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, according to the sources. Right around that time, they said, NSA representatives approached the nation’s biggest telecommunications companies. The agency made an urgent pitch: National security is at risk, and we need your help to protect the country from attacks.

The agency told the companies that it wanted them to turn over their “call-detail records,” a complete listing of the calling histories of their millions of customers. In addition, the NSA wanted the carriers to provide updates, which would enable the agency to keep tabs on the nation’s calling habits.

The sources said the NSA made clear that it was willing to pay for the cooperation. AT&T, which at the time was headed by C. Michael Armstrong, agreed to help the NSA. So did BellSouth, headed by F. Duane Ackerman; SBC, headed by Ed Whitacre; and Verizon, headed by Ivan Seidenberg.

With that, the NSA’s domestic program began in earnest.

The government is not prevented by any law from buying records that companies willingly will sell. If those companies violated their privacy policy, an entrepreneurial lawyer will have a cause of action in litigating the phone companies for their breach of privacy policy. However, the government is not “spying” when it buys records that are put out on the common market, even if there is only one buyer.

Data-mining is not spying.

Once again, data-mining is not the same as spying. What the NSA received was a list of phone calls with call durations and source and destination phone numbers. That’s it. Spying would be listening to the call. Spying would be recording the call. This was not spying.

The continuing use of the most inflammatory language possible indicates an agenda and an attempt to drum up fear that “Bush will kill us all.” Time and time again the MSM gets caught up in these attempts to manufacture a crisis. In this case, it appears that the American people support the President on this one.

Don’t believe everything you read.

It is important to note that the first draft of these so-called scandals that get run by the MSM tend not to hold up much more than a week after being scrutinized. The press has to gain readership to raise their advertising income. They tend to do this two ways, by making their readers afraid or making their readers angry. This influences how they write their stories.

In this case, the inflammatory language is misleading and the legal question rests not on whether or not warrants were needed, but whether or not the phone companies should have sold the information in the first place, certainly in the complete absence of any coercion.

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About John Bambenek

John Bambenek is a political activist and computer security expert. He has his own company Bambenek Consulting in Champaign, IL that specializes in digital forensics and computer security investigations.
  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Here are some links worth reading for a less breathless accounting of this story:

    Weekly Standard

    LA Times

    National Review

  • http://parodieslost.typepad.com mschannon

    John,

    You missed a couple of things–like Qwest got threatened that they’d lose all gov’t contracts if they didn’t participate. Like all the senior Republican Members of Congress who are outraged over the abuse of power, like Bush lying when he said that only calls made to international places would be collected. Read my followup article…we’re dealing with another Nixon here.

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “we’re dealing with another Nixon here”

    Really? Is Bush using this intel against political enemies, or foreign terrorist enemies? If the former, cite? If the latter, why do Democrats oppose it?

  • m

    In fact, it paid the companies for the information and it was provided “under contract.”
    this is even worst

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    Well, I’m sure this will be litigated and litigated and litigated, and Bush will be exonerated yet again.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    like Bush lying when he said that only calls made to international places would be collected.

    This is a semantic interpretation. Bush clearly meant that while lots of calls would be processed, only those to suspect international numbers would be kept and tracked.

    Dave

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    As I understood it, the calls would only be collected at the border so only calls leaving the country (or coming in) could be tagged to begin with (save some technical glitches).

  • Dave Nalle

    Correct, JB. But in order to figure out which ones were going out of the country and to suspicious people in other countries all of the call records would need to be put in a computer database which could theoretically then also be used for other purposes. That’s where the concern is.

    And let me point out again that this program did not involve listening in on a single phonecall.

    Dave

  • Bliffle

    Dave:”Bush clearly meant that while lots of calls would be processed, only those to suspect international numbers would be kept and tracked.”

    “And let me point out again that this program did not involve listening in on a single phonecall.”

    But, without oversight, how are we to know any of this is true? Or is it just the fantasies required to support GWBs actions?

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    Only to a liberal is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty to be considered fantasy….

    You assume there was no oversight. Just like the overseas data-mining, there may have been oversight by Congress in a limited fashion. They can also defund such operations with one bill.

  • MCH

    “John Bambenek is an academic professional for the University of Illinois and a columnist for the Daily Illini and blogs at Part-Time Pundit deep from the corn fields of Illinois.”

    John, you’ve left out which branch of the military you’re serving in? Where did you go to boot camp?

  • JB

    Your facts are rather hazy here…

    1) It’s not spying? Of course it is. You don’t have to listen to spy, surveillance (observing what a person is doing) certainly qualifies as spying.

    2) The telcos did it voluntarily? I would say it could as easily be considered coercion; if the NSA asks, you deny the request at your own peril. It’s much like denying a request from The Godfather.

    It’s the potential for abuse that is at issue here.

    Once you cross the line to monitoring domestic calls to track terrorists, smaller steps are more easily justified. From terrorists the line might move to pedophiles (they are certainly bad, who could object!). From Pedophiles to drug dealers (they’re bad too!). From drug dealers to agitators. From agitators to dissidents.

    It’s a slippery, slippery slope; that’s why we have laws against unsupervised surveilance and judicial systems in place to monitor it–systems that the Bush Whitehouse seems all to eager to circumvent.

    The way that they are doing it is most worrisome. They are using National Security Letters to gain access to data rather than throguh court orders. National Security Letters are a way to avoid the traditional system of checks and balances that have been developed to prevent abuses of power.

    “But they won’t abuse it!” Bullshit. History has proved that fallacy wrong time and again. If you believe that there is no chance that they will abuse it, you are very, very naive.

    Did they use the information for other purposes? Who knows. They are using National Security Letters to get around a judicial process that is already in place, which short-circuits the LEGALLY DEFINED system of checks and balances that has been put into place to prevent such abuses.

    The fact that they choose to do it has a rather chilling effect. How long do they keep the data in their database? We don’t know. Who has access? We don’t know. Will an accidental phone call from a suspected terrorist get somebody innocent thrown in to Guantanamo? We don’t know!

    Checks and balances: that’s how you prevent abuses of power. Our system of government was built on that principal. Why is the Bush Whitehouse so afraid of using the existing mechanisms that do have checks and balances?

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    Bliffle – “But, without oversight, how are we to know any of this is true? Or is it just the fantasies required to support GWBs actions?” That’s exactly the point.

    John, “Only to a liberal is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty to be considered fantasy….” Didn’t Reagan coin “trust, but verify”?

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    MCH-

    I’m not sure what that’s relevant…

    JB-

    The fact that the phone companies live in fear of the government is novel and interesting, but unconvincing. This isn’t China.

    I’ll concede the potential for abuse is there, if you concede there is no evidence that there was abuse. There is nothing the government does (legal or illegal) that does not have the potential for abuse.

    When you take a deep breath and realize that there ARE checks and balances here (someone can’t get thrown in Gitmo willy-nilly) and Congress does have a say, you’ll realize this isn’t 6 million Jews being loaded into boxcars.

    If they’ve been keeping it secret, they’ve done a horrible job. Echelon, Carnivore, etc. We’ve know about these programs for a decade at least.

    JP-

    Hoover coined that phrase.

  • gonzo marx

    oh John…how the fuck can you even think to defend this shit, which John Dean (former Nixon staffer) has stated made Nixon look like a boy scout…

    go and look up section 222 of the 1934 Communications act…this is a DIRECT violation of said Law, by definition…

    and there is still FISA, which coudl have been used to circumvent the 1934 law quite legally if it had been brought up for Judicial review…

    which part of a judge’s warrant and probable cause from the fucking 4th Amendment don’t you Apologists understand?

    but one good thing, we know who will sell their Liberty in a desperate attempt to hold onto political power, so they can get their 30 pieces of silver (tax cuts)

    too bad…i normally like to Respect opposition

    but ANY person or organization which systematically erodes the Liberty of Citizens, and those that support said organization, are the Foe and far more dangerous to our Nation than any outside conflict…

    objects in mirror are closer than they appear

    Excelsior?

  • Bliffle

    RJ: “Really? Is Bush using this intel against political enemies, or foreign terrorist enemies? If the former, cite? ”

    How could we know? The only info we have on this stuff is what Bush tells us, and he’s an unreliable source (it hardly makes any difference whether he is uninformed or lying).

  • Bliffle

    “Well, I’m sure this will be litigated and litigated and litigated, and Bush will be exonerated yet again.”

    Has there been some court trial that I’m not aware of? Proceeding from some litigation and resulting in an exoneration? I guess I missed it.

  • Les Slater

    RJ: “Really? Is Bush using this intel against political enemies, or foreign terrorist enemies?”

    It’s already being used against us. We are the enemy.

    Be careful who you call.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    Here’s an omnibus response:

    But, without oversight, how are we to know any of this is true? Or is it just the fantasies required to support GWBs actions?

    Bliffle, while you may think that the appropriate response to anything Bush says is inherent suspicion, not all of us share that perspective. We go the small step required to understand why he has said the things he has said, and where the dividing line between truth and fiction really is. Bush tells the truth. He may leave things out or be selective, but his words are as far as I can tell ALWAYS literally true as he understands them.

    Only to a liberal is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty to be considered fantasy….

    I believe that’s part of the mindset required to embrace the European-style law of the UN.

    The telcos did it voluntarily? I would say it could as easily be considered coercion; if the NSA asks, you deny the request at your own peril. It’s much like denying a request from The Godfather.

    Sorry, that doesn’t fly. Qwest was one of the largest companies asked to participate and they refused and faced no repurcussions.

    Dave

  • gonzo marx

    and again…read section 222 of the 1934 Communications Act…

    another Law broken by this Administration…add it to FISA, and we see a pattern of total disregard for obeying the Laws and Constitution the Shrub had sword to defend and uphold…

    you want more…the signing statements also show a complete disregard for the Constitution…and yes, that includes ANY POTUS that has used them..

    why?..simple, it ain’t up to the President to determine the Constitutionality of the fucking Law…it’s up to the Supreme Court…

    remember them?..you know the equal third of our Government, that pesky Judicial branch

    but those who like to call themselves “conservative” or “libertarian” (not all, just some) and yet still support this Administration are shown, day after day to be hypocrits and liars

    time fer a change…and i can’t wait till November

    between now and then, kick back and Observe as each of these scandals and outright criminal Acts get tossed into the Light of Day

    then, Remember

    Excelsior?

  • troll

    can’t it be argued that the Prez is merely doing his historical job pushing the boundaries of executive power – what’s the point of ‘checks and balances’ if there’s no power struggle

    Congress has oversight of an overreaching (or law breaking if you prefer) executive – if you’re dissatisfied with the job they’ve done then fire your representatives

    (in order to do this you’re going to have to make sure that the opposition gets more campaign dough than the incumbent – no mean feat but necessary…statistically speaking)

    troll

  • Bliffle

    Dave: “Bliffle, while you may think that the appropriate response to anything Bush says is inherent suspicion, not all of us share that perspective. We go the small step required to understand why he has said the things he has said, and where the dividing line between truth and fiction really is. Bush tells the truth.”

    I AM suspicious of GWB. That’s my personal judgement, developed from watching him. Not based on my political predisposition: after all, I voted for him in 2000. I even supported the Iraq Invasion, having gotten the sotto voce message from the admin, that while the proferred causes were weak, they had better causes that could not be made public in order to protect sources and methods. They were dissembling; they cheated and manipulated me. Once burned twice cautious. My personal rule, developed from taking some very expensive courses at The School Of Hard Knocks, is that liars never stop lying. YMMV.

    I’ve watched GWB speak, and I’ve seen him invent lies on the fly. I’ve also been careful to notice how he plants cues to exculpate himself in the future. For example, he says that “ordinary americans” have nothing to fear from the NSA programs. But of course he has left “ordinary” undefined so he can define that in the future. Maybe I am not an ordinary american. Maybe I deserve to be spied upon in the name of National Security. I have no way to know.

    The question remains:

    “But, without oversight, how are we to know any of this is true? Or is it just the fantasies required to support GWBs actions?”

  • Les Slater

    Gonzo, Trol,

    This is just the latest of a bipartisan attack on democratic rights. The administration tests the waters, a few dems squeel, maybe they back off a little, but the direction is clear.

    It’s not a question of the popularity of the administration either. It just happens that there is a Republican administration with Bush’s face on it.

    Since it is bipartisan a Democratic face would fair no better.

    Sinse there is no fundamental disagreement in any branch of the government don’t look to checks and balances or unconstitutionality to stop this.

  • troll

    lock an’ load – ?

    troll

  • Les Slater

    Biffle: But of course he has left “ordinary” undefined so he can define that in the future. Maybe I am not an ordinary american. Maybe I deserve to be spied upon in the name of National Security. I have no way to know.

    This what I alluded to in my 18 above.

  • Les Slater

    troll: lock an’ load – ?

    Not until you figure out which way to point.

  • troll

    Les – good point

    troll

  • gonzo marx

    i know which way to “point”….

    and we are periously close to the Jeffersonian Option…

    but yer humble Narrator will wait till after November

    Excelsior?

  • Dave Nalle

    and again…read section 222 of the 1934 Communications Act…

    Gonzo, did you not make it as far as subsection d?

    Dave

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    “John, you’ve left out which branch of the military you’re serving in? Where did you go to boot camp?”

    WTF?

    Sometimes a song played with just a couple chords can be entertaining, at least for a little while. However, it becomes VERY tiresome to all listeners once it is obvious that the musician knows no other notes, yet keeps playing the same old song again and again and AGAIN

  • gonzo marx

    why yes…yes i fucking well have…

    in fact sub-section D sez…
    *(d) EXCEPTIONS.–Nothing in this section prohibits a telecommunications
    carrier from using, disclosing, or permitting access to customer proprietary
    network information obtained from its customers, either directly or indirectly
    through its agents–
    (1) to initiate, render, bill, and collect for telecommunications
    services;
    (2) to protect the rights or property of the carrier, or to protect
    users of those services and other carriers from fraudulent, abusive, or
    unlawful use of, or subscription to, such services; or
    (3) to provide any inbound telemarketing, referral, or administrative
    services to the customer for the duration of the call, if such call was
    initiated by the customer and the customer approves of the use of such
    information to provide such service.*

    sooOOOooOOoooo…yer point?

    here’s the bit ya probably didn’t catch…
    *and the customer approves of the use of such
    information to provide such service.*

    note “if the customer approves”

    nice try, but still bullshit, and the Administration is still in fucking violation of this Law and FISA, by their own admission, and by both laws very definitions…

    turn in yer libertarian and small government conservative card Nalle…collect yer 30 pieces of silver…

    do not pass go

    do not even fucking mention the name of Jefferson or Franklin…

    count yer tax cut, and continue to defend a Stalinist police state

    nuff said

    Excelsior?

  • troll

    as I read it the companies have wiggle room to do whatever they want with the INFORMATION in order to prevent their services from being used to break the law – and actually the INFO that they can share/sell for that purpose is not limited to #s called

    troll

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Historically, American Presidents in a time of war have pushed the boundaries of freedom and privacy a bit beyond what the US Constitution would normally allow. And after the threat has passed, the courts have ALWAYS gone about writing strongly-worded opinions in opposition to such Executive overreach.

    It happened during the Civil War (GOP Prez). It happened during WWI (Dem Prez). It happened during WWII (Dem Prez). And it’s happening now (GOP Prez).

    And every single time this has happened, we have both WON THE WAR and HAD OUR RIGHTS RESTORED by the courts.

    I have very little problem with the people opposing these “new” “spying” techniques from the federal government. In fact, these are likely going to be the very same people who will ENSURE that our privacy rights are fully returned to us after the terrorist threat has been eliminated.

    But it is simply foolish to hyperventilate about this now. We are at war with an enemy that wants to KILL you, even if you are a liberal/progressive Democrat!

    Let’s all unite to win this war, and THEN fight to push back these relatively minor encroachments into our privacy…

  • gonzo marx

    RJ sez…
    *Historically, American Presidents in a time of war have pushed the boundaries of freedom and privacy a bit beyond what the US Constitution would normally allow.*

    please show me the fucking Declaration of War by the Congress…

    oh, that’s right, there ain’t one…so there ain’t no fucking War…by the definition of our Constitution…

    RJ sez…
    *And after the threat has passed, the courts have ALWAYS gone about writing strongly-worded opinions in opposition to such Executive overreach.*

    you appear to have forgotten the Income tax which was supposed to go away after WW1…but don’t let facts stop ya now…

    RJ…i’m all for going after the Enemy…you know, bin Laden and al Qaeda…

    newsflash: they ain’t in Iraq (save for the ones that have been imported since “Mission Accomplished and now using the country for a training ground)….they are still in Afghanistan and Pakistan

    but we don’t have the resources there to do the job, because they are mired in Iraq…

    and can you please explain how documenting and databasing PURELY DOMESTIC call records helps find the Enemy in Afghanistan/Pakistan?

    put the kool-aid down, RJ..and start thinking like Barry Goldwater…it might help

    ya see, NO “encroachment” is “minor”…especially when it bypasses the checks and balances of the JUdiciary and Congressional oversight…even more so when it involves “extrodinary rendition”…secret prisons…and waterboarding among other things that even the fucking Inquisition called torture

    try not to be quite so naive

    Excelsior?

  • MCH

    “Let’s all unite to win this war…”
    – RJ Elliott

    Well, the easy part is writing about it.

  • JR

    RJ Elliott: It happened during the Civil War (GOP Prez). It happened during WWI (Dem Prez). It happened during WWII (Dem Prez). And it’s happening now (GOP Prez).

    And every single time this has happened, we have both WON THE WAR and HAD OUR RIGHTS RESTORED by the courts.

    Funny, you left out a certain little war we had about 40 years ago in which a Democratic president lied to Congress and the American people and overstepped his constitutional authority to commit troops without the express consent of Congress.

    Remember it? Here’s a hint: WE DIDN’T WIN.

    Let’s all unite to win this war

    Sure. Just agree with me and we’ll be united.

  • Dave Nalle

    It happened during the Civil War (GOP Prez).

    Except for the rights of southerners disenfranchised for a couple of decades and then southern blacks basically disenfranchised for 80 more.

    It happened during WWI (Dem Prez).

    Except, of course, for the income tax. It didn’t go away.

    It happened during WWII (Dem Prez).

    Except, of course, for social security.

    Every time we do this dance most of our rights get restored, but there’s always something which gets forgotten.

    Dave

  • JR

    Social security initiated during and in response to WWII?

    And you wonder why some of us don’t trust your “facts”.

  • Dave Nalle

    JR, SS was initiated in response to the depression, not WW2. That’s not exactly the point. The point is that sacrifices of rights promted by crises don’t always go away. You disagree with that?

    Dave

  • http://jpsgoddamnblog.blogspot.com JP

    RJ, #33 – “a bit” and “relatively minor” don’t describe what I’m seeing.

  • MCH

    “Let’s all unite to win this war…”
    – RJ Elliott

    What war? Oh, the Iraqi “Shock and Awe” invasion. But didn’t we already win that war three years ago, which led to GW Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech?

  • xxx

    We are fighting a war on “terror”. How can you possibly fight a war against a tactic used by virtually every army in the history of the world? The only more hopeless cause is the war on drugs.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    First of all, it is clear you don’t know what terrorism means (the use of military tactics against a civilian population to enduce a feeling of overwhelming fear for political gain).

    Second of all, “the terrorists” have themselves well identified. No one is confused about who we are talking about fighting. No one thinks the War of Terror needs to entail shooting cows.

  • Petra

    Paranoia, paranoia
    Everybody’s coming to get me
    Just say you never met me
    I’m running underground with the moles
    Digging in holes

    Hear the voices in my head, I swear to god it sounds like they’re snoring
    But if you’re bored, then you’re boring
    The agony and the irony, they’re killing me

    I’m not sick, but I’m not well
    And I’m so hot, cos I’m in hell

  • http://www.roblogpolitics.blogspot.com RJ Elliott

    Was the federal income tax passed in the middle of the night by executive order? Or was it actually supported by over 2/3rds of both houses of the Congress, as well as ratified by over 34ths of the states?

    When I pointed out WWI, I was not talking about the income tax. I was talking about the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918…

  • Mabon Dane

    I think Americans under George Bush are one step away from what the peoples of Russia were used to during the cold war. Americans live in a fantasy world that they pretend democracy and freedom still exists when it does not. People are more free in Russia than in USA now.

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    You had me agreeing with you, Mabon, until the last sentence.

    My father, z”l, was often very critical of the US. People would tell him, “go back to Russia!” His inevitable response was that “at least the Russians they’re slaves.”

    That little bit of knowledge makes all the difference in the world…

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    That ressponse should have been, “at least the Russians know they’re slaves.”

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    Where are the gulags?

    Where are the secret killings and people disappearing in the middle of the night?

    Where is the secret police?

    Why are those most vocal in criticizing the administration still around to criticize? Much less still alive?

    Seriously, the reason the left loses elections is that instead of coming up with intelligent arguments, most of you guys spout this tinfoil-hat nonsense.

    Up your dosage.

  • http://www.elitistpig.com Dave Nalle

    I think Americans under George Bush are one step away from what the peoples of Russia were used to during the cold war. Americans live in a fantasy world that they pretend democracy and freedom still exists when it does not. People are more free in Russia than in USA now.

    I lived in Russia during the cold war, and you CLEARLY have no idea what it was like there during that era. To compare Russia then and the USA today demonstrates such absolute ignorance that it boggles the mind. Even Russia today is a far cry from the freedoms we enjoy here in the US. The fact is that Bush has done little or nothing to reduce our basic freedoms, especially in comparison to prior administrations. His problem is that what he HAS done – even if they are minor and temporary infringements – he hasn’t tried very hard to hide. His fault is being honest about his actions. Tragic.

    Dave

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    John,

    In a dictatorship, you can openly act according to certain norms and it will be “understood.” In a dictatorship, four guys can knock on your door at two in the morning and take you away. Those awake watching will quiver in silence. Gulags will spring up, torture centers will arise, irregularities of all sorts will occur, and the people will “understand.” These are the rules of the game, so to speak.

    This was true in Chile, Italy, Greece, Spain, Argentina, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and a host of other open dictatorships of the past. It is still true in China.

    If you wnt to run a “democracy” in a dictatorial fashion, you must be much more careful and circumspect. Accidents are far more understandable than assassinations or midnight kidnappings. Torture centers cannot be obvious at all. Freedoms must be eroded in such a way that leaves those who complain of their loss with no credibility.

    If a state governor wants to use the state patrol to procure women to rape and abuse for his personal pleasure, for example, it must be done in a very furtive fashion. One cannot pull this off the way it was done in Iraq to please the son of Saddam Hussein.

    Information management becomes a sophisticated art, rather than merely the blue pencilling of a censor. And at all times, the forms of democracy, whatever they happen to be in the jurisdiction, must be respected so that someone like you will not suspect that something different is going on.

  • http://jcb.pentex-net.com John Bambenek

    There’s a difference in being subtle and being subtle to the point of non-existence. You’d expect that many “accidents” would have happened by now to silence some of the big critics, yet they’re still alive.

    So until corpses start showing up, I think your case is pretty much dead in the water.

    Take off your tin foil hat.

  • TA Dodger

    The program was voluntary.

    I don’t remember getting a letter from the NSA or AT&T asking me to “volunteer.”

    Data-mining is not spying.

    Unless you consider spying to be the covert gathering of information for intelligence purposes… which it is.

    Don’t believe everything you read.

    Your article certainly proves this is good advice.