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.