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Are They Listening?


According to Leslie Cauley in USAToday, the NSA has a massive database detailing calls and e-mails sent domestically — to and from US citizens — all saved in a massive warehousing of information.  All obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment.  In violation of FISA and other laws and regulations.  All in violation of our notions of liberty and freedom in this nation of ours.

…With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers’ names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA’s domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information….

The government is collecting “external” data on domestic phone calls but is not intercepting “internals,” a term for the actual content of the communication, according to a U.S. intelligence official familiar with the program. This kind of data collection from phone companies is not uncommon; it’s been done before, though never on this large a scale, the official said. The data are used for “social network analysis,” the official said, meaning to study how terrorist networks contact each other and how they are tied together….

The three carriers control vast networks with the latest communications technologies. They provide an array of services: local and long-distance calling, wireless and high-speed broadband, including video. Their direct access to millions of homes and businesses has them uniquely positioned to help the government keep tabs on the calling habits of Americans….

Last month, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales alluded to that possibility. Appearing at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Gonzales was asked whether he thought the White House has the legal authority to monitor domestic traffic without a warrant. Gonzales’ reply: “I wouldn’t rule it out.” His comment marked the first time a Bush appointee publicly asserted that the White House might have that authority.

The domestic and international call-tracking programs have things in common, according to the sources. Both are being conducted without warrants and without the approval of the FISA court. The Bush administration has argued that FISA’s procedures are too slow in some cases. Officials, including Gonzales, also make the case that the USA Patriot Act gives them broad authority to protect the safety of the nation’s citizens.

With the history of this Congress’ decided lack of oversight, I sure as hell don’t feel confident that there are any remotely adequate questions being raised about these programs. And I’m sure you feel the same way.

With that in mind, please take time to call your Senators and Representatives and tell them how you feel about the illegal NSA domestic spying without the required lawful warrants, in violation of the 4th Amendment and the FISA laws, and without following the probable cause standards required for such spying on American citizens on American soil.  To find your House representative, look here.  For your Senators, look here.  If you have access to a FAX machine, call and then follow up with a FAX.

Write a letter to the editor.  Call your local talk radio station.  Call your family, your friends, talk with your co-workers.  Whatever it takes.  It’s time the so-called silent majority stood up and said we are no longer going to take the crap that the Bush Administration is foisting on us.

Follow the laws — or leave office.  Stand up for your Constitution and your country.

UPDATEGeorgia10 at dKos has some further information on actions you can take.  And Glenn has a fantastic preliminary analysis of the legal issues.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com