The Spying – How It Starts

Here’s what I think happened. After 9/11 Bush tasked the NSA with turning its glare on the U.S. What that means is that every single e-mail and phone conversation goes into their computers and is scanned for certain magic words and phrases. Anything that is flagged by the computers gets a closer look.
That is why they’re doing it without warrants. You can’t get a warrant for every single person in the country, and that is who they are listening to. But they wanted to do it “to protect us” so they just went ahead.
Here’s the problem.

To do this you have to set up the means to do it. Billions in equipment to grab the calls and e-mails – satellites and connections into major network router hubs, billions more in computers to scan and analyze all those words… NSA has had that all in place for grabbing everything outside the U.S. but because it is illegal and expensive it wasn’t the kind of thing you could get away with setting up here. That much money just wouldn’t be available, and word would get out because there would be no reason to be setting up that kind of capability here. Until 9/11.
Here’s the other problem: It’s in place now. While it is a huge task to set up the technical capability it’s not hard at all to tell the computers to scan for … other words and phrases than the original targets. You’re looking for “bomb” but maybe you also want to look for “Democratic Party strategy meeting.” You start out looking for terorists but it’s not hard to tell it to get everything from … other people. Like Senators or CEOs or leaders of organzations opposing Republican policies or anyone else The Party wants to get something on.
And the people around Bush are who they are.
Watch your backs. Then, as always, go read Digby.

2 thoughts on “The Spying – How It Starts

  1. I remember huge flaps about this starting so many years ago that I can’t remember the year. But it was back when Compuserve was the only available on line service for PCs, PCs themselves were still new, I still used a green on black screen, so this has been around for a very long time now. It was still incredibly hard to set up something like a user group for private discussions outside the open forums, a few of us were doing this, and debated whether we should use encryption because we’d be discussing politics and we’d heard that the government was collecting all messages that contained certain kinds of key words.. I argued that it was impossible for “them” to read all the millions of messages “they” were picking up using key words anyway and that encrypting our messages would simply be an indication that we were really Up To Something so we shouldn’t do it.
    And it turned out that I was right. One of the serious flaws in our national security has been precisely that relying so heavily on this kind of technology was so overwhelming because of the amount of information to sift through that it was useless, so the argument after 9/11 turned to the need for old-fashioned spying. Of course we’re left guessing about exactly what’s going on this time, this may well be part of it and they’re certainly still doing it, but it sounds to me as though there must be something that goes well beyond this that got the congress so outraged.

  2. Spying On All Of Us

    Several bloggers, Atrios, The Washington Note, Back to Iraq, The Agonist, are demanding that the Bush administration release a list of who they are listening to. If my theory on what is happening is right, we already know the list…

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