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.