details about NSA spying program?
Thai, Joseph T.
thai at ou.edu
Wed Dec 21 07:33:53 PST 2005
In my other life as a techie wannabe, I read geek-centric websites.
Well, some are brimming now with speculation about the technology used
by the NSA for domestic surveillance. I thought some list members may
be interested, as the technical nature and scope of the program may
shape the substantive debate over its legality. I've done no
fact-checking on these reports and would be interested in finding out if
anyone can confirm or deny them.
I'm not really going to make any attempt to answer questions of legality
and constitutionality, because the Internet is full of armchair
constitutional scholars right now who're fighting tooth and nail over
these questions, generating much heat but very little light. Instead,
I'd like to point your attention to some later developments in this case
that clearly indicate that there's much more going on here than we
initially assumed. When the truth comes out (if it ever does), this NSA
wiretapping story will almost certainly be a story not just about the
Constitutional concept of the separation of powers, but about high
technology. . . .
And this on the discussion boards at Slashdot.org ("News for Nerds.
Stuff that matters"):
The answer to the mystery of the NSA snooping scandal - why did they
break the law when it was so ludicrously easy to get FISA warrants? -
appears to be developing
dress=104x5639121> [democratic...ground.com]: they weren't just
wiretapping, they were data mining. They were using
<http://cryptome.org/sigint-hr-dc.htm> [cryptome.org] Echelon
<http://fly.hiwaay.net/%7Epspoole/echelon.html> [hiwaay.net] to 'Able
Danger' the whole country (this is Poindexter's Total Information
Awareness, which is supposedly dead, in action). The problem is that
FISA was enacted prior to the current capability for data mining, and
didn't anticipate how ubiquitous it could be. The reason they couldn't
use FISA is that they would have had to obtain a FISA warrant for every
person in the country. Data mining requires that you follow each link
discovered by your snooping, and wouldn't work if it had to be subjected
to FISA or the Constitution. The NYT article, now being spun
<http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10536559/site/newsweek> [msn.com] as
resisted by the Bush Administration (as if the NYT would publish
anything without Rove's say-so), appears to itself be part of the
spinning, a limited hang-out to cover up the bigger scandal.
Joseph T. Thai
University of Oklahoma College of Law
thai at ou.edu
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