In the book I warned about abuses under the Patriot Act, but this is far worse. And here I thought maybe I was overreacting. From the Times:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 – The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.
The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system’s main arteries, they said.
The article goes on:
…the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.
From the book (page 200, and here’s all PATRIOT references via Amazon Book Search):
By now, you might be a bit concerned about abuse of power
under the PATRIOT Act, but you’re not a foreign agent bent on
the destruction of the United States, and the law is really only in-
terested in foreign agents, after all. Most of this stuff doesn’t apply
to you, does it? In fact, PATRIOT changes the law so that govern-
ment officials no longer have to prove they are after a foreign agent
when they intercept communications. Now, all they have to prove
is that they feel access to your information might be valuable to
their investigation. That’s a pretty broad stroke. Fortunately, a pro-
vision was added that prohibits surveillance “solely on the basis of
activities protected by the First Amendment.” But how does one tell
the difference between your First Amendment right to do searches
about the tactics of terrorists, for example, and the searches of a
That’s a hard one.
One might argue that while the PATRIOT Act is scary, in times
ofwar citizens must always be willing to balance civil liberties with
national security. Most of us might be willing to agree to such a
framework in a presearch world, but the implications of such broad
government authority are chilling given the world in which we now
live—a world where our every digital track, once lost in the blowing
dust of a presearch world, can now be tagged, recorded, and held in
the amber of a perpetual index.