Wednesday, March 12, 2008

NSA's data mining and eavesdropping described

The March 10 Wall Street Journal contains a fairly detailed description of the data mining operation being run by the NSA. The program described is more data mining than eavesdropping, though it does involve the collection of transactional data like call detail records for telephone calls, and intercepted Internet data like web search terms and email senders and recipients. Also included is financial transaction data and airline data. I think most of this had already been pieced together, but this is a fairly comprehensive summary in one place. The WSJ story reports that leads generated from the data mining effort are then fed into the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which does warrantless eavesdropping. (An earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to the whole operation as the Terrorist Surveillance Program.)


Hume's Ghost said...

We still don't know what exactly it was that the adminstration was attempting to do that was so extreme that John Ashcroft refused to sign off on it.

If Bush gets his way we'll never know, either.

Jim Lippard said...

Hume's Ghost:
I don't think you have it quite right. John Ashcroft refused to sign off on the *re-authorization* of what the administration was already doing, not a new program or new technique. He refused to do so because after Jack Goldsmith (author of _The Terror Presidency_) had looked into it (after he replaced his friend John Yoo as head of the DOJ Office of Legal Counsel), he argued that it was clearly illegal. Goldsmith was able to persuade Ashcroft, Deputy AG James Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and others in the DOJ of his position in a dispute with Cheney's chief of staff David Addington. Bush personally overrode Ashcroft to continue the program, at which point Comey, Ashcroft, Mueller, and others threatened to resign if the administration didn't modify the program to make it constitutional, which apparently it did to their satisfaction.

The Frontline on "Cheney's Law" goes into this.

Jim Lippard said...

See pages 6-7 of this Jeffrey Rosen article in the NY Times last year about Goldsmith.

Hume's Ghost said...

Thanks for the correction ... I've even read The Terror Presidency (and watched Cheney's Law previously.)

You see what happens when I comment without refreshing my memory.

Hume's Ghost said...

I would still emphasize that we don't know the content and scope of what was going on with that program from 2001 - 2004.