Friday, May 12, 2006

Tempest in a Tea Kettle

There's been a lot of bloviating by the politicians over the NSA phone records collection, including some disgraceful posturing by my US Rep, Ed Markey, so I've got to weigh in on this.

From USA today

"The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews." (quote thanks to Michelle Malkin)

One web pundit's take

"The meat of the article is simply this:

The government is collecting “external” data on domestic phone calls but is not intercepting “internals,” a term for the actual content of the communication, according to a U.S. intelligence official familiar with the program. This kind of data collection from phone companies is not uncommon; it’s been done before, though never on this large a scale, the official said. The data are used for “social network analysis,” the official said, meaning to study how terrorist networks contact each other and how they are tied together.
The NSA is consolidating and analyzing already collected data to try to stop terrorist attacks before they happen.
What exactly is the legitimate complaint against this program?" (from Confederate Yankee)

Looking over everything I've found, it sounds like the NSA has put together some actuarial tables. Will Ed Markey decry the Auto Insurance and Life Insurance companies' invasion of my privacy for their use of actuarial tables? It sounds like the info provided by the phone companies is stripped of personal identifiers as well.

“So, the government has my phone records? Sure, I trust mega-corporations who sell my private information to telemarketers with this information. But a government agency that collects and analyzes signals intelligence? I dunno.” (from Outside the Beltway)

As someone pointed out yesterday (and my apologies to you and to her/him, I can't find the actual quote or source), the IRS keeps records of everyone's mortgage, bank accounts, employment, number of children, major medical expenses and much more, but nobody on Capitol Hill is outraged at that invasion of privacy. Oh, wait, they're not incensed over that because that's how they get our money.

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