Monday, March 10, 2008

Spy central

That's always been the problem with giving the government too much power without oversight — it always wants more. The Wall Street Journal (!) reported today that the highly secretive National Security Agency has secretly taken on an electronic data monitoring system Congress killed five years ago and has been collecting information on millions of Americans to search for terror connections. The little-known NSA used to be limited to foreign surveillance but has taken on a lead role in domestic intelligence gathering, the newspaper said. "An inquiry reveals that its efforts have evolved to reach more broadly into data about people's communications, travel and finances in the U.S. than the domestic surveillance programs brought to light since the 2001 terrorist attacks,"said the article, written by Journal reporter Siobhan Gorman. The NSA monitors domestic e-mails and Internet searches, bank transfers, credit-card transactions and travel and telephone records, looks for suspicious patterns and gives investigation tips to government counterterrorism programs. Of course, the NSA itself denies that it is doing anything untoward. A spokeswoman said the agency "strictly follows laws and regulations designed to preserve every American's privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution," Judith Emmel said in a written statement, according to the newspaper. And that would be why more, not less, Congressional oversight is necessary and why telecommunications companies that violate the privacy of Americans do not deserve immunity and should be accountable, despite what President Bush seems to think.

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