Sunday, January 01, 2006

Why All The Secrecy?

In two previous posts I suggested that the NSA wire tapping story may have involved wide scale wire tapping and that there was more to this story than we are being told. In the past I've read accounts that indicate the government can scan massive amounts of telecommunications data looking for specific items and then focus on those conversations. Many political pundits have wondered why the administration didn't just go to the courts for approval for their wire taps. One reason may be that the way they are wire tapping is highly technical and highly controversial. The administration did not want to divulge details of this technology because it is so new, current laws may not cover this new technology and/or they did not want to face possible legislative limits on this new technology.

I came across an article that more clearly states the technical possiblities. The article on is titled "The new technology at the root of the NSA wiretap scandal". You can agree or disagree with the authors opinions (be sure to read his/her followup post), but the technical discussion is very interesting.

The President may have tipped his hand when he kept saying that release of the New York Times article gave our enemies information they didn't previously have. Terrorists have to suspect we are trying to intercept their communications, but they may not have understood how sophisticated the technology had become or that we were using it to monitor communications to the US.

I don't like to be cynical, but I lived through Watergate and know how easily illegal government actions can be rationalized and hidden. How sure are we that this technology, if it exists, is not being used on purely domestic telecommunications?

On Meet The Press this morning, William Safire described how his home phones were, unknown by him at the time, tapped by the FBI for six months while he was working in the White House. It started when he had made an innocuous comment that was misconstrued. It can happen to any of us.

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