Friday, October 10, 2008

Who's Listening to Your Phone Calls?

Remember those "overseas" wire taps that we were assured were only used on known terrorists? The wire taps that did not require a warrant because the calls originated from folks who were not citizens and who had terrorist ties? Those wire taps?

Well guess what, it turns out that maybe known or suspected terrorists were not the only ones being listened to:

From Los Angeles Times

By Greg Miller

WASHINGTON — U.S. intelligence analysts eavesdropped on personal calls between Americans overseas and their families back home and monitored the communications of workers with the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations, according to U.S. military linguists involved in U.S. surveillance programs.

The accounts are the most detailed to challenge the assertions of President Bush, CIA Director Michael Hayden and other administration officials that the United States’ controversial overseas wiretapping activities have been carefully monitored to prevent abuse and invasion of U.S. citizens’ privacy.


Describing the allegations as "extremely disturbing," Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the panel has launched an inquiry and requested records from the Bush administration.

The linguists said recordings of intimate conversations between U.S. citizens and their loved ones were sometimes passed around, out of prurient interest, among analysts at an electronic surveillance facility at Fort Gordon, Ga.

They also said they were encouraged to continue monitoring calls of aid workers and other personnel stationed in the Middle East even when it was clear that the callers posed no threat to U.S. interests...
The American People were sold a bill of goods on how important the NSA overseas wire tapping was to American security. We were promised that only phones from known terrorist would be tapped, and that no one was interested in our daily conversations with friends and loved ones. The American People bought this bill of goods hook, line and sinker. We, as a people, have to wake up. We have to relearn how to resist to trade these small appearing infringements on our liberty for the promise of security.

There are ways and means in place to authorize wiretapping. These procedures are in place to help protect our privacy. When we allow the .gov to bypass these procedures, we give up just a bit more freedom.


Anonymous said...

sigh, overseas and talking by satellite, and you don't think there is a chance of being listened to?

John R said...

Overseas and talking by satellite, here in Texas and talking on a landline to a friend across town, in your bed talking with your lover.

Why should we allow the .gov unrestricted access to any of those conversations?

Anonymous said...

Technology, broadcast signal in the air will get picked up if there is any one listening. People will listen if you are near the target that is worth being listened to. We have put a lot of people, on purpose near, people we want to hear.

John R said...

I am not saying that we should not use any and all technology at our disposal to identify and target terrorist. I am saying that we should do so with oversight and under the limitations of the constitution. Listening in to Red Cross phone conversations should be performed under the authorization of a warrant.

Anonymous said...

We weren't listening to the Red Cross, were we listening to everybody. And there is no way not to.

John R said...

From the News report:

"We identified phone numbers belonging to nonthreatening groups, including the Red Cross," she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "We could have blocked their numbers, but we didn’t, and we were told to listen to them just in case."

I was involved with helping spooks intercept phone and radio communications from the old USSR. It has been several decades since then, and I know the tech has increased at least a hundred fold.

Anonymous said...

Well since NGO are never used for nefarious purposes, I won't debate the policy with you
I don't know why everyone is so eager to extend the Constitution to the whole world when we can't get it to be followed in places like New London. But that is apparently another debate.

John R said...

I'm not trying to extend the Constitution to the whole world, just to United States Citizens.

And yes, Kelo was a Horrendous SCOTUS decision. I don't think we will debate much on that issue.

Anonymous said...

In the history of American jurisprudence, the security of communications outside one's home have always been dependent on the carrier and the court's have recognized this. If you want a private conversation with your neighbor, invite him into your living room. If you shout at him through your open window then anyone in earshot is allowed to hear. Some of the first decisions about the use of telephones went in favor of the phone company being the judge of who could listen to the customer's conversations. When there became an expectation of privacy by customers when they used the phone, then the courts followed suit and began to make decisions in favor of one existing, though technologically one does not exist.

The problem with this incident is not that the government has the ability to listen, but that the government PROMISED not to listen. The American government going back on a promise it made to the American people? Who would have thunk it...

Anonymous said...

Want your eyes opened even further? Just google ECHELON.

Sobiloff said...

If the allegations are true, then yes, some heads should roll. However, given the source (the Los Angeles Times) is one of the most vitriolic, anti-American papers, I have serious doubts about the credibility of the accusation. Especially since there's no way to manually monitor all the traffic, all the time.

Anonymous said...

"Just google (sic) ECHELON."

I've worked for these type of people. There is no such thing as secure communication beyond encrypted messages and most any code can eventually be broken. Commercial encryption programs are useless since they are required by government regulation (NOTE not by law) to have a back door that the government can use.

Even listening to "pillow talk" has some importance since any number of sexual innuendos and double-entendres can have specific meanings known only to the sender and the receiver but when a pattern is discovered then the code is broken. George Carlin could aptly point out that referral to a sexual position reminiscent of canines could mean, "Attack from the south instead of the north!"

What we as citizens can do is to draw the line that when these communications are intercepted without warrant they cannot be used for prosecution purposes. They can be used to set defenses in place to stop an incident but all evidence must be developed from the body of the incident itself. If you should find yourself on a jury in such a case, bear this in mind.

Anonymous said...

NSA has been listening to overseas calls since the 1950's. It is impossible to know who is a terrorist. Most terrorists try not to be known. How do you think they get to be id? When they actually do a crime?

Most calls are not listened by a peson but a computeter that searches for phrases and such. Later the analysts checks from particular areas and see if message in code or anything else that makes the call to be notable.

NGO's have had terrorists or sympathizers are have been a source for terrorists. Spies are in many different areas and organizations. They try to be discret so intelligence gathering is designed to bring a lots of info for the 1% of real intelligence. Most of all checking is just the noise of normal conversations.