Privacy Media Articles
Excerpts of Key Privacy Media Articles from Major Media
Below are many highly revealing excerpts of important privacy articles reported in the mainstream media suggesting a cover-up.
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For an index to revealing excerpts of media articles on several dozen engaging topics, click here
Every bank transaction triggers snooping
2008-03-26, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta's leading newspaper)
The sad saga of [Eliot] Spitzer should concern every American. The web of snooping in which federal investigators and regulators are now able to ensnare any person who engages in any form of financial transaction has become so complex and pervasive that almost no person anywhere in the world can escape its clutches. The seeds of this modern-day Orwellian financial web were sown in the late 1960s and early 1970s when such expansive federal laws as the Bank Secrecy Act were enacted. Designed as tools to ferret out organized crime figures, major drug traffickers and international money launderers, this family of far-reaching regulatory-cum-criminal laws initially was used largely as intended. Many of the “Suspicious Activity Reports” (or SARs) required by the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, for example, were largely ignored by investigators and prosecutors, who viewed them as burdensome and difficult to catalog and utilize. Two events have conspired to change all that. First, the advent of digital technology has elevated dramatically the ability of the government to gather, analyze, manipulate, retrieve and disseminate the SAR data. The second factor ... was, of course, the events of 9/11 and the ensuing USA Patriot Act. These two things institutionalized fear as the driving force in virtually all federal policies, including those relating to financial reporting. [A section of] the Patriot Act — has been interpreted by banking examiners to require banks to profile their customers and the full range of their transactions, regardless of amount. These “know your customer” regulations are among the most insidious of this entire class of invasive federal laws and regulations.
Note: This informative article is by former US Congressman Bob Barr, who has become a crusader against the excesses of the PATRIOT Act.
2008-03-24, Newsweek magazine
When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, law-enforcement agencies hailed it as a powerful tool to help track down the confederates of Osama bin Laden. No one expected it would end up helping to snag the likes of Eliot Spitzer. In the fine print were provisions that gave the Treasury Department authority to demand more information from banks about their customers' financial transactions. But Treasury went further. It issued stringent new regulations that required banks themselves to look for unusual transactions (such as odd patterns of cash withdrawals or wire transfers) and submit SARs—Suspicious Activity Reports—to the government. Facing potentially stiff penalties if they didn't comply, banks and other financial institutions installed sophisticated software to detect anomalies among millions of daily transactions. They began ranking the risk levels of their customers ... based on complex formulas that included ... whether an account holder was a "politically exposed person" [PEP]. At first focused on potentially crooked foreign officials, the PEP lists expanded to include many U.S. politicians and public officials who were conceivably vulnerable to corruption. Federal prosecutors around the country routinely scour the SARs for potential leads. One of those leads led to Spitzer. Last summer New York's North Fork Bank, where Spitzer had an account, filed a SAR about unusual money transfers he had made. The governor called attention to himself by asking the bank to transfer money in someone else's name. The SAR was not itself evidence that Spitzer had committed a crime. But it made the Feds curious enough to follow the money.
Note: This story provides useful information about how the PATRIOT Act has been applied since its passage. The reasons for the investigation of Eliot Spitzer, leading to his resignation, may not have been so simple, however, given his many powerful enemies in government and on Wall Street.
Why Hospitals Want Your Credit Report
2008-03-18, Wall Street Journal
In a development that consumer groups say raises privacy issues, a growing number of hospitals are mining patients' personal financial information to figure out how likely they are to pay their bills. Some hospitals are peering into patients' credit reports, which contain information on people's lines of credit, debts and payment histories. Other hospitals are contracting with outside services that predict a patient's income and whether he or she is likely to walk away from a medical bill. Hospitals often use these services when patients are uninsured or have big out-of-pocket costs despite having health insurance. Consumer advocates say the practice creates the potential for hospitals to misuse the information by denying or cutting back on patients' care if they can't pay. What's more, hospitals could scour a patient's financial records for credit lines and encourage the patient to tap them, despite high interest rates or other costs. "It has the potential to put people at risk financially," says Mark Rukavina, executive director of the Access Project, a research and advocacy group that focuses on medical debt. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Hipaa, a federal law that has patient-privacy provisions, doesn't bar hospitals from providing patient payment histories to consumer reporting agencies. It's unclear how much latitude hospitals have to legally check a patient's financial information. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, hospitals are allowed to obtain patients' credit reports if they get their permission, says Rebecca Kuehn, an assistant director in the Federal Trade Commission's division of privacy and identity protection.
Note: For many other revelations of privacy abuses from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.
National Dragnet Is a Click Away
2008-03-06, Washington Post
Several thousand law enforcement agencies are creating the foundation of a domestic intelligence system through computer networks that analyze vast amounts of police information. As federal authorities struggled to meet information-sharing mandates after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, police agencies from Alaska and California to the Washington region poured millions of ... records into shared digital repositories called data warehouses, giving investigators and analysts new power to discern links among people, patterns of behavior and other hidden clues. Those network efforts will begin expanding further this month, as some local and state agencies connect to a fledgling Justice Department system called the National Data Exchange, or N-DEx. The expanding police systems illustrate the prominent roles that private companies play in homeland security and counterterrorism efforts. They also underscore how the use of new data -- and data surveillance -- is evolving faster than the public's understanding or the laws intended to check government power and protect civil liberties. Three decades ago, Congress imposed limits on domestic intelligence activity after revelations that the FBI, Army, local police and others had misused their authority for years to build troves of personal dossiers and monitor political activists and other law-abiding Americans. Since those reforms, police and federal authorities have observed a wall between law enforcement information-gathering, relating to crimes and prosecutions, and more open-ended intelligence that relates to national security and [politics]. That wall is fast eroding following the passage of laws expanding surveillance authorities, the push for information-sharing networks, and the expectation that local and state police will play larger roles.
Note: For many revealing reports from reliable sources of serious threats to civil liberties, click here.
The FBI Deputizes Business
2008-02-07, Common Dreams
Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does -- and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to "shoot to kill"¯ in the event of martial law. In November 2001, InfraGard had around 1,700 members. As of late January, InfraGard had 23,682 members, according to its website, www.infragard.net, which adds that "350 of our nation's Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGard."¯ FBI Director Robert Mueller addressed an InfraGard convention on August 9, 2005. He urged InfraGard members to contact the FBI if they "note suspicious activity or an unusual event." And he said they could sic the FBI on "disgruntled employees who will use knowledge gained on the job against their employers."¯
Note: We don't normally use Common Dreams as a news source, but as this news is so important and the major media failed to report it, we decided to include this article here. For a revealing report by the ACLU on this key topic, click here. For important reports from major media sources on threats to civil liberties, click here.
Spies' Battleground Turns Virtual
2008-02-06, Washington Post
U.S. intelligence officials are [now claiming] that popular Internet services that enable computer users to adopt cartoon-like personas in three-dimensional online spaces also are creating security vulnerabilities by opening novel ways ... to move money, organize and conduct corporate espionage. Over the last few years, "virtual worlds" such as Second Life and other role-playing games have become home to millions of computer-generated personas known as avatars. By directing their avatars, people can take on alternate personalities, socialize, explore and earn and spend money across uncharted online landscapes. Nascent economies have sprung to life in these 3-D worlds, complete with currency, banks and shopping malls. Corporations and government agencies have opened animated virtual offices, and a growing number of organizations hold meetings where avatars gather and converse in newly minted conference centers. Intelligence officials ... say they're convinced that the qualities that many computer users find so attractive about virtual worlds -- including anonymity, global access and the expanded ability to make financial transfers outside normal channels -- have turned them into seedbeds for transnational threats. The government's growing concern seems likely to make virtual worlds the next battlefield in the struggle over the proper limits on the government's quest to [expand] data collection and analysis and the surveillance of commercial computer systems. Virtual worlds could also become an actual battlefield. The intelligence community has begun contemplating how to use Second Life and other such communities as platforms for cyber weapons.
Microchips Everywhere: a Future Vision
2008-01-29, Seattle Times/Associated Press
Here's a vision of the not-so-distant future: Microchips with antennas will be embedded in virtually everything you buy, wear, drive and read, allowing retailers and law enforcement to track consumer items -- and, by extension, consumers -- wherever they go, from a distance. A seamless, global network of electronic "sniffers" will scan radio tags in myriad public settings, identifying people and their tastes instantly so that customized ads, "live spam," may be beamed at them. In "Smart Homes," sensors built into walls, floors and appliances will inventory possessions, record eating habits, monitor medicine cabinets -- all the while, silently reporting data to marketers eager for a peek into the occupants' private lives. Science fiction? In truth, much of the radio frequency identification [RFID] technology that enables objects and people to be tagged and tracked wirelessly already exists -- and new and potentially intrusive uses of it are being patented, perfected and deployed. Some of the world's largest corporations are vested in the success of RFID technology, which couples highly miniaturized computers with radio antennas to broadcast information about sales and buyers to company databases. Already, microchips are turning up in some computer printers, car keys and tires, on shampoo bottles and department store clothing tags. They're also in library books and "contactless" payment cards. With tags in so many objects, relaying information to databases that can be linked to credit and bank cards, almost no aspect of life may soon be safe from the prying eyes of corporations and governments, says Mark Rasch, former head of the computer-crime unit of the U.S. Justice Department.
Note: For lots more on microchip implants, click here.
Greater Use of Privilege Spurs Concern
2008-01-29, Washington Post
The U.S. government has been increasing its use of the state secrets privilege to avoid disclosure of classified information in civil lawsuits. Some legal scholars and members of Congress contend that the Bush administration has employed it excessively as it intervened in cases that could expose information about sensitive programs. These include the rendition of detainees to foreign countries for interrogation and cases related to the National Security Agency's use of warrantless wiretaps. The privilege allows the government to argue that lawsuits -- and the information potentially revealed by them -- could damage national security. It gives judges the power to prevent information from reaching public view or to dismiss cases even if they appear to have merit. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) ... cited statistics that show the Bush administration has used the state secrets privilege substantially more, on a percentage basis, than previous administrations to block or dismiss lawsuits. Kevin Bankston, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation ... said "The administration is attempting to use the privilege as a back-door immunity to obtain dismissal of any case that attempts to put the NSA wiretapping issue in front of a judge. It is no secret such a program existed."
Note: For many disturbing reports on government secrecy from reliable sources, click here.
Like FBI, CIA Has Used Secret 'Letters'
2008-01-25, Washington Post
For three years, the Bush administration has drawn fire from civil liberties groups over its use of national security letters, a kind of administrative subpoena that compels private businesses such as telecommunications companies to turn over information to the government. After the 2001 USA Patriot Act loosened the guidelines, the FBI issued tens of thousands of such requests, something critics say amounts to warrantless spying on Americans who have not been charged with crimes. Now, newly released documents shed light on the use of the letters by the CIA. The spy agency has employed them to obtain financial information about U.S. residents and does so under extraordinary secrecy, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained copies of CIA letters under the Freedom of Information Act. The CIA's requests for financial records come with "gag orders" on the recipients, said ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman. In many cases, she said, the recipient is not allowed to keep a copy of the letter or even take notes about the information turned over to the CIA. The ACLU posted copies of some of the letters on its Web site. In most cases, nearly all the text had been redacted by CIA censors.
Note: For many powerful reports on the growing threats to civil liberties, click here.
Schweitzer seeks other governors to oppose REAL ID
2008-01-19, Associated Press
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is urging a third of the nation's governors to join him in opposing the implementation of a national identification card, saying they can force Congress to change it. Schweitzer, who last year said "no, nope, no way, hell no" to the federal plan calling for national driver's licenses under the REAL ID Act, sent a letter yesterday to 17 other governors asking them to oppose a Department of Homeland Security effort to penalize states that have not adopted the mandate. Homeland Security has said recently that travelers from states that have not adopted the license will have to use a passport or certain types of federal border-crossing cards if they want to avoid a vigorous secondary screening at airport security.
Inquisition at JPL
2008-01-16, Los Angeles Times
For the last four years, two robot rovers operated from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge have been moving across the surface of Mars, taking photographs and collecting information. It's an epic event in the history of exploration, one of many for which JPL's 7,000 civilian scientists and engineers are responsible -- when they're not fending off the U.S. government's attempts to conduct an intimidating and probably illegal inquisition into the intimate details of their lives. The problem began -- as so many have -- in the security mania that gripped the Bush administration after 9/11. Presidential Directive No. 12, issued by the Department of Homeland Security, directed federal agencies to adopt a uniform badge that could be used by employees and contractors to gain access to government facilities. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin ... directed Caltech, which has a contract to run JPL for NASA, to make sure all of the lab's employees complied. The government demanded that the scientists, in order to get the badges, fill out questionnaires on their personal lives and waive the privacy of their financial, medical and psychiatric records. The government also wanted permission to gather information about them by interviewing third parties. Twenty-eight of JPL's senior scientists sued in federal court to stop the government and Caltech from forcing them to agree to the background checks as the price of keeping their jobs. They point out that Griffin is one of those who remain skeptical that human actions contribute to global warming, and that some of JPL's near-Earth science has played a critical role in establishing the empirical case to the contrary. They see the background checks as the first step toward establishing a system of intimidation that might be used to silence inconvenient science.
Note: For many disturbing reports on threats to our civil liberties, click here.
Microsoft seeks patent for office 'spy' software
2008-01-16, Times of London
Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence. The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state. This is believed to be the first time a company has proposed developing such software for mainstream workplaces. Microsoft submitted a patent application in the US for a “unique monitoring system” that could link workers to their computers. Wireless sensors could read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure”, the application states. The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user”. Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management. Civil liberties groups and privacy lawyers strongly criticised the potential of the system for “taking the idea of monitoring people at work to a new level”.
Note: For revealing reports from major media sources on the increasing surveillance of all aspects of society by secret government and corporate programs, click here.
New rules on licenses pit states against feds
Residents of at least 17 states are suddenly stuck in the middle of a fight between the Bush administration and state governments over post-September 11 security rules for driver's licenses -- a dispute that, by May, could leave millions of people unable to use their licenses to board planes or enter federal buildings. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who unveiled final details of the REAL ID Act's rules on Friday, said that if states want their licenses to remain valid for air travel after May 2008, those states must seek a waiver indicating they want more time to comply with the legislation. Chertoff said that in instances where a particular state doesn't seek a waiver, its residents will have to use a passport or a newly created federal passport card if they want to avoid a vigorous secondary screening at airport security. Chertoff spoke as he discussed the details of the administration's plan to improve security for driver's licenses in all 50 states -- an effort delayed due to opposition from states worried about the cost and civil libertarians upset about what they believe are invasions of privacy. Under the rules announced Friday, Americans born after Dec. 1, 1964, will have to get more secure driver's licenses in the next six years. The American Civil Liberties Union has fiercely objected to the effort, particularly the sharing of personal data among government agencies. In its written objection to the law, the ACLU claims REAL ID amounts to the "first-ever national identity card system," which "would irreparably damage the fabric of American life."
FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics
2007-12-22, Washington Post
The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad. Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to ... identify [people]. The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questions about the ability of Americans to avoid unwanted scrutiny. It is drawing criticism from those who worry that people's bodies will become de facto national identification cards. "It's going to be an essential component of tracking," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's enabling the Always On Surveillance Society." The FBI's biometric database ... communicates with the Terrorist Screening Center's database of suspects and the National Crime Information Center database, which is the FBI's master criminal database of felons, fugitives and terrorism suspects. At the West Virginia University Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR) ... researchers are working on capturing images of people's irises at distances of up to 15 feet, and of faces from as far away as 200 yards. Soon, those researchers will do biometric research for the FBI. Covert iris- and face-image capture is several years away, but it is of great interest to government agencies.
Note: For many important major-media reports on threats to privacy, click here.
The Court That May Not Be Heard
2007-12-15, New York Times
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the special court that reviews government requests for warrants to spy on suspected foreign agents in the United States, seems to have forgotten that its job is to ensure that the government is accountable for following the law — not to help the Bush administration keep its secrets. Last week, the court denied a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to release portions of past rulings that would explain how it has interpreted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The court should share its legal reasoning with the public. After the 9/11 attacks, the National Security Agency for years engaged in domestic spying that violated both FISA and the Constitution. Earlier this year, after a court ruled that the program was illegal, the Bush administration said that in the future it would conduct surveillance with the approval of the intelligence court. At the same time, it announced that a judge of the court had issued orders setting out how the program could proceed. The administration has repeatedly referred to these orders, but has refused to make them public. As a result, it is impossible for the American people — and even some members of Congress — to know how the court reached its conclusions, or the state of the law with respect to domestic surveillance. The idea of courts developing law in secret and handing down legal principles that the public cannot know about should not be part of the American legal system. That is especially true when the subject matter is as important as the government spying on its citizens, an issue the founders — who drafted the Fourth Amendment — cared about deeply. The people have a right to know how the act, which is in the process of being revised, is being interpreted so they can tell their elected representatives what they think the law should be.
"A Blow at the Core of Fourth Amendment Protections"
2007-11-28, New York Times
The Constitution protects individuals against unreasonable searches, but for this protection to have practical meaning, the courts must enforce it. This week, the Supreme Court let stand a disturbing ruling out of California that allows law enforcement to barge into people’s homes without a warrant. The case has not prompted much outrage, perhaps because the people whose privacy is being invaded are welfare recipients, but it is a serious setback for the privacy rights of all Americans. San Diego County’s district attorney has a program called Project 100% that is intended to reduce welfare fraud. Applicants for welfare benefits are visited by law enforcement agents, who show up unannounced and examine the family’s home, including the insides of cabinets and closets. The program does not meet the standards set out by the Fourth Amendment. For a search to be reasonable, there generally must be some kind of individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. These searches are done in the homes of people who have merely applied for welfare and have done nothing to arouse suspicion. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, rejected a challenge brought by welfare recipients. In ruling that the program does not violate the Constitution, the majority made the bizarre assertion that the home visits are not “searches.” It is a fun-house mirrors version of constitutional analysis for a court to say that government agents are not conducting a search when they show up unannounced in a person’s home and rifle through her bedroom dresser. Judge Harry Pregerson, writing for himself and six other Ninth Circuit judges who voted to reconsider the case, got it right. The majority decision upholding Project 100%, Judge Pregerson wrote, “strikes an unprecedented blow at the core of Fourth Amendment protections.” When the government is allowed to show up unannounced without a warrant and search people’s homes, it is bad news for all of us.
Houston Police Drone Aircraft
Transcript: [Suzanne] MALVEAUX: A Texas mystery solved -- at least partially. We now know Houston police are going to start using unmanned drone aircraft. But the question remains, well, for what? Stephen Dean of CNN affiliate KPRC has got an exclusive look. STEPHEN DEAN, KPRC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): HPD [Houston Police Dept.], the federal Department of Homeland Security and other invited guests all watching to see how this drone could be used for police work in and around Houston. We tracked that drone from News Chopper 2. And that drone was able to use a high-powered camera to track us. Those cameras can actually look into people's homes or even follow them in moving cars -- which raises all sorts of new questions. HPD quickly hustled together a news conference when it realized our cameras were there for the entire secret test. Executive Assistant Chief Martha Mantabo admits that could mean covert police action. But she says it's too early to tell what else HPD will do with the aircraft. We asked, are these drones headed for ticketing speeders from the sky? MONTALVO: I'm not ruling anything out. DEAN: Back at the secret test site, police helicopter pilots claimed the entire air space was restricted and even threatened our local 2 Investigates pilot with action from the FAA if we didn't leave. But we checked with FAA several times and there never was a flight restriction. That leaves some to wonder whether the police are now ready to use terrorism fears since 911 to push the envelope further into our private lives.
Note: To watch the video of secret police work in action, click here.
Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request
2007-11-23, Washington Post
Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers. In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives. The requests and orders are sealed at the government's request, so it is difficult to know how often the orders are issued or denied. "Most people don't realize it, but they're carrying a tracking device in their pocket," said Kevin Bankston of the privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Cellphones can reveal very precise information about your location, and yet legal protections are very much up in the air." In a stinging opinion this month, a federal judge in Texas denied a request by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent for data that would identify a drug trafficker's phone location by using the carrier's E911 tracking capability. E911 tracking systems read signals sent to satellites from a phone's Global Positioning System (GPS) chip or triangulated radio signals sent from phones to cell towers. "Law enforcement routinely now requests carriers to continuously 'ping' wireless devices of suspects to locate them when a call is not being made . . . so law enforcement can triangulate the precise location of a device and [seek] the location of all associates communicating with a target," wrote Christopher Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs for CTIA -- the Wireless Association.
Note: For many major media reports on serious new threats to civil liberties, click here.
Big Brother Spying on Americans' Internet Data?
2007-11-07, ABC News
According to a former AT&T employee, the government has warrantless access to a great deal of Internet traffic should they care to take a peek. As information is traded between users it flows also into a locked, secret room on the sixth floor of AT&T's San Francisco offices and other rooms around the country -- where the U.S. government can sift through and find the information it wants, former AT&T employee Mark Klein alleged Wednesday at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "An exact copy of all Internet traffic that flowed through critical AT&T cables -- e-mails, documents, pictures, Web browsing, voice-over-Internet phone conversations, everything -- was being diverted to equipment inside the secret room," he said. Klein ... said that as an AT&T technician overseeing Internet operations in San Francisco, he helped maintain optical splitters that diverted data en route to and from AT&T customers. One day he found that the splitters were hard-wired into a secret room on the sixth floor. Documents he obtained [from] AT&T showed that highly sophisticated data mining equipment was kept there. Conversations he had with other technicians and the AT&T documents led Klein to believe there are 15 to 20 such sites nationwide, including in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and Atlanta, he said. Brian Reid, a former Stanford electrical engineering professor who appeared with Klein, said the NSA would logically collect phone and Internet data simultaneously because of the way fiber optic cables are intertwined. He said ... the system described by Klein suggests a "wholesale, dragnet surveillance." Of the major telecom companies, only Qwest is known to have rejected government requests for access to data. Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, appealing an insider trading conviction last month, said the government was seeking access to data even before Sept. 11.
Librarians Say Surveillance Bills Lack Adequate Oversight
2007-11-02, Washington Post
A little-remarked feature of pending legislation on domestic surveillance has provoked alarm among university and public librarians who say it could allow federal intelligence-gathering on library patrons without sufficient court oversight.
Draft House and Senate bills would allow the government to compel any "communications service provider" to provide access to e-mails and other electronic information within the United States. The Justice Department has previously said that "providers" may include libraries, causing three major university and library groups to worry that the government's ability to monitor people targeted for surveillance without a warrant would chill students' and faculty members' online research activities.
"It is fundamental that when a user enters the library, physically or electronically," said Jim Neal, the head librarian at Columbia University, "their use of the collections, print or electronic, their communications on library servers and computers, is not going to be subjected to surveillance unless the courts have authorized it." The librarians said their concern about such monitoring is rooted in recent history. In the summer of 2005, FBI agents handed an administrative subpoena called a national security letter (NSL) to a Connecticut librarian, and demanded subscriber, billing and other information on patrons who used a specific computer at a branch library. NSLs can be approved by certain FBI agents without court approval. The agents ordered the librarian to keep the demand secret. But he refused to produce the records, and his employer filed suit, challenging the gag order. A federal judge in September 2005 declared the gag order unconstitutional. The Association of Research Libraries, ... the American Library Association ... and the Association of American Universities ... each say they seek to amend the draft bills to make clear that the term "communications provider" does not include libraries.
Note: For more eye-opening reports from major media sources on the erosion of civil liberties, click here.