The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” and requires the government to get a warrant based on probable cause before a search1.” With an eye towards guarding that right, Congress set up the FISA court to issue domestic search orders against agents of foreign powers and terrorist groups – but President Bush ignored the court in ordering National Security Agency (NSA) wiretapping2. Likewise, Congress enacted law to ban phone companies from giving out information about customers’ calling habits – but the NSA reportedly collected such phone call records3. USA Today reported on Thursday of last week that the NSA secretly obtained the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans from the three biggest phone companies. One source said, “The agency’s goal is ‘to create a database of every call ever made’ within the nation’s borders.” On the evening of the report The Washington Post and ABC News had a poll done of 502 Americans, and the next day reported that 63% favored the NSA‘s actions4. The question asked was:
It’s been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism? Do you feel that way strongly or somewhat?
But The Washington Post‘s pollers did not ask this question:
It’s been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. Governments, including our own, have used similar data to harass politcal opponents and suppress dissent5x6x7x8x9x10. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for officials of the federal government to promote their policies and maintain power?
Results of The Paragraph‘s poll on the above question:
Note: The one “Acceptable” vote was from a joker in my family. The one “No opinion” vote was from someone in the U.K.
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
Among the big telecommunications companies, only Qwest has refused to help the NSA, the sources said. According to multiple sources, Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.
… Under Section 222 of the Communications Act, first passed in 1934, telephone companies are prohibited from giving out information regarding their customers’ calling habits: whom a person calls, how often and what routes those calls take to reach their final destination. Inbound calls, as well as wireless calls, also are covered.
4 “‘Washington Post-ABC News Poll’ – The Washington Post
Friday, May 12, 2006″:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/polls/postpoll_nsa_051206.htm
5 “‘Federal Source to ABC News: We Know Who You’re Calling’ – May 15, 2006 10:33 AM By
Brian Ross and Richard Esposito”:http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2006/05/federal_source_.html
A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources.
The FBI acknowledged late Monday that it is increasingly seeking reporters’ phone records in leak investigations. “It used to be very hard and complicated to do this, but it no longer is in the Bush administration,” said a senior federal official.
According to National Security Agency insiders, outgoing NSA Director General Michael Hayden approved special communications intercepts of phone conversations made by past and present U.S. government officials. The intercepts are at the height of the current controversy surrounding the nomination of Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations. It was revealed by Connecticut Senator Christopher Dodd during Bolton’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee nomination hearing that Bolton requested transcripts of 10 NSA intercepts of conversations between named U.S. government officials and foreign persons. Later, it was revealed that U.S. companies [also treated as “U.S. persons” by NSA] were also identified in an additional nine intercepts requested by Bolton. However, NSA insiders report that Hayden approved special intercept operations on behalf of Bolton and had them masked as “training missions” in order to get around internal NSA regulations that normally prohibit such eavesdropping on U.S. citizens.
McCarthyism took place during a period of intense suspicion in the United States primarily from 1950 to 1954, when the U.S. government was actively countering alleged American Communist Party subversion, its leadership, and others suspected of being Communists or Communist sympathizers. During this period people from all walks of life became the subject of aggressive “witch-hunts,” often based on inconclusive or questionable evidence. It grew out of the Second Red Scare that began in the late 1940s and is named after the U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican of Wisconsin.
Joseph McCarthy’s involvement with the cultural phenomenon that would bear his name began with a speech he made on Lincoln Day, February 9, 1950, to the Republican Women’s Club of Wheeling, West Virginia. He produced a piece of paper which he claimed contained a list of known communists working for the State Department. McCarthy is quoted as saying: “I have here in my hand a list of 57 people that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party, and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.” This speech resulted in a flood of press attention to McCarthy and set him on the path that would characterize the rest of his career and life.
… The purge was motivated by the desire on the part of the leadership to remove dissident elements from the Party and what is often considered to have been a desire to consolidate the authority of Joseph Stalin. Additional campaigns of repression were carried on against social groups which were believed or were accused, for ulterior political motives, to have opposed the Soviet state and the politics of the Communist Party.
Ex-kulaks: While kulaks were “liquidated as class”, on July 30, 1937 the NKVD Order no. 00447 was issued, directed against “ex-kulaks” and “kulak helpers”, among other anti-Soviet elements. This order was notable in several respects, becoming a blueprint for a number of other actions of NKVD targeting specific categories of people.
National operations of NKVD: A series of national operations of the NKVD was carried out during 1937-1940, justified by the fear of the fifth column in the expectation of war with “the most probable adversary”, i.e., Germany, as well as according to the notion of the “hostile capitalist surrounding”, which wants to destabilize the country. Polish operation of the NKVD was the first of this kind, setting an example of dealing with other targeted minorities. Many such operations were conducted on a quota system. NKVD local officials were mandated to arrest and execute a specific number of “counter-revolutionaries,” produced by upper officials based on various statistics.
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