May 11, 2006 10:56 AM PDT

Bush defends spy program after new disclosure

President Bush on Thursday tried to quell a growing controversy over an electronic surveillance program he authorized, saying it is designed to track terrorists and not to intrude on the private telephone conversations of Americans.

Bush said Americans' privacy is "fiercely protected," but did not directly respond to an article published Thursday in USA Today that said the National Security Agency is secretly collecting the phone call records of Americans' domestic calls, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon Communications and BellSouth.

"We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans," Bush said from the White House. "Our efforts are focused on links to al-Qaida and their known affiliates. So far, we've been very successful in preventing another attack on our soil."

Ever since news of the surveillance program became public in December, the president and members of his administration have stressed that it was limited to intercepting phone conversations and e-mail messages where one party to the conversation was outside the United States. In January, Bush assured Americans that "one end of the communication must be outside the United States."

Bush did not dispute the latest allegations and said that "the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat." He did warn that when information such as this is leaked, the government's ability to defeat terrorists is threatened.

Thursday's report could complicate the Bush administration's defense of the program and the Senate confirmation of Michael Hayden, who was at the helm of the NSA during the creation of the program and was nominated by Bush to be CIA chief last week. Senate confirmation hearings for Hayden will be overseen by Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who recently threatened to eliminate funding for the spy program, unless congressional questions about it were answered.

Citing unnamed sources with knowledge of the program, USA Today said the telephone companies had divulged "call detail records," which are database entries that record the parties to the conversation, the length of the call, and so on. That would mean that the NSA and other government agencies would have records of the calling histories of hundreds of millions of Americans--though without access to the actual content of the conversations.

A CNET survey published in February asked telecommunications carriers whether they had "turned over information or opened up their networks to the NSA without being compelled by law?" Neither Verizon nor AT&T would give a "yes" or a "no" answer to that question.

But BellSouth did answer in the negative at the time. A BellSouth representative did not immediately respond to follow-up questions on Thursday.

USA Today reported that Qwest Communications International was approached but that Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that no court authorization was necessary. In's survey, Qwest also responded with a "no" answer.

Section 222 of the Communications Act (click here for PDF) generally prohibits phone companies from divulging customer information "except as required by law." It's unclear whether an executive order qualifies as a legal requirement, and fines could in theory be substantial.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group in San Francisco, filed a class action lawsuit against AT&T in January, saying the company violated federal privacy laws. But the Bush administration said on April 28 that it will attempt to have the suit tossed out of court because it could reveal "state secrets."

See more CNET content tagged:
NSA, BellSouth Corp., Qwest Communications Inc., USA Today, AT&T Corp.


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WOW, what a surprise...
Do you still trust the telecos to remain "fair and balanced" with
regard to your personal information...

looks like they rolled over faster than a frenchman in a fruit

Still think Net Neutrality is unnecessary gov't regulation?

These companies are obviously trustworthy...

Just like our current administration...

Time to dust off the ol' tin foil hat...

If you're not scared and angry yet, you should be!
Posted by victor_kahn (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
this makes me angry
Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona also faulted the revelation of the program as harmful to national security.

"This is nuts," Kyl said. "We are in a war and we've go to collect intelligence on the enemy and you can't tell the enemy in advance how you are going to do it. And discussing all of this in public leads to that."

So collecting my phone calls suggest that Sen. jon kyl thinks I and every other American are the enemy.
Posted by Arrgster (92 comments )
Link Flag
Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona also faulted the revelation of the program as harmful to national security.

"This is nuts," Kyl said. "We are in a war and we've go to collect intelligence on the enemy and you can't tell the enemy in advance how you are going to do it. And discussing all of this in public leads to that."

So collecting my phone calls suggest that Sen. jon kyl thinks I and every other American are the enemy.
Posted by Arrgster (92 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And you thought "Enemy of the State" was fiction! The REAL people
behind this activity view us Americans and our Constitution as "The
Enemy". I wish Americans would wake from sleep and recognize
that our government has sold out, and become the enemy of the
people. It doesn't matter if you're demo or repub, their all the
same (except the rhetoric). visit
Posted by robot999 (109 comments )
Link Flag
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Can't we defend our people AND the Constitution?
I guess not.

America comprises both. But it's the Consitution that gives us
power and authority. (maybe that should be past tense)
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yes...we CAN!
But we have to VOTE while we still can! Don't waste your vote on
the same demo/repub candidates who lie when they take the oath
to protect and defend the constitution. They spit on the graves of
the brave soldiers who've died to defend our constitution and what
it stands for. VOTE LP
Posted by robot999 (109 comments )
Link Flag
We could...
but as any red-blooded Republican capitalist would tell you, "Where's the money in that?"

There simply is no money in honesty, integrity or defending the Constitution of these United States.
Posted by Vurk (147 comments )
Link Flag
Show me were?
Show me were in the constitution it says, "Your phone records are sacrede"

This is much a do about nothing. Did you call a terrorist? then you should be worried. If not, don't worry about it.

They need the records so that they can then do data mining based on known numbers of terrorist suspects they can derive information. The info they got was just numbers, no person information. they will then compare the numbers with numbers they have of knonw suspects. If your number shows up as having called or been called by known suspect, then they will get your information and make a visit to your home to talk.

Tell me what awful thing these records will allow the government to do? Don't give me the slippery slop aurgument. The augurment about library records being gathered because is it in the patriot act was blown way out of proportion. I believe a total of less then 10 people had their records looked at...The NSA survalience, big brother spying, well I believe it was less then 138 people that actually got eaves dropped on....If filtering through the phone records will prevent a nuclear device from being going off in my city....I don't have a problem with that....

And no I am not drinking the Koolaide, I am not a republican, I am a realist that subscribes to the reality of the world situations and not to some political Ideaology......
Posted by grossph (172 comments )
Reply Link Flag
4th Amendment
states that:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,
papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,
shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon
probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and
particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons
or things to be seized.

So the gov't can't just ask for everyone's records indiscriminately
without probable cause...

Unless of course you think they have the cause to suspect that
every person who uses a telephone is a terrorist.
Posted by victor_kahn (11 comments )
Link Flag
Show me where...
Show me where I authorize this in my Verizon contract.

I'm not sure about your numbers, but your points have merit.

Nevertheless, this reeks. It definitely breaks a basic sense of
trust with both the telco's and the executive branch.

And ... what else are they recording?

(Sadly, that's no longer a "paranoid" question.)
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Link Flag
Yes, let's be realistic. What were the founding fathers thinking with their foolish ideals anyways? They should have been realistic and gone along with the king no matter what. Things would be so much better now.

/sarcasm off
Posted by freemarket--2008 (5058 comments )
Link Flag
This is Up There With...
This is up there with keeping logs on internet surfing. The same groups of people who just allowed the levying of charges on internet/phone services to fund covert surveillance are now demanding explanation for the very same actions that are already taking place (<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>). Fighting terrorism is a good thing. Problem: there are now so many new anti-privacy laws and definitions that allow them to make terrorism whatever they want it to be. There can be a new demographic group of people subject to scrutiny every time we turn around. Like to look at dirty pictures or dial those hot &#38; steamy 900 numbers? You must be a terrorist. Not visiting the web site that features the religion of the month? You must be a terrorist also. Oh yeah, everybody in your friends and family phone plan may also end up under scrutiny, regardless if their personal and private actions are related to yours. Judging from all the other anti-liberty activities taking place, this issue should be addressed very critically, although the damage has already started.
Posted by troppp (58 comments )
Link Flag
Ok, I will.
Hey Phil,
You probably know that the Supreme Court has maintained that your phone records are not Constitutionally protected even though the what you say *on* the phone is.
When the government seizes phone records of everybody in the country in order to find 20 people out of 300,000,000 it constitutes an "unreasonable search".
The government does not have the right to search everybodies house to find those 20 people, even in the name of national security. By attempting this search through electronic means does not get around this fact.
The 4th Amendment explicitly states "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,..."; "papers and effects" includes electronic communications.

As far as "if youre innocent, dont worry" goes, did you know that if the NSA discovers evidence of a crime, either in commission or admission, they are required by law to notify the relevant police agency?
Posted by Vurk (147 comments )
Link Flag
Why the Serches are legal

The Government stance on this issue is that the 4th Amendement of the Constitution states that we as Americans should not be subject to unreasonable Search and Seizures. The government feels that these tactics are reasonable to keep us safe.
Posted by jsandaire (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Not quite...
Bush says they're legal because he is above the law...

Torture bill signing statement anyone?

He has consistantly and repeatedly shown that he has little/no
respect for laws that he deems inconvenient or unnecessary...

He is the "DECIDER" baishes!!!
Posted by victor_kahn (11 comments )
Link Flag
Why they are Not legal.
Hi to you too, and a good day as well.

I'm not from the U.S., so I cannot say this with absolute certainty, but I am pretty sure the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires probable cause to instigate such measures.
But the only probable cause would be for the government to believe that the person is a terrorist or involved in it, but in this case the 'person' is millions of Americans.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
Learn the Constitution
The constitution says there needs to be probable cause for searches and seizures. There is no reasonableness test. That is absolutely wrong. IF there is probable cause THEN there can be a search and seizure, like a seizure of every phone digit dialed in this country during the past 4 years.

Go read the amendment before you simply accept everything "The Government" tells you as fact.
Posted by smvans7 (5 comments )
Link Flag
It's really a matter of trust...
There is most likely an equal number of people on each side of this argument... While that is troubling, it can also be healthy... The even bigger issue is that no one trust the leaders and executives of this country...

What has happened to integrity and honesty. Were we just gullible 50 years ago... Was Richard Nixons ultimate sin, one of just opening our eyes to the fact that a president might lie to us... Leaders at all levels of government are distrusted (federal, state and local)... And not just for their disregard for our rights but for their greed and overall dishonesty...

I'm tired of it... I'm afraid of it... I fear for the future... A great example that we offer to our children and grandchildren...

Shame on all of us for letting it happen...
Posted by thomas00709 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Are we really SUPPOSED to trust our government? What would Thomas Jefferson say about this? I think that's why we have laws and a Constitution, so we don't HAVE to trust the government.

If you have to place blind trust in your government doing the right thing, it probably isn't.
Posted by wiz420 (6 comments )
Link Flag
Are we really SUPPOSED to trust our government? What would Thomas Jefferson say about this? I think that's why we have laws and a Constitution, so we don't HAVE to trust the government.

If you have to place blind trust in your government doing the right thing, it probably isn't.
Posted by wiz420 (6 comments )
Link Flag
No probable cause... BUT
I think the NSA will escape on a technical characterization of
what the records actually constitute, which of course is BS,
considering the fact that the phone info is documentation of
personal and private activity.

I'm curious as to how the telco's will get cover to ignore their

National security? How?

This (hopefully) hasn't been done here before (at least on this
scale), so there's hardly an airtight argument for its efficacy in
promoting national security.

And is it necessary? Of course not.

Sounds like a remnant of Total Information Awareness from a
few years ago.

Phone records (even if only numbers) are private information.

Let's see how they slip out of this one...
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Currently each of the so-called mainstream News networks is passing a deliberate inference that the data collected doesn't include peoples names, addresses and social security numbers, and therefore we can rest cozy in our beds without worrying who we called and why.

Conveniently none of the pundits and "experts" they've interviewed on this matter have acknowledged the most important part of the article in question, the one bit that correctly assumes that the NSA can easily obtain all of that information from countless other databases it has access to, and yes, your phone records can easily be tied to your name, your address, and your financial information such as your bank account numbers and SSN.

Also in a stupendous act of idiocy, one particular right wing nutter of a congressman has suggested that stories such as these should not be released at a time of war because once again an abuse of your privacy by the Government is necessary to prevent terrorism.

That's right, YOU, the fifth generation farmer from Idaho, whose telephone call records are now nicely correlated with your credit card transactions, newspaper subscriptions, travel history and ofcourse your name, address and social security number, are a danger to our country.

And btw, when my favourite lobbyist comes calling asking for a quick shufti of say, everyone with a credit score above 650, who hasn't bought a &lt;insert whatever this lobbying sells&gt; for three years, aged between 25-35, income level of over $50,000, ordered by zip code - I'll happily pass on this information all in the name of those that died on 9/11. After all as a congressman it's my duty to profit from all acts of terrorism in whatever way I can - even when they haven't occured, I'm simply counting on the fact that our Department of Homeland Security is so engaged in political backstabbing, whilst at the same time making sure said lobbyist is profiting handsomely from unnecessary security contracts, that another extreme act of barbarism will occur before the decade is out.

At least no one has uttered the usual "If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear" BS yet..
Posted by ajbright (447 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What's next for America
One of the thing that is great about this country is the balance of powers and the ability of oversight. This current administration has done everything trying to gain more power, all in the name of fighting terrorism. Notice that None of revelation come from the Bush administration. What do you think of when you heard secret spying, secret surveillance without court order, jail peole without charges???? ---&gt; Soviet Union?

Now let's move on to the breaking news. With the database from telco, the government only have to match that record with public phone record and voila, who calls who, etc will be available. And I doubt that is the last thing they'll try to obtain. REmember they try to obtain searches from Google? When will other database, credit card transaction, etc will come into play? Remember, they will not tell you what they've done. All this revelation came from leaks. And just like before, this admiministration will try to find out who that is and prosecute them.
One of the defense the president used to justify his authorization of secret wiretap phone call from internalional is that it is to fight terrorism. Consider the terrorist attack in London was carried out by British born citizen, what is next for America? In order to fight internal American born terrorist like Tim McVeigh (nowaday, his act can be called terrorist act) or the so-called evironmental terrorist, will the president authorize warrantless wiretap on American citizens too in order to fight internal threat?
Posted by vhac (68 comments )
Link Flag
And Al Qaeda Wins!!
Somewhere in a cave on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, Osama bin Laden is laughing. Nothing beats watching the self-destruction of one's enemy. For him, the carnage of Sep 11 has now become trivial compared to the damage inflicted upon the American psyche. The much-vaunted resilience of the American spirit has been exposed to be quite fragile in fact.

There is no greater teacher than history itself, yet people simply refuse to learn from the past. Politicians will use every opportunity to solidify and enhance their grip on power. They can always count on the mindless masses to fall in line. Indeed, Henry Kissinger was confident enough to say, "The illegal we can do right now; the unconstitutional will take a little longer."

Of course, a founding father of America, Benjamin Franklin, had the foresight to warn over two centuries ago that: "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Senator Jon Kyl and his colleagues in government would be wise to heed those words.

The problem today is that with a redneck in the Whitehouse, it seems much of the intelligent populace has been threatened into silence and self-censorship in fear of having one's patriotism questioned.

Some years ago, when I was living in America, I met a lot of rational and intelligent people. Yes, there were also plenty of arrogant dimwits whose claim of superiority was based only on the fact that they were born there. But where are the smart people now? It's time they make a stand and take back the government.

Some further quotes:

"What comes to pass does so not so much because a few people want it to happen, as because the mass of citizens abdicate their responsibility and let things be."
- Antonio Gramsci

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate."
- Noam Chomsky

"If those in charge of our society - politicians, corporate executives, and owners of press and television - can dominate our ideas, they will be secure in their power. They will not need soldiers patrolling the streets. We will control ourselves."
- Howard Zinn

"Flags are bits of coloured cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people's minds and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead."
- Arundhati Roy

"Why of course the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."
- Hermann Goering, Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, at the Nuremberg Trials after World War II
Posted by joe_bloggs_who (54 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Switch to Qwest
and your records will be safe. At least for now.
Posted by Jackson Cracker (272 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Remember London!
Here's an interesting article on the subject:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by Joe Bolt (62 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It isn't illegal what Bush is doing.
He asked Congress for permission in 2001 to use the Patriot Act, and got it.
Posted by casper2004 (267 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Does not.
The Patriot Acts do not cover this type of widespread surveilence on the general American public.

If it did then Congress would not be having a their panties in such a bunch over an action that they had supposedly sanctioned.
Posted by techned (200 comments )
Link Flag
Good Thiink the british didn't listen
Well I guess it is a good thing that the british couldn't listen to phone conversations or get phone records...those 52 who died should have known better?

"Britain's Intelligence and Security Committee on the subway bombings in London last July:

The suicide bombers who killed 52 passengers on London's transit system had a string of contacts with someone in Pakistan just before striking, Britain's top law enforcement official said Thursday.

However, authorities admitted they didn't know what was discussed in those contacts and stuck with their contention that the blasts were a home-grown plot and that the degree of involvement by al-Qaida, if any, was unknown.

Thursday's report by the Intelligence and Security Committee concluded that intelligence agents had been alerted to two of the suicide bombers before the attacks but limited resources prevented them from uncovering the plot.

Reid, speaking of the contacts in Pakistan ahead of the attacks, said authorities did not know what was discussed. *** "There are a series of suspicious contacts from an unknown individual or individuals in Pakistan in the immediate run-up to the bombings," Reid said after his department released its narrative of the attacks. "We do not know their content."

Good thing they didn't have access to those come on, the reality is that there are people out there that want to do harm to innocent people. Yes, the government could certainly use the data for bad, but I think in some cases the good outways the bad, though it appears that other feel that their phone records belong to them and no one should have them...actually your records belong to the phone company and not you, there lines and equipment belong to them, you lease the right to make a call

I feel the ability to stop someone from blowing me up is more important then worrking about the government suspecting me for calling dominos when i am on a diet.
Posted by grossph (172 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Look, there are many sincere responses (on both sides) of this
argument. While I am strongly against usurping the constitution
for the purposes of "security", mostly because I question the
threat itself, I do respect and honor the debate becuase that's
what freedom is all about (think about that for a second!)
businesses for their shameless acts, we will really hurt them
badly. I would also suggest that if you are covered by Qwest you
use them, as they actually denied the Gov. I use T-Mobile and
am not sure how they reacted, but will find out.
BTW, i'm not associated with any telco...
Posted by robot999 (109 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Before you go blaming these companies for what may turn out to be an illegal act, place yourself
in their position. Based on orders from the president (via the NSA) they were told to cooperate so that the terrorist threat may be lessened/defeated. If they disobey and there is an attack, they will get blamed for not cooperating. They cooperated and now they are being villified; they are in a Lose/Lose situation.

This stuff needs to be pushed back to congress and the Executive branch to get their act together and figure out the correct path the country should follow. Businesses should not be made to take the blame for the ineptitude of government.

Oh yeah, Quest said NO! Big deal! Their coverage area have more cows than people. Been bombed by a cow lately?
Posted by trudancor (14 comments )
Link Flag
Bush, again, uses terrorism threat to limit rights
While it is no longer surprising that politicians use fear and misinformation to induce the US public to give up freedom and privacy, the current administration has been the most active in using this mechanism to further their goals and to augment their power. Perhaps most disconcerting is the continued effort on the part of the President to stifle debate by attacking the patriotism of those with differing views. A democracy, even a "representative" democracy, needs debate and discourse to maintain vibrance and vitality.
Posted by sndeyo (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Do a little research before you try to argue the 4th ammendment
For all you people who think the 4th ammendant covers this....well, do a little research. The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), which is a LAW, found whole constitutional, provides the government the abiltiy to obtain these records through court order or OTHER MEANS.

In fact, 5 million dollars of your tax payer money went to reimburing the phone companies for installing equipment that would allow them to do this.

And for all you Bush haters...this law was passed by the democratic congress and signed by Bill Clinton.

Please try to make your arguments from facts and not passion...
Posted by grossph (172 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The 4th Admendment trumps all laws. CALEA violates it, and Dumbya went far further then that anyway. There is no legal justification for this. Even if it did stop an attack, which is not likely, it is still not justified. Read 1984, it is quickly becoming reality.

If you actually think that there is any significant difference between the parties, you are very blind. We live in a one party state and a artificial line was drawn to keep people divided and under control.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
Are you a lawyer?
Phil, I don't really give a rip what your personal interpretation of some old law is. The 4th amendment is a constitutional law, and must be overridden by another amendment. Congress can pass whatever law they like, and it can exist and conflict with the 4th for as long as it is permitted to, but once it is measured against the 4th and found in conflict (as this activity CLEARLY is), unless it is a constitutional amendment and ratified by 3/4 of the states, it is NOT LEGAL.
Posted by slippytoad (9 comments )
Link Flag
Oh well
Oh well,looks like the Hollywood movie "Enemy of The State" 1998, is now moving from a work of fiction to fact!

Such is life!

However, there is of course section 2702, of the Communications Privacy Act of 1986, to contend with as well, where telephone providers may be subject to a federal penalty of $1000 per incident, of providing private subscriber information, to any federal entity!(I read about that one, in the LA Times under the title "Phone Firms Questioned")

An interesting conflict of laws coming !
Posted by heystoopid (691 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yikes! More Defense!
The former little emperor has my sympathy ~ the poor little fellow cannot help it that he is so limited intellectually that he's pushed himself into so very many self-made corners that he cannot any longer escape from his idiotic leadership bungles.

Can't we get rid of this fool peacefully and legislatively before 2008's election if only cos we're kind and caring ppl who wish to see him no longer bring harm to himself.

Gunness, Georgie. If I were you, I'd stay at home and simply **** from here on in. Otherwise, one of the endless number of the groups who are your major detractors ~ like for instance the American people, the Republican Party, all of our Forieng Allies, etal ~ might get an itchy trigger finger and do something rash. Becos I am a sensitive, decent, and God-fearing *little person*, the very thought of such a terrifying possibility makes me cry with fear for you. I know I'm all alone in the end zone along with perhaps only your dearheart of a wife and your daughters at this point in loving and being so concerned for your safety. But that's me ~ one of these silly *defenseless* sorts who *cares* for our commander-in-chief even in a personal way. :(
Posted by i_made_this (302 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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