USA Today reported earlier that the National Security Administration has collected an enormous volume of phone records from AT&T, Verizon, and Bell South. Only Qwest refused the NSA's request:
With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.
... Qwest declined to participate because it was uneasy about the legal implications of handing over customer information to the government without warrants.
Qwest's refusal to participate has left the NSA with a hole in its database. Based in Denver, Qwest provides local phone service to 14 million customers in 14 states in the West and Northwest. But AT&T and Verizon also provide some services — primarily long-distance and wireless — to people who live in Qwest's region. Therefore, they can provide the NSA with at least some access in that area.
This is absolutely stunning. The phone companies' disclosure without court orders may be criminal. The NSA's collection of the data is certainly illegal.
I don't care what your political views, do you really want the U.S. government knowing how often you called your mother last month? Do you want some bureaucrat in Maryland figuring out how many links separate you from Kevin Bacon? Or, more to the point, Osama bin Laden? Say you call a restaurant to make reservations frequented by the uncle of the brother-in-law of the daughter of (insert terrorist suspect here)...do you really want someone to make that connection for you?
Do you want your phone company to just give this data over to the government in the first place?
I remember a simpler time when a cop had to go to the U.S. Attorney who had to go to a judge to get permission to get the phone records of a Mafia boss.
Just in case anyone has forgotten: 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. This is the law, and has been so for 215 years. It's time to enforce the law.
Polls open in 179 days and 18 hours.
Update: Anne found that the Electronic Frontier Foundation has an ongoing class-action suit against AT&T stemming from the revelations last November that AT&T had helped the NSA listen in on conversations. I imagine they'll amend the suit to take into account USA Today's allegations.
The Chicago Tribune reports today that the Chicago Transit Authority has agreed to buy 406 new El cars for the Blue and Pink lines. The cars will have aisle-facing seating rather than the mixed seating arrangement currently in use (see the Tribune graphic). This is a long-overdue improvement on the Blue line, whose trains go to O'Hare. Struggling with luggage on the current trains causes pain; the new arrangement will alleviate it.
The CTA expects the cars to roll by 2009, shortly after we have a new President (984 days from now).
I don't agree with everything Motley Fool columnist Bill Mann says, but I think in essence he's correct:
My editors hate it when I call people idiots. But I mean it. Our elected officials are either stupid, or they think enough of us are stupid that they can say stupid things and we'll just thank 'em for it. ... Pay $100 from the federal Treasury to compensate Americans for high gas prices? Are you people completely, utterly devoid of brain matter?
You want to blame $3 gas on something? Fine, let's start with where blame should go—on $0.95 gas.
I think he's right that cheap gas hurt in the long run, but I'm not sure that the free market justifies the enormous profits oil companies are reaping. I'll think more about this.
Paul Krugman (sub.req.) confronts the wingers who try to divert rational thought by crying "conspiracy theory:"
A conspiracy theory, says Wikipedia, "attempts to explain the cause of an event as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance." Claims that global warming is a hoax and that the liberal media are suppressing the good news from Iraq meet that definition. In each case, to accept the claim you have to believe that people working for many different organizations—scientists at universities and research facilities around the world, reporters for dozens of different news organizations—are secretly coordinating their actions.
But the administration officials who told us that Saddam had an active nuclear program and insinuated that he was responsible for 9/11 weren't part of a covert alliance; they all worked for President Bush. The claim that these officials hyped the case for war isn't a conspiracy theory; it's simply an assertion that people in a position of power abused that position. And that assertion only seems wildly implausible if you take it as axiomatic that Mr. Bush and those around him wouldn't do such a thing.
I can imagine Limbaugh looking thoughtful for a moment before saying: "Thanks, Paul! That sure clears things up!" But I have a very vivid imagination.
Central Intelligence Agency chief Porter Goss has abruptly resigned his post. His office swears this has nothing at all to do with the hookers-and-parties scandal inching ever closer to him.
Says Josh Marshall:
We don't know definitely why Goss pulled the plug yet. But the CIA Director doesn't march over to the White House and resign, effective immediately, unless something very big is up.
I'll be watching this story.
Security expert Bruce Schneier has a good article today about threats to your computer (hint: Sony is one):
There are all sorts of interests vying for control of your computer. There are media companies that want to control what you can do with the music and videos they sell you. There are companies that use software as a conduit to collect marketing information, deliver advertising or do whatever it is their real owners require. And there are software companies that are trying to make money by pleasing not only their customers, but other companies they ally themselves with. All these companies want to own your computer.
This essay originally appeared on Wired.com.
NHPR reported this morning that today is Moose Appreciation Day in New Hampshire. The event has outraged squirrels, who encounter cars far more often than moose with significantly worse results.
The New York Times editorial page today reminded everyone who values the Internet to call their representatives in Congress and demand continued net neutrality:
One of the Internet's great strengths is that a single blogger or a small political group can inexpensively create a Web page that is just as accessible to the world as Microsoft's home page. But this democratic Internet would be in danger if the companies that deliver Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be harder to access, and slower to navigate. Providers could also block access to sites they do not like.
And over on Huffington, Adam Green has some things to say about Mike McCurry's activities helping the big telcos:
Mike McCurry knows that the free and open Internet most Americans think is the "status quo" is actually GONE in 3 months. So it's more than a little bit deceptive when McCurry asks, "What service is being degraded? What is not right with the Internet that you are trying to cure?" McCurry is implying the exact opposite of what he knows to be true.That's a lie, and it's a genuinely sad sight for those who once admired him.
It's possible that, in three months, not only will Iraq be shattered, but also the Internet. Then Iran? Maybe India? Anyone for Indiana? Why does the Administration (993 days, 21 hours) hate things that start with "I?"
Daily Kos has the complete transcript. Unbelievable.
So, Mr. President, please, pay no attention to the people that say the glass is half full. 32% means the glass -- it's important to set up your jokes properly, sir. Sir, pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it's 2/3 empty. There's still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn't drink it. The last third is usually backwash. Okay, look, folks, my point is that I don't believe this is a low point in this presidency. I believe it is just a lull before a comeback.
He's funny. And he's biting. And if it were Nixon's White House...