Why The NSA Spies On All Americans
Simple. Because it's much easier to record all digital communication signals than to triage them in real time. Voices and keystrokes are converted to bits which pass through surprisingly few central nodes, so "wiretapping" doesn't technically apply any longer. That's the dodge. "Monitoring" would be more like it. "Digital processing" more accurate.
You can perform some semantic analysis in real time, catch data clusters, link them to related meta-data and examine for relationships. When you find fishy stuff, you pass the suspects over to a financial transaction analysis program. If you get flags there, too, you put ears and maybe eyeballs on them and scrutinize for terrorist ties and activities. Then the optical disk slides back in place, you add the result string into the data pool so it can learn, you file report and cover butt.
The first problem with eavesdropping is intuitively obvious: it's useless if the bad guys know it's happening. The primary value is against unsuspecting people who think their communications are secure. Which brings us to the second problem, one painfully un-obvious to Americans: having the tools guarantees they'll be used against law-abiding citizens, political opponents, competitors, celebrities, defense lawyers. It's not "warrantless wiretapping." It's a huge expert system under ongoing development which can be used to drill back into anyone's communications:
National Security Agency analyst Russell Tice, who helped expose the NSA's "warrantless wiretapping" in December 2005, came forward on January 21st with more sallegations. told 's on Wednesday that the programs that spied on Americans were not only much broader than previously acknowledged but specifically targeted journalists.Until we define digital privacy rights, we live in a surveillance state and it will be very hard, Obama Administration or no, to fold this impertinent genie back into the bottle.
"The National Security Agency had access to all Americans' communications -- faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications," Tice claimed. "It didn't matter whether you were in Kansas, in the middle of the country, and you never made foreign communications at all. They monitored all communications."
Tice further explained that "even for the NSA it's impossible to literally collect all communications. ... What was done was sort of an ability to look at the metadata ... and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected."
According to Tice, in addition to this "low-tech, dragnet" approach, the NSA also had the ability to hone in on specific groups, and that was the aspect he himself was involved with. However, even within the NSA there was a cover story meant to prevent people like Tice from realizing what they were doing.
"In one of the operations that I was in, we looked at organizations, just supposedly so that we would not target them," Tice told Olbermann. "What I was finding out, though, is that the collection on those organizations was 24/7 and 365 days a year -- and it made no sense. ... I started to investigate that. That's about the time when they came after me to fire me."
When Olbermann pressed him for specifics, Tice offered, "An organization that was collected on were US news organizations and reporters and journalists."
"To what purpose?" Olbermann asked. "I mean, is there a file somewhere full of every email sent by all the reporters at the New York Times? Is there a recording somewhere of every conversation I had with my little nephew in upstate New York?"
Tice did not answer directly, but simply stated, "If it was involved in this specific avenue of collection, it would be everything." He added, however, that he had no idea what was ultimately done with the information, except that he was sure it "was digitized and put on databases somewhere."
Tice first began alleging that there were illegal activities going on at both the NSA and the in December 2005, several months after being fired by the NSA. He also served at that time as a source for the New York Times story which revealed the existence of the NSA's wireless wiretapping program.
Over the next several months, however, Tice was frustrated in his attempts to testify before Congress, had his credibility attacked by and Rush Limbaugh, and was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in an apparent attempt at intimidation.
Tice is now coming forward again now because George Bush is finally out of office. He told Olbermann that the Obama administration has not been in touch with him about his latest revelations, but, "I did send a letter to, I think it's [Obama intelligence adviser John] Brennan -- a handwritten letter, because I knew all my communications were tapped, my phones, my computer, and I've had the FBI on me like flies on you-know-what ... and I'm assuming that he gave the note to our current president -- that I intended to say a little bit more than I had in the past."