NSA Has Record of US-to-US Calls
The National Security Agency has been collecting phone call records from AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth containing the phone calls of tens of millions of Americans. However, the program does not involve the NSA listening to the phone calls, sources told the USA Today in a story published Thursday.
The lists include calls made within the United States, something the Bush administration has previously denied. Officials have said the spying program, uncovered in December, only involves international calls. But this latest revelation seems to indicate that this is not the case.
According to the story, although not identified, "people with direct knowledge of the arrangement" are cited as the source. The timing of the story is especially troubling, considering Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden was tapped on Monday by President Bush to head the CIA.
As head of the NSA from March 1999 through April 2005, he would have overseen such a program. These latest revelations could further complicate what is expected to be a difficult nomination process for Hayden. Both Republicans and Democrats have expressed opposition to his confirmation.
The ultimate goal of the logging project is to create a database of every call ever made, making it the largest database ever assembled, says a source. The NSA then is pouring over the data to look for calling patterns that could indicate terrorist activity.
Additionally, sources say the domestic spying program is much larger than the administration has acknowledged. It also seems to indicate President Bush may have either intentionally misled the country or simply was not fully informed about the program when he said "one end of the communication must be outside the United States" to trigger surveillance.
The White House refused to talk to USA Today about the revelations. It should be mentioned, however, that data collection from phone companies involving the "externals" is rather common, but not on a scale that is being described here.
Only one company has declined participation in the program, Qwest. Sources say the company declined as it did not agree with the NSA's assertion that no court order was needed in order to hand over the records of its customers.