Monday, July 7, 2008

UNCONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT SPYING WORSE THAN WIRETAPS BOOMS

Bradley Olson, Baltimore Sun With Congress on the verge of outlining new parameters for National Security Agency eavesdropping between suspicious foreigners and Americans, lawmakers are leaving largely untouched a host of government programs that critics say involves far more domestic surveillance than the wiretaps they sought to remedy.

These programs - most of them highly classified - are run by an alphabet soup of federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies. They sift, store and analyze the communications, spending habits and travel patterns of U.S. citizens, searching for suspicious activity.

The surveillance includes data-mining programs that allow the NSA and the FBI to sift through large databanks of e-mails, phone calls and other communications, not for selective information, but in search of suspicious patterns. Other information, like routine bank transactions, is kept in databases similarly monitored by the Central Intelligence Agency.

"There's virtually no branch of the U.S. government that isn't in some way involved in monitoring or surveillance," said Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian and fellow at the National Security Archives at The George Washington University. "We're operating in a brave new world.". . .

Congress has requested, and in many cases received, briefings on some of the programs. But its dissatisfaction with the amount of information provided by the administration has frequently resulted in holding back funding for programs.

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