The New York Times
is reporting that a previously undisclosed executive order signed in 2002 by President Bush allows the National Security
Agency to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the U.S. and other countries without a court order. According to anonymous Times
hundreds to thousands of people may have had their communications tapped by the NSA in an effort to locate phone numbers and e-mail addresses used by
terrorist organizations. Purely domestic calls still need a warrant from a federal court before they can be tapped. Although most of the communication
eavesdropping led nowhere, a few cases did result in the breakup of terrorist plots.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans
and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic
spying, according to government officials.
Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages
of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty
numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American
intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some
officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on
Please visit the link provided for the complete story.
I'm surprised the NSA wasn't already doing this, perhaps if they had been 9/11 could have been averted. It looks to me like the difference is they
could target phone numbers outside the U.S. making calls into the U.S. before, but not target numbers within the country making or receiving
international calls. The NSA is one of the most secretive organizations within the U.S. government, so I don't really know much about it, but they
apparently have an amazing ability to eavesdrop on electronic communications worldwide.
I'm sure civil libertarians will up in arms over this, but as long it is just aimed at international terrorism, I have no problem with it and am, in
fact, glad it's being done.
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[edit on 12/16/2005 by djohnsto77]