Seems like the Bush administration has found the enemy and it is us! In addition to the latest information on phone company cooperation with the NSA in their latest bit of revealed spying (more on that in a bit), the FBI has been putting the FISA Court and other legal processes to work 'smokin' us out and hunting us down (in the words of the Decider in Chief).
That giant sucking sound? It's really the Bush administration gathering as much information as possible on every American. From your credit cards to your ISP; from your phone to your bank. Bush and company want to get to know us all, up close and personal like.
Here are some raw numbers from the above-linked story:
The FBI sought personal information on thousands of Americans last year from banks, Internet service providers and other companies without having to seek approval from a court, according to new data released by the Justice Department.
In a report to the top leaders of both parties in the House, the department disclosed that the FBI had issued more than 9,200 "national security letters," or NSLs, seeking detailed information about more than 3,500 U.S. citizens or legal residents in 2005.
Now, Attorney General Gonzales was on CNBC's The Closing Bell on Tuesday afternoon (I'd just returned from jury duty). The interview with the AG was interrupted with news that BellSouth had just issued a denial of the USAToday story that it and other phone companies had cooperated with the NSA's phone call data gathering project.
The count does not include other such letters that are issued by the FBI to obtain more limited subscriber information from companies, such as a person's name, address or other identifying data, according to the report. Sources have said that would include thousands of additional letters and may be the largest category of NSLs issued. The Washington Post reported in November that the FBI now issues more than 30,000 NSLs each year, including subscriber requests.
The Justice Department report also outlined a continued increase in the use of secret warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The secret court that oversees the law approved a record 2,072 orders for clandestine searches or surveillance in 2005 -- an 18 percent increase from the year before.
Interestingly, while neither confirming nor denying the USAToday story, Gonzales said that phone records are BUSINESS records and, thus, getting them from the phone companies (in whatever way) does not constitute any invasion of phone company customer privacy. He said the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled such in a decision a couple of decades ago.
So, if it makes you feel any better, don't think of that as your privacy (AKA "The Fourth Amendment") that's being violated. Think of it as the MBA President and his most powerful pals doing some due diligence on the phone companies' record-keeping.
There! Doesn't that make you feel better just knowing that? If you believe that, I've got some FEMA rehabbed land in St. Bernard Parish to sell you. ;-)