HOT BLAST: The roots of our surveillance state
Dec 17, 2013 | 1152 views |  0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md.  (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
The National Security Agency (NSA) campus in Fort Meade, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
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We often mark history with the big events - Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the Kennedy assassination, 9/11 and so on. Yet, some important points in history are only realized slowly and after the passage of time. For example, take the changes to procedures and policies regarding surveillance of U.S. citizens following the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Dawning awareness may be here, thanks to a federal court ruling this week. As an Anniston Star editorial notes today:

On Monday in Washington, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon struck down the NSA’s policy of collecting telephone data for all calls in the United States, ruling that it was unconstitutional. Leon also delayed the ruling to give the government time to appeal.

For the curious looking to catch up on the changes over the past 12 years, Ryan Lizza's recent New Yorker article - STATE OF DECEPTION: Why won’t the President rein in the intelligence community? - is a good place to start. 



Over the weekend of October 6, 2001, the three major telephone companies—A. T. & T., Verizon, and BellSouth, which for decades have had classified relationships with the N.S.A.—began providing wiretap recordings of N.S.A. targets. The content of e-mails followed shortly afterward. By November, a couple of weeks after the secret computer servers were delivered, phone and Internet metadata from the three phone companies began flowing to the N.S.A. servers over classified lines or on compact disks. Twenty N.S.A. employees, working around the clock in a new Metadata Analysis Center, at the agency’s headquarters, conducted the kind of sophisticated contact chaining of terrorist networks that the Clinton Justice Department had disallowed. On October 31st, the cover term for the program was changed to stellarwind.
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