Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spying on Your Circle of Friends

If a suspected terrorist mis-dialed your number any time in the past two years, the FBI is on your case and, if the phone company had had the technology, they might have been investigating everyone you know.

A Congressional committee learned yesterday that Verizon has provided customers' telephone records to federal authorities in emergency cases without court orders hundreds of times since 2005 in addition to the thousands obtained through subpoenas and court orders.

Moreover, the FBI wanted to know not only about the person making a call, but all the people that customer called, as well as the people those people called. The only reason they didn’t get it was that Verizon doesn’t keep data on this "two-generation community of interest."

To conceal the widening net of spying on innocent Americans, the Bush Administration has put up a brick wall of “state secrets” defenses, but as the enormity of surveillance, lawful and otherwise, becomes clearer, Congress is pressing for answers.

Some years ago, I received an apologetic letter from a law enforcement agency about a monitored phone call to my home from a friend of my teen-age son who was being investigated for selling marijuana. Apparently state law back then required notification about every such invasion of privacy.

We’re living in a different country now.

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