PRISM, classified orders, top secret info: A domestic spying Q&A

Published: Saturday, June 8 2013 12:09 p.m. MDT

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Associated Press
That's not a question. So let's start from the beginning, which in the national security world these days means going back to 9/11.

Shortly after the attacks, Congress hastily approved the USA Patriot Act. That gave the government wide new powers to collect information on Americans. In the first few years, news coverage focused on how the FBI would use these new powers to seize phone, bank and library records.

Separate from the Patriot Act, though, President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct a highly classified wiretapping program. Normally, the government needs a warrant to spy on Americans, but Bush allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens, read their emails and collect their phone records — all without warrants.

In 2005, The New York Times revealed the existence of that program. Amid the furor, the rules changed. The wiretapping operation and the collection of phone records could continue, but a judge had to sign off on them.

The scope of those programs wasn't fully known. But the government assured people that the spying was narrow and kept them safe. Congress voted to continue the authority.

Then this week, The Guardian newspaper published a classified court document from April that authorized the government to seize all of Verizon's phone records on a daily basis — an estimated 3 billion phone calls a day. The government didn't eavesdrop on anyone (under this court order, at least), but it received all outgoing and incoming numbers for every call, plus the unique electronic fingerprints that identify cellphones.

A program that the government said was narrow was suddenly revealed as vast. Under Bush and then President Barack Obama, the National Security Agency had built a colossal database of American phone calls.

>> Shoppers enter the Apple store location on fifth avenue Thursday, June 6, 2013, in New York. A leaked document has laid bare the scope of the government's surveillance of Americans' phone records — hundreds of millions of calls — in the first hard evidence of a massive data collection program aimed at combating terrorism under powers granted by Congress after the 9/11 attacks.
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A Guy With A Brain
Enid, OK


I'm SURE the federal government, led by Obama, would neeeever be digging for information to find those who distrust him and the government he leads.

No. Never.

(sarcasm "Off")

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