In 2005 while George W. Bush still sat in the Oval Office, James Bamford penned this article for the New York Times Week in Review titled The Agency That Could Be Big Brother. Mr. Bamford, the author of “Puzzle Palace” and “Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency“, wrote about the National Security Agency which was created in absolute secrecy in 1952 by President Harry S. Truman. This agency is now the largest of the security agencies surpassing the CIA and other spy organizations. And it is still growing. The agency now has sites all over the US and around the globe and we have no idea what their budget is or for that matter what they are doing with all that information. In 2005, controversy over whether the Pres. Bush broke the law when he secretly ordered the N.S.A. to bypass a special court (FISA) and conduct warrantless eavesdropping on American citizens had provoked some Democrats to call for his impeachment. Now today, Pres. Barack Obama, a Democrat, expands the NSA’a power and there is not silence, but support from the Democrats. We don’t even know how much is spent by the NSA since their budget is classified. Heh, Congress doesn’t know either. But I digress.
Columnist David Sirota wrote in the Seattle Times that the NSA now claims that “it can’t tell Congress about its activities violating the privacy of Americans because doing so might violate Americans’ privacy”.
In a letter to senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., the agency wrote: “(A) review of the sort suggested would itself violate the privacy of U.S. persons.” [..]
So why would the NSA nonetheless refuse to provide one? Most likely because such an estimate would be a number so big as to become a political problem for the national-security establishment.
According to the nonpartisan Electronic Frontier Foundation, “The U.S. government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in a massive program of illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications and communications records of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001.”
That’s right, millions – and that’s merely what happened with one of many programs over the last decade.
Moving forward, Wired notes that the NSA is building the “Utah Data Center” – “a project of immense secrecy” designed “to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks.”
Appearing at the Socialism 2012 conference in Chicago, Salon.com contributing editor and civil rights lawyer, Glenn Greenwald gave a speech on Challenging the Surveillance State. Glen suggests that if you can’t watch all four videos the last one about the harms from ubiquitous surveillance is the most important one. He also points out FDL’s Kevin Gosztola’s excellent commentary and summation of the speech.