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Why Do It Legally If You Can Get Away With Doing it Illegally

The NSA had a system that could have gathered phone data without compromising privacy laws. They decided not to go with it. They opted instead for the less efficient system that didn't have protections against abuse of records. And as an added bonus, it would be illegal, to boot. Digby's got the article up. I'd link directly to the article, but it's a subscription site.

The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project -- not because it failed to work -- but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials.

The agency opted instead to adopt only one component of the program, which produced a far less capable and rigorous program.


In what intelligence experts describe as rigorous testing of ThinThread in 1998, the project succeeded at each task with high marks. For example, its ability to sort through massive amounts of data to find threat-related communications far surpassed the existing system, sources said. It also was able to rapidly separate and encrypt U.S.-related communications to ensure privacy.

But the NSA, then headed by Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, opted against both of those tools, as well as the feature that monitored potential abuse of the records. Only the data analysis facet of the program survived and became the basis for the warrantless surveillance program.

That's all i need to know that they should confirm Hayden as the new head of the CIA. I mean, he's clearly the sort of lackey they love putting in powerful positions. Aces!

By min | May 18, 2006, 11:11 AM | Liberal Outrage