The Government is Wiretapping Your Phone and Email and Most of You Don’t Care

Geek!This is Richard Dicter’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Last Tuesday, with relatively little notice from the public, two arguments were taking place in the San Francisco US District courtroom of Judge Vaughn Walker The arguments generated little scarcely any buzz last week, but OS X 10.5.6, a possible new Apple netbook, Snow Leopard, the vision of a sugarplum of a $99 iPhone, Vista SP2, and leaked Windows 7 Build 6956 did. At stake was whether the Telcom and Comcom companies, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, Comcast and others, whose past employees have verified have been warrantlessly wiretapping your phones and email for the U.S. government, could be sued – and two major lawsuits against them could go forward, or whether a bill passed recently by Congress could confer immunity on them.

The Bush administration – and a number of your Senators, as well as the respective companies – reasoned that they have broken no laws. If this were the case, there wouldn’t have been such a monumental fight in Congress to grant them immunity. When these companies wiretapped you and collected your email, they were hardly naïve. Their corporate counsel were very seasoned litigators who came from the ranks of a little known division of the DOJ called the National Security Division, or NSD. They wrote the laws on wiretapping that have been passed in the past 20 plus years.

Immunity is not really about protecting these large companies from suits. It was specifically designed to cover the backside of the administration who trampled over the laws to protect you from being spied upon by your government for the last eight years. The Bush administration has insisted for the past several years that no innocent Americans were being wiretapped. Nothing could be further from the actual truth. A recent book written by an attorney who was a former ABC News producer, naval intelligence officer, and former CIA employee James Bamford called The Shadow Factory details how every word you speak or write electronically is being listened to and catalogued in stunning detail.

This book analyzes the enormous tentacles of the National Security Agency and CIA, including billion dollar satellites that can hear your whispers on a cell phone, dishes that pull in millions of phone calls, emails, and FAXes an hour, and the largest collection of super-computers on Earth. Few people realize that the NSA also has its own secret military force called the Central Security Service – with a massive fleet of ships, submarines, and aircraft that cover the globe (soaking up your messages, and those in other countries, like a sponge).

This intelligence-gathering eavesdropping force is composed of tens of thousands of people, and occupies fifty large buildings. It occupies an actual city (Fort Meade, Maryland) with 37,000 cars in its parking lot and 70,000 pieces of mail per day. Its police force has 700 uniformed officers.

Lawrence Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author who won the prize for a book he wrote on Al Qaeda. He was wiretapped after he interviewed Intelligence Chief Michael McConnell and confronted him over wiretapping and waterboarding, then wrote about it in a 15,000 word article in the the January 21, 2008 issue of The New Yorker. Every other major media outlet refused to print the story – including the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. Wright confronted McConnell in his interview with the fact that he had been wiretapped, and McConnell insisted that if this were true, Wright must have received a call from "some known outfit associated with terrorism." In fact, though, Wright had originated the call, FBI counter-terrorism agents visited him, and accused his daughter of calling terrorists when she was off at college and not even home at the time.

You’re being wiretapped – every phone call and email – and you’re doing nothing about it.

5 thoughts on “The Government is Wiretapping Your Phone and Email and Most of You Don’t Care”

  1. My father has worked at NSA at Fort Meade for over 40 years now. He is currently the head of the department assigned to find cash accounts and financial assets owned by Al-queda and seize them. During the Cold War he was the Director of intelligence gathering on Russia and was a Russian/Hungarian linguist for 15 years prior. Basically, he has seen some serious stuff over the years and knows everything there is to know about NSA, Russia, Al-queda and intelligence gathering in general.

    Before the war in Iraq he called me one night and told me to watch the news that night. I asked why and he said just to watch. Well, needless to say the war started that night and he knew well in advance.

    Over the years he has told me some incredible stories, of course leaving out sensitive info and just giving me the general gist of the story. NSA is one crazy place and the technology is beyond comprehension at times. They have over 100 acres of underground computers that run proprietary software and processors on their own networks. It is “IMPOSSIBLE” to hack NSA because of this. It is by far the most sophisticated intelligence agency in the world. They even make fun of the CIA and their inferior systems. My dad says you really need to see the geeks coming up from the basement for lunch. They are a real sight to see.

    With all of that said, your phone and email are NOT being monitored!!!! I will say that again, NOT monitored.

    The resources necessary to monitor EVERY email and phone call in the world is beyond the scope of ANY government agency on the planet, even NSA.

    What they do is target certain individuals and groups. Those people are identified by other intelligence gathering means (I can’t tell you how) and then targeted further through email and phone call monitoring. If I was to type “kill the president” right now (oops I just did), It would NOT set off some alarm and armed Black-Ops guys would rappel from invisible helicopters onto my front lawn. That’s not how it works. Too many resources would be used up just sifting through the garbage. They are much, much smarter than that.

    My Dad just laughs when he sees movies or hears people making grandiose claims of all-encompassing monitoring by NSA. It is simply not happening.

    So, as long as you are not affiliated with some known/unknown terrorist group or radical church or some other suspicious organization you have nothing to worry about. NSA has better things to do with their time than read your Twitter messages to your girlfriend.

  2. Republican Bush voters have made a mockery of the word patriot.

    It sickens me that 200 years we have gone from “Die Free” to cowards who deserve to live under Chinese or Iranian rule.

  3. Interesting, good post Sean and very interesting dad to have. I imagine your Dad has given you some kind of tour or you have been over there many times.

    No doubt your dad has been privy to a lot of high clearance stuff. Their geekery is truly awesome but I’d never say they can’t be hacked. You’d be surprised at the talent that a few hundred million can buy and Bush hasn’t sent the USA to the top of the popularity heap as you know well.

    I may be engaging in hyperbole but just because they don’t have the capability to analyze everyone’s converstions obviously–I’d agree there doesn’t mean they aren’t soaking them up to randomly tap. They for sure are not confining their listening to simply selective targets like AQ. No way.

    Some of the Armed Forces personnel who helped listen in North Georgia were listening to the intimate conversations of Iraq soldiers male and female to their honeys back home. Several people who were listeners have come out of the closet on that.

    I encourage you and your dad to read (although there are many books and when I get some time in a few days I’ll put a few books I’ve read on your page or here) Jim Bamford’s Shadow Factory. I think you’d enjoy it.

  4. Interesting. It angers me that they would do that without permission. Then Again, what DON’T they do without permission. Many sites give out personal information like name, address, phone number, avg. income, house value, and more for as little as $1.95. If you ask me that’s just identity theft waiting to happen!!! I couldn’t believe what a stupid government we have that would let sites sell that information. I wish the stupid congressmen would search their own names. They are just as likely to have their identities stolen. I would really like to notify someone about this problem that could do something about it. If so who should I contact and where might I email them?

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