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NYT Pushes ACLU Lies Of ‘Data Mining’

Another day, another assault upon our national security by “the paper of treason,” the New York Times:

F.B.I. Data Mining Reached Beyond Initial Targets


WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 — The F.B.I. cast a much wider net in its terrorism investigations than it has previously acknowledged by relying on telecommunications companies to analyze phone-call patterns of the associates of Americans who had come under suspicion, according to newly obtained bureau records.

The documents indicate that the Federal Bureau of Investigation used secret demands for records to obtain data not only on individuals it saw as targets but also details on their “community of interest” — the network of people that the target was in contact with. The bureau stopped the practice early this year in part because of broader questions raised about its aggressive use of the records demands, which are known as national security letters, officials said.

The community of interest data sought by the F.B.I. is central to a data-mining technique intelligence officials call link analysis. Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, American counterterrorism officials have turned more frequently to the technique, using communications patterns and other data to identify suspects who may not have any other known links to extremists.

The concept has strong government proponents who see it as a vital tool in predicting and preventing attacks, and it is also thought to have helped the National Security Agency identify targets for its domestic eavesdropping program. But privacy advocates, civil rights leaders and even some counterterrorism officials warn that link analysis can be misused to establish tenuous links to people who have no real connection to terrorism but may be drawn into an investigation nonetheless.

Typically, community of interest data might include an analysis of which people the targets called most frequently, how long they generally talked and at what times of day, sudden fluctuations in activity, geographic regions that were called, and other data, law enforcement and industry officials said.

The F.B.I. declined to say exactly what data had been turned over. It was limited to people and phone numbers “once removed” from the actual target of the national security letters, said a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a continuing review by the Justice Department.

The bureau had declined to discuss any aspect of the community of interest requests because it said the issue was part of an investigation by the Justice Department inspector general’s office into national security letters. An initial review in March by the inspector general found widespread violations in the F.B.I.’s use of the letters, but did not mention the use of community of interest data

The scope of the demands for information could be seen in an August 2005 letter seeking the call records for particular phone numbers under suspicion. The letter closed by saying: “Additionally, please provide a community of interest for the telephone numbers in the attached list.”

The requests for such data showed up a dozen times, using nearly identical language, in records from one six-month period in 2005 obtained by a nonprofit advocacy group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that it brought against the government. The F.B.I. recently turned over 2,500 pages of documents to the group. The boilerplate language suggests the requests may have been used in many of more than 700 emergency or “exigent” national security letters. Earlier this year, the bureau banned the use of the exigent letters because they had never been authorized by law.

The reason for the suspension is unclear, but it appears to have been set off in part by the questions raised by the inspector general’s initial review into abuses in the use of national security letters

Some legal analysts and privacy advocates suggested that the disclosure of the F.B.I.’s collection of community of interest records offered another example of the bureau exceeding the substantial powers already granted it by Congress.

“This whole concept of tracking someone’s community of interest is not part of any established F.B.I. authority,” said Marcia Hofmann, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which provided the records from its lawsuit to The New York Times. “It’s being defined by the F.B.I. And when it’s left up to the F.B.I. to decide what information is relevant to their investigations, they can vacuum up almost anything they want.” …

Some privacy advocates said they were troubled by what they saw as the F.B.I.’s over-reliance on technology at the expense of traditional investigative techniques that rely on clearer evidence of wrongdoing.

“Getting a computer to spit out a hundred names doesn’t have any meaning if you don’t know what you’re looking for,” said Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union. “If they’re telling the telephone company, ‘You do the investigation and tell us what you find,’ the relevance to the investigation is being determined by someone outside the F.B.I.”

How many years now has the New York Times and the ACLU been promoting this lie?

There is absolutely nothing new in this article. Nor is there anything even remotely illegal.

As we have noted before, what is described in the article is called “traffic analysis,” and it has long since been the backbone of the work of the National Security Agency.

And since it has nothing to do with the content of the communications, it has nothing to do with “eavesdropping” or any other invasions of privacy.

Some legal analysts and privacy advocates suggested that the disclosure of the F.B.I.’s collection of community of interest records offered another example of the bureau exceeding the substantial powers already granted it by Congress

This is the excuse for regurgitating these shopworn charges. And it is simply speculation from the ALCU and (ALCU’s catspaw) the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who have been unsuccessfully trying to sue the government for years — using any bogus claim that they can come up with.

(And check out our article about Michael German, the FBI “whistle-blower” hired by the ALCU.)

And, as usual, the attempt to try to tie this completely legal practice to national security letters is based upon an unnamed official and the New York Times’s imagination.

But the New York Times hopes that if they keep publishing these vague (and preposterously verbose) stories, with their ominous tone, the great unwashed will come to believe that the government has been breaking the law and demand that they stop.

Which will help the terrorists and other enemies of our country.

Which of course is exactly what the New York Times and the ACLU want to do.

If The Times and the ALCU had their way, the plot to murder hundreds of US citizens in Germany would have proceeded undetected.

And they would have wrung their hands, attacked the “shamefully ineffective” intelligence agencies for their inability to defend the country — and secretly cheered.

This article was posted by Steve on Sunday, September 9th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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