We would do well to review elements of the USA Patriot Act, passed by Congress a month after the September 11th attacks. Among other things, the new law made it a crime for anybody to contribute money or material support for a group that appeared on the Terror Watch List. It allowed the FBI to monitor and tape-record conversations between attorneys and clients, once considered privileged. It let the FBI order librarians to turn over information about people’s reading habits. And it opened the door for government surveillance on our e-mails and snail-mails.Condensed and excerpted
from American Conspiracies by
Jesse Ventura with Dick Russell,
with permission of Skyhorse
Publishing, Inc., New York, NY
So it’s no surprise that the Bush Administration soon embarked on an illegal wiretapping program, a story that the New York Times sat on for a year before finally publishing it. The National Security Agency (NSA) set up a secret room in downtown San Francisco under the auspices of AT&T, where the NSA could tap into the telecom giant’s fiber-optic cables. These weren’t just part of AT&T, but connected their network to Sprint, Global Crossing and other companies (including Qwest, which had refused to play ball).
According to former AT&T technician Mark Klein, the result was “a complete copy of the data stream.” It all went through NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, ten miles outside D.C., where the agency has a “colossal Cray supercomputer, code-named the ‘Black Widow.’” (Don’t you love all these “black” designations?) This supercomputer is capable of scanning “millions of domestic and international phone calls and e-mails per hour performing hundreds of trillions of calculations per second. [It] searches through and reassembles key words and patterns, across many languages.” They targeted certain journalists and basically vacuumed in all the domestic communications of Americans, including faxes, phone calls and Internet traffic. Code-named Pinwale, the NSA’s secret database even scooped up the private e-mails of former President Clinton.