Bush gov't underplayed spying charges

NSA tapped many more e-mails, phone calls than Bush gov't acknowledged.

bush gestures 88 (photo credit: )
bush gestures 88
(photo credit: )
The National Security Agency has conducted much broader surveillance of e-mails and phone calls - without court orders - than the Bush administration has acknowledged, The New York Times reported on its Web site. The secretive NSA, with help from American telecommunications companies, obtained access to streams of domestic and international communications, said the Times in the report late Friday, citing unidentified current and former government officials. The story did not name the companies. Since the Times disclosed the domestic spying program last week, President George W. Bush has stressed that his executive order allowing the eavesdropping was limited to people with known links to al-Qaida. But the Times said that NSA technicians have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might lead to terrorists. The volume of information harvested from telecommunications data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the paper said, quoting an unnamed official. The story quoted a former technology manager at a major telecommunications firm as saying that companies have been storing information on calling patterns since the Sept. 11 attacks, and giving it to the federal government. Neither the manager nor the company he worked for was identified. Bush administration offiicials on Friday declined to comment on the technical aspects of the operation and the NSA's use of broad searches to look for terrorists, the paper said. The domestic spying program, the latest blow to the Bush administration, has prompted an outcry in Congress, with calls surfacing for an investigation. The administration formally defended its domestic spying program in a letter to Congress late Thursday, saying the nation's security outweighs privacy concerns of individuals who are monitored.