Data mining your phone and internet trails without your consent – and they willingly offered it all up to this Administration. None of the names of the cooperating telecommunications companies have been revealed – big surprise. (NYT):
A former technology manager at a major telecommunications company said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the leading companies in the industry have been storing information on calling patterns and giving it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists.
“All that data is mined with the cooperation of the government and shared with them, and since 9/11, there’s been much more active involvement in that area,” said the former manager, a telecommunications expert who did not want his name or that of his former company used because of concern about revealing trade secrets. Such information often proves just as valuable to the government as eavesdropping on the calls themselves, the former manager said.
…Several officials said that after President Bush’s order authorizing the N.S.A. program, senior government officials arranged with officials of some of the nation’s largest telecommunications companies to gain access to switches that act as gateways at the borders between the United States’ communications networks and international networks. The identities of the corporations involved could not be determined.
The switches are some of the main arteries for moving voice and some Internet traffic into and out of the United States, and, with the globalization of the telecommunications industry in recent years, many international-to-international calls are also routed through such American switches.
One outside expert on communications privacy who previously worked at the N.S.A. said that to exploit its technological capabilities, the American government had in the last few years been quietly encouraging the telecommunications industry to increase the amount of international traffic that is routed through American-based switches.
The article goes on to note that this level of backdoor access represents an expansion of the N.S.A.’s powers, and skirts restrictions, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The act requires court-approved warrants for domestic surveillance, a hitch that comes into play because the international calls being monitored are passing through American switches.