BellSouth demands retraction of NSA story from USA Today

posted at 7:23 pm on May 18, 2006 by Allahpundit

Just across the wire. USA Today: the Jason Leopold of the mainstream media.

Like most Americans, I tuned out of the NSA story a few days ago. But something linked today on Media Blog has me tuning back in. Here it is, from the Baltimore Sun. It might be behind a registration wall, in which case try this link instead. It’s essentially a hit piece on Hayden, accusing him of having torpedoed a data-sifting program called ThinThread which, to hear the author tell it, was so spectacularly effective as to lend new meaning to the term “deus ex machina.” But the real lede is buried deep within the piece. Spruiell digs it out:

Officials say that after the successful tests of ThinThread in 1998, Taylor argued that the NSA should implement the full program. He later told the 9/11 Commission that ThinThread could have identified the hijackers had it been in place before the attacks, according to an intelligence expert close to the commission.

But at the time, NSA lawyers viewed the program as too aggressive. At that point, the NSA’s authority was limited strictly to overseas communications, with the FBI responsible for analyzing domestic calls. The lawyers feared that expanding NSA data collection to include communications in the United States could violate civil liberties, even with the encryption function.

Taylor had an intense meeting with Hayden and NSA lawyers. “It was a very emotional debate,” recalled a former intelligence official. “Eventually it was rejected by [NSA] lawyers.”

Spruiell puts it thusly:

[O]ut of all the noise in this article, a signal comes through loud and clear:

The NSA had developed this potentially life-saving program before 9/11, but privacy concerns prevented its implementation. The 9/11 attacks changed all that. Now that the program’s successor has been leaked to the media, the privacy absolutists want to undermine it again.

Indeed. Go read his post and the article while you can. They’re headed straight for the memory hole.

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While they’re at it, can they do something about that creepy Kos commercial?

JammieWearingFool on May 18, 2006 at 7:45 PM

It is stupid for USA Today to print something without seeing the proof first, something like a memo, an authorization, or a contract.

Let printer beware. In fact, USA Today is now opened themselves to possibe litigation if they do not retract the story.

Easy87us

easy87us on May 18, 2006 at 9:44 PM

Let’s not overlook this aspect.

“The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze huge amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws.”

Pablo on May 18, 2006 at 10:14 PM

If you know internet protocol you know the nature of these sorts of program. All they need to do is to catch the signals at the server and the digital data ( except voice data)will fall into the net.

Only contents are protected by privacy law. It is like…reading the address on an envelop is not illegal. But reading the content without a warrant is.

I hope by now the stupid Democrats know what they are getting into.

Easy87us

easy87us on May 18, 2006 at 10:39 PM

I heard today that Senator Carl Leven quoted from this story on the Senate floor after Bell South demanded the retraction. “What did he know and when did he know it”.

birdman on May 19, 2006 at 2:03 AM

Was Bill Burkett their source?

roninacreage on May 19, 2006 at 10:13 AM

Hayden hearings of May 18, 2006:
-Gen. Hayden’s opening remarks were excellent, especially the admonishment to the Senate (and by implication the Representatives who were also briefed repeatedly) to get the CIA out of the news “as sources and subjects”
-Chairman Roberts was visibly irritated the entire time, not at Gen. Hayden – his sarcastic remarks about those who have been repeatedly briefed, who then pontificate to the media, were very telling
-Sen. Wyden of Oregon was ‘little’ – Mr. Roberts set him straight on the jealousy he displayed for not having been briefed sooner.
-Sen. DeWine thinks he is a giant – much too full of himself!
-Very telling was the questioning of Sen. Feinstein. She asked as series of trapping questions, which Gen. Hayden intelligently and liberally moved to ‘closed session’; when she finished Mr. Wyden said to her “great questions”, to which she, unaware that her mic was still on said “but he didn’t answer any of them”. She is smart enough to know what he meant about ‘closed sessions’ – which means that her questioning was meant as a trap and just for the media – disgusting!
-What if the leaker/s to the NY Times and US News were not CIA doppelgangers, but in fact Senators/Representatives who’ve been briefed?

Entelechy on May 19, 2006 at 12:43 PM