Memo to the NYT/IHT: Trying to detect unusual calling patterns is not “eavesdropping”

Our media continues to get it wrong on the topic of the NSA warrantless wiretaps/datamining program that was kicked into high gear after the 9-11 attacks. Check out the following headline:

Bush Aide Defends Eavesdropping on Phone Calls

Just as a reminder to the New York Times/International Herald Tribune reporters and editors, here’s what “eavesdropping” actually means:

To listen secretly to the private conversation of others.

Has anyone at the New York Times or International Herald Tribune ever heard of a dictionary before? The calls are being datamined to detect unusual CALLING PATTERNS.

This is just one more in a long list of examples of how our media joins hands with the hate-Bush wing of the Democratic party in what I believe is a deliberate distortion of the news as part of an effort to hurt the President and, by association, Republicans in general in an election year. Congressional Democrats have shown that they will stop at nothing – even demagoguing issues that are paramount to our national security – in order to get a leg up on Republicans going into the fall elections and with headlines like this one coming out of the pages of the NYT, the media as usual is complicit.

More: In a related story, the Washington Post trumps up comments made by U.S. intelligence chief John Negroponte where he claimed that the US was “absolutely not” monitoring domestic calls without warrants. To WaPo reporter Dan Eggen, Negroponte’s comments were made to look false after the ‘revelations’ reported by the USA Today in their story about the NSA’s datamining of ‘millions’ of US phone calls:

Three days later, USA Today divulged details of the NSA’s effort to log a majority of the telephone calls made within the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — amassing the domestic call records of tens of millions of U.S. households and businesses in an attempt to sift them for clues about terrorist threats.

What Eggan and the editors of the Washington Post don’t get is that the USA Today story was not new news … had they bothered to check, they’d have seen that the New York Times had already reported on this story back in late December 2005:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 23 – The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system’s main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

So not only was the WaPo article poorly researched, but Eggan falsely implies that the calls themselves were monitored as if to say people’s private conversations had been listened to – what is actually being monitored are calling PATTERNS.

The media reporting on this story is beyond bad – it’s grossly misleading and negligently researched. What really makes this so bad is that the media are the ones who are supposed to help keep our politicians honest by reporting the facts – in this case, as it has been the case with so many other non-scandal ‘scandals’, the media has gotten it horribly wrong. And their getting it wrong comes with a price: it hurts our chances of catching the REAL enemy, which as sane people know is NOT President Bush but instead the likes of Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations hell bent on destroying the west.

More: Big Lizards analyzes a couple of recent polls on the issue of NSA dataminining – make sure you read the entire post. Dan Riehl participated in one of the polls and has some insight as to the questioning.

Hat tip for the WaPo link: Outside The Beltway

Flashback: Anyone remember Echelon?

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