The ACLU has a database of its own – and more NSA news

Jay at Stop The ACLU has done some digging and lo and behold, the same institution who slammed the admin for the latest NSA ‘scandal’ – regarding datamining of ‘millions of phone calls’ – has (or at one point had) a data collection of its own. From the SF Chronicle, Dec. 2004:

The American Civil Liberties Union is using sophisticated technology to collect a wide variety of information about its members and donors in a fund-raising effort that has ignited a bitter debate over its leaders’ commitment to privacy rights.

Some board members say the extensive data collection makes a mockery of the organization’s frequent criticism of banks, corporations and government agencies for their practice of accumulating data on people for marketing and other purposes.

The issue has attracted the attention of the New York attorney general, who is looking into whether the group violated its promises to protect the privacy of its donors and members.

“It is part of the ACLU’s mandate, part of its mission, to protect consumer privacy,” said Wendy Kaminer, an ACLU board member. “It goes against ACLU values to engage in data-mining on people without informing them. It’s not illegal, but it is a violation of our values. It is hypocrisy.”

The organization has been shaken by infighting since May, when the board learned that Anthony Romero, its executive director, had registered the ACLU for a federal charity drive that required it to certify that it would not knowingly employ people whose names appeared on government terrorism watch lists.

A day after the New York Times disclosed its participation in late July, the organization withdrew from the charity drive and has since filed a lawsuit with other charities to contest the watch list requirement.

The group’s new data collection practices were implemented without the board’s approval or knowledge and were in violation of the ACLU’s privacy policy at the time, according to Michael Meyers, vice president of the organization and a frequent internal critic. He said he had learned about the new research by accident Nov. 7 during a meeting of the committee that is organizing the group’s Biennial Conference in July.

He objected to the practices, and the next day, the privacy policy on the group’s Web site was changed. “They took out all the language that would show that they were violating their own policy,” Meyers said. “In doing so, they sanctified their procedure while still keeping it secret.”

LOL. I tell ya, you just can’t make this stuff up.

On a not so funny note, Big Lizards went back and looked at the original NYT reporting on the beginning of the initial NSA ‘scandal’ (regarding warrantless wiretaps of suspected AQ calls made to or from the US) and has found within the article that the news about the datamining is in that article. In other words, this isn’t a new story. From the December 24, 2005 article:

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.


Since the disclosure last week of the N.S.A.’s domestic surveillance program, President Bush and his senior aides have stressed that his executive order allowing eavesdropping without warrants was limited to the monitoring of international phone and e-mail communications involving people with known links to Al Qaeda.

What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.

(Hat tip for the Big Lizards link: ST reader Severian)

So what we have here essentially is a recycling of old news. Why? I’ll venture a guess or two and say that it has everything to do with 1) hurting Bush and via extension the Republicans in an election year and 2) targeting Gen. Hayden, who was at one time the head of the NSA – specifically at the time the datamining was stepped up (post 9-11).

In predictable knee-jerk fashion, Congress is demanding answers. One Congressman has created a new name for the NSA:

Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s telecommunications and internet panel, had a different view: “The NSA stands for Now Spying on Americans.”

Cute. I’d vote for describing Congressman Malarky Markey (and others who hold that same view) as Not So Astute – but that’s just me.

Score one for the bad guys.

More: CNN’s Jack Cafferty exclaims:

We better all hope nothing happens to Arlen Specter, the Republican head of the Senate Judiciary Committee because he might be all standing between us and a full blown dictatorship in this country.

See the video at Expose The Left.

Update: Remember Qwest, the one telecommunications company who wouldn’t give permission to the NSA to monitor its customer’s phone calls because of privacy concerns? Well, check out Qwest’s privacy policy (emphasis added):

Disclosure of Information Outside Qwest

As a general rule, Qwest does not release customer account information to unaffiliated third parties without your permission unless we have a business relationship with those companies where the disclosure is appropriate. For example, we may hire outside companies as contractors or agents; or we might be engaged in a joint venture or partnership with a company. Upon occasion, Qwest may decide to stop providing a service or may decide to sell or transfer parts of our business to unaffiliated companies. When this happens, we may provide confidential customer information to these companies so that they can offer you the same or similar services. In all of these situations, we provide information to these other companies only as needed to accomplish our business objectives and the companies are bound by requirements to keep Qwest customers’ information confidential.

There are exceptions to the general rule. For example, we might provide information to regulatory or administrative agencies so that they can accomplish their regulatory tasks (for example, responding to a customer complaint) or to maximize the efficiencies of our own processes (such as getting mailing addresses correct, for example). Other disclosures will be driven by legal requirements imposed on Qwest. Qwest complies with “legal process,” such as a subpoena or court order or other similar demand, associated with either criminal or civil proceedings.

So they’ll make exceptions to their privacy rules when it suits them (read: to make more money), but not to help the NSA track unusual phone call patterns that could lead to catching terrorists. Unreal! (Hat tip: Powerline reader John Farmer)

Friday AM Update: The NYT, true to form, writes an editorial slamming the admin on this story, while failing to acknowledge that they are a little late to the ball game since they had already written about it back in December. Surprise surprise. This is carrying the liberal mantra about recyling (in this case – recyling old news) to new heights (or lows).

Also blogging about the latest NSA ‘scandal’: Allahpundit – who has a link to video of the President speaking about the NSA and datamining, Brent Baker at Newsbusters (more here from Rich Noyes), Captain Ed, Orin Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy, Jeff Goldstein, Media Research, Decision ’08, Gary Gross at California Conservative

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