You pays your money and you takes your choice.
The Baltimore Sun
reports the NSA spent six years and hundreds of millions of dollars trying to kick-start the Trailblazer datamining program, intended to help protect the United States against terrorism, that many experts say was doomed from the start.
The NSA initiative, which was designed to spot and analyze such hints, has resulted in little more than detailed schematic drawings filling almost an entire wall, according to intelligence experts familiar with the program.
After an estimated $1.2 billion in development costs, only a few isolated analytical and technical tools have been produced, said an intelligence expert with extensive knowledge of the program.
Trailblazer is “the biggest boondoggle going on now in the intelligence community,” said Matthew Aid, who has advised three recent federal commissions and panels that investigated the Sept. 11 intelligence failures…
“Let me talk for a few minutes also about what this program is not. It is not a driftnet over Dearborn or Lackawanna or Freemont grabbing conversations that we then sort out by these alleged keyword searches or data-mining tools or other devices that so-called experts keep talking about.
This is targeted and focused. This is not about intercepting conversations between people in the United States. This is hot pursuit of communications entering or leaving America involving someone we believe is associated with al Qaeda.
We bring to bear all the technology we can to ensure that this is so. And if there were ever an anomaly, and we discovered that there had been an inadvertent intercept of a domestic-to-domestic call, that intercept would be destroyed and not reported. But the incident, what we call inadvertent collection, would be recorded and reported. But that’s a normal NSA procedure.
It’s been our procedure for the last quarter century. And as always, as we always do when dealing with U.S. person information, as I said earlier, U.S. identities are expunged when they’re not essential to understanding the intelligence value of any report. Again, that’s a normal NSA procedure.
So let me make this clear. When you’re talking to your daughter at state college, this program cannot intercept your conversations. And when she takes a semester abroad to complete her Arabic studies, this program will not intercept your communications.
Let me emphasize one more thing that this program is not — and, look, I know how hard it is to write a headline that’s accurate and short and grabbing. But we really should shoot for all three — accurate, short and grabbing. I don’t think domestic spying makes it.
One end of any call targeted under this program is always outside the United States”.
Then there’s the lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
EFF charges the company with allowing the NSA direct access to the phone and Internet communications passing over its network as part of President Bush’s administration’s domestic spying operation.
The suit also said the company gave the U.S. government unfettered access to its database containing more than 300 terabytes of caller information. The EFF said the database is regarded as one of the largest in the world.
“AT&T’s customers reasonably expect that their communications are private and have long trusted AT&T to follow the law and protect that privacy,” said Lee Tien, EFF senior staff attorney in a statement. “Unfortunately, AT&T has betrayed that trust. At the NSA’s request, AT&T eviscerated the legal safeguards required by Congress and the courts with a keystroke.”