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Reverse Lookup

May 18th, 2006

Remember how the Bush administration and their media flacks tried to convince us that the NSA domestic telephone database didn’t invade our privacy because is was anonymous? Because it just had phone numbers, and no names or addresses?

Well, any intelligent person would know that it’s easy for the NSA to get a name and address from a phone number. But for the rest of you (snark), here’s an Apple widget that lets you do it. I downloaded it, and within seconds I found my family’s name and address by entering the telephone number. I then started trying single-digit differences from that number, and got names and addresses of lots of people who lived nearby.

Anonymous, my ass. The government is logging every call you make, and they know exactly who you are, who you’re calling, and where both of you live.

Welcome to George Bush’s America.

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  1. cc
    May 18th, 2006 at 14:02 | #1

    You entirely misunderstood. I have no doubt that it’s easy to get names and addresses. That’s not the point. What they are doing is matching numbers with those of al-Qaida and if they find a connection, THEN they look at the records. This is how I understand the program. This is how it has been reported, although you wouldn’t know it from the hysterical headlines and some of the editorials.

  2. Luis
    May 18th, 2006 at 16:27 | #2

    No, I’m afraid that you entirely misunderstood. The objection (in part) is that they monitor the phones of all Americans. Saying that they do not then take the next step is, by this time, irrelevant. If the government, for example, copied all the files off my hard drive without a warrant, I would not be mollified if they told me that they would not take the next step and actually look at the files unless they later found I had an al Qaeda connection. That’s a detail. If I broke into your home and took photos of your house and belongings, but then assured you I would not develop the film unless I had reason to, would you feel that your privacy had been “protected”? Of course not.

    Calling records exist. The NSA can match al Qaeda numbers by getting a warrant and asking the Telecoms to hand over all the calling records, then seeing what numbers were connected to those, then get those numbers and their records, and so on. That’s called “observing the Fourth Amendment.”

    What the NSA did was to collect all the numbers and the records. That they did not (so they claim) take the last tiny step and connect them to names, yet, is a minor detail. By this time, the Fourth Amendment has already been violated, and the NSA is already spying on Americans regardless of their potential connection to al Qaeda. Saying they did not connect names is a weasel, as they spied and got the data already. Maybe you’re OK with that, and you trust the government not to go any further, but I sure as hell don’t, under any administration. And the Constitution backs me up, guaranteeing me the right not to have that intrusion foisted upon me without probable cause and a warrant. Forgive me for insisting on the niceties.

  3. Martin
    May 19th, 2006 at 00:54 | #3

    Look, we have to trust the government; it’s the only one we’ve got. Sure, they’ve made mistakes, but their heart is in the right place. But there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing right now; what you call ‘niceties’ are really just technicalities. Looking at the numbers you called is really no different than if I followed you around all day to see who you visited; I can do that completely legally, and I won’t know the content of what you talked about. _That_ would be intruding.

    And anyway, they won’t abuse their capabilities, because the NSA is a nonpolitical arm of the government that’s dedicated to finding security threats. If they abused their power, Congress would investigate them, and that would be that. And you’re not connected to al-Quaida anyway, so you have no reason to worry. As they say, there’s no reason to fear a search if you have nothing to hide. So, get with the program, like a true American PATRIOT who supports his country!

  4. Luis
    May 19th, 2006 at 02:25 | #4

    Umm… are you serious, Martin, or are you making my point through satire? I’d feel kind of naive answering that one as if it were in earnest. But let me know if you did mean that, and I’ll be happy to reply.

  5. Martin
    May 19th, 2006 at 02:56 | #5

    I was going for a Colbert kind of thing, actually. Kind of frightening that there are enough right-wing fruit loops around that you had to consider the possibility that it was serious. I thought it was obvious satire, but I suppose you’ve gotten stupider stuff in earnest.

  6. ykw
    May 22nd, 2006 at 02:37 | #6

    I have not seen a case reported in the news where this phone record data was used. For example, there has not been a court case where someone’s phone records have been used as evidence w/o a search warrant. And police can get a search warrant for phone records. One way of looking at this is that the data is already on the phone company computers, it gets moved to nsa computers, it can sit there and not be touched, in both cases, unless there is a warrant of some sort. However, we are not really sure what they are doing with it. Yet I have not seen a court case where phone record data appeared w/o a warrant. Perhaps the nsa mines the data and looks for unsavory character X calling unsavory character Y. Yet lets say they get a list of these printed out on an fbi computer. Then what? If I was an fbi agent w/ these phone records, I’m not sure what I would do next. Perhaps this is used as a tool to help investigators, yet is only one of the, hopefully many, toolks they have at catching terrorists.

    Personnaly, I have no problem w/ fbi terrorist investigators having access to these records. Even w/o a warrant. However, I would like for a log of all their requests, to make sure they are not snooping around their girlfriends.

  7. Luis
    May 22nd, 2006 at 02:51 | #7

    That we haven’t seen a case reported does not mean it hasn’t happened–which is a big part of the point. Noting how the NSA would use the data in a best-case scenario is not the issue. How they would use the data in the worst-case scenario is what we have to worry about. The Constitution itself was designed with the realization that government would be corrupt. If the founding fathers had taken the point of view that we could simply trust the government to do its best, then the Bill of Rights would simply not exist.

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