Roger L. Simon

Spy chatter from the NYT on Christmas Eve

The NYT is continuing to report (mostly anonymously, of course) on the Bush Administration’s nefarious use of the National Security Agency. This time they say:

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.

Well, maybe. But haven’t we always known this? Back in 1998, when someone else was in the White House as I recall, there was a lot of talk about an already-existing NSA program called Echelon, scanning just about all telecommunications worldwide. In what sense is what the NYT is reporting today actually different from the Echelon program that has been in force for all that time and maybe longer? I’m no expert in this area, but unless I missed something the word “Echelon,” a program that has been around for some time, does not appear in any of the NYT’s reports. Why not? A great deal more about Echelon is here. [Hasn’t that stuff been on the FAS (Federation of American Scientists) site for years?-ed. No comment.]