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The Crux Of The NSA Story In One Phrase: ‘Collect It All’


The Washington Post this morning has a long profile of Gen. Keith Alexander, director the NSA, and it highlights the crux – the heart and soul – of the NSA stories, the reason Edward Snowden sacrificed his liberty to come forward, and the obvious focal point for any responsible or half-way serious journalists covering this story. It helpfully includes that crux right in the headline, in a single phrase:

For NSA chief, terrorist threat drives passion to “collect it all,” observers say

What does "collect it all" mean? Exactly what it says; the Post explains how Alexander took a "collect it all" surveillance approach originally directed at Iraqis in the middle of a war, and thereafter transferred it so that it is now directed at the US domestic population as well as the global one:

mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> .no legal authority for the NSA to do this. Therefore:

breaking the law", at least when it comes to talking about powerful DC officials (in Washington, only the powerless are said to have broken the law, which is why so many media figures so freely call Edward Snowden a criminal for having told his fellow citizens about all this, but would never dare use the same language for James Clapper for having lied to Congress about all of this, which is a felony). That the NSA's "collect it all" approach to surveillance has no legal authority is clear:

NSA documents we've already published demonstrate that the NSA's goal is to collect, monitor and store every telephone and internet communication that takes place inside the US and on the earth. It already collects billions of calls and emails every single day. Still another former NSA whistleblower, the mathematician William Binney, has said that the NSA has "assembled on the order of 20 trillion transactions about US citizens with other US citizens" and that "estimate only was involving phone calls and emails."

The NSA is constantly seeking to expand its capabilities without limits. They're currently storing so much, and preparing to store so much more, that they have to build a massive, sprawling new facility in Utah just to hold all the communications from inside the US and around the world that they are collecting – communications they then have the physical ability to invade any time they want ("Collect it all, tag it, store it. . mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> focusing on the substance of these revelations – rather than the trivial dramas surrounding the person who enabled us to know of all this – and discussing why those revelations are so disturbing. Perhaps US media figures can now follow that example. 

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