May 10, 2006 | By Kurt Opsahl

USA Today Confirms NSA Collecting Data on Ordinary Americans

Today's USA Today confirms that the "National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth." According to the report, "With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans." As the Q&A explains, "The call-collecting program is focused on domestic calls, those that originate and terminate within U.S. borders."

However, one company apparently stood up to the NSA's request -- Qwest.

"According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest's CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA's assertion that Qwest didn't need a court order — or approval under FISA — to proceed....

"Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

"The NSA's explanation did little to satisfy Qwest's lawyers. 'They told (Qwest) they didn't want to do that because FISA might not agree with them,' one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest's suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general's office. A second person confirmed this version of events."

EFF has filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T, asserting that AT&T's collaboration with the NSA's massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications violates the law and the privacy of its customers. AT&T should have done what Qwest apparently did -- ask the goverment to Come Back With A Warrant.

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