This morning, USA TODAY is reporting that their sources confirm that the National Security Agency is secretly building a massive database of American's phone calls. The database has been called the "largest database ever assembled in the world."
The source said that the NSA's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the borders of the United States. This particular program does not actually monitor conversations but is used for data mining along with data collected by other secret NSA program such as the warrantless domestic spying program and numerous other sources. Data collected by U.S. companies such as credit history, buying patterns and mailing lists are used along with data collected by the intelligence community. NSA whistleblower Russell Tice has said (60 Minutes video clip here) that there may be many other secret programs which spy on "millions of Americans". The phone call database alone is said to collect information on "tens of millions of Americans." Combining and analyzing all of these sources of data amount to an appalling and possibly illegal invasion into the private lives of Americans.
If you use AT&T, Verizon, BellSouth --- the three largest phone companies --- then your phone calls are being collected by the NSA. These three companies alone provide service to over over 200 million customers. Like the warrantless domestic spying program, the NSA has not obtained warrants or notified the FISA court about collecting phone calls. Qwest was the only phone company that refused to hand over phone call records until the NSA obtained a FISA warrant. (You can thank Qwest right here.) The NSA refused to go the FISA court. But customers with Qwest accounts are not immune to the NSA's violation of privacy. Many customers who have Qwest also use AT&T or Verizon for long distance service. The NSA can also cross-reference other databases to build a nearly complete profile for an individual.
George W. Bush has said that the program is lawful and necessary for fighting terrorism. He also says that the private lives of Americans are not being violated.
In this video clip, NBC's Today Show reports on the NSA's ongoing collection of domestic phone calls.