December 19, 2005
The Physics of the Intercept

There has been much well-reasoned legal argument about the Leader of the Unfree World’s recent foray into domestic spying. Today Attorney General Gonzalez and a General Hayden defended the Program at a press conference. There is a comment that was at the tail end of the conference that is particularly troubling to me:

Q: Can you just give us one assurance before you go, General?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALEZ: It depends on what it is. (Laughter.)

Q: Can you assure us that all of these intercepts had an international component and that at no time were any of the intercepts purely domestic?

GENERAL HAYDEN: The authorization given to NSA by the President requires that one end of these communications has to be outside the United States. I can assure you, by the physics of the intercept, by how we actually conduct our activities, that one end of these communications are always outside the United States of America.

I know the United States government has many NSA listening posts outside the United States. Did General Hayden say what I think he said? It seems to me that he is implying that the listening end of the conversation is outside the US. Does this mean that there actually has been interception of conversations between citizens of the United States, both of whom could be located here in the United States? Our listening facilities in say, Great Britain would serve this purpose quite nicely. Does anyone agree that the last comment seems to imply what I read it as implying? Did the General give away their nasty little secret? I think he did.

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Posted by Buck Batard at December 19, 2005 10:45 PM
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General Michael Hayden was formerly the head of the NSA, so he's knows what he's talking about with regard to intercept procedures.

I think what he's claiming is that the NSA is not listening to conversations between two Americans in the US. Whether that's true, I don't know, of course; but I don't think he's claiming that the listening stations in places like Britain or Australia can intercept phone calls between two points in the US. As the intercept physics existed when James Bamford wrote Body of Secrets, that wasn't possible.

Of course, there may have been some new developments technologically. Which is entirely possible, if you read Sen. Rockefeller's letter to the Vice President.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on December 20, 2005 12:57 AM

FYI, here's Karen Kwiatkowski on Gen. Hayden and associated topics.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) on December 20, 2005 2:23 AM

Isn't the Defense Department supposed to be conducting these intercepts?
I took it for granted that they were using NSA facilities, but that might not be the case.

Posted by: Buck on December 20, 2005 4:01 AM

No, that's not what Hayden was saying. He was saying that one of the speakers in the conversation was always outside the U.S. Whether that is true remains to be seen, but your interpretation of his words is not accurate, in my view.

Posted by: sinful on December 20, 2005 10:53 AM

As a practical matter, it doesn't make sense that they would be tracking an operatives overseas conversations only.
When the bad guy here talks to the bad guy overseas and then makes a call in the US to another bad guy in the US, do they suddenly quit monitoring the conversation?

They're lying.

Posted by: Buck on December 20, 2005 11:00 AM
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