I've been arguing for two years that the secret that Bush was hiding about the illegal domestic wiretap program is that they were using crappy data mining programs to pick their targets for wiretaps. In tomorrow's NYT, they're almost done filling out that picture.
A 2004 dispute over the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance program that led top Justice Department officials to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases, according to current and former officials briefed on the program.
Though Shane and Johnston don't seem to have a sense of how using data-mining to pick targets might introduce problems into the entire concept of probable cause.
It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate. But such databases contain records of the phone calls and e-mail messages of millions of Americans, and their examination by the government would raise privacy issues.
Somewhere--I'll have to look for it--there's a reference to the program expanding once they got Abu Zubaydah's computer. Which suggests they took a data profile of one terrorist and all the contacts he had in his laptop, and assumed that everyone else with a similar profile was also a terrorist. I've long suggested that they may have wrapped up folks who shopped the same falafel joints as genuine Al Qaeda targets (ut oh--Bill O'Reilly may be in trouble).
Though there are signs this is a limited hang-out of the program. I suspect, for example, it may focus on an aspect of the program that was ended--the bad data mining, while ignoring an aspect (US to US communication) that perhaps wasn't ended.
Some of the officials said the 2004 dispute involved other issues in addition to the data mining, but would not provide details.
And it wouldn't be an NYT article if it didn't include self-serving justifications. Why is it, do you suppose, that the NYT has waited until today to tell us they were conned into spiking their story in October 2004, just weeks before the presidential elections, because the Administration claimed there had been no disagreement on the program???
The first known assertion by administration officials that there had been no serious disagreement within the government about the legality of the N.S.A. program came in talks with New York Times editors in 2004. In an effort to persuade the editors not to disclose the eavesdropping program, senior officials repeatedly cited the lack of dissent as evidence of the program’s lawfulness.
Mr. Gonzales’s 2006 testimony went unchallenged publicly until May of this year, when James B. Comey, the former deputy attorney general, described the March 2004 confrontation to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
I mean, you'd think an entity dedicated to the art of journalism might, when they heard Gonzales' claim in February 2006 that there had been no serious dispute ... you might think they would have revealed that they had been sold that bill of goods two years earlier, only to learn those were fraudulent goods. But I guess NYT thought they'd get around to telling us this in their own sweet time, huh?