The disclosure by USA Today that the NSA has another domestic surveillance database is no shocker. Yet the newly uncovered database includes only calling and receiving phone numbers, not the content of the conversations.
More ominous, when asked by Congress whether the NSA was monitoring the content of wholly domestic calls, Gonzales refused to rule out such surveillance. Indeed, from a policy rather than legal perspective, if it’s necessary and effective to monitor calls from, say, DC to Naples, Italy, then why not DC to Naples, Florida? If the NSA can disregard legal barriers because a communication might include information of foreign intelligence value, then monitoring domestic-to-domestic calls would seem no less justified than monitoring domestic-to-foreign calls.
When communications from and to a US person in the US are monitored, that’s domestic surveillance, no matter whether the party on the other end is inside or outside of the US. Since Bush believes that warrantless domestic surveillance is permissible regardless of FISA’s contrary provisions, we shouldn’t be surprised if the NSA has much more data (including content) than USA Today has uncovered.