During an interview with CNN this past week, a retired FBI counter-terrorism agent let it slip that the U.S. government is recording all cell phone conversations.
The interview concerned the FBI’s investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow, Katherine Russell, and what, if anything, she knew about the Boston Marathon bombings. The CNN panel speculated on the FBI’s efforts to determine if Russell were a part of the conspiracy.
The CNN host, Erin Burnett, thinking that the feds could gain access to Russell’s old voice mails but couldn’t actually listen to her old phone calls, observed, “there’s no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them.”
The former agent, Tim Clemente, disagreed:
No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.
Burnett knew immediately that Clemente was referring to Russell’s old phone calls and asked incredulously, ” So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.”
Clemente answered, “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”
The former counter-terrorism agent’s revelation is not the first time former federal officials have admitted that Washington is engaged in extensive warrantless surveillance of all US citizens. This past fall, NSA whistle-blower William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the NSA was widely interviewed about his work that allowed federal agencies to conduct near-universal surveillance of digital communications.
In his interviews, Mr. Binney voiced sincere regret for his contribution to this Orwellian eavesdropping program, noting that he intended it for use internationally, not domestically:
Additionally, in a federal court case several weeks ago, the FBI admitted to the use of another warrantless tool that selectively targeted cell phone conversations and revealed the participants’ locations.
And Congress seems to be going right along with it. In March, experts testified before the House arguing that federal law should be changed to explicitly permit the permanent storage of virtually all of Americans’ text messages and emails.
When considering this along with the existing federal ability to track almost all credit card transactions and banking transactions, the aggressive IRS efforts to track everyone’s “digital footprints,” and many other warrantless federal intrusions into our privacy, all liberty-loving Americans should demand that their elected leaders reign in the massive surveillance state.
We have little time to turn this around. The enormous, unlawful power that the central government is accumulating is a real threat to the constitutional freedoms entrusted to us by our Founders.