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NSA 'data-mining' US telecom info in warrantless surveillance program

[JURIST] National Security Agency [official website] technicians have been analyzing large volumes of phone and internet traffic information going through American telecomunications data hubs as part of the warrantless surveillance program authorized by President Bush [JURIST report] to identify individuals having connections to Al Qaeda, according to officials quoted by the New York Times in a report published Saturday. The information gathered from telecommunications companies has been used to determine patterns, such as who is calling whom from Afghanistan, how long these calls last, and what time of day such calls are usually made. Due to America's technological capacity, many international calls are routed through "switches" in the US, and in the last few years the US government has been "quietly encouraging" US companies to increase their switching capacity so that more international calls are routed through American locations. It is unclear whether laws enacted in the 1970's such as the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act [text] require warrants for accessing this type of non-domestic information. If these calls were made within the US, this type of "pattern analysis" would usually require a warrant.

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