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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 19:27 GMT 20:27 UK
Phone record allegations stir debate
George W Bush speaking on the phone
The alleged call database draws a wide range of reactions

The allegation that a US intelligence agency has been compiling a database of hundreds of millions of phone records has sent newspaper commentators and bloggers into overdrive.

The New York Times editorial page speaks for many US newspapers when it refers to the report as "more reason than ever to be worried - and angry - about how wide the government's web has been reaching".

While the paper is critical of the White House for launching the programme, it also has strong words for lawmakers who have failed to keep the president in check.

"Congress must stop pretending that it has no serious responsibilities for monitoring the situation," it says.

"Most of all, Congress should pass legislation that removes any doubt that this kind of warrantless spying on ordinary Americans is illegal."

'Doing their job'

Conservative bloggers, meanwhile, responded to the report with a mixture of incredulity and scorn.

Confederate Yankee - running an item under the mocking headline "And?" - defends the NSA with the rhetorical question: "Isn't this what we pay them to do?"

Presumably Qwest has now become the terrorists' telecom company of choice - way to go, USA Today!

It adds: "This NSA programme collects nothing more than the phone companies already do for billing purposes.

"Why this is even considered a secret is somewhat puzzling. I always assumed such a programme had existed for years."

Rick Moran of Right Wing Nuthouse is disgusted that word of the programme has come out in the press.

"There are apparently no limits to which the cadre of leakers who are working in our intelligence agencies will go to undermine legitimate national security interests in furtherance of their own, private agendas," he writes.

The bloggers at Powerline dismiss liberals' concerns in an item headlined: "NSA accused of protecting US from terrorists".

And they blast the newspaper that broke the story for specifying which major telecoms firm refused to participate in the alleged NSA programme, stating: "Presumably Qwest has now become the terrorists' telecom company of choice. Way to go, USA Today!"

'Encrypt now'

On the left, however, AmericaBlog's John Avarosis and friends are alarmed.

"Remember that little canard about making sure a terrorist was on one end of the line, and making sure it was an international call?

"Not so much. In fact, the government's goal is to get every phone record in the country - we're talking a record of every phone call you ever make or receive.

The class-action suits should be real doozies
The Left Coaster

"I'm going to say it again. Encrypt your emails NOW."

Steve Soto at The Left Coaster says the latest allegations are even worse than the news the government had been eavesdropping on terrorist suspects without warrants.

"It is one thing for Bush to say that the wiretaps were only conducted on phone calls and emails that had one international party who was an al-Qaeda suspect.

"It is quite another to find out that the Administration has been gathering information on all of your phone calls inside the United States without probable cause and without being accountable to any court as to what they need this information for."

And he predicts the government will be taken to court over the alleged programme: "The class-action suits should be real doozies."

Public support

At least one left-wing blogger warns that voters will not tolerate the alleged data-mining programme, but a snap poll for the Washington Post and ABC news suggests they will.

"The new survey found that 63% of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44% who strongly endorsed the effort.

"Another 35% said the program was unacceptable, which included 24% who strongly objected to it."

At the same time, a majority - 56% - of the 502 people polled on Thursday said it was right for the media to have revealed the existence of the programme.

Bush defends secret surveillance
26 Jan 06 |  Americas
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16 Feb 06 |  Americas

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