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Phone records could be key to unveiling terrorism

Monday, July 24, 2006

To bring the issue of terrorism a bit closer to home, there's a chance that your phone records have been supplied to the National Security Agency. If that's the case, it may fall in violation of Missouri privacy laws. But those laws may also be trumped by the issue of national security.

But we'll know before long if the feds are aware of your call to Aunt Gertrude in Berlin. And if they are aware, what does that really mean?

Here's what's happening. Two members of the Missouri Public Service Commission have gone to court asking the federal government if AT&T supplied phone records from Missouri residents. There's some strong speculation that the NSA and the Bush administration asked for phone records from all Americans to find evidence of terrorist activities. The administration has declined to confirm or deny that such an arrangement is in place.

But the Missouri PSC - or at least some of its members - want the feds to fess up and acknowledge that the phone record snooping is, in fact, taking place. Apparently millions and millions of phone records have been made available to the fed terrorist officials to try and track the flow of money or information that might help the terrorists. As you would expect with such a program, the overwhelming majority of those records are dull and boring and most certainly don't involve terrorism. But a few might and thus, the feds may well have such a program underway.

Missouri's lawsuit is certainly not the first. At least 20 other suits have been filed to get to the bottom of the issue. But now that Missouri is part of the litigation, it hits closer to home.

No one wants Big Brother looking into our trash cans or our phone records or our banking information. Yet if such a program could indeed uncover a terrorist cell in this country, then would such a program be worthwhile? That's the question the courts will try to eventually answer.

So here's my solution. I hereby authorize the National Security Agency to monitor my phone calls and to scrutinize my phone records from AT&T. For starters, they'll see I live a fairly boring life. My largest volume of incoming long-distance calls are from telemarketers and there's not a whole lot of national security matters involved. Quite frankly, I'm not smart enough to make a long-distance call to a foreign country unless you consider Illinois foreign (and sometimes I do).

But since I recognize some of my more liberal friends would take offense at the federal snooping, I have an even better solution. In return for allowing the feds to have access to my phone records, I think it's only proper that they should also pay my phone bill. If they're willing to pay, I'm willing to let them examine my phone records until they're blue in the face.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen