Sunday, May 13, 2007

Look Mom, They're Spying on Me . . . .

This week's episode of FRONTINE on PBS promises to be a good one if you're concerned about citizen's rights to privacy. As noted at the end of the synopsis below, if you don't get a PBS broadcast the program will be available Wednesday online at the link provided.

FRONTLINE Tuesday, May 15, 2007 on PBS After 9/11 former Attorney General John Ashcroft says President Bush told him, "Never let this happen again." Ashcroft tells FRONTLINE how he interpreted the president's injunction, "Now not letting something happen is different from proving something happened. The old business of the Justice Department to be able to prosecute the criminal and declare victory is not good enough when you lose 3,000 people and the criminals purposefully extinguish themselves in the perpetration of the crime."

In "Spying on the Home Front" this Tuesday, correspondent Hedrick Smith and producer Rick Young investigate what the new 'prevention' paradigm means to civil liberties here at home. In one case, the FBI conducted a data sweep on 250,000 Las Vegas vacationers after receiving a non specific threat that Al Qaeda was interested in Vegas as a target.

In another case, a curious employee at AT&T in San Francisco learned that the whole flow of internet traffic in that office was being diverted to the National Security Agency which had installed a 'black box' in a super secret room. One expert says that it appears NSA set up these boxes in 10-15 AT&T sites across the country with the ability to intercept about 10 per cent of all internet traffic.

There's much more. The Government Accounting Office found 50 government agencies with nearly 200 data mining projects underway. In the age of the super computer, private companies are amassing vast amounts of data about all of us. From home mortgages to spending habits, virtual digital dossiers are being created every day. Correspondent Smith wonders what happens when the government does this kind of data mining, moving from our tradition of individualized suspicion, to checking out everybody to find who are the bad guys.

The former head of counter terrorism for the FBI, Larry Mefford, told FRONTLINE: "I can give you more security, but I've got to take away some rights. And so there's a balance."

For a look at how the balance is being struck today, we hope you will be able to join us Tuesday, but if not, "Spying on the Home Front" will be up and streaming the day after broadcast on our Web site, where you'll also find more background on this story and the opportunity to express your opinion about the report at

Worth a look . . . .

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