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http://www.aei.org/article/foreign-and-defense-policy/terror...

...what is being tracked is not the content of the communications but the records of which phone number called which number, as well as the location and duration of the calls. In Smith v. Maryland, the Supreme Court held that there's no reasonable expectation of privacy, and thus no Fourth Amendment protection, for the phone numbers people dial (as distinct from the content of the call), because the number dialed is information you voluntarily share with the phone company to complete the call and for billing purposes.

Why does the NSA need to collect all that data? One former national security official explained it to me this way: If you want to connect the dots and stop the next attack, you need to have a "field of dots." That is what the NSA is collecting. But it doesn't dip into that field unless it comes up with a new "dot" — for example, a new terrorist phone number found on a cellphone captured in a raid. It will then plug that new "dot" into the "field of dots" to find out which dots are connected to the new number. If you are not communicating with that terrorist, your dot is not touched. But the NSA needs to have the entire field of dots so it can unravel the network connected to that terrorist.

The programs exposed in these leaks did not begin on Barack Obama's watch. When Obama continues a Bush-era counterterrorism policy, it is not an outrage — it is a victory.
_____________________

OK, kids -- commence to squabbling.

--fleg
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