Truth to Power

What is the Black Widow?

Obama’s Black Widow

Thanks to Bush and Obama, the National Security Agency now knows more about you

By Nat Hentoff

Barack Obama will be in charge of the biggest domestic and international spying operation in history. Its prime engine is the National Security Agency (NSA)–located and guarded at Fort Meade, Maryland, about 10 miles northeast of Washington, D.C. A brief glimpse of its ever-expanding capacity was provided on October 26 by The Baltimore Sun’s national security correspondent, David Wood: “The NSA’s colossal Cray supercomputer, code-named the ‘Black Widow,’ scans millions of domestic and international phone calls and e-mails every hour. . . . The Black Widow, performing hundreds of trillions of calculations per second, searches through and reassembles key words and patterns, across many languages.”

Why did Obama vote for this eye-that-never-blinks? He’s a bright, informed guy, but he wasn’t yet the President-Elect. The cool pragmatist wanted to indicate he wasn’t radically unmindful of national security–and that his previous vow to filibuster such a bill may have been a lapse in judgment. It was.

What particularly outraged civil libertarians across the political divide was that the FISA Amendments Act gave immunity to the telecommunications corporations–which, for seven years, have been a vital part of the Bush administration’s secret wiretapping program–thereby dismissing the many court cases brought by citizens suing those companies for violating their individual constitutional liberties. This gives AT&T, Verizon, and the rest a hearty signal to go on pimping for the government.

That’s OK with the Obama administration? Please tell us, Mr. President.</em>


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