Email spying claim fuels wiretapping scandal
By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
Published: 26 December 2005
Secret domestic wiretaps authorised by US President George Bush led to the National Security Agency gaining access to the country's main telephone switches in a vast operation to mine data from phone calls and emails.
The New York Times, the paper that broke the wiretap story, cited disclosures from current and former government officials that the surveillance operation was far broader than anything admitted by the White House and involved the co-operation of private telecoms companies.
Mr Bush said a week ago that he had authorised the NSA to intercept 'the international communications of people with known links to al-Qa'ida and related terrorist organisations'. But The Times report indicated that it went much further than that and involved some sort of 'pattern analysis' of all telecommunications passing through the US in an effort to detect suspicious behaviour.
That, in turn, implied that any US resident hooked up to the phone system or the internet might have been exposed to government surveillance - a shocking notion in a country with a lower tolerance of government secrecy than Britain.