In the Pleistocene Age of this blog I posted about how the Allies fooled the Germans on the location of the D-Day invasion, using George Patton and the mythical First US Army Group (FUSAG) and a bunch of radios to sucker the German traffic analysis:
Armies used radio extensively to coordinate movements. Orders were sent via radio (encrypted, or coded) from FUSAG HQ to several make believe "Corps HQ" in Southeast England, whence more messages would be sent from each Corps HQ to several phantom "Division HQ", and on down the chain. A small army of radio technicians spent their days sending completely made up messages back and forth to each other.NSA understands traffic analysis, which is why they want the phone "meta data" (actually, the Call Detail Records). The CDRs provide pretty much everything that the NSA computers need to start building calling trees - who knows whom. Mapping terror watch list suspects into this tree makes other potential terrorists pop out. I have absolutely no idea whether they've caught anyone via this - it's all deeply classified, as it should be - but suspect that this is been perhaps the primary weapon in the Global War On Terror.
The Germans, of course, were listening, and using the patterns of signal, reply, etc to build an org chart of Patton's Army Group. To verify that all this activity was legit, the Luftwaffe made repeated recon sorties over Kent, photographing inflated tanks and empty tent encampments which made the whole thing look real.
But here's where it gets creepy. Add in data from Google and the other high tech companies and you take this to a whole other level. Look at Apple: the iPhone has been known for years to poorly anonymize GPS data, allowing someone (hello, NSA) to track the physical movements of a person of interest. Now add in tracking the physical movements of another person in this traffic analysis calling tree, and they could tell that you met up in a park, even if you never called, emailed, or texted.
And that's just one form of electronic data; credit card transactions are also caught up in this dragnet. The rabbit hole goes deep indeed. And remember - none of this involves listening in on phone conversations.
Where things turn ugly is when you think on the IRS scrutiny of Tea Party organizations. This was done enthusiastically by most of the IRS personnel. It was done to thwart a particular form of political activity that was considered antithetical to the mission of the IRS - after all, if taxes are reduced, as the Tea Parties hoped - what do you need an IRS for? Or at least, as big an IRS?
And so to NSA - which domestic political activity would be seen as hindering the activity of that Agency? Could, say, the Electronic Frontier Foundation become a target of interest? How would we know?
There's an old saying that while there are friendly foreign governments, there are no friendly foreign Intelligence Agencies. I'm starting to wonder if you can change that to "domestic".