I’ve got an interview with NSA whistleblower Russell Tice just up at Reason. He’s got to speak in pretty general terms or hypotheticals for most of the conversation, but I did want to flag this bit:

That would lead one to ask the question: “Why did they omit the FISA court?”

I would think one reason that is possible is that perhaps a system already existed that you could do this with, and all you had to do is change the venue. And if that’s the case, and this system was a broad brush system, a vacuum cleaner that just sucks things up, this huge systematic approach to monitoring these calls, processing them, and filtering them–then ultimately a machine does 98.8 percent of your work.

A huge, computerized “vacuum cleaner” system that already existed, but that needed its “venue” changed for domestic surveillance, huh? That sounds a hell of a lot like the Echelon program to me. It seems like it would’ve been very tempting—and, I imagine, relatively easy—to just turn a system developed for mass analysis of foreign communications inward.

—posted by Julian