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Breaking News: New Bush Surveillance Plans Revealed

06/24/2006 12:44 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Bush administration has worked with cable television companies to obtain records of everyone in the United States who has watched World Cup games, the Miami Herald reported today.

"Real Americans obviously don't watch soccer," said one administration official who requested anonymity.

In an interview last night, Federal Communications Commission Chair Kevin Martin acknowledged the program was in place. Echoing comments of outgoing Treasury Secretary John Snow regarding the bank transaction surveillance program, Martin said that working on the program is the thing "I'm proudest of" in his tenure. "It's really government at its best. It's responsible government. It's effective government."

"We have strong reason to believe that anyone in a sleeper cell would be watching the World Cup," said Martin.

Martin added that safeguards had been implemented so that channel surfers who quickly jumped to a new channel after inadvertently tuning in the World Cup would be exempt from the government-maintained database.

This program is "absolutely essential" to U.S. efforts to fight terrorism, said Vice President Dick Cheney.

"What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people," Cheney said. "That offends me."

The Miami Herald is continuing to investigate as yet unsubstantiated allegations that the administration, working with regulatory and intelligence agencies globally, has actually obtained records worldwide of every person watching the World Cup.

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In a sweeping program, the Bush administration has been collecting information on individuals in the United States who purchase halal meat or hummus, the New Jersey Star-Ledger has learned.

Administration officials said that the program was initiated after they discovered that a high percentage of detainees at Guantanamo demanded halal food.

Asked if the halal database amounted to a de facto surveillance program on Muslims in the United States, Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns reacted with anger. "This is not a profiling program," he insisted. "If there happens to be a correlation between people who buy halal meat and Muslims, that has nothing to do with our program. This is about catching terrorists."

Johanns said that working on the program is the thing "I'm proudest of" in his tenure. "It's really government at its best. It's responsible government. It's effective government."

The parallel hummus program, officials said, has been very effective at identifying both potential terrorists and terrorist supporters -- by which they said they mean opponents of the war in Iraq.

Officials acknowledge that they considered tracking purchases of Roquefort cheese, but deny any such program was implemented.

This program is "absolutely essential" to U.S. efforts to fight terrorism, said Vice President Dick Cheney.

"What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people," Cheney said. "That offends me."

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The Bush administration has been secretly collecting data on persons who rent or purchase pornographic movies, the Los Angeles Times has learned.

Administration officials say they believe persons who rent or buy such movies might be preparing to undertake a terrorist attack.

"This is a reasonable proxy for finding terrorists," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said in an interview last night.

"We have effective safeguards in place to prevent abuses," he said. For example, Gonzales said, no information was collected on pornographic movie rentals at high-end hotels. "We're not after businessmen," he said in disgust.

Administration officials said there was a potential benefit to the program unrelated to terrorism. "This might help us identify future Supreme Court nominees," said an official who would speak only without attribution.

Gonzales said that working on the program is the thing "I'm proudest of" in his tenure. "It's really government at its best. It's responsible government. It's effective government."

This program is "absolutely essential" to U.S. efforts to fight terrorism, said Vice President Dick Cheney.

"What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people," Cheney said. "That offends me."

***

The Bush administration has entered into a pilot program with Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell to maintain a database of voters who cast their ballots for Democrats, the Cleveland Plain Dealer has learned.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales confirmed the existence of the program in an interview last night.

"First of all, we recognize there are delicate issues here, and we're taking it slow, with this pilot program in Ohio," he said. "Second, there are real threats to national security that we must address. As Senator George Allen of Virginia recently said, the Democrats' cut-and-run approach 'would embolden our enemies and show a weakened resolve.' So, anyone who is supporting the Democrats is, at best, questionably committed to the war against terror."

Gonzales said there are important safeguards in place. "We're not monitoring everyone's votes," he said. "Just those who vote Democratic."

"I know that I recently said that working on the porn surveillance program is the thing I'm proudest of during my tenure, but I think this one could conceivable top it," Gonzales said. "It's really government at its best. It's responsible government. It's effective government."

Vice President Dick Cheney weighed in also. This program is "absolutely essential" to U.S. efforts to fight terrorism, said Cheney.

"What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people," Cheney said. "That offends me."