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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 1, 2006 6:09 PM. The previous post in this blog was Well, lookee there. The next post in this blog is Ring in the new. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Sunday, January 1, 2006

CSI: NSA

Well, the witch hunt is on for whoever told the Times about W's excessive spying on Americans. Supposedly they've just launched a Justice Department investigation into the matter. Forgive me if I find that a little hard to believe, since Bush and Cheney have known about the leak for more than a year. I'm sure they have been sniffing around for the newspaper's source for many, many months.

And if the culprit is ever found, would you expect these guys to indict the person and try them under law? Given their track record, it's more likely that they'd have him or her flown to Egypt for torture, and then thrown in a pit in Guantanamo, Cuba for the rest of his or her life, without benefit of counsel. You know, the tactics of the free America that people are dying for.

Comments (26)

Is it illegal to out a secret government program that itself may be illegal? Another fun question for the Supreme Court to figure out.

Have you read about this James Comey wrinkle? While Ashcroft was out sick, Comey refused to sign off on re-upping the program. The White House had to do an end around and appeal directly to Ashcroft while the AG was recuperating from surgery. Mr. Comey should make for fun testimony at the Specter hearings.

It’s disingenuous. They’re investigating the leak partly so they can say, “Sorry, we can’t discuss this subject right now. There’s a criminal investigation going on.”

Hypocrisy at its most telling. Hmmmmmm, let's bitch and moan because someone "outed" an already outed non-covert CIA employee. Then we can rant and rave about someone who leaks highly confidential information concerning an anti-terrorist program that may have saved thousands of lives and the nuts and bolts treat it like he or she is a hero. You fellows are like an open book. This blog does well in discussing local topics which really should be its purpose. The city is so corrupt that it is performing a useful purpose in pointing out such corruption. The wonderful tram will go right over my office and the corruption concerning the tram and south blocks is a great example. Anyone know a malpractice attorney who wants to have a sign read by the users of the tram? U couldn't get a better audience. When posts concerning President Bush come up, the vultures trot out their mad rhetoric .

If the wiretapping turns out to have been illegal, then the leaker will be a heroic whistleblower to some and a filthy traitor to others. If the wiretapping turns out to have been legal, the leaker will be considered a traitor by almost everyone. I expect the leaker is in for a very bad couple years no matter what.

CS: The Comey wrinkle is most interesting!

Ron,
Based on your description in a previous thread,(“tapping someone's phone without a warrant is kosher when it is done in limited circumstances and saves lives.”), I think we can move into 2006 in harmony and agreement. After all, that isn’t what happened here. The NSA was running a data-mining operation involving millions of calls. Don’t let that point, like the aerial tram, go right over your head.

The seminal issue of our time is the means and methods that we use to fight the War on Terror because how we fight the war will define our country and people for the foreseeable future. It ought to be debated; it needs to be debated. Any public forum on the issue is going to attract people of various degrees of insight and bias, but that is the nature of a democracy. It’s messy but it has served our nation well over the course of its distinguished history. I have concern for the health of the republic when people believe that the subjects of vital interest to the country should be restricted to those of like-mind or those who have established credentials in the subject matter.

Ranting, raving, liberal whiner that I am, I nevertheless like, in the abstract, the data mining idea. Track volumes of communication traffic by computer, using pattern recognition algorithms to flag content that merits human attention. I doubt a court could issue a warrant for that: no identified target, no probable cause. But once flagged, suspicious content from nonspecific sources might become the basis for a search warrant against the communications carrier to identify the source, and against the source, once identified, for a substantive investigation. So used, a data mining system would have limited risks of misuse, since courts would have some oversight at the stage where specific people become targets. Here on earth, though, it likely doesn't work any better than anything else in practice -- where we have the wrong people detained and interrogated or rendered or tortured and all because we're confused about who they are or how to spell their names.

If I’m writing the articles of impeachment for one George W, Bush, I might edit out the NSA stuff altogether, in the interests of time. I don’t have the same visceral reaction to it as I get with the torture issue. And if I had known about rendition during the Clinton years, I would have supported his impeachment as well. Yes, with President Bush, I’d feature the Soviet gulag prisons, America has been using to torture people. That’s the stuff of war crimes. W. likes asking what Jesus would do. Well, torture was what Jesus had done to him. If memory serves, that was also one of the many reasons this exact same President gave for why we had to get rid of Saddam. Can you charge a person with felony hypocrisy? After you look at the war crime stuff, I’d also charge him with lying us into the war. Despite all the denials, I think that case is there. The Downing Street memo is the smoking gun. Compared to these two issues, this NSA business is like charging President Bush for not rewinding a tape at the video store.

Allan L. writes: "Ranting, raving, liberal whiner that I am, I nevertheless like, in the abstract, the data mining idea."

And a good idea it is. Pattern recognition sw is already out there, where facial ID can be made as you walk from the airport Short Term parking area, through the checkin lines, into the security check, on towards your gate check in. Cameras record all that activity.

And it is good business as well, since the hardware is made right here in the Sun Hillsboro plant, formerly Cray (before that FPS).

"Here on earth, though, it likely doesn't work any better than anything else in practice"

Yeah, like air travel, eCommerce and banking, fingerprint analysis, and telecommunications. It is all pie in the sky!

The seminal issue of our time is the means and methods that we use to fight the War on Terror...

You can give the War on Terror self-important capital letters, but "terror" remains nothing more than a "means and method of fighting." Maybe the "Seminal Issue of Our Time" should be defining who the enemy IS...or have we truly entered the Orwellian era of perpetual war?

Perhaps there is a voice encoding/decoding thing on the horizon. Always the skeptic. It will be a must-have item because of the data-mining angle. Who's most likely to make it and profit from it?

How convenient.
An investigation into who said we have a secret eavesdropping program?? So, now 'the enemy' has an advantage knowing that the U.S. has these capabilities? Give me a f-ing break. I'm guessing they're at least smart enough to figure out the U.S. had this capability before (WITH A WARRANT, OF COURSE), so where is the so-called breach of national security? I'm guessing anyone with half a brain sees through this charade, but I'm sure the pundits will get some valuable mileage out of it. Assholes.

"where is the so-called breach of national security"

The answer depends on who you think the "enemy" is. Look at the pattern of investigations of (a) the Valerie Plame-gate, (b) torture-gate, and (c) eavesdrop-gate, and you could be forgiven for thinking that the government is most worried about the American public.

Allan: Have no doubt that the data mining operations are already well underway. The feds want access to commecial databases to augment their own. The pisser about data mining from a privacy perspective is that no single data aquisition is likely to need a warrant, yet the conclusions which can be had from a good analysis of the data can be staggeringly invasive. There's not much to be done about it, though, beyone the level of an occasional prank.

Travis, I pretty much agree, although I'd re-phrase it: the seminal issue is how much of our liberty we hang on to in the face of this new threat. The debate we must have is not a new one; it's been going on for at least fifty years already.

You and I are only old enough to remember the last decade of the cold war, but there was a clash of civilizations. The godless commies had thousands of nuclear warheads, hundreds of ICBMs, the full array of biological and chemical weapons, and a vast conventional force. For at least thirty years we assumed that they had the will to destroy us, that they would be only too happy to nuke Washington D.C. and maybe the rest of our nation without warning. All this was backed up by the KGB, a first-rate intelligence service that regularly snookered both the CIA and FBI. This was the conflict which underlay all of our foreign policy choices for fourty-five years, and this threat led to the creation of both the NSA and FISA.

But if we ever used warrantless domestic wiretaps in response to this threat, it has yet to be made public. We apparently preserved the warrant requirement for domestic wiretaps during the whole of the cold war. Why give it up now?

Is this administration seriously contending that al-qeida is a worse threat than the Evil Empire? That's... well, that's hard to fathom.

When I think of it this way, "whistleblower" looks a lot more likely than "traitor".

Oh, and Harry? It turns out that field tests of facial-recognition systems show that they don't work very well for catching terrorists. The most basic problem is that it has proven rather difficult to get known terrorists to pose for photo shoots, and it's still more difficult to properly catalog photos of unknown terrorists. Insightful analysis of the problem by a first-rate security guru can be found here.

From the 13th & 14th paragraphs of Sunday's New York Times story about James Comey:
The concerns within the Justice Department appear to have led, at least in part, to the decision to suspend and revamp the program, officials said. The Justice Department then oversaw a secret audit of the surveillance program.

The audit examined a selection of cases to see how the security agency was running the program. Among other things, it looked at how agency officials went about determining that they had probable cause to believe that people in the United States, including American citizens, had sufficient ties to Al Qaeda to justify eavesdropping on their phone calls and e-mail messages without a court warrant. That review is not known to have found any instances of abuses.

This thread reminds me of Chicken Little. We will see how many points in the popularity poll the President gains from little chickens running around and spewing dire tidings while he contiues to speak of national security.

" The seminal issue in our time" . We need to get real in here.

Frankly, the little chicken hawks in this administration will probably gain in the polls from this debate. Why? Because debating the legalities will divert everyone’s attention from the bigger issue: Was Iraq a smart move and will it work out? A lot of young Americans died or were badly injured, and the reasons that were given turned out not to be true. That doesn’t diminish their service in the least, but the President and all who helped sell this war, should answer for it. But phony macho men like Bush and Cheney, don’t look back and they don’t pay the bill. I believe they’re getting ready to send more of America’s sons and daughters to attack somewhere else.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LOSE 2 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS

1) Cry that you really won the election. Throw the red flag on the field, and ask for replay after replay. Hanging chads, villification of Florida Secretary of State, deification of former coke-runner for John Belushi, Al Franken.

2) Shameless Namecalling. "Dumb President", "War Mongers", "Liars" etc., etc.

3) Linking every Republican candidate everywhere with George Bush. Eskimoes for Town Counsel in Nome Alaska support George Bush.

4) Paranoia Strikes Deep. Make every dim-witted, West Wing watching Bozo think that someone is tapping their phone. I only wish that they had listened to Muhammad Atta's phone, and the 300 members of the FDNY might have enjoyed Christmas with their families.

Get over it. There will be another election in 2008, and you can elect Hillary. Just what the country needs, a shrill B****, and her two-timing husband.

My my, we do get testy when our dim-witted rich boy hero is busted for violating his oath of office, don't we?

Think of the testosterone tinctured tirade brother gary will treat us to when his ticket tanks.

Ron,

Perhaps you'll appreciate the importance of how we fight the war once you realize that anti-americanism is going to affect the bottom-line of our country's economic health and productivity. I, for one, think our nation's strength, militarily and economically, is intrinsically tied to our reputation as a democratic and free nation that values the rule of law, international and domestic. On that score card, Bush is woeful, mostly because of his stiffneckedness and partly because he is the worse communicator we've had in the era of mass-media.

Brother Gary,

It isn't about paranoia, and it isn't about tapping into Atta's phone. You, and those of similar opinion, act as though warrantless wiretapping is the golf club the President needs to shoot a sub 72 game. However, the 9/11 Commission Report showed that the Executive Branch had all the clubs it needed before the Patriot Act, it just didn't know how to golf.

bg & Ron

You oughta know better than to interrupt one of these circle-jerks - these guys are just letting off a little "steam". Even the NSA computer lets go a chip-splitting guffaw and moves on when it intercepts one.

You thought that the NSA computer only monitors conversations involving persons outside the U.S.?
Some of these guys ARE from outside the U.S. - some are from other planets - like Clackamas.

Funny, on other subjects they seem almost normal.

Paranoia is just a cover for their collective disease. The symptoms include: the inability to admit that not everyone shares their views, irrational repetition of words and phrases, bad alliteration, the delusion that they define "The seminal issue of our time...", name-calling, etc. It just feeds on itself, growing hotter and hotter until ... WAIT, IT'S A NUKULAR REACTION - RUN!!!

WAAAAAHHHH HOOOOOO!!!!

Ricky, you got yourself a little timeout for that one.

RW, BG, RR-

Duuuudes. Don't you have any actual like, you know, arguments? I mean, even if all you can muster by yourselves is name-calling, surely y'all can go look at LGF or listen to Rush and find something to repeat.

Has this issue got the whole of the right so flummoxed that you're all speechless or what?

Concatenated consonants caused catatonic convulsions, clearly.


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