Friday, December 16, 2005

NSA Does It's Gregory Hines Impression

From the NY Times:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

The article goes on to say that, thus far, this practice has been limited to monitoring international calls and email. Domestic secret surveillance is not, as of now, in place.

But two portions of the article do concern me, and I think they should concern you too.

In some cases, they said, the Justice Department eventually seeks warrants if it wants to expand the eavesdropping to include communications confined within the United States.

In some cases? Eventually?

At an April hearing on the Patriot Act renewal, Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, Democrat of Maryland, asked Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Robert S. Mueller III, the director of the F.B.I., "Can the National Security Agency, the great electronic snooper, spy on the American people?"

"Generally," Mr. Mueller said, "I would say generally, they are not allowed to spy or to gather information on American citizens."

Generally? This is what us high falutin' legal types call a "non-answer."

It's an interesting article, and it's pretty even-handed. I can't say I have a problem with the NSA monitoring suspicious international activity. But in the wake of the Patriot Act's recent upgrading, and the slow-but-real erosion of liberities in the name of national security, saying that "Generally" the NSA doesn't spy on American citizens, or that sometimes, eventually, a warrant is procured for those activities raises a red flag in my paranoid android brain.


At 10:44 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...

Listening to talk radio this morning and the calls show how moronic TR audiences are (make of that what you will). People were generally saying that they didn't care if the gov't tapped their phones as long as they were "safer".

At 2:55 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

It's amazing to me that people assume Government to be a benign entity.

There's an element of quasi-Judeo-Christian faithfulness to it.

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Shouldn't there be some mention of the election in Iraq, which was quite possibly one of the biggest news stories of the year? Anyone?

At 5:16 PM, Blogger codemorse said...

If I was to comment on it, I'd probably say that I'm happy for the Iraqi people, and that this is a step in the right direction for them.

But then I'd ruin the celebratory mood by grousing over the rise of insurgent violence in the weeks before the election, and continuing to believe that this whole Iraq rigamarole was and is a terrible mistake for our country.

For your blood pressure's sake, I thought I'd refrain. :)

At 10:41 PM, Blogger Bud said...

Face, Bush Administration?


Here's hoping the Dems grow a pair and whup his ass around the Beltway over this.

At 11:01 PM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Every so often I wonder if this generation could or would have fought World War II. Could we have recognized the dangers posed?

Would we, with Katie Couric and Dan Rather, have labored continuously about quagmires? At the Battle of the Bulge, would we have called the war unwinnable, and questioned the spreading of Pax Americana to a Germany that had not attacked us and posed no immediate threat?

Would we, at losing approximately 1300 soldiers a day throughout the war, have ever deemed such a venture worthy? Would we look at the liberated Consentration Camps, and said, "that's all well and good, but not worth American lives"?

Every so often I worry that we've grown so soft that not only would we not be able to wage such a war, but we wouldn't even know why it should be waged in the first place. That our post-modern sensibilities would not be able to reckon with true evil. And that inability would force us to turn to belaboring the minutiae, instead of confronting that evil, under the pretense of speaking truth to power from the purported courage of questioning authority.

I honestly feel like we would not hold back the fascist forces. We would recognize the evil and wonder where the "imminent" threat was.

At 4:30 AM, Blogger codemorse said...

I don't understand your use of World War II in this context.

Before Pearl Harbor, the majority of Americans believed that what went on in Germany was no business of ours. In point of fact, America did not commit itself militarily to the fight until we were bombed by Japan. We did not join the war in Europe until both Germany and Italy declared war on us.

We involved ourselves in WWII, not in spite of the fact that Germany "had not attacked us and posed no imminent threat." We involved ourselves because Japan attacked us, and Germany declared war on us.

World War Two occurred because America retaliated against enemies that had physically and militarily provoked us.

Which is why I don't understand why we're in Iraq. Osama Bin Laden, not Saddam Hussein, declared war on The United States with 9-11.

Despite progress made in Afghanistan toward crippling Bin Laden’s network and corralling the man himself, our country shifted its focus to Iraq. Despite the clear hand of Bin Laden behind the deaths of thousands of American civilians, America shifted its gaze from the search for their murderer to concentrate on Iraq.

Iraq. A country with no ties to Osama Bin Laden. A country that resembled dozens of others around the world; with populations brutally and violently oppressed.

The hunt for the man who actually ordered 9-11 and was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans? Seemingly set aside. Billions of dollars in resources that could be poured into a concentrated manhunt and global smackdown of that godless terrorist sonofabitch? Spilt into Iraq.


The freedom of the Iraqi people has no tangible benefit to us and more importantly, it has no real effect on the problem we’re attempting to combat. The war in Iraq will not stop terrorism the way that WWII stopped the spread of the Nazi empire.

If America had stayed the course and continued to pursue those people who actually had a hand in 9-11, it would have been an effective and blunt deterrent on future attempts. Swift, sure justice would have shown our determination, our unity, and our resolve.

Does this war in Iraq help America? Does it make our country safer? Does spending the money, men, and minutes in Iraq create benefits for this country? If we can’t answer those questions with surety, as we were able to do in World War II, then we probably should not be going to war.

I don't think that the righteousness of this war is so clear as to preclude criticism of it. In point of fact, with the notable exception of World War II, I can't think of many wars where that would be the case.

Its somewhat ironic that this exchange comes after an article on potentially unconstitutional spywork.

It’s the freedom of each American that I am most concerned with. Without our own freedoms intact, how can we possibly expect to create freedom in any other place?

Can a man with no honor teach chivalry? Can a woman with no common sense teach you frugality? Can a country that does not respect its own laws create a free society?

You may equate questioning authority with a "purported courage," but I only see it as a simple, expected duty. It doesn't require courage; unless it's the courage to be called unwilling or unable to defend my country.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger Jabawacefti said...

Point proven. I rest my case.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Scott Roche said...


Point proven? How?


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