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Playing Chicken With Privacy

Bush's big cock
With the recent nomination of the Air Force General in charge of the NSA's domestic spying program and today's revelation that the NSA has been building a database of EVERY SINGLE CALL made in the US since 9/11, is this the fight Karl Rove hopes to pick with Democrats? It could end up a fight to the death.

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Polls consistently show the President tanking with the American people in every aspect but one: national security (and that is wavering). Unnamed White House sources are quoted all the time as saying they'll gladly take the domestic spying fight as they think it's one they'll win with the American public. And why shouldn't they? On the surface (and that's all that matters anymore), it's an easy case to make to a public still scared of another terrorist attack. And there are always those who say, "If you're not doing anything wrong, then this program shouldn't worry you." That argument may send privacy and Fourth Amendment rights advocates through the ceiling, but most of the American Idol watching public couldn't care less. Despite Benjamin Franklin's warning that those who would give up their freedom for safety deserve neither, most of this country is perfectly happy to do just that—and Rove knows it.

You have to wonder if there's a limit though and if the President is treading mighty close to that edge with the latest report that the NSA has been gathering information on domestic calls? That might be a bit much for even the least political among us to stomach. I think most Americans still have an expectation of privacy and the mere idea of a shadowy government agency (whether that description fits or not) gathering information on citizens who clearly have no connections to terrorists or enemy agents puts people on edge.

Politically, this opens a door for critics of the domestic spying program. So far, it's been hard to discuss the program in a way that simply and clearly illustrates the privacy concerns—nevermind the constitutional issues. The idea that the President of the United States can simply ignore a law that clearly says he can NOT do exactly what he's authorized the NSA to do has fallen on the deaf ears of the public because they've seen it as a small price to pay for the privacy they've lost but not felt. Add to that the President's nonsensical claim that "some people" don't think we should be monitoring the calls of the enemy and he's muddied the waters so much that regular folks would sooner defer to his judgement than think about what all of this really means. But widespread collection of information is easy to understand and given the spate of identity thefts and various other high profile privacy intrusions, this might just be an issue that actually reverberates.

There's also news today that Justice Department lawyers assigned to investigate the program have been denied the security clearance necessary to do so. This smacks of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre when that doomed President tried to shut down the Watergate investigation by firing Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. So much for democracy requiring an open government...

And so President Bush seems to be picking his fight. It's a fight he's won before but the stakes are raised with control of Congress and his legacy in the balance. Desperate men will do desperate things but if things don't work out in his favor and the public finally gets it, we may soon be writing his political epitaph--two and a half years before he even leaves office.

Comments

Isn't it often the case in murder mysteries that the prosecutor pulls out phone records that shows that the accused had placed 3,481 phone calls within a two-week period to the victim prior to the discovery of the homicide? What--if anything--was said during these calls is not known. What is known is that there was something going on despite the accused denying even knowing the deceased. The phone records per se are not wiretapping.

The question regarding what the NSA is doing is whether it is lawful or whether it is simply something that seems rather distasteful to us. If the latter, then we've got to suck it up and make sure that the next person who is elected won't do such things.

And this is certainly one of those cases when one just has to wonder: "What would the level of outrage be if there was a Clinton in the White House?"

President Bush said Thursday the government is "not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans"

But of course, that's exactly what this is: data mining.

It's one thing for phone companies to keep those records, and to give them to the police if they are subpoenaed. It's quite another thing for the government to quietly track all of this information without a court order. It's really fucked up.

The Fourth Amendment might as well be abolished. Why bother having it?

Well, at the risk of sounding like I'm defending the practice, consider this: You are using a commerical service for your telephoning. Who owns the record of the connection? You? Or the telephone company? Did you ever sign an agreement that said the phone company would keep your information secret? I'm guessing not. What happened here is that the government, apparently, said "We want to buy those records," and the companies in question, with a bit of, no doubt, persuading, sold the info.

The trolling metaphor is from fishing, wherein bait is used to try to catch something. There was no trolling here: The fish were shipped in a barrel. Mining implies that they're delving into the information. That's likely not what they're doing but, rather, simply using the "surface" information, the numbers, in a way to create algorithms that will allow them to discern patterns.

What we have to watch out for vis-a-vis what the Adminstration is doing is not playing into a position whereby they are able to say: "See--told ja. Didn't do it. Didn't wiretap. Heh, heh, heh." What we have to do is to make it quite clear that there is a tendency to parse things in a way that makes looking at the defintion of the present form of the verb "to be" seem like a daily occurence as compared with what they're doing.

Mac, I think the theory that phone comapnies can just "sell" info like that completely undermines the 4th Amendment and is why courst require the State to show probable cause and then issue warrants to collect that kind of info in a criiminal case. I undeerstand we're not talking about wire tapping, but we are (according to the article) talking about phone records. If it were all about the money you can bet Qwest would have had their hand out with the rest of them. The article also mentions that when Qwest asked the NSA to secure approval from either the FISA court or the US Attorney General, the Agency declined citing the unlikeliness that either would approve.

Now, you're right, we don't know much about this program or what's going on. That's the point--nobody does. The President has repeatedly decided to avoid the checks and balanaces of the courts and congress when he sees fit. THAT is the biggest danger of all this.

As much as I despise all things George W Bush, I think the domestic wiretapping program is a fight he CAN easily win, sadly. Around 63% of Americans support that program, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Not that the Dems shouldn't fight the president on this. With Bush's approval ratings this low, there is no reason he shouldn't be opposed at all turns. Just don't expect the wiretapping to be the thing gets the White House in the ass.

You know the biggest reason Bush is so unpopular right now isn't the war or the domestic spying or Guantanamo Bay or the deficit, it's high gas prices. This is the one thing that every American can feel affect them directly and they are pissed. Bush being from an oil family isn't helping his image there. The Dems and the left need to make reducing the cost of fuel and oil dependence their big thing. If they can offer some sort of real solution it may even help them gain back the type of blue-collar-common-man-conservative leaning-people they've lost in the last decade.

The question regarding what the NSA is doing is whether it is lawful or whether it is simply something that seems rather distasteful to us. If the latter, then we've got to suck it up and make sure that the next person who is elected won't do such things.

And this is certainly one of those cases when one just has to wonder: "What would the level of outrage be if there was a Clinton in the White House?"

Definatly.

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

I'm not seeing how this is violated.

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