Saturday, May 13, 2006

Focused. Targeted. Very carefully done.

Back when it was first revealed that the Bush Administration was engaged in engaging in widespread domestic wiretapping in clear violation of US law, Republicans told us that it was a limited program which targeted only international calls from or to known or suspected Al Qaeda terrorists. General Michael Hayden - then head of the NSA, and the man Bush has nominated to head the CIA - said

This is focused. It's targeted. It's very carefully done.

Which is obviously why they have been building a database of every phone call made in the United States:

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

So much for focused and targeted...

Just to put this in perspective, it is as if they had assigned every single person in the US their own personal thuggish-looking man in a trenchcoat and hat, to follow them where-ever they went and take notes on whoever they talked to. The nice young lady in the supermarket, the pizza delivery boy, co-workers, friends, family, partners, and of course those relationships people would rather keep secret (like, for example, who's been talking to certain journalists). The invasion of privacy is as astounding as the potential for abuse - and if this isn't illegal, then clearly the US Congress has not been doing its job properly.

Once upon a time, the American right was opposed to things like this. Once upon a time, they were concerned about personal liberty and the danger of an over-powerful government. Once upon a time, they could at least be respected for this, even if you loathed every other policy they had. Not any more. I'm not sure whether its because its their guy wearing the jackboots, or because they really are so frightened that they will willingly turn America into a totalitarian surveillance state to protect them from Muslims and Democrats, but either way, it is sad to see them decline so far.


I see the Feds have raided the third ranked CIA agent's home & office on suspicion of corruption. Nice to have confidence in your security services I guess.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/13/2006 12:37:00 PM

They can listen to my phone calls all day long if they want.

Posted by Genius : 5/13/2006 04:36:00 PM

I'm with I/S on this (and on torture etc.)... Whatever the legal details about the phone records stuff finally are, it does seem clear that it's the *sort* of thing that the US Right should be upset about ("if it's legal then let's get to work on making it illegal" would be the response you'd predict).... but that's not happening. I was staggered by the exchange between Mark Steyn and Hugh Hewitt at

Steyn's a pretty smart guy but he seriously argues that having every person's exact phone records etc. kept and analyzed by the government is no more invasive or worrying than is having any system of income tax (or perhaps than having your phone company etc. be able to locate your phone if you need emergency assistance sent to you). That's *so* un-American I can't even really get my mind around it! What's going on?

And of course we've been here before over torture where apologists for Bush etc. on the right have similarly been prepared to call black "white" etc.. It's all so deeply crazy that it really does shake one's faith in the integrity of the whole system of which these people are a part, and even of reason itself.

Posted by Anonymous : 5/13/2006 05:45:00 PM

Scary things happening in Bushland.

Posted by radar : 5/13/2006 11:23:00 PM