Thursday, January 26, 2006

Do these people read what they write before they publish it?

Over at the right wing Washington Times, the editorial board published this odd little nugget:

Precisely what the Bush administration's National Security Agency wiretap program is, technically speaking, remains unknown to all but perhaps a few people in Washington. Certain aspects of it are becoming clearer by the day, however, and no doubt more will emerge in congressional hearings. In the meantime, the more that emerges, the less the program looks like Big Brother than it does a powerful antiterrorism tool that scans millions of communications. That tool could be abused in theory, but instead already appears to be responsible for successes in the war on terror. (italics added)
Oh yes. It's not big brother--its just a tool that scans millions of innocent communications (presumably, unless there are millions of terrorists). The line about successes is, in fact, based on nothing. The only story that has commented on tips from the program said that it sent the FBI on several thousand goose chases.


At 2:13 PM, February 04, 2006, Anonymous Brandon Clivens said...

The use of the word success is a definite overstatement this far into the program's implementation. However, I don't see anything wrong with the NSA's interception of international phone calls. Is it any different from the government's interception of information transmitted over the Internet? We have managed to live with that over the last decade to learn of upcoming viruses both domestic and foreign. As another piece of info, it was originally intended as a form of communication for the government and its sponsored agencies. The latter portion of the article mentions the following:

"As it happens, though, the government's data-mining abilities in that regard are open to question. Speaking on NPR last week (as of 1/24), telecommunications and Internet engineer Phil Karn said the U.S. government "still doesn't have -- as far as we know -- the technology that can listen to all that voice and turn it into a transcript and then scan that transcript for keywords... they still have to hire human linguists to sit there and listen to it and translate." Barring some new unknown technology, this would limit the program to e-mail and Internet communications."

Look at it this way, as America leaves the years of economic recession behind us, they are creating employment opportunities for skilled citizens in this global anti-terrorism effort.

At 3:44 PM, February 04, 2006, Blogger Joe Campbell said...

a reply:
1. I don't see anything wrong with the government intercepting calls--domestic or international--either. (The NSA controversy has explicitly been stated to involve phone calls, even if it is not limited to them, contradicting your statement above.) However, if the government is going to do so, it must act within its authority, with the framework of laws.

All that I ask is that, as we are in a free society, changes to laws should be public, and publically debated; and second, that the government be subject to the law. Doing both of these gives no advantage to terrorists in this instance, as they already assume their conversations are being listened to.

The War on Terror is a generational struggle--and the tools we use to fight it must be lawful and publically supported. Without debate and disclosure, this will not happen. And if the government continues to hide such important things from the public, it will lose the trust of the people, and thus it will lose the larger war.


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