Evidence of a Slippery Slope
February 6, 2006 6:56 AM   Subscribe

Evidence of a slippery slope continued: Newsweek reports that White House counsel Steve Bradbury believes President Bush can order killings on US soil as part of the Terrorist-Surveillance ProgramTM. Meanwhile, while Attorney General Gonzales "lashes out" at the media and insists that the TSPTM is "not a dragnet that sucks in all conversation and uses computer searches to pick out calls of interest," the Washington Post reports it's precisely that -- "computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears" -- and has led to very few leads. (See also discussion of Arlen Specter and the legality of the TSPTM here.)
posted by digaman (137 comments total)

 
Why don't you want the president killing terrorists?
posted by empath at 7:07 AM on February 6, 2006


I think as the administration goes on, finding ways to justify their positions is going to become an increasingly challenging intellectual exercise. I may become a Republican for the sheer sport of it.
posted by empath at 7:08 AM on February 6, 2006


Who gets to determine whether they are terrorists? What if he thinks you are a terrorist empath?
posted by caddis at 7:09 AM on February 6, 2006


I will guess the determination of wheather your a terrorist will depend on 'whether they want to kill you or not'. This administration is great at circular logic.
posted by Elim at 7:11 AM on February 6, 2006


Caddis: I'm sure if Jesus tells President Bush that I'm a terrorist, it's only because in my heart of hearts I really am one. I'm certainly not going to argue with Jesus's appointed guardian of America.
posted by empath at 7:16 AM on February 6, 2006


I don't want the President to have the sole authority to sentence Americans to the death penalty without a trial. Time and time again -- notably with the NSA program, which is why I linked to it -- this administration has narrowly defined the targets of their spying programs to the public, while broadly applying them in the real world. Would I have a problem if a guy planting a dirty bomb in Manhattan was shot just before detonating the device? Not so much. But this administration has used targeting terrorists as an excuse to surveil and detain without counsel thousands of people. As the GOP makes a concerted effort to justify domestic spying on the basis of the President's "wartime powers," the unchecked expansion of those powers to include assassinating Americans by executive order seems unwise.
posted by digaman at 7:16 AM on February 6, 2006


Come and move to England, people. We have a constitutional monarchy.
posted by athenian at 7:18 AM on February 6, 2006


We have the FBI arresting vegans who copy down their license plate numbers and classifying these vegans as threats. Why bother with a trial? Certainly that was the issue with the vegan as the agent surely knew there would be no trial or conviction, but the mere arrest is hassle and punishment enough for her disrespect of his authority. When someone starts making louder, more violent noises, say they wish for the assassination of the President on some group blog, why not just have them killed. especially if it is some dark skinned Moslem type from the Middle East? Sounds Stalinesque to me.
posted by caddis at 7:18 AM on February 6, 2006


I guess Congress should have thought of that before they declared war on America.
posted by empath at 7:19 AM on February 6, 2006


digaman: word. You could also substitute "corrupt", "immoral", and/or "unconstitutional" for "unwise".
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:19 AM on February 6, 2006


this needs repeating often, obviously: ...why, if the Administration had all the legal authority in the world to eavesdrop without warrants and outside of FISA did it repeatedly make false statements to the public and to the Congress assuring us all that it was eavesdropping only in accordance with FISA? Parties make false statements in order to conceal their behavior only when their behavior is improper and wrong, not when it is justified and legal. And deliberately false statements of that sort from our government officials happen to be unacceptable and wrong, and really constitute a scandal unto itself. ...

and something that's not being mentioned at all is that we have a horrendous shortage of trained foreign language speakers--especially Arabic--in our Government: Surveillance with a broader focus than individuals misses an important problem: translation. Everyone acknowledges the vast number of messages each and every day.

If 1 percent of just one billion messages are in another language, that is still 10 million messages. Even 1 percent of 1 percent presents a formidable, perhaps insurmountable, translation task. And the shortage of government translators, particularly for Arabic, has been widely reported.

The only conclusion one can draw is that the National Security Agency surveillance program is designed to spy primarily on English speakers.

posted by amberglow at 7:20 AM on February 6, 2006


Gonzales: "...the terrorist surveillance programme is not a dragnet that sucks in all conversation and uses computer searches to pick out calls of interest..."

That just doesn't make any sense. If the surveillance is targeted, it should be quite easy to get legal FISA warrants.

If it's not targeted, then it is a dragnet.
posted by Western Infidels at 7:20 AM on February 6, 2006


I'm interested to learn a little bit more about Bradbury's opinion. While I'm opposed to just about everything the administration does, I think the executive branch would have the authority and prerogative to kill an armed and dangerous terrorist when no other means was available to save lives-- just as a police sniper could kill an armed hostage taker.
posted by justkevin at 7:23 AM on February 6, 2006


Gonzales is not even under oath--the GOP is protecting its own. I've never heard of hearings where the principal actors aren't sworn in (except for Bush and Cheney at the 9/11 hearings--even Condi and others were sworn in). So, he can safely lie as usual.
posted by amberglow at 7:26 AM on February 6, 2006


America sucks more every day.
posted by wakko at 7:27 AM on February 6, 2006


justkevin, look at what happened in the London subways, with that Brazilian guy--do you really want Bush ordering murders without proof? Do you really trust his (or those who work for him) judgement? After Katrina, and the Iraq lies, and everything?
posted by amberglow at 7:28 AM on February 6, 2006


That police sniper, however, would still be subject to the law, and to scrutiny from review boards. The sniper could not merely claim that someone had taken hostages without evidence that would stand up in court. More and more brazenly, however, Bush has asserted that he is above the law, and his administration's anti-terrorist activities are hidden from public scrutiny, while he claims that even discussing these activities in the press aids the enemy.
posted by digaman at 7:29 AM on February 6, 2006


justkevin, as the laws of America stand, the executive branch has exactly the same authority and prerogative to kill an armed and dangerous terrorist as you do. This seems perfectly reasonable and acceptable to me.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:29 AM on February 6, 2006


amberglow: No, I'm responding to the FPP. The article leaves it unclear under what situations Bradbury thinks the President could authorize the killing of a terrorist suspect. Do I think the President would have had the authority to shoot down of Flight 93? Yes. Do I think he could legally authorize the killing of a terrorist who did not present an immediate threat? No. That's why I want a clarification on Bradbury's opinion-- I want to know where he thinks the line is and how bright it is.
posted by justkevin at 7:36 AM on February 6, 2006


Evidence of a slippery slope continued: Newsweek reports that White House counsel Steve Bradbury believes President Bush can order killings on US soil as part of the Terrorist-Surveillance ProgramTM.

So Bush thinks he's Ariel Sharon. What's new?
posted by three blind mice at 7:43 AM on February 6, 2006


it's strange that the usual Bush cheerleaders, their porcine affection for master notwithstanding, seldom appear in these threads.
posted by matteo at 7:45 AM on February 6, 2006


I think the executive branch would have the authority and prerogative to kill an armed and dangerous terrorist

Why not just arrest the terrorist? Perhaps there is not enough evidence for that, but there is to kill him?

Shooting a kidnapper or suspect who has been confronted and offered a chance to surrender is far different than the President giving an order to kill someone who he believes is an evil doer. I think the assumption here is that the order will be to shoot first and ask questions later.
posted by caddis at 7:50 AM on February 6, 2006


Why isn't Gonzales testifying under oath?

If you were called to testify, would you be allowed to testify without swearing an oath to tell the truth?

So why isn't Gonzales testifying under oath?
posted by orthogonality at 7:52 AM on February 6, 2006


Because he's planning to lie, obviously.
posted by empath at 8:06 AM on February 6, 2006


Slippery slope, my ass. We've gone over the edge. If we don't start climbing back up now, we're done.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:06 AM on February 6, 2006


AFAIK, lying to congress and perjury carry the same penalty, and if you were sworn in and then lied, you wouldn't get consecutive sentences for doing the two crimes simultaneously. So it's just a symbolic thing, which explains why AG says he's willing to be sworn in.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:08 AM on February 6, 2006


Kirth: Nothing is going to happen until 2007 at the earliest. It's absolutely essential that Democrats take charge of the Senate at the very least.
posted by empath at 8:14 AM on February 6, 2006


Cut Bush some slack - after all, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal. (Quicktime clip)
posted by madamjujujive at 8:14 AM on February 6, 2006


What I have never understood about this scandal is why? The courts are just a rubber stamp that are never challenged--why did they bother circumventing them? They couldn't be bothered to fill out a couple of forms to avoid a massive public scandal? Doesn't the Bush administration perform cost-benefit analysis on these kinds of things? I thought all good corporations did that.
posted by JeremyT at 8:15 AM on February 6, 2006


The courts are just a rubber stamp that are never challenged-

I assume you mean that the courts never challenge FISA requests, and that seems to be true, but if this is the sort of dragnet reading-your-email-for-no-good-reason operation it appears to be, no legitimate court would approve it. Bush can claim he suspects anyone to be a terrorist, and the court would approve surveillance of that person, but he can't go to the court and say "I wanna spy on everyone all the time, and figure it out later." You can't get a warrant for that. It's not constitutional.
posted by rxrfrx at 8:20 AM on February 6, 2006


Even a cursory skimming of the details of Gonzales's career reveals that he has climbed a ladder of (often controversial) appointments from the man whose executive power he's supposed to be checking-and-balancing.

Bush and Gonzales
posted by digaman at 8:22 AM on February 6, 2006


"I thought all good corporations did that."

When you look at Bush's record in the corporate world, it's not so surprising how utterly bad he is as President.

One of the big problems, I think, is that these guys are trying to operate the government like a corporation, without outside input (or negative input from within, even), or any consideration other that this quarter's bottom line. It's what's wrong with business in America, and now that these CEOs control our government, one of the big things that are wrong with America.
posted by birdhaus at 8:22 AM on February 6, 2006


Along with what rx said, I figure the reason that Bush went with this is because there was no evidence taht these people who were to be spied were terrorists. It was a fishing expedition. Which is why it is so disingenuous to use terrorism in defense of the policy.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:25 AM on February 6, 2006


So why isn't Gonzales testifying under oath?
posted by orthogonality


Because Specter wants to allow him to lie without consequence.
Same reason Dubya and Cheney were not required to take the oath.
GOP protecting their own and to hell with the country.
posted by nofundy at 8:27 AM on February 6, 2006


the operative word here is suspects. although personally I'd rather just be killed than shipped off to syria to be tortured.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:28 AM on February 6, 2006


birdhaus - That makes it more than just a shame that being a citizen gives you apparently less say in your government than being a shareholder. Perhaps that is what liberals and those wishing to make changes should do? Invest in these corporations that peddle influence, take control and lobby government into doing the goddamn job properly.
posted by longbaugh at 8:30 AM on February 6, 2006


Slippery slope, my ass. We've gone over the edge. If we don't start climbing back up now, we're done.

Done. Over. Does this mean that America will repudiate the Declaration of Independence and Prince Charles will become King?

Chill dude. Bush is a stooge, but Nixon was still worse and the country recovered from that.

Of course, if the Dems don't buy a clue pretty soon, they'll never solve the puzzle.
posted by three blind mice at 8:34 AM on February 6, 2006


I M M A G E T G E T G E T G E T Y O U D R U N K
G E T Y O U L O V E D R U N K O F F M Y H U M P
B U S H W H Y D O Y O U H A T E A M E R I C A ?

posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 8:35 AM on February 6, 2006


The reason for the scandal is this: current law anticipates authorizing searches of people who the government has some reason to believe are spies. The government must show some evidence that the targets are likely to be involved in illegal or espionage activities. They don't have to show a LOT of evidence, and they can show it up to 72 hours after they start wiretapping, but for the FISA court to approve it, they have to show SOME evidence.

On the contrary, the current program searches EVERYONE's email. Most likely, every email and every international phone call you make this year will be searched by a computer. Read the Washington Post article. Your email and your phone call may then be searched by a human, if the computer thinks it suspicious. The NSA can provide evidence against almost no one who sends email or makes international calls, so none of this would be approved by a court. And as has been mentioned many times, this is specifically illegal; Congress considered exactly this, warrantless general searches looking for evidence, and they passed a law against it. There is absolutely no doubt that the spying program is illegal and that the Bush administration knew it was illegal.

Right now, you have a President who asserts the authority to imprison U.S. citizens for life without ever charging them with a crime; who asserts the ability to break any law he likes without any consequences; and now they're floating a trial balloon about asserting the ability to kill anyone on U.S. soil they like without any consequences. This is not, in itself, a terrible thing. This happens throughout the world. Power corrupts people, it's inevitable. What is terrible is that very few people are standing up to this and saying, "This is bad. We won't let you do this."
posted by jellicle at 8:36 AM on February 6, 2006


That makes it more than just a shame that being a citizen gives you apparently less say in your government than being a shareholder.
The shareholders in the government are the corporations and monied interests who buy influence, just the same way shareholders do. These guys see nothing wrong with this, because that's how they always have operated, but it is NOT democracy.
posted by birdhaus at 8:38 AM on February 6, 2006


caddis writes "Why not just arrest the terrorist? Perhaps there is not enough evidence for that, but there is to kill him?"

He might not be arrestable, only killable. The Flight 93 situation as brought up in the article is a great example where the president would authorize deadly force went there is a clear and present danger.
posted by Mitheral at 8:46 AM on February 6, 2006


Come and move to England, people. We have a constitutional monarchy.

Uh, except you don't. The UK has no constitution. You also don't have an independent judiciary, and you have CCTV cameras on every block, and on every bus, unless the cops are shooting someone, in which case they suddenly fail.

No thanks.
posted by delmoi at 8:48 AM on February 6, 2006


Here's the consensus about what the NSA program is really about.

You start with a single target number, known to be used by an al Qaeda target, Terrorist X. NSA's computer has hooks into the international Inter Exchange Carrier (IXC) phone switch & watches for calls to/from that number. When it scores a hit, it passes the number on to a subroutine that connects with the IXC's Call Detail database & extracts every number that called to/from that number, then passes the results on to another routine. That program adds the new numbers to a watchlist & uses advanced NSA voice recognition technology (borrowed from Echelon) to scan any calls involving those numbers for its keyword list (& maybe a set of voiceprints of known terrorists while it's at it). If it fails to find any hits in a set amount of time, the number falls off the end of the list. If it finds a hit it hits record & alerts the NSA tech. In addition the NSA apparently does a fair amount of babysitting & manual validation to make sure the system is finding good hits. Depending on available resources & scalability issues, they could feed the CD query results back into the program & expand the search to multiple degrees of separation from the original target number.

So when the President says they aren't casting a broad net for their wiretaps, he believes he's not lying because the only calls that are actually recorded & listened to by a human are ones where there's been a hit in the automated system (excepting QC). And this also explains why they couldn't go to the FISA court, because it's hard to justify scanning someone's calls because he knows a guy who knows a guy.
posted by scalefree at 8:56 AM on February 6, 2006 [1 favorite]


That's fascinating, scalefree, but whose consensus is that?
posted by Western Infidels at 9:08 AM on February 6, 2006


The UK has no constitution.

The UK does have a constitution, it's just not set down as a single document as it is in the US - instead it's comprised of a mix of statute and case law developed over a number of centuries.
posted by biffa at 9:09 AM on February 6, 2006


Technically it might be more accurate to say the UK has a body of constitutional law, but it amounts to the same thing.
posted by biffa at 9:10 AM on February 6, 2006


jellice said: current law anticipates authorizing searches of people who the government has some reason to believe are spies

Just two points of clarification: under the NSA, I believe the standard is "probable cause" that the person is an agent of a foreign power, not even "a spy."

And one more ominous point: this is not idle speculation by just another DoJ staff attorney, or talking points from the adminstration. To correct the post, Steve Bradbury is not "White House Counsel," but the acting head of the Office of Legal Counsel within the Department of Justice. This is a very, very important distinction: to quote Newsweek, the highly influential OLC is "the most important government office you've never heard of." Among other things, the OLC typically is responsible for setting much of DoJ and any Administration's policy. It drafts opinions of the Attorney General. The infamous John Yoo torture memorandum originated from this office.

When the head of this office speaks to members of Congress, it isn't merely "academic discussion" or "informal" commentary, but far more.
posted by soda pop at 9:11 AM on February 6, 2006


I really doubt that your number would "fall off the end of the list" if they didn't get any hits. After all, there's Terror everywhere!!
posted by jenovus at 9:15 AM on February 6, 2006


The consensus I speak of comes from political & technical bloggers who've been following the story closely, such as Glenn Greenwald, the Poor Man, Bruce Schneier, Reed Hundt, William Arkin & others I can't think of off the top of my head.
posted by scalefree at 9:15 AM on February 6, 2006


Also, I would guess that the keyword list is so poorly focused as to get an incredibly high false- to true-positive ratio.

Thankfully, no one says "It's the bomb!" anymore.
posted by jenovus at 9:17 AM on February 6, 2006


What I have never understood about this scandal is why? The courts are just a rubber stamp that are never challenged--why did they bother circumventing them?

ECHELON. It spies on EVERYTHING.

I also suspect that part of this is that they're bugging journalists. Tim Russert, I believe, floated this theory early on and was laughed off it, but I think he may be on to something. Think about it- they're probably the only people who regularly contact terrorists that the gov't couldn't concoct some flimsy excuse to justify bugging them.
posted by mkultra at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2006


Fascinating, scalefree.
posted by digaman at 9:26 AM on February 6, 2006


Nixon was still worse

False.
posted by digaman at 9:28 AM on February 6, 2006


Because Specter wants to allow him to lie without consequence.

Let's not bag on Specter, OK? He's the only big guy in his party who has the guts to stand up and say "this is probably illegal".
posted by mkultra at 9:29 AM on February 6, 2006


Nixon was still worse

False.


Agreed. Nixon at least had no qualms about what he was doing and the people he surrounded himself with. And he didn't financially wreck the country. And he had the good sense to quit.
posted by mkultra at 9:32 AM on February 6, 2006


mkultra writes "Let's not bag on Specter, OK? He's the only big guy in his party who has the guts to stand up and say 'this is probably illegal'."


So why doesn't Specter have the guts to ask Abu Gonzales to swear to tell the truth? Or is that just another quaint idea that only applies to little people?
posted by orthogonality at 9:35 AM on February 6, 2006


Nixon wasn't worse. He didn't have the technology.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:36 AM on February 6, 2006


Nixon wasn't worse. He didn't have the technology.

posted by sonofsamiam at 9:41 AM on February 6, 2006


Right before I read this I was checking out Hitler's Law Regarding Measures of State Self-Defense.

Not saying Bush is Hitler or that this is the same. Just that the one article in the above law, "The measures taken on 30 June and 1 and 2 July 1934 in order to put down attacks of high treason shall be legal State self-defense." bears some resemblence to what Mr. Bradbury said.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 9:44 AM on February 6, 2006


What makes the whole thing possible is the total cooperation from the phone companies. It's a replay of Project SHAMROCK, where the telegraph companies let the NSA pick up copies of all international cables at the end of each day. Without hooks into the IXC computers this current operation would never work. The NSA is massively expanding its operations in Denver, because that's where the IXC international satellite uplinks are. According to Arkin, the names of the various programs involved are DIAZ, Emergejust, Freedom, Highpoint, PASSGEAR & Viceroy.
posted by scalefree at 9:52 AM on February 6, 2006


The Flight 93 situation as brought up in the article is a great example where the president would authorize deadly force went there is a clear and present danger

I was under the impression that he had.

It's important for us to remember as United States citizens, even 220 years later, that the people always have the final veto. It might be getting time for us to remind the governement of that, eh?
posted by illovich at 9:54 AM on February 6, 2006


scalefree writes "And this also explains why they couldn't go to the FISA court, because it's hard to justify scanning someone's calls because he knows a guy who knows a guy"

Because it is blatantly unconstitutional.
posted by Mitheral at 10:01 AM on February 6, 2006


I would have agreed with you two weeks ago mkultra.
But since Specter "women's rights" voted for Alito, I can no longer assume anything by his words other than he is trolling for moderate votes.
I'm gonna look strictly at his actions from now on and I will never again give him the benefit of the doubt.
Alito is the man who will keep Dubya adn Friends out of prison.
posted by nofundy at 10:01 AM on February 6, 2006


Wow - a US president who asserts the right to randomly rub all us little people out like bugs. If he rolls out of bed the wrong way in the morning.

Sounds to me like George W. Bush aspires to be Jehovah.
posted by troutfishing at 10:07 AM on February 6, 2006


digaman, mkultra It is interesting that you give Nixon such low marks compared to Bush.

Nixon was President from 1969 until he resigned 1973.

In 1969 there were 1,380 KIA and 18,109 WIA in Vietnam. By 1972, Nixon presided over the deaths of more than 15,000 of his own soldiers and A-h knows how many Vitenamese.

Bush has yet to put up numbers like this.

In 1969, Nixon bombed Cambodia in defiance of Congressional restrictions. He routinely bombed Laos - also in defiance of Congressional restrictions.

Again, the edge has to be given to Nixon.

When it comes to Imperial Presidents, Bush isn't even in the same league as Nixon.

But you have to be a bit over 40 to really appreciate how bad Nixon was.
posted by three blind mice at 10:26 AM on February 6, 2006


jenovus: Also, I would guess that the keyword list is so poorly focused as to get an incredibly high false- to true-positive ratio.

The problem is that it does not really matter what keyword list you use. There are some tricky tradeoffs involved. For most of these tests, as the frequency of true positives (ie. terrorists) approaches 0, your frequency of false positives will approach 1. It is also difficult to decrease the number of false negatives, without increasing the number of false positives.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:36 AM on February 6, 2006


So why doesn't Specter have the guts to ask Abu Gonzales to swear to tell the truth?

As was said before, because the penalties for lying to Congress are roughly the same as for perjury.

However, I heard it suggested on the radio this morning that the Republicans don't want pictures of Gonzales being sworn under oath to be used in Democratic campaign literature over the next nine months, with captions like "Bush Administration under fire," etc.
posted by chuq at 10:41 AM on February 6, 2006


reductio ad absurdum is why Republicans are always moral, and just.

Watch your mouth, we'll get hit again.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:42 AM on February 6, 2006


How about Woodrow Wilson? Yeah his 14 points were pretty decent, but internally he was a dick (worse than Cheney). James Loewen has a nice write up of him in Lies My Teacher Told Me. Worth some consideration although Nixon and his pal J. Edgar Hoover are hard to beat... Bush Administration making a strong case for the #1 spot on the despotism charts. Technically since roughly 10% of the population could vote when America was founded (blacks, Catholics, women, and Native Americans among others could not vote) wouldn't it be logical to assume that America never really was a completely free nation? It seems to me that the history of America has not been one of a free country established in 1776, but rather a constant struggle for that freedom.
posted by j-urb at 10:45 AM on February 6, 2006


Why does this see oddly apt?
posted by blue_beetle at 10:47 AM on February 6, 2006


But you have to be a bit over 40 to really appreciate how bad Nixon was.

Har har, I'm 48. I remember.

It's not just the "numbers," TBM. Nixon ran a bunch of covert operations, bombed the hell out of Southeast Asia, and all the rest, but he didn't make such a concerted effort to justify his use of illegal acts as a bludgeon against the other party and the media. Bush keeps moving the goal posts toward totalitarianism, and every time he's exposed, his Rovean minions yell "TOUCHDOWN, YOU PUSSIES! and anyone who says otherwise is a terrorist." Whether Bush is actually the long-awaited American Hitler predicted in books like Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here or not, he is showing the future dictator just how to do it.
posted by digaman at 10:53 AM on February 6, 2006


Why don't you want the president killing terrorists?
posted by empath at 3:07 PM GMT on February 6


Killing terrorists is called a sentence of execution, and it's only legal after a fair trial and clear verdict. I'm not sure that I want to create matrtyrs for the cause, but some people do not have that scruple.

Killing suspected terrorists before a trial is called extra-judicial killing - and most democratic states don't need to be reminded that it's normally considered somewhat of a breach of Human Rights.

Now, back to the rest of the thread...
posted by dash_slot- at 10:56 AM on February 6, 2006


I would have thought, speaking as an under 40, that the thing that makes Bush worse than Nixon is that Nixon's war was real. Bush's war can go on for as long as he wants. And if Eastasia Al Qaeda actually surrenders, we can invent another enemy.

Those shifty Basques, for instance. Never trusted the Basques...
posted by athenian at 11:04 AM on February 6, 2006


In 1969 there were 1,380 KIA and 18,109 WIA in Vietnam. By 1972, Nixon presided over the deaths of more than 15,000 of his own soldiers and A-h knows how many Vitenamese.

Bush has yet to put up numbers like this.


Not for lack of trying - give him time, there's still Iran.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:04 AM on February 6, 2006


The thing that makes Bush is worse is that after Nixon's excesses, and the laws created to rein in unchecked Executive power, the fact that Bush is doing all the things he's doing means he doesn't care--and that's worse (and that on his team are some old Nixon staffers, and people who are well aware what's legal in a post-Nixon world, and what's not. Look up the Church Commission.)
posted by amberglow at 11:33 AM on February 6, 2006


In no way am I trying to defend Nixon. He was an anti-democracy scumbag.

BUT:

Nixon didn't start his war.

He didn't get anything as bad as the Patriot Act through Congress.

He did not sell out every single arm of the government to business interests (even if he did want to).

He was not able to insulate himself from ALL public dissent, or to have all dissenters isolated from media veiw.

He did not control the media to the point that contradictory views were absent from it.

He didn't assemble a solid phalanx of dissemblers, none of whom would say no to him, or speak the truth in public.

He did not abduct foreign citizens and have them sent to places they could be tortured.

He did not arrest Americans and hold them indefinitely, without trial or formal charges.

Bush has done all of that.

The biggest thing Nixon did that makes him not as bad as Bush: He died.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:40 AM on February 6, 2006


I think it's a mistake to assume that this spying stuff is mostly about finding information to protect the US. Rather, I think that's the pretense they're using to pursue their true aim - which is simply to carve out additional executive privilege for its own purposes. IOW they're not doing this to catch terrorists, they're doing it to restore executive privilege, period.
posted by mikel at 11:47 AM on February 6, 2006


Here's the consensus about what the NSA program is really about.

You start with a single target number, known to be used by an al Qaeda target, Terrorist X. NSA's computer has hooks into the international Inter Exchange Carrier (IXC) phone switch & watches for calls to/from that number. When it scores a hit, it passes the number on to a subroutine....


I'm not sure I buy the idea that we can know details like that, although I'm assuming the system is some sort of automated program that finds numbers to tap automaticaly.

Also, I'd just like to point out that a system similar to the one you described was actualy used by colombian drug cartells to find informants. Unlike the federal government, though, the first step wasn't to add numbers to the list, but to kill people outright :P
posted by delmoi at 12:09 PM on February 6, 2006


mikel, I totally agree with that about expanding executive privilege for its own sake - and their motives in doing that are chilling. In a recent column, Molly Ivins suggested wait til the shoe is on the other foot - to that, Tristero at Hullabaloo commented:

Molly, you're assuming that sooner or later there actually will be a Democratic president. Republicans assume that will never, ever happen again. And they're doing everything possible - controlling voting machines, gerrymandering, fraud, blackmail, buying the media - to make sure it doesn't.

So why bother worrying the "other party" will abuse the power Bush now has? It's like worrying about a large asteroid colliding with Earth. Sure, it's theoretically possible, but...

posted by madamjujujive at 12:12 PM on February 6, 2006


Does anybody need more reason to support impeaching George W. Bush for treason?
posted by davy at 12:17 PM on February 6, 2006


Well, either people have rights that can't be done away with by the executive branch, or they don't. It's clear that the Administration thinks nothing is beyond the pale as long as they do it and justify it in the name of the war on terror.
posted by clevershark at 12:17 PM on February 6, 2006


And Kirth Gerson, I thought Nixon was bad enough, but during Watergate I started joining my voice to those "wacky tinfoil-beanie types" telling people to warch that we don't get worse. They must not have listened, because we did. (Maybe somebody can introduce Bush to an intern?)
posted by davy at 12:22 PM on February 6, 2006


but he didn't make such a concerted effort to justify his use of illegal acts as a bludgeon against the other party and the media.

Yeah, digaman, Nixon just did it. He didn't make any attempt to portray his bomibing of Laos and Cambodia as legal. He knew it was wrong and did it anyway. In secret. Bush, on the other hand, seems to think he is acting within the four corners of the law.

My point is not really to compare Bush and Nixon, but to point out to the doomsayers that the U.S. has had some pretty crummy and despotic Presidents and recovered from it. Saying that "it's over" is giving Herr Bush too much credit. As bad as Bush is, he'll be a bad memory in another few years - like Nixon - and the country will recover. Inshallah.

That assumes of course that the Democrats come up with at least one idea that resonates with voters and can give us someone better to vote for than John Kerry.
posted by three blind mice at 12:24 PM on February 6, 2006


This is going to be one HELL of a cool civil war. I just wish I was just a bit younger.

“I think the executive branch would have the authority and prerogative to kill an armed and dangerous terrorist when no other means was available to save lives-- just as a police sniper could kill an armed hostage taker.” - posted by justkevin

Part of the problem here justkevin is the mystique around special ops and counterterrorism, etc., that the administration seems to be relying on.
Like there is some need for nebulous powers at the upper levels to authorize agents in the field to do nasty things if they have to.
Bullshit. That ‘power’ is already there. If someone is on the scene and sees Joe Terrorist about to detonate a bomb of any kind (the concept of a street level “dirty bomb” is a joke btw) you shoot him. If he’s about to shoot someone else, you shoot him. If he’s escaping, you shoot him. He takes hostages, you shoot him. In fact Joe Terrorist would have to work pretty hard not to get shot in any given scenario because if he’s considered constantly armed and dangerous you’re justified in being in fear of your life.
But, as digaman pointed out - those actions are subject to review.

If he’s sitting there eating his breakfast and had no idea we were onto him, doesn’t have a weapon close by, etc. you should just take him in.

There’s no mystique. There are no secret men. There is just the law and checks to power.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:29 PM on February 6, 2006


I hear ya, TBM, but I disagree with this:

Bush, on the other hand, seems to think he is acting within the four corners of the law.

I think he doesn't give a Texas fuck if he's acting within the law. He and Cheney do what they want to do, they trot out the cronies and tools to generate the talking-points which are instantly picked up by the blogosphere and the media, and that's all she wrote -- until the next election, when they can rev up the Diebold vote-machine as needed.
posted by digaman at 12:31 PM on February 6, 2006


Well, either people have rights that can't be done away with by the executive branch, or they don't.

They don't.

It's clear that the Administration thinks nothing is beyond the pale as long as they do it

They do.

and justify it in the name of the war on terror.

This is just sugar coating. All the Republicans care about is looting the treasury. Any reason that lets them do this, is a good reason. Bush's handlers don't give a rats ass about freedom, but it keeps those pesky Democrats occupied.

And as long as the Democrats whine about civil rights, the Republicans will continue to fill their pockets.

Here's an idea: forget about Bush and come up with a plan for winning an election.
posted by three blind mice at 12:34 PM on February 6, 2006


And as long as the Democrats whine about civil rights, the Republicans will continue to fill their pockets.

Um, huh? I haven't heard anybody yet tell me they voted Republican because they were sick of all that "whining about civil rights."
posted by digaman at 12:36 PM on February 6, 2006


three blind mice writes "Bush, on the other hand, seems to think he is acting within the four corners of the law. "

Bush only makes that argument when he gets caught...
posted by clevershark at 12:44 PM on February 6, 2006


Um, huh? I haven't heard anybody yet tell me they voted Republican because they were sick of all that "whining about civil rights."

Not as such, no. But when Republicans move to (for example) ban gay marriage, they're not doing it because they give a crap whether gays get married or not. They do it to make the Democrats stand up and fight it, thereby convincing about 50% of America that the Democrats are the party of fringe values and weirdo priorities that will never benefit them. They do it to keep the Democrats distracted from what should be their core message: that the Republicans are not protecting America, they're wrecking it.

Trust me on this, when the Republicans get into a fight about civil rights on the edge, they don't care if they win or lose. They win -- with their base, either way.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:46 PM on February 6, 2006


I wonder where the primary shills for the Republicans, like dios or ParisParamus, go when threads like this come up?

Do they just pretend to themselves that this kind of abuse isn't actually happening and it's not worth paying attention to, or something?

I'm honestly curious, I was expecting comments from both in this thread, and haven't seen either one.
posted by Malor at 12:57 PM on February 6, 2006


actually, I would be stoked if the president actually killed some terrorists. although right now we're too busy killing random Iraqis.
posted by mcsweetie at 12:57 PM on February 6, 2006


Oh, I agree with you, GS. But that doesn't mean to me that the Dems should stop "whining" about civil rights -- it means to me that they should come up with sharper strategies to expose the GOP's flagrant exploitation of these issues.
posted by digaman at 12:59 PM on February 6, 2006


They do it to make the Democrats stand up and fight it, thereby convincing about 50% of America that the Democrats are the party of fringe values and weirdo priorities that will never benefit them. They do it to keep the Democrats distracted from what should be their core message: that the Republicans are not protecting America, they're wrecking it.

Exactly George_Spiggott. And as long as the Democrats are complaining about Republican excess, they aren't talking about JOBS AND HEALTHCARE which is what gets Democrats elected.

Bush might be a stooge, but he's not nearly as big a stooge as the Democrats.
posted by three blind mice at 1:01 PM on February 6, 2006


Terrorist-Surveillance Program (TSP) doesn't really ring for me. How about, "Illegal Monitoring of Persons contrary to the Espionage Act by CHimpy." IMPEACH for short.
posted by jperkins at 1:14 PM on February 6, 2006



I wonder where the primary shills for the Republicans, like dios or ParisParamus, go when threads like this come up?


Fightin' Dios has better, more lawyerly things to do. And ParisParamus is too busy killing terrorists in Iraq.
posted by wakko at 1:57 PM on February 6, 2006


Goddamned liberals. They don't even know who they are unless some neocon is around to trash them and disrupt the conversation.

{wink}
posted by digaman at 2:00 PM on February 6, 2006


You start with a single target number, known to be used by an al Qaeda target, Terrorist X.

i love this.
so you have to have a terrorist's number to start with? Wasn't the point to find terrorists?
posted by Miles Long at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2006


You start with a single target number, known to be used by an al Qaeda target, Terrorist X.

Just like TV! I bet you find out the number right before the commercial break, too.
posted by odinsdream at 2:20 PM on February 6, 2006


just as a police sniper could kill an armed hostage taker.

Or an unarmed optometrist.
posted by homunculus at 2:21 PM on February 6, 2006


Factor this in with the the "nobody leaves the country without documents" rollout by 12/31/07. In the wrong hands, it's a goddam nightmare.
posted by ed at 2:36 PM on February 6, 2006


“I wonder where the primary shills for the Republicans... go when threads like this come up?”

Well, you could make a case, but why bother when you get cluster fucked?

I could put forth an argument that there is a need for this kind of thing under certain circumstances - but given the premise of the thread it’s a moot point and on a tangent to the central argument.

An agument I happen to agree with. But if I brought up those circumstances and attempted to defend that ground I’d likely be called a troll and be told I was derailing, etc.
And - the abuse aside - those folks would be right.
Which perhaps those “shills” are getting savvy enough to realize.

Really, why fight from a “yeah, but” position?

As it sits, I agree with Pennebaker you don’t want to sit with your thumb up your ass and guess randomly. And that it’s a cultural question.

I happen to be on the side of the culture that wants as little government intrusion into individual lives as possible so weighing the benefits and risk I come down against this.

It’s nice that it happens to agree with many folks here. It also happens to be (perhaps an old skool) conservative position.

This is at it’s heart a deep question about the ontological nature of knowlege - if it’s only a machine that knows something - is it “known?”

From a (modern) liberal perspective - or rather perhaps some liberals - I would have expected an argument in favor of this kind of surveillance.(if of course the ‘liberal’ Bill Clinton was in office)
The Sartre subjective moral core thing - with a machine having no real morality.
(Although I suppose from some perspectives that could be reversed with (some kinds of) conservatives taking up the contract definition of rights and (some kinds of) liberals taking the inalienable right position.)

I suppose both sides can agree with perhaps an extention of Salmon Chase’s assertion that every human has a title to freedom which can’t be repealed by any law which treats men as property.

Which I think this kind of general surveillance (and assassination by proxy) does.

*All above political labels used loosely of course.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:50 PM on February 6, 2006


speaking of Gay Marriage, Gonzales is some bitchy queen. Was he getting some of that Gannon/Guckert action along with Mehlman and Rove and Dreier and Schrock and Graham and ...?
posted by amberglow at 3:08 PM on February 6, 2006


"This is at it’s heart a deep question about the ontological nature of knowlege - if it’s only a machine that knows something - is it “known?”"

Smed, the fact that the machine records things that a human can retrieve at any future point means that these things have potential to be "known" in the classical sense.

Also, so far machines do not program themselves, the information-scan-and-sort-and-flag instructions are created by humans, so the machine is just another tool. It can't actually "know" anything, it can only crunch numbers and record them according to what it's told to do. Do we trust the programmers that far?

In any event, the President ordering the killing of Americans - or anyone else within the borders of the United States - not in a situation of immediate and dire emergency, and without a trial jury finding them guilty and electing to apply the death sentence, is flatly un-Constitutional... and pretty damn un-American as well.

Illegal wiretapping, ditto.

Even mentioning the possibility of giving anyone that power should be met with vociferous opposition, period.
posted by zoogleplex at 3:11 PM on February 6, 2006


Bush might be a stooge, but he's not nearly as big a stooge as the Democrats.

Heh, it's totally impossible to find a bigger stooge than that crotch-stuffing, weasel-toothed, frat boy bush - he's just better at surrounding himself with criminals and wearing costumes. What are their big ideas, beyond looting the public trust, dismantling the wall between church & state, and exploiting citizen fears to expand their powers in an utterly ruthless no-holds-barred power grab? The only thing bush & his pals rove, cheney et all are better at is fighting dirtier, including lying, cheating, and stealing. And the lapdog media gives these crooks an easy ride and a helping hand in swiftboating any dem that shows any strength or resonates with the public.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:42 PM on February 6, 2006


“The fact that the machine records things that a human can retrieve at any future point means that these things have potential to be "known" in the classical sense”

I agree.
The question (I didn’t make clear) is one of mass though. Given such a huge volume of information the odds of that potentiality becoming actual is exceedingly slim.
(I’m thinking of the thing from first principles - knowlege representation - as opposed to applications like data retreival. So - how do we store/collect/etc. this - if we do?)

There is no question as to whether this can be abused.
The question is - given whatever safeguards necessary and given that the system works as advertised - is surveillance not conducted by a human and not ever accessed by a human (other than representationally) truly surveillance?
With the caveat that you’re not doing anything the machine is looking for -e.g. “We’re about to detonate the bomb” etc.


I think right now the problem is we don’t have a conceptual schema in place and that is what’s causing the civil liberties problems.

There needs to be an explication of what data is collected and used for in real world situations so we can make decisions as to where we want to impose legal limitations. Beyond the tapping the phones kind of stuff I’m saying.

We can’t start from general principles and work back given the technology.

The technology is there to get an idea - representationally of what “you” are doing (you being white, middle class suburban male - own’s a toro lawn mower, or whatever etc. etc. etc),

Telecom companies et.al. already have it, market forces are thirsty for it - and there are not even concepts or relationships in existance for the users of that technology.

The specification of the concept doesn’t exist in the law yet, the technology for this kind of surveillance and the schema - for marketing purposes at least - is already there.
The “grid” is already there.

So someone else will go off and mine data - not about “Smedleyman” but about that ex-serviceman, suburbanite, weber grilling, lawn mowing - etc. etc. - is that then ok?

I’ll tell you, it troubles me. But it seems like the tide and if the government isn’t doing it in some form I wonder if they are missing out on data others have.

But I’m proving my own point - I’m arguing from the “yeah, but” position.
I agree with what you said zoogleplex .

I’m just pointing out there are further complexities outside the scope of the issue raised by the thread which enter into the situation. Which are moot - since I agree with the premise of the post.

/And I’ll add those too make me nervous and we need some sort of protection against them, but I have no idea what form that could take.
(e.g. I have a Jewel ‘preferred card’ which gives me a discount on groceries, but allows ‘them’ to track my purchases).
posted by Smedleyman at 4:24 PM on February 6, 2006


Good God, madamjujujive.
That was easily as knee jerky partisan as anything on LGF. Wow.
Were you being sarcastic?
posted by Smedleyman at 4:27 PM on February 6, 2006


Well, she could have bothered to clothe her rhetoric in fact, sure.

But if you haven't picked up on the picture she sketches out, those facts might be wasted.

So - how do you feel about being indefinitely detained or even exterminated based on the whims of a US President ?
posted by troutfishing at 4:51 PM on February 6, 2006


/You addressing me troutfishing?
posted by Smedleyman at 4:54 PM on February 6, 2006


"So - how do you feel about being indefinitely detained or even exterminated based on the whims of a US President ?"

I feel pretty good about my Right to Bear Arms, troutfishing, if that helps in response. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 5:07 PM on February 6, 2006


What I have never understood about this scandal is why? The courts are just a rubber stamp that are never challenged--why did they bother circumventing them?

One theory is that they wanted to use a dragnet, which would never be approved by even a "rubber-stamp" FISA court (which, if you'll recall, had been forcing the DOJ to resubmit modified warrant applications, and in May 2002 objected stridently to Ashcroft on attempted abuses and general sloppiness.

Another theory is that they wanted to spy on specific people for whom they could never get a warrant, a la Nixon. There was a rumor last month that Christiane Amanpour, for example, was a target of surveillance (her husband Jamie Rubin was just coincidentally the foreign policy adviser to the Kerry campaign).

A third theory is that the court would refuse warrants based on "fruit of the poison tree", e.g. evidence obtained through torture.

The vehemence of the administration's pushback is telling -- it always is. The harder they yell, the more likely there's something they don't want to come out. It's our moral imperative to keep pushing until we find out what that is.

the man whose executive power he's supposed to be checking-and-balancing

Technically, digaman, the Attorney General is a creature of the Executive Branch. It's the responsibility of the courts and Congress to do the balancing. The courts are standing up; if Congress won't, that would be very troubling.

Chill dude. Bush is a stooge, but Nixon was still worse and the country recovered from that.

Nixon was a homunculus of terrifying mien, but I'm beginning to think Bush is more dangerous to the constitutional order. Nixon was very isolated and acted out of paranoia; much of what he was accused of was very personally motivated, and therefore of perplexingly small scale (e.g. trying to discredit Ellsberg). Bush, on the other hand, is a fool and a tool of a cadre which has been working for twenty years to secure power and wants to consolidate those powers through fundamental restructuring of the relationship of the branches of government.

Bush, on the other hand, seems to think he is acting within the four corners of the law.

I respectfully disagree. The man has no concept of, nor respect for, the rule of law.

I'm no law student, but the transparent fallacies in opinions such as Yoo's and Bradbury's should be an embarrassment to the Department of Justice. Additionally, I don't think an Attorney General has ever said anything stupider than telling Congress that they authorized limitless wiretapping through the words "all necessary force" in their own resolution. Basically, combine these three statements and you get an assertion that the law does not apply to the executive.
posted by dhartung at 5:08 PM on February 6, 2006


What dhartung said.
posted by digaman at 5:12 PM on February 6, 2006


gee, I wish I were being sarcastic, Smedleyman. I really do.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:25 PM on February 6, 2006


Nixon was a homunculus

Fuck you.
posted by homunculus at 5:27 PM on February 6, 2006


Other than that, what dhartung said.
posted by homunculus at 5:34 PM on February 6, 2006


“But if you haven't picked up on the picture she sketches out, those facts might be wasted” - troutfishing

I get the picture. But, well - crotch-stuffing is a fact?
Weasel-toothed? This is a fact?
Lapdog media? etc.

I mean you heard the same rhetoric from the right when Clinton was in power. You hear the same thing from many on the right now (hence the LGF reference).
Lack of thought is lack of thought. I don’t give a shit what the gist is or even if it agrees with my world picture or not.
I’m not saying I’m smarter than anyone else, but I don’t like f’rinstance gun nuts who say Jesus wants us all to have guns on my side in the debate about the right to bear arms. Just seems overly simplistic to me.

And it referred to three blind mice’s comment that the dems were bigger stooges than Bush because - as TBM insinuates - even though the Dems are in the right and Bush is evil, they fail to get elected.
So I found a snarky anti-Bush response to that puzzling.

But really, I’ve noticed some thoughtful comments from madamjujujive, so this surprised me. That’s about it.
Maybe she’s just pissed off today. Ok. Just curiosity on my part really. That and a general sense that very few people - again in general - read and absorb stuff before posting.

“gee, I wish I were being sarcastic, Smedleyman. I really do.” - posted by madamjujujive

Ok then.


“So - how do you feel about being indefinitely detained or even exterminated based on the whims of a US President ?"” - troutfishing

Y’know, my automatic response is similar to zoogleplex’s. It would be a hellish guerrilla war, particularly in that I’m trained for it and most particularly in that I grew up around where I live.

But it’s much more complex than that. How do I feel? I feel like I should be working against it before it reaches the point that I have to take up arms against my government. I feel that I should understand what is motivating those in government to do what it is they’re doing beyond “they’re evil” or “they’re weasels”.

I’ve outlined what I believe the problem is above - they don’t have any idea what is going on, they have new technology and new concepts that they don’t know how to deal with and they are having trouble presenting them as ideas partly because they don’t have a handle on them yet, but mostly because they want to maintain a strategic advantage (like any new tech forces any civilization to do) and that translates into what looks like from ground level a grab for more power.

Really it’s a grab for a handle on this new kind of power. I agree with dhartung’s take on the situation, but I think more is going on that isn’t in the papers.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t bother me.

Same shit happened with the printing press.

But y’know, fuck me for questioning anything in earnest. I just thought it was an important topic worth thinking about and questioning why it is they are doing what it is they’re doing beyond the simple fact that they’re cartoon evil despots.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:38 PM on February 6, 2006



“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”
posted by bukharin at 5:50 PM on February 6, 2006


Consider: It was a crime to translate the Bible (pdf)
Why?

‘Cause the church fathers were evil and wanted power?

There are social cohesion issues here. Beliefs are powerful and the potential for extremely rapid mobilisation of a good chunk of the population sounds great in rap songs. In practice - not so much.

There are always social trade offs with technology. This “warrentless wiretapping”, I think, is a symptom of that greater problem.
If you think this is an isolated issue and a flaw in one administration you haven’t been paying attention.
And never mind that it’s an "academic discussion" of theoretical contingencies behind closed doors in a Senate intelligence committee meeting. It’s certainly devoid of political content.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to kill every head of the hydra we can reach, just that we should find out where the heads meet the body and apply the fire.
Typically, although it gets political resistance, it’s not a task political in nature.

Meh. I don’t feel like spoon feeding.

Hey, that Bush sure sucksdoesn’t he?!! He’s tryin’ to gicha!
posted by Smedleyman at 6:20 PM on February 6, 2006


Double Hehe...
Not really, but I posted it here first...
posted by Balisong at 6:42 PM on February 6, 2006



posted by Smedleyman at 7:35 PM on February 6, 2006


This man is a tool. Keep his hands off my Constitution.

"'Our enemy is listening, and I cannot help but wonder if they aren't shaking their heads in amazement' and 'smiling at the prospect that we might now disclose even more,' Gonzales said."
posted by digaman at 8:06 PM on February 6, 2006


OK, Smedleyman, there was a smidgeon of sarcasm in my screed, as well as some frustration as you noted. But since my references seemed pulled out of thin air to you, I though I would offer a translation.

The crotch reference = mission accomplished flight suit. A lot of half-joking, half-serious speculation at the time about whether karl stuffed the crotch.

The costume reference = shorthand for his smooth as silk, manufactured media extravaganzas (note the crotch in the flyboy pic) where Bush is perfectly outfitted with garb and props. The extreme stagecraft of his appearances right down to details - not to mention his exclusionary public appearances and loyalty oath requirements.

I admit I overdid it with the weasel's teeth bit. Bush's teeth are fine and not literally weasel teeth. That reference was poetic license taken from Yeats.

I presume that even if you would disagree, I don't have to document the lying, cheating, thieving, and assorted malfeasance. ;-)
posted by madamjujujive at 8:20 PM on February 6, 2006


Bush, on the other hand, is a fool and a tool of a cadre which has been working for twenty years to secure power and wants to consolidate those powers through fundamental restructuring of the relationship of the branches of government.

Many of whom, lest we forget, began to learn their tricks at Nixon's elbow.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:22 PM on February 6, 2006


thanks for the links madamjujujive
posted by AllesKlar at 9:15 PM on February 6, 2006


2 Laws and Their Interpretation in Limelight at Wiretap Hearing
posted by homunculus at 9:44 PM on February 6, 2006


Ex-President Carter: eavesdropping illegal
posted by homunculus at 9:47 PM on February 6, 2006


Word Jimmy!
posted by AllesKlar at 10:25 PM on February 6, 2006


Since Smedleyman brought up the Clinton years ...
Remember when Janet Reno was savaged by the press because she didn't appear "independent" enough?
I mean, Clinton's zipper was major crisis time people! (Ah, the good old days when that was the most one had to worry about!)

So why is it now widely accepted that Gonazlez and everyone else in DC is supposed to be Dubya's defender and employee instead of a "servant of the people" and suddenly it's OK and expected that they will lie constantly?

Alberto Gonzalez yesterday: "President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale." Umm ... there was electronics then?


Where's the outrage now media? [chirp, chirp] The ugly sounds of corporate media fascists.
posted by nofundy at 5:32 AM on February 7, 2006


As an Australian, the whole right-to-bear-arms thing and the comfort USians seem to derive from it strikes me as bizarre.

Has it not occurred to any of you tough-talking arms-bearers that "taking up arms against the government" is precisely the activity that the entire Mighty Wurlitzer presently under discussion was set up to prevent?

McVeigh took up arms against the government. How is your operation likely to work better than his did?

I think you misunderestimate the difficulty of persuading your fellow citizens, in large enough numbers to save you from experiencing deadly force at the hands of their representatives, that taking potshots at the preznit ain't jes' more o' that goddam Terrism.
posted by flabdablet at 5:44 AM on February 7, 2006


A description of the program. Now if this is truly how the program operates then I doubt the public will be too incensed, except that for a mere 600 people getting warrants doesn't seem like such a daunting undertaking as to brand the process antiquated and skip it. Why don't they want judges looking over their shoulders? What are they hiding? The old saw that the program supporters use on dissenters "if you don't have anything to hide you don't have anything to worry about" applies in reverse as well. If they aren't hiding anything with this surveillance then why are they worried about judicial oversight?
posted by caddis at 7:38 AM on February 7, 2006


caddis, one problem - same article, last line, emphasis mine:

The two intelligence officials said that number has been whittled down to about 600 people in the United States who have been targeted for repeated surveillance since the Sept. 11 attacks.

Whittled down from what?
posted by Remy at 7:43 AM on February 7, 2006


Whittled down from the "hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears"" I cited in the FPP.
posted by digaman at 8:45 AM on February 7, 2006


" Umm ... there was electronics then?

yes!


posted by matteo at 9:59 AM on February 7, 2006


“presume that even if you would disagree, I don't have to document the lying, cheating, thieving, and assorted malfeasance.” -
posted by madamjujujive

Yeah. No contest there. I get what you were saying. The language was colorful. I’m just calling a spade a spade. Some folks on the other side use similar language and get called out on it. Only fair I thought to point out that folks everywhere do get frustrated.
My apologies for singling you out, I wasn’t claiming any high ground there. I think there are ample example of me flying off the handle.


“McVeigh took up arms against the government. How is your operation likely to work better than his did?” - flabdablet

I’m better trained. That and I’m well read. I have leadership skills, charisma, I think well on my feet, I’m utterly ruthless but compassionate and mindful of my goal. I’ve got a nice chunk of wealth and I have influence. I have friends who would eat bullets for me and who have small fortunes.
I also know how to plan and execute an operation within a greater strategy. McVeigh just blew up a building and killed innocent people. That’s not a strategy. Given 10 to 15 years of hard work I could get the ball rolling on a serious revolution. It wouldn’t be too hard to shorten that if I didn’t mind too much blood and making things much worse much faster. My only failing is motivation. I REALLY don’t want to have to do it. And I can think of a thousand ways to not have to. Particularly this early. Really, we just have to elect a bunch of Dems (it’s good to have balance anyway).
Taking potshots at the POTUS wouldn’t solve anything anyway. Not that it would be hard, but if doing that was all it took to change the course of the country, the country would be ripe for change anyway - so again, moot point. It’s not the man, it’s the idea(s) and policies. Heck of a lot harder to change, but much more appropriate.

Hopefully we come up with an idea as to the meaning of information storage in the context of civil liberties or this technology is going to seriously fuck us over.

It’s not that they can listen or that they can listen more - it’s the new sorting and storage technology absent human involvement that is the question.

The killing people thing is just silly (and speculative). But I suspect it’s a perspective indicative of commoditization (thinking of people and their movements/tasks/etc as data and a saleable commodity). From that point of view it’s a reasonable conclusion.

I agree with madamjujujive’s points on malfeasance. The question is - to what ends are those geared? What is the nature of the -for lack of a better term - disease that the various acts of malfeasance are a symptom of?
I think they’re getting nutty because you can store ass loads of data and sift through gigantic chunks of communication like never before and draw large scale social conclusions. Kinda like the census, except meaningful and real time. It would allow a greater degree of social engineering.
Right now no one has their hands on that set of invisible reins.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:29 AM on February 7, 2006


From that point of view it’s a reasonable conclusion.*
* to clarify - in the sense that one can make logical conclusions within a set of false premises.
The question of slavery - physical commoditization of human beings has, mostly, been settled.
Now it’s become an extended sort of question - health in the US is a commodity f’rinstance, yet it’s an integral part of physical humanity.
This is more of a question of intellectual property and what freedoms are at stake.

The argument, to my mind, hasn’t been framed yet. This stuff is just appetizers.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:38 AM on February 7, 2006


AllesKlar, you're very welcome. Glad someone looked at the linkls this far downthread!

Smedleyman, no need to apologize for singling me out, it didn't bother me a whit. I considered linking matter to all my "charges" to begin with, but I was too lazy. No offense was taken. *slaps Smedleyman 5*
posted by madamjujujive at 4:11 PM on February 7, 2006


Republican Who Oversees N.S.A. Calls for Wiretap Inquiry
posted by homunculus at 10:08 PM on February 7, 2006


"The President is now claiming, and is aggressively exercising, the right to use any and all war powers against American citizens even within the United States, and he insists that neither Congress nor the courts can do anything to stop him or even restrict him."
posted by homunculus at 12:38 PM on February 8, 2006


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