"How did it come to pass that an opposition's measure of a president's foreign policy was all or nothing, success or "failure"? The answer is that the political absolutism now normal in Washington arrived at the moment--Nov. 7, 2000--that our politics subordinated even a war against terror to seizing the office of the presidency." - Daniel Henninger - WSJ 11/18/05
"the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts." - George Orwell

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Alternate Universe

I got to Bill Bennett on the ride in this morning during his interview with Richard Perle, former Asst Sec Def and listened to them discussing Iran.

During the commercial break I switched over to Dr. Mike Newcomb on 1010 am (in Phoenix), Air America at which point he began a sound clip of former VP Al Gore sounding off about the evil Bush Administration and scary state of the nation; at the end of which Newcomb declared “incredible,” and so did I.

Two very different discussions/subjects, yet one and the same because of who inhabits the White House.

One discussing the facts on the ground on the subject of Iran; the other filled with paranoid rhetoric about an imagined rights abusing administration.

This isn’t news to anyone, but we have two very different views of our world today. One based upon fears and concerns about the real world, the other seemingly unwilling to view outside threats as real, which leads them to the more easily imagined internal threats that are simpler to process and solve, with their chosen Bush hatred and propaganda.

Where am I going with this? Good question. At the outset this morning I deleted what I had written about a NYT article I read yesterday, “Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends;" deleted because I didn’t have time to get more into it as I had wanted.

This morning I read an editorial in the NYT, whose subject, beyond Bush that is, was this very article. The editorial, "Spying on Ordinary Americans," takes the side of the argument that I had been concerned with, that being that the Bush Admin is “spying” and this article is proof. Well, the article isn’t the proof if you actually read it and consider everything. I do support the Bush Admin’s use of the NSA and honestly do believe (as some don’t), that if you haven’t done anything or aren’t involved in terrorism you have nothing to fear. Does this mean your name won’t come up on some NSA list that is passed onto the FBI? I have no idea but can see it happening.

However, that said, in all honesty how are my rights to privacy being impeded or stepped on? Am I now going to be harassed by the government? Not likely. Am I going to be questioned? Maybe, I don’t know. If questioned, will they be satisfied with my answers? I cannot imagine why not. Although, were I extremely paranoid and concerned about conspiracies regarding a fascist state, governed by the evil overlord Bush, then I imagine the story would not end there.

The editorial uses the article’s views as stated by “More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials” as “looking very different” than the governments claims. All the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the program is classified.” BUT NOT CLASSIFIED ENOUGH TO NOT BLAB ABOUT TO THE NYT

The editorialist(s) believes the White House, “has offered steadily weaker arguments to defend the decision to eavesdrop on Americans' telephone calls and e-mail without getting warrants” and that “the eavesdropping swept up vast quantities of Americans' private communications without any reasonable belief that they could be related to terrorism. The National Security Agency flooded the Federal Bureau of Investigation with thousands of names, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and other tips that virtually all led to dead ends or to innocent Americans.”

Yet one fear can be allayed, that being running innocent American people into secret prisons after “spying” on them since, "We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed."

This implies more of a frustrated viewpoint from field agents, doesn’t it? It also doesn’t offer evidence of an “invasion” of privacy, just “case closed.” So what, no rigid interrogation? No torture? No locking up of innocents? CASE CLOSED, NO INTERROGATIONS, TORTURE OR ARREST. Are you shaking in your boots yet?

All, according to the editorial that could be “dredged up” by the Administration is a “claim that the information it gained helped disrupt two plots: one to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge and one to detonate fertilizer bombs in London. But officials in Washington and Britain disputed the connection.”

"There were no imminent plots (active Al Qaeda networks), - not inside the United States," the former F.B.I. official said.

These officials “questioned the assertions” but did not outright deny any assistance it may have offered because they don’t really know, it is only their opinion.

To add: “Some of the officials said the eavesdropping program might have helped uncover people with ties to Al Qaeda in Albany; Portland, Ore.; and Minneapolis. Some of the activities involved recruitment, training or fund-raising.” They don’t know though, so I guess it should just be disregarded entirely. With the exception of selling papers, it’s probably a good thing these big mouths don’t know. It also has a begrudging tone to it, but that is probably just me.

In both cases, some officials said, “they had already learned of the plans through interrogation of prisoners or other means.” To which, I add “interrogations of prisoners or other means,” which may soon be near impossible. Do we then decide this helps in no way? Do we give up on technology that assists due to it’s possible imperfections?

The “officials” had as earlier mentioned, frustration "after you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything." More of a “waste of the F.B.I.'s resources in dangerous times”

However, “In response to the F.B.I. complaints, the N.S.A. eventually began ranking its tips on a three-point scale, with 3 being the highest priority and 1 the lowest, the officials said. Some tips were considered so hot that they were carried by hand to top F.B.I. officials.” However, this was, to the agents, considered "calls to Pizza Hut."

Even so, it should still be considered an attempt to improve the system or operation. I’m not so much concerned about gripes, as everyone gripes, however, the attitude of the editorial, article and agents is one of proof that we are being spied on and it’s also a complete and total waste of time. If these are such “dangerous times,” something needs to be ironed out, not callously tossed aside no matter how much the NYT seems to feel it is necessary.

“The views of some bureau officials about the value of the N.S.A.'s domestic surveillance offers a revealing glimpse of the difficulties law enforcement and intelligence agencies have had cooperating since Sept. 11.”

To me, the previous quote speaks more of oil and water trying to work together, which is all, the entire article is evidence of.

“Senior administration officials, suggest that drawing a clear link between a particular source and the unmasking of a potential terrorist is not always possible.” And is made all the more difficult when ignored and/or twisted by the media editorialists.

As Michael Chertoff, Homeland Security Secretary, said recently on “The Charlie Rose Show,” and quoted in the article “"I don't know that it's ever possible to attribute one strand of intelligence from a particular program." And "I can tell you in general the process of doing whatever you can do technologically to find out what is being said by a known terrorist to other people, and who that person is communicating with, that is without a doubt one of the critical tools we've used time and again."

My last point before wrapping this mess up, is that the article uses a lot of past tense, beginning with “In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks,” yet I can discern no mention of how things may be now. There is only the tie in from 9/11 and the oh so terrible, “domestic spying” angle.

To the NYT, the editorialist(s) and “secret” agents, “this was not just tragic; it was an outrageous and pointless intrusion into individuals' privacy.”

‘“Anyone who read the original reports on the spying operation and thought, “Well, so what, I have nothing to hide," should think about the uncounted innocent Americans who had F.B.I. officers knocking on their doors because of secret and possibly illegal surveillance.”’

It would appear that this editorialist’s definition of an invasion of “privacy” is a knock on the door. If we take a “right” to privacy this far, can we expect our government to do anything to protect us?

I guess it all depends upon what you are afraid of. If it’s the over zealous fascist state under Bush, then you cannot expect a “right” to privacy and had better go underground.

On the other hand, if your fear is the possibility of real, unimagined threats, you might just open that knocked upon door and find it isn’t so much an “invasion of privacy” and have your name scratched off that list as a “dead-end” lead.



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