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Willisms

« Quotational Therapy: Part 98 -- Howard Dean, On Gay Marriage. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 331 -- Majorities Matter. »

Data Collection Demagoguery

What do the liberals, Democrats and leftists fear about the NSA collecting information about domestic phone calls?

Clearly, it isn't a fear about the legality of the program. Whereas there is a colorable claim that the NSA wiretap program runs afoul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the Supreme Court case of Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735 (1979), tells us that the installation of a pen register on a private phone to record numbers dialed did not constitute a 'search', and that there is no expectation of privacy in the numbers you dial, or the information gathered by phone companies. Thus the program of collecting information about numbers dialed, as outlined by USA Today, is unquestionably legal.

Nor do they fear that the program will enable the Bush administration to listen in on the calls of its political opponents - this program collects information about calls, it does not record the conversations themselves, and so the utility of this program as a 'COINTELPRO' operation is nil.

So why are the Democrats so 'concerned' with furrowed brows now? It think Senator Diane Feinstein says it all in this quote:

I believe we are on our way to a major constitutional confrontation on Fourth Amendment guarantees of unreasonable search and seizure," Feinstein said. "I think this is also going to present a growing impediment to the confirmation of General Hayden. And that is very regretted.

Regretted? Feinstein is counting on it. She needs this confrontation to whip up the base into a frenzy for the coming elections this fall. Opposing, or even better, defeating the confirmation of Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden to be CIA chief is manna from heaven. It allows the Democrats to play the fear card among their goofiest-yet-wealthiest supporters, who will now open their checkbooks to fight the growing fascist Bush police state.

Senator Leahy of Vermont just comes out and says what is really going on:

Shame on us for being so far behind, and being so willing to rubber-stamp anything this administration does," Leahy said. "The Republican-controlled Congress refuses to ask questions, and so we have to pick up the paper to find out what is going on.

The mind just reels with the inane nature of this statement. It would require a Fisking-within-a-Fisking to fully parse its stupidity. What Leahy is saying here is that somehow the Senate is supposed to have a say over the President's implementation of completely legal intelligence gathering programs, thus violating the separation of powers doctrine, that "rubber-stamping" anything the Bush administration does is wrong (I guess daily obstruction of each and every thing the President tries to do is the proper Senatorial response, according to Leahy), and that such programs should be leaked to the press so the Senate can get its bearings. Notice how protecting the nation from terrorism fails to rear its ugly head in Leahy's analysis.

Does this demagoguery cause damage? Check out this response to CNN from one of the hoi polloi -

[Should the government monitor phone records?] Absolutely not. They should have to uphold the Constitution. Who is Bush to be above the law? He and the NSA should get a court order. There is no privacy with him in office. Shame on the Congress and Senate.Peggy Haworth, New Jersey

Peggy Haworth is a victim of fear based on ignorance, fed by Democratic demagogues who are indifferent to (or afraid of) the truth, building an unwitting fifth column for al-Qaeda right here at home.

Simply outrageous.

Posted by Ken McCracken · 12 May 2006 02:01 PM

Comments

Wizards first rule: People are stupid. They believe what they want to be true or fear to be true.

Posted by: Rob B. at May 12, 2006 02:18 PM

bush can torture or wiretap anyone he wants. it won't do anything. we have massive unprotected borders , which people regularly walk through and largely unsearched cargo at ports, where chinese are known to stowaway to get here. we are vulnerable and simply too big. a country like Israel can bui;d and man a wall effectively because it's like 5 centimeters around and has a few million people.


The fact is, the muslims have got us. They've figured out our weak point and it';s only a matter of time before they hit us again. they don't even NEED too. "waiting is the hardest part" as tom petty once taught us.

Does Sweden have programs like this? How about Zaire? iceland? why not? because they don't have thousands of troops in muslim countries and a president talking about "al aoptions are on the table". We can live without middle east oil.

The only issue we are presented with in the media is "do you want to have a totally unfettered consitution, or do you want to DIE BY A TERRORIST ATTACK?" is ridiculous. who would choose to DIE? that's so dumb. we can have both by isolating oursleves from the muslim world. Like Iceland!

Posted by: lester at May 12, 2006 05:19 PM

does sweden have a muslim problem ummm yes, iceland doesn't even have an army, and Zaire is Muslim. LOL

Posted by: christian at May 12, 2006 06:55 PM

"Thus the program of collecting information about numbers dialed, as outlined by USA Today, is unquestionably legal."

When I first heard about the program, I agreed.

Then I looked closely at the test case. Now I do question its legality, on what I think is a valid point. Simply put, the police already had reason to suspect Smith. In fact, if the facts given in section 1 of the case decision are correct, I'd say they were very close to having probable cause for a warrant, and I wonder why they didn't get one. Did they apply for one and the application was denied?

On top of that, the Smith case was one phone line, belonging to one person, whom the police already had reason to suspect. By contrast, NSA has no probable cause at all for 99.9% of the data it's collecting. I think that plus the issue of scale are enough to question whether the Smith precedent should apply. "Quantity," said a wise man once, "has a quality all its own."

Would-be repliers please note that I am merely asking the question, not giving any answer. I remain open to the possibility that the answer is "yes, the precedent applies." I'm also open to other arguments that defend the legality of the NSA program. I simply want to see an argument that takes the differences between the two cases seriously.

Posted by: wolfwalker at May 12, 2006 08:20 PM

hmmm... on reflection, I should've checked the source of that quote before using it -- the discovery that I was quoting a communist without realizing it is unpleasant, to say the least. I thought it came from an American general during WW2.

Posted by: wolfwalker at May 12, 2006 08:23 PM

I suppose the USNews phone records story this week and the breathless story about spying from space on Drudge this morning (from AP) are both complete accidents of timing, coming just as Hayden has to face the Kangaroo Court. I'm sure it was a complete accident. Really, put it out of your mind.

There are much more important things to worry about, such as American Idol, Britney Spears' next litter, and other stuff like that.

Posted by: bobdog at May 13, 2006 09:48 AM

Wolfwalker, the NSA does not need "probable cause" to do what is not a search or seizure to begin with.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at May 13, 2006 03:09 PM

It has always happened that draconian laws are brought in to combat a small minority of people in a society but end up being applied to the whole of the society. Unfortunately its a very slippery slope. So today people that support such laws may not support them tomorrow when they are being used against them.

Posted by: Kashmiri Nomad at May 14, 2006 07:01 AM

christian- Perhaps I should have used less random examples. My point is the "rights vs death" debate is a waste because the issue of why we are being targeted isn't being addressed.

Posted by: lester at May 14, 2006 07:18 AM

I have said it before -- the greatest strength of this country (its freedoms) is now its greatest weakness, and our enemies understand this. They understand that the Bill of Rights is the weapon that gains them access (physical and communicative) into this country, and that the ACLU and others will (wittiingly or not)protect that access.

Posted by: wavemaker at May 14, 2006 08:44 AM

wavemaker- so what do we do. all the ACLU does is enforce the bill of rights. either we get rid of the bill of rights or address the reason why we are being targeted by terrorists: our involvement in a part of the world where we aren't wanted. personally, I prefer the bill of righs but then I'm a patriot

Posted by: lester at May 14, 2006 10:41 AM

Why am I not surprised that the last sentence of the post accuses those that disagree as essentially supporting the terrorists.

So typical.

The heads of the judicial and intelligence committes (repubs) are also requesting a review of the program.

Though I did not agree with the post I thought it made a sound argument. Ironic that in the last sentence Ken shreds any chance of swaying my opinion by insinutating that those who disagree help the terrorist.

You are either with us or against us eh Ken?

Posted by: patrick at May 15, 2006 01:57 PM

Why am I not surprised that the last sentence of the post accuses those that disagree as essentially supporting the terrorists.

So typical.

The heads of the judicial and intelligence committes (repubs) are also requesting a review of the program.

Though I did not agree with the post I thought it made a sound argument. Ironic that in the last sentence Ken shreds any chance of swaying my opinion by insinutating that those who disagree help the terrorist.

You are either with us or against us eh Ken?

Posted by: patrick at May 15, 2006 01:59 PM