Some Questions About Eavesdropping

|

The New York Times story about the warrantless eavesdropping that's been going on for several years now prompted a couple questions. (Beyond the obvious, and strictly rhetorical, "Don't they even pretend to care about civil liberties anymore?")

First, why on earth did the Times, apparently at the Bush administration's request, sit on this story for a full year? The supposed reason for the request is that the revelation would threaten national security by tipping off terrorists. But… about what? About the fact that the government is seeking to wiretap suspected terrorist? To whom does this come as news? We all know law enforcement can get secret wiretap warrants through a FISA court; the only reason to expect terrorists to change their behavior now that they know wiretaps are happening without warrants is if we think they've somehow broached the secrecy of the FISA courts. That seems unlikely—at any rate, unlikely to have been known about and still persisted for several years. So what kind of plausible difference to our national security could it make if terror suspects who know they might be targeted for eavesdropping with a warrant learn they might be targeted without one? Whatever the issue was, what changed? What did the Times uncover in its year of further investigation that led editors to believe the time was now ripe for publication? Or to put it the other way: I understand why a paper might want to hold off on a story when the government says it worries it might be a security threat, but if, as it seems, they ultimately decided they could publish with a clear conscience, why did it take so long to make that determination? (Tangentially related: I note with some amusement Mark Levin's complaint at The Corner that he "cannot remember the last time, or first time, this newspaper reported a leak that was helpful to our war effort." That's because, as a rule, puff stories about how very swimmingly that effort is going don't need to be "leaked": As we've recently learned, the government is so happy to have them printed it'll pay for the privilege.)

A second, slightly more abstract question is what, exactly, counts as an "international" communication these days. Previously, we're told, the NSA had only spied on wholly foreign conversations. They still (say they) don't do any wholly domestic surveillance. What's new is the intereception of phone calls and e-mails where one party is based in the U.S. and the other overseas. Except… how do we know? I check the same account whether I'm sitting in D.C. or Madrid—and I can't say I'm wholly sure I know where the servers that store my e-mail are located, though I think they're all in the U.S., though I might just as easily, from D.C., read an e-mail from my nextdoor neighbor routed through an account on a server in Madrid. The growth of Internet-based telephone services like Vonage means that the same is increasingly true of voice converrsations as well. Matt Welch is in Prague right now, but if I wanted to reach him on his Vonage phone, I'd dial a number with a California area code. Presumably the converse might be true as well: I might call an international number to reach someone staying in a hotel across town. Which of these various communications would the NSA feel at liberty to listen in on?

NEXT: Detlev Mehlis Has No Doubts

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. VoIP was hardly on anyone’s radar when this order was written in 2002, so it’s likely that the order doesn’t address it. I would speculate that such surveillance would be based on the terminating phone number or e-mail address, without specific guidance to the contrary.

    I’ve been covering this story closely since becoming aware of it, and I seem to have a few details that people are confused on, such as that this order only applied to communications originating within the U.S. and going overseas. Communications that originated overseas and terminated in the U.S. were already being monitored — generally without warrants — prior to this order.

    In any event, your communication wouldn’t be recorded unless the number you called or the number you were calling from was on the list of targeted numbers. At least, that’s what they tell me.

  2. Let’s help that audio-voyeur GeoBush along, shall we??
    At 1930 hrs. in each and every time zone phone a friend and mention some activist, terrorist, or broccoli farmer by name. That’ll keep the listless listeners at NSA on their toes.

  3. This is Amerika, one is able to abhor the gov’t as much as one likes?

    Howl!

    Lenny Bruce!

    Hope to not see “you” in our part of Cuba.

    What export (import) does Bush let go to Cuba?….

  4. Which of these various communications would the NSA feel at liberty to listen in on?

    All of them, of course. Our anti-terrorism efforts of the past few years have already shown themselves incapable of distinguishing between, say, a Muslim and a Sikh; I’m sure they find the name “Sanchez” suspicious as well.

    In all seriousness, though–I’ve been reading some comment boards today (this is the only one where I actually comment, but I lurk elsewhere) and a lot of Bush supporters STILL support him. Christ! What does it TAKE? At this point, the administration could come out and say “Bin Laden is innocent, and 9-11 was an inside job we pulled solely to inflate the value of Halliburton stock” and people would STILL stand by him, and accuse his critics of helping the same damned terorists who brought down the World Trade Center.

  5. Beyond the obvious, and strictly rhetorical, “Don’t they even pretend to care about civil liberties anymore?

    The obvious, and increasingly rhetorical question to my mind is, “Don’t we even pretend to care about civil liberties anymore?”

    Jennifer,
    You sound surprised.

  6. Jennifer, You sound surprised.

    I think I am. I hope I don’t lose too much of my cynical-misanthrope street cred by saying this, but I suppose I thought, on some level, that most Bush supporters were at least sincere. Deluded, but sincere.

    By the way, has anyone been able to verify the story that Bush recently called the Constitution “A goddamned piece of paper”?

  7. Jennifer, all it would take would be for Bush to switch parties to the Democrats. Nothing more (or less) would do. At that point all his (current) supporters would begin viciously attacking him, while nearly all his current opponents would be instantly transformed into blind and enthusiastic supporters.

  8. In Bushspeak, “national security” means “my ass.”

    Example: “Revealing this tactic is harmful to national security.”

  9. Which of these various communications would the NSA feel at liberty to listen in on?

    It seems to me that it’s people, rather than communications, that are protected by the Fourth Amendment. …and I don’t think Americans lose their Fourth Amendment protections when they go outside our borders.

    I read something today suggesting that when someone in a foreign country is calling someone in America, intelligence only listens to the foreign side of the conversation. …but I imagine something like a telephone “plain view” rule might apply well here. …Yes, I know, there’s nothing “plain view” about a phone call, but if an international caller says something suspicious in a conversation that’s already being monitored, that should constitute probable cause, no?

    I wonder if it has ever happened that a judge denied a warrant because whatever evidence our intelligence had was insufficient for purposes of establishing probable cause. I’m trying to imagine what that kind of evidence would have to look like; it would have to be strong enough to make a suspect suspicious to investigators but too weak to establish probable cause in a secret court.

    I don’t think we need any new procedures here; I think the Bush Administration just threw the Constitution out the window. It’s a secret court! Why not go for freakin’ warrant?

    …I’m guessin’ Sanchez is right and they just don’t care enough about our civil liberties to even pretend anymore.

  10. By the way, has anyone been able to verify the story that Bush recently called the Constitution “A goddamned piece of paper”?

    Verify, I don’t know… but talk about it, yes.

    Bush and That “Piece of Paper”

  11. Jennifer, I have not been able to verify the quote, but I have been able to determine that some Senate staffer typed it into Google and arrived at my site this week.

  12. Addendum. I’ve been able to confirm that someone in the White House searched Google for the constitution is a **** piece of paper quote last night, arriving at my site. They got the quote wrong, though, having searched for “The constitution is just another piece of paper: President Bush”.

  13. Julian, your post mentions an issue I’ve have been pondering since this story broke. A little more than a half hour before you posted this bit, I sent an email to one of my Bush-apologist friends (yes, I keep bad company). It asked, in pertinent part:

    >>Since you are known to the troll the squalid areas of the internet and printed press where the excuse-George W. Bush-at-all-costs crowd go to jerk off (I’d go myself, but my gag reflex is too refined, I’m afraid), have you seen anything from them that tries to explain the latest revelation of another of his “King George” moments?

    As I understand it, there is this near-kangaroo court called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that will rubber stamp just about anything any arguably sane President, not obviously acting out of megalomania, asks of them. Why then, in heavens name, did Georgie have to have another ipse dixit spell here? Or have I already answered my own question?

  14. “First, why on earth did the Times, apparently at the Bush administration’s request, sit on this story for a full year?”

    Perhaps that’s how long it took James Risen and Eric Lichtblau to locate and dispose of the secret wiretaps that had been placed in their apartments?

    /just askin’

  15. It’ll be fun to see who Bush pardons on the way out the door as well as what he pardons them for.

  16. Beyond the obvious, and strictly rhetorical, “Don’t they even pretend to care about civil liberties anymore?
    The obvious, and increasingly rhetorical question to my mind is, “Don’t we even pretend to care about civil liberties anymore?”
    Comment by: Warren at December 17, 2005 07:32 PM

    By the way, has anyone been able to verify the story that Bush recently called the Constitution “A goddamned piece of paper”?
    Posted by Jennifer at December 17, 2005 07:38 PM

    Pop quiz.

    Who said “[T]he fact that something is mentioned in the Constitution doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a fundamental civil liberty.

    Answer here.

  17. “(Tangentially related: I note with some amusement Mark Levin’s complaint at The Corner that he “cannot remember the last time, or first time, this newspaper reported a leak that was helpful to our war effort.” That’s because, as a rule, puff stories about how very swimmingly that effort is going don’t need to be “leaked”: As we’ve recently learned, the government is so happy to have them printed it’ll pay for the privilege.)”

    Owwwww! Levin’s bleeding from a gaping rhetorical wound, and seems unlikely to last the night.

    Excellent use of sharp gutting knives, Julian.

  18. Julian:

    Why now? Use Occam’s Razor:

    Risen has a book to sell.

  19. I dunno if terrorists have breached the security of the FISA court. I’m just waiting for terrorists to breach the security of the secret CIA prisons.

    Alexis, Andre, I suggest you guys get cracking on this. Daddy is tired of sitting in a prison cell.

  20. Homeland Stupidity,
    “I have been able to determine that some Senate staffer typed it into Google and arrived at my site this week.”
    How did you find that out?

  21. Hmm…

    Didn’t we have some elections about a year ago? Maybe the Times was gun-shy, and didn’t want to appear to be taking an election away from Bush.

    Or maybe they didn’t want Bush to lose.

    I’m taking my tinfoil hat off now.

  22. Well, at least he hasn’t had sex with any interns…that’ll get ya impeached.

    Sorry, just wanted to be the first to make that joke.

  23. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say that the fact that this story was delayed indicates it was being used as a bargaining chip in an interagency squabble between the NSA and DOD. Politically speaking, things that are true are revealed proportional to the amount of harm they could do to the original perpetrators after the fact.

    But I don’t need to be a conspiracy theorist. I’ve got Occam’s Razor. With stories like these, it’s much simpler to let other people turn fiction into fact:

    1. The Pentagon plants news propaganda in Iraqi newspapers.

    2. Republican Party fundraiser Jack Abrahamoff is indicted for fraud and conspiracy, not the least of which was his ethical lapse when he paid writers to plant stories in US news outlets.

    3. Doug Bandow, Cato Institute fellow and Libertarian, resigns and is suspended from Copley News Service after admitting to accepting money from Abrahamoff. http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/051217/columnist_suspended.html?.v=1

    I’ve met Bandow twice. Once at a conference on Religion and Economics at Grove City College (with ties to George Mason Uni), and once at an Acton Institute conference in North Bend, Washington.

    I remember thinking that he had an interesting presentation, but much of his material was canned from previous speeches. While it sparkled, it was obviously a hack job.

    And now he’s toasted his career, for what? Will he get paid handsomely for being a fall guy? Will he be trying to rehabilitate himself on the speaker’s circuit?

    But, of course, you won’t hear any of that at Reason Magazine. Unbiased libertarianism and such. Provocative, my ass.

    So one answer to your question, Julian, is that it’s apparently ethically acceptable to spy on ephemeral communication (like speech, email, websites), but once you commit something to a hardcopy that falls irrefutably within national boundaries (like newspapers, wire services, or your printer), you have to get your ducks in a row.

    Getting one’s ducks in a row apparently took the TIMES a whole year. It was a big story, and people needed some space to create plausible deniability.

    After all, it’s not that the permanence of print media is at stake once the story is “set in stone.” It’s that tangible forms of information like newspapers are a two-way street: they may be harder to publicly distribute, but they also make it more difficult to erase links between news media, government intelligence gathering, and other forms of political manipulation.

    Bandow, Abrahamoff, and the Pentagon’s GI-journalism all suffered because they were under pressure to produce results without failure. They present us with three separate but interrelated lessons in peer-to-peer networking and content development in the Internet Age. And that’s your lesson in freedom, political fortune, and hypocrisy for today, my friends.

  24. Well, Joe, it’s a good thing you’re not a conspiracy theorist. ; )

  25. Joe I read it twice. What the hell are you trying to say?

  26. I don’t know what he’s saying, either, but he does remind me that Reason and H&R have yet to mention the Bandow clusterfuck, which strikes me as exceedingly odd.

  27. How long has the Bandow deal been public anyway?

  28. Look closely at his family tree. Frankly, I was expecting things to be worse by now.

  29. Yeah, I’ve dropped by the past two days expecting to see something about Bandow, but nothing’s been posted. Odd.

  30. Well, at least he hasn’t had sex with any interns…that’ll get ya impeached.

    Sorry, just wanted to be the first to make that joke.

    God that’s depressing.

  31. Deregulator: Counterpunch.org made the same point about Risen pimping a new book and made the connection with Judith Miller filling the NYT with breathless WMD-porn to pimp her book back in the innocent, hopeful days preceding the Iraq invasion.

    Risen, incidentally, didn’t wait a whole year to smear Wen Ho Lee when that man was (falsely) accused of stealing nuclear secrets for the Chinese. He and his collaborator rushed into print with FBI leaks intended to create a witch-hunt atmosphere around the case. Lee was ruined and spent 278 days in solitary confinement before he was able to prove his innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.

  32. In any event, your communication wouldn’t be recorded unless the number you called or the number you were calling from was on the list of targeted numbers

    Baloney.

    ECHELON: It’s not just for Christmas anymore.

  33. Julian did say in a previous thread that a story about Bandow was in the works.

    Meanwhile, Bush is being petulant and unrepentant:

    From AP via Yahoo:
    Often appearing angry in an eight-minute address, the president made clear he has no intention of halting his authorizations of the monitoring activities and said public disclosure of the program by the news media had endangered Americans.

  34. First the Pentagon admits to planting stories in the Arab Press, then we hear allegation that they routinely spied on domestic war protesters, and that the White House, after protesting the use of the word “gulag” to describe Gitmo, apparently decided to set one up for real in Europe. And what does the Senate decide to focus on? Flag Burning! And despite that and the obsequious FISA courts, Bush still felt the need to keep this secret. This reveals an obsession with control and secrecy that rivals the Nixon administration. And that’s not surprising considering that Bush already has picked up all of LBJ’s bad habits. Now I’m just waiting for when he decides the necessity of price controls.

  35. One of the government justifications that have been thrown up around this case is the claim that “we discovered that Mohammed Atta was communicating with people in San Diego.”

    Last I checked, both Florida and San Diego were in the US. Which means that it is legal for the FBI to listen in, given a FISA warrant.

    The really dumb thing about this, as pointed out by Napolitano on Faux News is that it is stunningly easy to get a warrant to do these things. The decision to go against the Constitution and cut judges out of the process seems to be mainly lazy or dumb, as opposed to nefarious.

  36. ….it was only a matter of time before the vast technical surveillance capabilities of the NSA were turned against the domestic citizenry. Power corrupts. If you build it — they will use it.

    If Bush didn’t use all the nifty surveillance toys at his disposal — some other president or bureaucrat would.
    It’s likely that NSA has been engaged in this domestic stuff for decades… although at a lower, more discreet level.

    The ‘Rule-of-Law’ has proven a very weak defender of American citizens against their government rulers.

  37. You know what would be sad? What if the terrorists were actually dumb enough to think that their conversations couldn’t be monitored, and then they got tipped off? So they only changed their method of communication after reading about this in the NYT.

    Because most terrorists are naive folks who think that Uncle Sam would never, ever spy on people on US soil. Most terrorists trust that Uncle Sam dutifully obeys the rule of law, and they are probably just as shocked as the rest of us when they learn otherwise.

  38. In other words, most terrorists as are stupid as Democrats or Republicans when a member of their party is in the White House. Remember the heady days of the 1990’s, when conservatives complained about jack-booted thugs while Democrats insisted that we can trust the government to always act properly?

  39. Well, at least he hasn’t had sex with any interns…that’ll get ya impeached.

    Dang it, Jonny Clarke, you beat me to it.

  40. Given everything that we know right now about torture, secret prisons, detentions without trial, and spying on US citizens, how many people here will vote for divided government in the next election?

    Yeah, I know, most people here didn’t vote for divided government in 2004 (in my defense, none of the elections were competitive in California so I knew a vote for the LP would be safe). But given what you know now, how many people here still think that solid GOP control of the government is the best way to secure our liberty?

    And yeah, joe and M1EK and others can point out that we already knew a lot of this in 2004, so even then there was no excuse. True as that might be, even more is known now.

  41. Homeland Stupidity, “I have been able to determine that some Senate staffer typed it into Google and arrived at my site this week.”
    How did you find that out?

    If you click on the odd-looking square in the lower left-hand corner of Reason.com, you can see who is visiting this site…

    Site Meter

  42. Well, at least he hasn’t had sex with any interns…that’ll get ya impeached.
    Sorry, just wanted to be the first to make that joke.
    Comment by: Johnny Clarke at December 17, 2005 10:52 PM

    Well, at least he hasn’t had sex with any interns…that’ll get ya impeached.
    Dang it, Jonny Clarke, you beat me to it.
    Comment by: Ryan at December 18, 2005 09:07 AM

    *sigh*

    Here we go again. The idea that Clinton impeachment was “just about sex” is simply an urban myth put forth by those who claim to see the nuanced details of any issue (unlike that simple cowboy), yet somehow manage to reduce everything to a simple bumper sticker slogan, such as “It was just about sex.”

    License to Grill
    How the Clintons invited Ken Starr into their private lives.
    By Virginia Postrel
    Reason April 1998

    [snip]

    Nonetheless, Clinton does not deserve his current round of legal troubles. To be publicly humiliated as a moral weakling, lacking both judgment and self-control–that he deserves. To be distrusted by both intimates and the general public–he deserves that too. But for sexual pecadillos and routine lies to lead to possible high crimes and misdemeanors takes more than just Clinton’s personal flaws. It takes very bad policy.

    There is one sense in which the president deserves what has happened to him: He and his political allies are the people who made it possible, who created the legal mechanisms by which his private life became a matter of public, legal record. In that bitter irony lies the one hopeful aspect of L’Affaire Monica. It may, finally, create a consensus to rein in legal excesses that threaten not just Bill Clinton but the liberties of all Americans. But if Republicans are seduced by scandal and Democrats by dreams of vengeance, it may make matters worse.

    [snip]

    The vast expansion of criminal law–something the president failed to bring up in his State of the Union address, lest it undercut his shrinking-government lie–is among the most important, and most threatening, trends of recent years. But Monicagate is not built on criminal law. It arises from the expansion of a civil offense: sexual harassment.

    Media-savvy but legally unsophisticated liberal commentators, such as radio talk show host Tom Leykis, make a passionate, and fairly persuasive, argument about Clinton’s presumed affair: It may be bad, but it’s a private matter. It’s between Bill, Hillary, and Monica. It’s none of our business. It certainly doesn’t belong in court. “Why are we asking questions about the president’s sex life?” asks Leykis. “Why is that relevant to anything? Why should the president be put in a position of having to lie about something that’s none of our business in the first place?”

    Why indeed? The tempting answer is, Because you asked for it. Demanded it. Screamed and yelled and waxed indignant. You dedicated the 1992 Democratic National Convention to the cause. Remember “The Year of the Woman”? It was a media frenzy. And the number one agenda item was a ban on any hint of sexuality in the workplace.

    Writing cheap symbolism into real law is a dangerous thing to do. But Congress did it in 1994. Ratifying the view that sexual harassment is too serious a matter to be governed by normal legal constraints, the very same Democratic Congress that reauthorized the Independent Counsel statute rewrote the rules of evidence. The new rules allow a defendant’s sexual history–not just previous allegations of harassment–to be dragged into sexual harassment suits. (The plaintiff’s history, however, was made inadmissable.)

    So the president of the United States can be asked, under oath, about his sex life. It doesn’t matter if the sex was consensual or even if the woman made the first move. It doesn’t have to be harassment; indeed, no one claims anything of the kind in the Lewinsky case. But Congress chose to make every intimate detail fair game. And if, like many a cheating spouse, the president lies to cover up adultery, he is guilty of a serious crime–perjury, a potentially impeachable offense.

  43. Disclaimer: Please do not construe what follows as any support for the NY Times’ actions.

    Thoreau, al Queda has pulled some technologically ignorant stunts in the past. I believe one of their cells operating in Pakistan was rolled up because we intercepted all their cell-phone communications. Apparently they thought that if they kept swapping the SIM cards between phones nobody would be able to trace them. Kind of like swapping cars but driving with the same EZPass transponder.

  44. Jennifer asks what would it take to make a Bush supporter oppose him, or dislike him.

    And that’s not surprising considering that Bush already has picked up all of LBJ’s bad habits. Now I’m just waiting for when he decides the necessity of price controls.

    That would do it for me. Price controls, raise taxes, or propose gun control legislation would do it for me.

  45. Nobody important mentions the falsety of the “it was just a blow job” crap.

    If it was just a sex act, it would be that he raped Juanita Broderic.

    If it was about sexual harrassment, it would be about signing a law for all Americans to have to follow and thinking he was exempt.

    It ended up being about perjury relevant to sexaual harrassment. Can a president purjur himself relevant to a sexual harrasment case? speak up there liberals.

  46. It ended up being about perjury relevant to sexaual harrassment. Can a president purjur himself relevant to a sexual harrasment case?

  47. Or publicly acknowledging that he illegally spied on American citizens, and then saying that he intends to continue the program!

    Can that get you impeached?

  48. Lying to start a war?

  49. Sorry, my previous post seemed clearer to me before the coffee kicked in. I’ve been up all night working on programming spreadsheet code, so I’m a little logey.

    My first point was that manipulation of media occurs on all sides of the fence, and that this manipulation is usually to protect self-interest. Media-use is simply a battleground to strategically expose someone else’s weakness. This seems obvious (even without my sarcasm).

    My second point was that the planted stories we hear about are the result of ineptitude which ultimately comes down to basic human weakness.

    People make mistakes. And they make big mistakes when their personal beliefs are too brittle to allow the admission of weakness. This point can be extended further, because there is little to distinguish international behavior from domestic and personal behavior when it comes to partisan-driven policy that is rigidly in lock-step.

    The third point was that because ephemeral media doesn’t exist in a tangible form (except for media storage, which itself can be also easily modified), the tendency is to dismiss the utility of such media as outside the governance of typical social and ethical behavior.

    It is possible to dismiss concerns about abuse as a victimless crime, since perfect anonymity and perfect surveillance would specifically preclude the victim knowing who is abusing authority anyway.

    The irony is that the illusion of freedom is much more readily obtained when covert intelligence is able to manipulate without detection. The net result would be absolutely no distinguishable effect from real freedom. The crime doesn’t exist if you can’t detect it.

    The ability to DETECT or to be made undeniably aware of manipulation is what has become distasteful to many people, not the actual breach of privacy and public trust. This seems to me to be dangerously amoral.

    To ask what has changed to allow a one-year story to be published, is to ask the wrong question. That’s a question of detection. A better question would be to ask how the story itself became delayed by the fact that the public probably wouldn’t believe the truth of this story a year ago.

    But that was before the hurricane Katrina debacle.
    Before the debate about whether torture is a really, really, really bad thing?
    Before CIA prisons.
    Before the stories of Presidental hissy-fits over having to obey the Constitution.

    In the Internet Age, the relative delay or acceleration of information distribution may serve someone’s interests, or provoke mistrust, when in reality a need for accuracy slows down and tempers the process, whether or not the process is transparent.

    And information accuracy itself is the result of people determining the clarity of their social network: e.g. can I really trust what I learn from others, if I don’t know how other people value my own input?

    Under pressure, people try to cheat. They pretend to be better than they really are. They are usually only sorry to get caught. My question: is it really worth it to compromise personal quality of character and disciplined thought for the sake of shifting public attention? In the short-run, perhaps.

    I had previously omitted mentioning that Bandow (he once reminded me that his name is pronounced Bon-doh) was reputed to be an evangelical Christian. The reason I omitted it was that it seemed an attack upon personal belief. The point is that this personal belief appears to be in direct contradiction to what evangelical Christianity purports to be. Hence, hypocrisy. Just like the President, I guess.

    Politics, contemporary covert opinion-shaping, and ideological self-interest go together. Is it going to far to suggest that forthright exposure of a person’s true nature is much less damaging than any attempt to deny, ignore, or rationalize a person’s behavior?

    If George Bush is an idiot, then the Republicans should admit it. Openly. They won’t because the evanglical base won’t allow it and are in denial about the fact that they were tricked into supporting a person who is not really a Christian, but an opportunizer. Just like lots of evangelicals. And the Republican moral agenda will collapse, taking the policy agenda along with it.

  50. “…but he does remind me that Reason and H&R have yet to mention the Bandow clusterfuck, which strikes me as exceedingly odd.

    Comment by: henry at December 17, 2005 11:43 PM

    How long has the Bandow deal been public anyway?

    Comment by: Ken Shultz at December 18, 2005 12:02 AM

    Yeah, I’ve dropped by the past two days expecting to see something about Bandow, but nothing’s been posted. Odd.

    Comment by: Peanut at December 18, 2005 12:47 AM”

    You mean the magazine that published Ron Bailey’s little ode to the Northern Mariannas, a couple days after Mr. Bailey returned from a Jack Abramoff-funded junket to the islands?

    I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    BTW, can anyone confirm or deny that Bailety has been subpoenaed in the Abramoff/Delay investigation?

  51. That would do it for me. Price controls, raise taxes, or propose gun control legislation would do it for me.

    Comment by: kwais at December 18, 2005 10:24 AM

    It’s nice to know you can be bought off so easily. Anything but touching those things that would hurt your social status in regard to money. Your guns are useless against the government, or didn’t you ever hear of Ruby Ridge or Waco? Ah, but then again, you’re probably only concerned with protecting your ass from the liberals who’ll come to lynch you when the revolution comes?

  52. To repeat what dead_elvis said: Julian mentioned in another thread that they will do something on Bandow in the future.

  53. In all seriousness, though–I’ve been reading some comment boards today (this is the only one where I actually comment, but I lurk elsewhere) and a lot of Bush supporters STILL support him.

    What do you expect from the generation that gave us public education?

  54. Taxes: If they own your money, they own you, what difference does it make that they are listening to you?

    Gun Control: If you can’t defend yourself you are livestock. Once again, at that point whether they are listening to you or not is incidental.

    My filosofy for a while has been to act as though everything I say online, or over the phone is being listened to. (most likely it actually is, I have actually confirmed this).

    The fact that you have to pay taxes on money earned when outside of the country says that you are property of the community (or government). To me that is a big deal. Whether or not some government agency is paying to put articles in a news paper, or whether they have in fact admitted to listening to citizens talk re-terrorism, instead of re-drug trafficing is really the smallest of all small potatoes in the big scheme of things.

  55. My other philosophy is mainly about not spell checking my work.

  56. To me the biggest crime GW has committed as of yet is the TSA. Homeland security I consider more of a bungle than a crime. Maybe, that was on purpose to save people from the false notion that salvation comes in the form of a government agency.

    And why would liberals be coming to lynch me, besides of course my spelling?

  57. GWB’s biggest crimes so far, in order of the graveness of their peril to democracy:

    1) Tacit suspension of Habeus Corpus
    2) Sponsorship of vague and expansive war powers resolution
    3) NSA illegal spying on US citizens w/o FISA approval
    4) Creation of secret CIA prisons
    5) Imposition of unprecedented governmental secrecy
    6) Deceitful promulgation and incompetent execution of war


    387) Creation of TSA

  58. Randy Ayn, the IRS was on your #1 for all Americans long before this president came into office.

    #2 He asked Congress for authority and they gave it to him, even thought the war with Iraq hadn’t actually ended.

    #3 DEA, NSA whatever. At least the NSA is looking for foreign bad guys. Even if it is our fault for provoking them.

    #4 Secret CIA prison/ Public CIA prisons, whatever.

    #5 OK, I’ll take that one as a #5 also.

    #6 Neither decietful nor incompetent.

    #387, well your #387 is still my #1

  59. Disclaimer: I don’t think the warrentless wiretaps are ok. That said:
    One explaination I have heard for this is that when the NSA is monitering a call overseas and the call patches in a number from the US (some sort of terrorist conference call, I guess), there isn’t time to see a judge to obtain a FISA warrent, and in the interest of expediency they were authorized to listen in to the domestic side of those conversations without a warrent. Of course, this is from Charles Krauthammer, so take it with a dumptruck full of salt.

    Does this seem like a legitimate excuse, or a CYA kind of statement? I don’t know – I also think that it is hard to get most people to care about this issue. It’s hard to understand that there are all these spy agencies, and some aren’t allowed to listen to what people in the US are saying. I think the result will probably be a call for a central spy agency that does all intelligence work and a central LEO agency that kills people. Minipax and Miniluv, right?

  60. Also, I’d love to be able to cover my every mistake and deceit at school and work by shouting “You’re damaging national security! 9/11! Rrrrargh! Hulk smash!”

  61. This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. . . . Yesterday [Friday] the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk… – Bush radio address

    And by “our enemies,” he means Russ Feingold, most of the commenters here, and the ACLU? Because, tarran’s objection re: technological blunders notwithstanding (hell – they were trying to avoid being listened to), it really seems that all of the terrorists would operate under the presumption that they were being listened to. Pre-PATRIOT, pre-Fuck The Constitution, pre-9/11, terrorists were careful on the phone. The 9/11 commission report is full of post-disaster broken codes and transmissions.

    Where the hell’s Bob Barr when we need him?

    And for anybody who gives a shit, just a historical note, the Bill of Rights was ratified 214 years ago this past week – December 15, 1791.

    Oh yeah – and this is the shitbag we’re supposed to entrust with nominating a “strict constructionist” to the Supreme Court?

    And how about that argument presented by the Administration that they informed Congress? First of all, where the hell were the Congressional Dems to scream bloody murder about this? Did they only tell majority members, or were the Democrats in collusion? And second of all, we have THREE branches of government. Making backroom deals between two to violate the rights of the citizenry while excluding the third branch sure as hell seems to undermine checks and balances.

    If Bush had ever taken a goddamned history class in his life, maybe he’d know what “checks and balances” are.

    And I’m game for thoreau’s divided gov’t 2006 project. Divided government, fuck yeah!

    And if this isn’t impeachable, I don’t know what the hell might possibly be.

  62. And for anybody who gives a shit, just a historical note, the Bill of Rights was ratified 214 years ago this past week – December 15, 1791.

    Good point. December 15 should be a national holiday.

    Oh yeah – and this is the shitbag we’re supposed to entrust with nominating a “strict constructionist” to the Supreme Court?

    Exactly.

    And I’m game for thoreau’s divided gov’t 2006 project. Divided government, fuck yeah!

    The primaries start in a few months. Time to get involved and work to nominate the least noxious people from each party. Little might come of it, but better to at least try. This way, when our children are being branded with microchips, we can tell them that we at least tried.

  63. I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    I expect people on the same team to circle the wagons when they’re under attack regardless of whether the attack is warranted.

    …and then again. Welch seems to take point on journalist watch and he’s traveling, as I understand. I believe Cavanaugh is traveling too. In fact, there are a lot of people slowin’ down for the holidays. I’ve often thought Hit & Run was slow to post on items I think should get a thread–sometimes they show up late; sometimes they don’t show up at all. Regardless, I’m not sure Hit & Run is obligated to provide a forum for liberty’s enemies to T-off on liberty’s champions.

    …although sometimes that’s what they choose to do. So hit ’em with a suggestion if that’s what you want to see. I’ve found that when I send staff an e-mail worth responding to, they usually respond.

  64. [“…there isn’t time to see a judge to obtain a FISA warrant..”]
    |

    …that’s the phony excuse proffered; however, the real reason for skipping the FISA “Court” is the fundamental incompatibility between the technical methods of NSA collection… and the judicial/legal view of search warrants.

    American courts insist on knowing who & what the cops are after ‘before’ issuing a warrant…. but NSA collections are generally blind — only filtering-out specific useful data ‘after’ their dragnet searches.
    The courts (…and 4th Amendment) forbid searching 99 innocent persons, just to get evidence against the 100th ‘guilty’ person.

    The technological marvel of NSA is that it is a huge ‘vacuum-cleaner’ of electronic communications — it sucks in discrete communications by the thousands & millions… and only ‘afterwards’ sifts out useful stuff with vast computer analysis systems — tossing out 99% of what it gathers.
    {..see: “The Puzzle Palace : Inside America’s Most Secret Intelligence Organization” by James Bamford}

    Thus, NSA methods and normal, targeted judicial search-warrants do not mesh– so, skipping the warrant requirement entirely is quite logical
    (…but of course a felony).

  65. kwais,
    I wasn’t aware that the IRS had claimed to have the power to secretly detain US citizens without recourse to the legal system.

    But I get your point on #4, any kind of CIA prison is a travesty of justice.

  66. Where the hell’s Bob Barr when we need him?

    Like every other decent Republican either left Congress or been marginalized by the Bush/Delay* machine. How much influence does Ron Paul have?

    If Bush had ever taken a goddamned history class in his life, maybe he’d know what “checks and balances” are.

    I’m under the impression that Bush was a history major at Yale. I wonder what country’s history he studied. It sure doesn’t seem to have been ours.

    *One of the rare good signs are some upstart Repub reps rebelling and wanting to elect a new majority leader and get rid of Delay whether he’s convicted or not.

  67. If Bush had ever taken a goddamned history class in his life, maybe he’d know what “checks and balances” are.

    Assuming, of course, that he would actually care. I don’t think he would. Even if he didn’t actually say “Stop waving the Constitution in my face; it’s just a goddamned piece of paper,” he’s done nothing to make me believe he gives a rat’s ass about any aspect of the Constitution.

    So he’s in direct violation of his oath to uphold the Constitution, yet the same people who insisted we had to impeach Clinton lest the Constitution take a severe blow (pun not intended) will no doubt wave this one away, too.

    Who wants to bet that when the President gives his speech tonight he says that he did this all to keep us safe, and it’s for our own good, and he did nothing wrong and he’s not hurting anyone’s civil liberties and if you think otherwise you’re harming America?

    And I would suggest you play the drinking game where you down a shot every time he says “9-11” or “terrorist,” but you’d probably die of alcohol poisoning if you tried.

  68. One explaination I have heard for this is that when the NSA is monitering a call overseas and the call patches in a number from the US (some sort of terrorist conference call, I guess), there isn’t time to see a judge to obtain a FISA warrent, and in the interest of expediency they were authorized to listen in to the domestic side of those conversations without a warrent.

    If that’s what Krauthammer said, he’s either lying or getting his research done on Powerline. The law specifically allows this — the wiretappers just need to get a retroactive warrant within 72 hours explaining why they needed to listen in and why events were so pressing that they couldn’t wait for a regular warrant. That’s the appalling thing about this; as people have said, the FISA court is basically a rubber stamp exercise for any even marginally legitimate government invasions of privacy, but the Bush gang didn’t want to be bothered with even the wisps of judicial standards. There’s a war on, after all.

  69. Don’t forget this guy tried to put his personal lawyer on the supreme court. one that presumably wrote memos justifying the NSA’s tactics and other expansions of executive powers. i’m sure i’m just being paranoid, but say there is an attack right before the next presidential election. what’s to stop him from postponing elections if he wanted to stay in office?

  70. Jennifer: all American political speeches are either dull or infuriating to me. They are not intended to convey information or describe a chain of logic but are designed to invoke an emotional response in the listener. This is done by a repetition of key words and phrases. “9/11,” “terrorist” and “extremist” being the words that generate fear and hatred in the listener, “America,” “families” and “democracy” generating hope and approval.

    In “Dune,” the House Atriedes had developed a new weapon that literally turned words into weapons. Speak the word “kill” into the module and the target was killed. A soldier casually leaves the weapon on and calls out to his leader; the weapon discharges and smashes a block of stone. “His name has become a killing word,” an officer says apporvingly. “We are ready.”

    The repetition of these words “terrorist,” “9/11” and so on, and linking them with other words like “Saddam,” “Iraq” and “Islamic charities” is intended to create an unthinking, pathological response in the target audience. A person can be easily and deniably smeared by claiming he has “terrorist links.” The links are unstated and undescribed, of course. Having a distant cousin who laundered money for the mob is a “link to organized crime.” Indeed it is, but the link cannot be judged if it is unstated. It becomes a shorthand that enables opponents to be easily marginalized. Saddam becomes linked with terror; all Islamic charities are suspect; Iraq is the Enemy. Or Iran. Or Syria. It’s all good.

    So you would certainly get alcohol poisoning designing a drinking game around the word “terrorist.” But you would also get pretty sick using the word “America” as a keyword, or “family,” or “faith.” When was the last time a President used a speech to say something unexpected? All policies are announced first by leaks; all confessions are made through a series of weaker and weaker denials. They’re going to preempt the Simpsons just to show another example of how degraded our political discourse has become.

  71. They’re going to preempt the Simpsons…

    Now, I was willing to let the rest of this shit slide, but this is going too far. Time for revolution I say.

  72. No, no, gentlemen, even Bush isn’t that evil. The speech is at nine, during Family Guy, but Fox plans to air the show in its entirety once the speech ends.

  73. What we’re all failing to realize is that he must destroy freedom in order to save it. And he has our best interests at heart, so we just need to sit down, shut up and thank him. And stuff.

  74. Hmm…”feel thankful” probably works better. If’n we’ve shut up, then we can’t thank him, and if’n we’re thanking him then we can’t be shuttin’ up.

    Never mind, I’ll go away now.

  75. checks and balances

    Now just whose money do you think it belongs to?

  76. Cut and pasted from today’s New York Times (emphasis mine):

    WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 – President Bush acknowledged on Saturday that he had ordered the National Security Agency to conduct an electronic eavesdropping program in the United States without first obtaining warrants, and said he would continue the highly classified program because it was “a vital tool in our war against the terrorists.” In an unusual step, Mr. Bush delivered a live weekly radio address from the White House in which he defended his action as “fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities.” . . . . . . . . . .His statement came just a day before he was scheduled to make a rare Oval Office address to the nation, at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, celebrating the Iraqi elections and describing what his press secretary on Saturday called the “path forward.”

    So maybe my earlier predictions about tonight’s speech were wrong; maybe he’ll ignore domestic issues entirely and focus on Iraq.

  77. I don’t get what the big deal is.

    I’d be peeved if they used the same methods as the TSA in equal-opportunity cavity searches however, just as a waste of resources.

    I don’t think people realize how many uninteresting conversations are going on in the world. People basically have nothing to say to each other, but are on the make in one way or another nevertheless. So if you don’t focus, that’s all you get.

  78. I don’t get what the big deal is.

    The issue is that the Bush administration, apparently led on by John Yoo’s “elected king” theory of wartime governance, has openly declared that it will ignore the law when it suits its convenience. Come on — I’m not a libertarian, I’m a garden-variety civil libertarian liberal (albeit one who doesn’t care for gun control laws). If Reno was wrong to storm the compound at Waco, and she was, how much worse is this wholesale abrogiation of checks and balances? If getting retroactive warrants from a highly compliant court is too much for the Bush White House to bother with, where are they going to draw the line?

  79. jonnywalker, standard Web server logs are sufficient. 🙂

  80. I don’t get what the big deal is.

    If you judge how good a President is by the way he defends our Constitutional rights and liberties–and there is, I suspect, no better standard–then this President is a steaming failure. …That, by itself, is a big deal.

    If the President thinks, for some reason, that claiming to protect us places him above the law, then that, by itself, is a big deal.

    …and if you think those things are a big deal, you might consider contacting your representative and your senators and tellin’ ’em about it. Why not write a letter? …with a return address from their district and state? Letters, especially on specific issues, probably carry more weight than a vote.

    You can find the contact information for the people charged with representing you here.

  81. I don’t get what the big deal is.

    So because my conversations are boring, I have no right to not have them recorded by the government? I have no right to even the most cursory oversight by FISA?

    BTW James, you are only talking about the David Lynch butchery of Dune – the far superior novel didn’t include the silly voice-weapon.

  82. i don’t see the connection, Miller did a long drawn out tome on biological weapons, which happened to be published right around the time
    of the anthrax attacks (You’re not saying she
    was responsible for that too, right).Ironically,
    much of the comments on this board, are of a
    piece with the Michael Moore view, that there
    is “no terrorist threat”, that the Afghan war
    was because of the natural gas pipeline, and
    that Bin Laden, had nothing to do with it. This
    naturally allows one to ignore the German identi-fication of Marwan, a year before September 11, when he flew the second plane, into WTC # 2 ;to
    forget how the FISA court failed in granting
    access to Massoui’s laptop. Or other links in the string of dots,including a message from Yemen on Sept. 10th: which purportedly would predict the attack. It further ignores the possibilities of further sleeper cells and/or Al Queda operatives like Iyman Faris, Abdullah Mujahair; AKA Jose
    Padilla, Suleiman Faris, aka John Walker Lindh Adnan El Shukrijumah,(still on the loose,
    somewhere in Latin America,) Adam Gadahn, or member of the Gitmo crew including Mohammed Al Quahtani; (the wing man on the 4th plane)or Yasir Hamdi, the Saudi from Southern Louisiana oil refineries. All those persons, and many others
    could have made communications with other parties
    after September 11th. and we’d be very limited
    in tracking them. Jamal Zougam, the crew chief on the Madrid bombing, was a cell phone salesman along with Imam Yarkas; another part of the plot. Mamoun Darkanzali, tied to both Madrid and 9/11
    is now out on the streets, doing god knows what;
    mostly due to European guilt over their inability
    to deal with evil, totalitarian ideologies; and which they still can’t figure out.

  83. That’s the appalling thing about this; as people have said, the FISA court is basically a rubber stamp exercise for any even marginally legitimate government invasions of privacy, but the Bush gang didn’t want to be bothered with even the wisps of judicial standards. There’s a war on, after all.

    You are so right. This is what scares me.

  84. Ken Shultz,
    I’m sorry to say, but congressmen are by and large protected from the nasty voices of their constituents. In the interest education, here’s what happens to communications to congressmen:

    Letter:
    The letters are opened by interns. If they are from a foundation, business, or VIP (there is usually a VIP list in the offices), they are placed in the appropriate legislative assistant’s mailbox and responses come from them. If it is from your average civilian, it is put in the “constituent mail” box and, after being sorted according to issue by interns, an appropriate form letter (written by a legislative assistant) is found on the “Capitol Letters” software, the proper names are filled in, and the name and address of the sender are added to the “Capitol Letters” database, for future use in mailings.

    Phone calls:
    An intern or the office co-ordinator answers the phone. If it sounds like someone important, the intern/co-ordinator asks the scheduler if that person can talk to the congressman, usually the answer is no. The intern/co-ordinator takes out a “phone log” sheet, records the name, address, and phone number of the caller and their comment. It then goes to the constituent mail box and is treated like a letter.

    E-mail:
    E-mail sucks. Every office gets thousands of identical e-mails from Moveon.org or Focus on the Family and they all have to be organized according to topic by interns. After they are organized, they are treated like letters and phone calls.

    The point? Probably 1%, maybe less, of all the correspondence ever sees the congressman’s desk. The LAs get some idea of what people care about, and sometimes they get to tell the congressman.

    Oh, and P.S. – if you get a letter back that’s hand-signed, chances are it’s been done by one of the older LAs in the office who have been taught how to forge the signature. Sorry.

  85. Ironically, much of the comments on this board, are of a piece with the Michael Moore view, that there is “no terrorist threat”, that the Afghan war was because of the natural gas pipeline, and that Bin Laden, had nothing to do with it.

    Please point to a comment suggesting any of that.

    This naturally allows one to ignore the German identi-fication of Marwan, a year before September 11, when he flew the second plane, into WTC # 2 ;to forget how the FISA court failed in granting access to Massoui’s laptop.

    Now that’s an interesting bit of information. Tell me, where can I find something to document a FISA court denying access to Massoui’s laptop?

  86. Randolph-

    I know that the letters will never be read by anybody who matters, but if enough letters come in on a given topic will that at least be noted? I don’t expect a Congressman to ever read my deep insights, but I hope that if enough people call or write to weigh in on a given topic then the word will get passed on that there’s some strong sentiment.

    Am I being naive?

  87. thoreau,
    It will be noted by the appropriate legislative assistant, who may (emphasis on may) tell the congressman at some point. Most congressmen are out of the office most of the time, so the conversations are pretty brief. With most issues, the rep has a predetermined stance, and if you contact the office asking them to change it you’ll get a form letter explaining why he thinks the way he does. Boy was working for congress a lesson in disillusionment 🙁

  88. Also, they realize that the letter-writing (and phone-calling, and e-mailing) public is a very small percentage of the electorate – probably 2% of the people who voted in the previous election. Even if they get 500 letters about something, that’s a fraction of the people who got them elected in the first place.

  89. If it is from your average civilian, it is put in the “constituent mail” box and, after being sorted according to issue by interns, an appropriate form letter (written by a legislative assistant) is found on the “Capitol Letters” software, the proper names are filled in, and the name and address of the sender are added to the “Capitol Letters” database, for future use in mailings.

    Great, now let’s compare the impact of that letter to the impact of my one vote.

    …I’m sure it would take an act of God to change the minds of some, but surely there are others who notice when they get a bunch of letters from people saying they’re ticked off about something.

  90. Great, now let’s compare the impact of that letter to the impact of my one vote.

    That’s the relevant question.

    Randolph, thanks for the insider explanation of how things work. I have no illusion that my letters and calls will change the world. But I figure it has a greater chance of changing things than m vote does.

  91. Ken,
    It is true that a letter probably carries more weight than a vote, but it’s like having two grains of sand instead of one. Not much of an improvement. On the other hand, if you really want to change minds, you should visit the office and bring organic chocolates and truffles like some guy from the Sierra Club did during the ANWR votes.

  92. narciso,

    Is your argument based on fuck ups both here and abroad? Communication fuck up re: Marwan, fuck up on laptop, fuck up here, fuck up there, fuck up everywhere. Therefore the gov’t must fuck everyone because they have fucked up so often in the past. That’s an interesting point of view but I’m not sure I’m buying. If we run down the coulda, woulda, shoulda horseshit highway all we get are dirty boots. In case you hadn’t checked the Madrid bombings happened in Madrid and if our Eschelon boys were paying attention, it wouldn’t have happened…or were they and let it happen anyway…unless of course that was yet another fuck up. There are two sides to the conspiracy crap and there isn’t a legit way to pick and choose.

    Given my pick of some schmuck muslim group doinking about in a far off desert v. an omnipotent oligarchy with their jackboots on my throat, I’ll pick the schmucks anyday because, frankly, on my turf I have them outgunned…at least for now.

  93. Randolph,
    I have a great recipe for stuffed squid tubes, do you think that would work?

  94. Sorry for the repetitive posts but…I’m slow.

    I’ll add that as far as grains of sand go a phone call is 3, a letter is 2, email or webmail = 1. I put on a scale of time, if you spend the time to wait on the phone it shows a lot of interest and a willingness to bitch to everyone you know. A letter takes time but shows less head-on commitment and an email is very weak since it takes no time and can be done off the cuff. The name of the game is intimidation so a strong, non-threatening commitment or range of influence (think large social group with which you have sway) will go farther than something easily dismissed like an email.

  95. Dya think this thread is being monitored?

  96. eddy,
    That depends – it might offend their sensibilities, what with the majority of them worshipping Cthulhu and all.

    Oh, full disclosure: I worked in a northeastern Republican congressman’s office for a year, so what I said may not be true of every single office, but it seems to be the case for the majority. Also, I think the Democrats use different database software.

  97. One more addendum (God I’m tired)… None of this means that there’s no hope for your voice to be heard – you just need to distinguish yourself from the masses in one way or another. Send a CD or a piece of artwork or something, and it’s damn near guaranteed that everyone in the office will be amused and show the letter (plus interesting additional item) to the congressman.
    Or better yet, go down there in person. They have to let in visitors, and they’ll give you a free tour of the capitol building with a much shorter line than the herd-of-cattle tours the official guides give.

  98. what with the majority of them worshipping Cthulhu and all

    Well that’s a damn shame, they don’t know what they are missing. Di hu nhoat sach chrouk is a favorite of mine. Personally, I add a bit more pepper, both sansho ko and habanero just to keep things interesting, but…phone calls will have to do.

  99. They’re going to preempt the Simpsons…

    That Simpsons was pretty fuckin’ funny. Guess that means they’ve used up their quota for the year, I guess the rest will suck.

  100. I know that the letters will never be read by anybody who matters, but if enough letters come in on a given topic will that at least be noted?

    That’s pretty much the hope behind every Amnesty International letter-writing campaign. Letters pouring in from all over the world do not pass unnoticed. And, sometimes, things change.

    When they rendition you off to a secret Ouzbek prison for having posted anti-American things on H&R, I promise to start an Urgent Action for you, thoreau. If we know you’ve been taken. If we know why. If we know…

    Oh what the heck, thoreau. You’re on your own. Sorry.

  101. About holding that story for a year … now a year is probably an approximate measure. Could it have maybe been a year and say a month or two? Enough to have had an influence on say some previous presidential election?

    Now even I am not paranoid enough to think it particularly likely that the New York Times has gone to bat for Bush (hey maybe they were paid off). But really I think they are in the pockets of the federal government as such but probably would have preferred Kerry. It’s just that the timing is such a case of “things that make you go hmm”.

    Yes, and of course it’s an outrage they held it this long, for whatever reason.

  102. “Price controls, raise taxes, or propose gun control”

    Rasing taxes worse than throwing habeas corpus out the window? Well, I don’t agree, but if you say so. In honor of our respective beliefs I’ll move to Canada (and pay higher taxes) and you can move to China.

    Seriously, many a welfare state is still a fairly free country, but I seriously fear where we are going with the absolute trashing of civil liberties.

    Allowing the government to infintely detain American citizens without a trail effectively makes all other freedoms moot (because they potentially have the power to detain most political dissidents without a trail on the mere word of the government (what is to stop them?) – so there goes free political expression with it).

    It is true that guns might still offer some protection. The government never has been entirely able to defeat a guerilla (which is in in techniques Exactly The Same as a revolutionary) force. They can’t do it in Iraq, thank heavens, and so thank heavens it follows that they can’t do it here! They still have to win hearts and minds – a bit. Still does anyone really want it to get to the point of having to come to that? When it comes to that maybe people won’t support Bush anymore. Oh won’t that be peachy!

  103. Burst of laughter! (via NRO)

    It’s worse than we thought http://cryptome.org/echelon-60min.htm

    the problem for 60 minutes being how to make it attract women, their audience.

    It differs from the libertarian spin, when you want to hold the eyeballs of America’s women.

    Audience segments are such a pain!

  104. plus froid joueur @ plus froid junior @ plus froid la plus jolie fils @ plus froid la plus jolie jeune fille @ plus froid la plus jolie vestale @ plus froid la plus jolie vierge @ plus froid la plus mignonne dix huit @ plus froid la plus mignonne maman @ plus froid la plus mignonne trente cinq @ plus froid la plus mignonne vierge @ plus froid lapine maman @ plus froid lapine vingt cinq @ plus froid lapins @ plus froid lubrique apres papa @ plus froid lubrique apres trente et un @ plus froid lubrique apres vingt @ plus froid lubrique mama @ plus froid lubrique quarante cinq @ plus froid lubrique trente deux @ plus froid leche le cul @ plus froid levres de la chatte @ plus froid mman @ plus froid mama @ plus froid maman @ plus froid masturbation @ plus froid melons @ plus froid mignonne quinze @ plus froid mignonne vingt deux @ plus froid mineur @ plus froid mixte @ plus froid modele @ plus froid mouille @ plus froid mysterieux pere @ plus froid mysterieux papa @ plus froid mere @ plus froid narcissique maman @ plus froid narcissique vestale @ plus froid narcissique vierge @ plus froid naturel @ plus froid non sens jeune fille @ plus froid non sens papa @ plus froid non sens vestale @ plus froid non sens vierge @ plus froid nonne @ plus froid nylon @ plus froid osseuse papa @ plus froid osseuse vierge @ plus froid papa @ plus froid par amour @ plus froid paradisiaque papa @ plus froid paradisiaque vestale @ plus froid parfait dix huit @ plus froid parfait maman @ plus froid parfait vestale @ plus froid patron jeune fille

  105. Ken Shultz,

    …and I don’t think Americans lose their Fourth Amendment protections when they go outside our borders.

    That’s a tricky issue and its certainly something that the SCOTUS has never been wholly clear on.

    henry,

    As I understand it, there is this near-kangaroo court called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that will rubber stamp just about anything any arguably sane President, not obviously acting out of megalomania, asks of them.

    The FISC really isn’t that and the fact that it isn’t a kangaroo court is likely why they didn’t take that approach.

    The decision to go against the Constitution and cut judges out of the process seems to be mainly lazy or dumb, as opposed to nefarious.

    Whether it is against the Constitution depends on how you view the interaction of the President’s national security power with the 4th Amendment.

    thoreau,

    How often have you read FISA or the portions of it updated by the PATRIOT ACT? How often have you read Circuit Court or other court opinions concerning FISA?

    Ken Shultz,

    His laptop wasn’t searched because the FBI felt they couldn’t get a warrant for it not because of any warrant denial. Anyway, a lot of people try to claim that FISC is a rubber stamp, but being familiar with its workings I say that its lack of denials is more to do with the fact that the cases brought before it are thoroughly looked through before a warrant is sought. We’re talking about the FBI here and FBI attorneys and not some slackjaw local P.D.

    ________________________

    RE: the habeas corpus suspension issue lobbed at Bush (which refers to both Padilla and Gitmo like prisoners): its the case that at least with regard to Gitmo-like prisoners that the cases concerning this issue that have gone before the SCOTUS were indeed in the favor of Bush’s intepretation of the sort of justice or hearing required to be given such people.

  106. I agree with you the way you view the issue. It is also interesting to see different viewpoints & learn useful things in the discussion.

  107. Rasing taxes worse than throwing habeas corpus out the window? Well, I don’t agree, but if you say so. In honor of our respective beliefs I’ll move to Canada (and pay higher taxes) and you can move to China. Seriously, many a welfare state is still a fairly free country, but I seriously fear where we are going with the absolute trashing of civil liberties.

    I agree with you, JS. . . and I take it this was your first encounter with a “low taxes are the single most important human right” libertarian?

    You can tell Hitler was a bad guy because tax rates in Nazi Germany were, like, sixty or seventy percent back then.

  108. The whole thing with the Holocaust and secret police and trying to invade the world was also bad. But it’s the high taxes that’ll send him to hell.

  109. BTW, Bob Barr is beating the snot out of Taliban Dana Rohrbacher on CNN over this. http://www.atrios.blogspot.com has the transcript. Yowza.

  110. The significance of taxes as an issue is that you should be able to own the fruits of your own labor.

    The problem, of course, is that you can’t exactly produce and sell the fruits of your labor if you’re trapped in a secret prison.

    Well, you could always turn your skills to home made knives, and trade them for other contraband. But the guards will take 30%, plus more for Social Security and Medicare.

    So yeah, I guess that taxes are the biggest issue after all.

  111. One thing about the taxes/civil liberties debate here – they are more interrelated than the debate seems to recognize.

    Put it this way – ignore the BoR (like we do already), but government spending is cut to 1% current. What can they actually accomplish?

    The more flush with money government is, the more they can do. And since it is fairly obvious to all but the most obstinate that paper never restrains government, it seems the better way to keep them from violating your rights is to prevent them from purchasing all the neat little surveillance toys in the first place.

  112. kwais,
    Do you really believe Bush has not raised taxes?

    Question: If I raise the amount of spending that the Government does, but also order that the government no longer collects taxes for anything, have I really eliminated taxes? Or is it implied that the government will either have to raise the revenue to fund that spending or default?

  113. The more flush with money government is, the more they can do. And since it is fairly obvious to all but the most obstinate that paper never restrains government, it seems the better way to keep them from violating your rights is to prevent them from purchasing all the neat little surveillance toys in the first place.

    That won’t work, because if the government lacks the money to buy spy toys or build prisons it will simply BORROW the money. Don’t confuse our government with an organization or entity whose spending is limited by how much money it actually has.

  114. Taxes? Civil liberties? I’m just guessing, but this sounds like one of those false dichotomies. Obviously, I’d rather lose my property than my liberty (though I’m not sure that sentence really makes logical sense–can’t have one without the other), but the truth is, I’d fight to protect either if the government got too far out of whack. It wasn’t gulags, eavesdropping, or torture that inspired our revolution, after all. Not that I’m planning any revolts, I hasten to add.

    I’m upset about this NSA business as much as anyone else, but it’s hardly surprising. We’ve been letting presidents get away with invoking “national security” exceptions to constitutional limits for a long, long time. In this case, the law isn’t as clear as a number of commenters think it is, but I agree that the practice is highly suspect. Presidents tend to think that anything they do under the aegis of “national security” is a presidential perogative and trumps all other considerations. It’s also a convenient way to do unpopular–though, perhaps, legal–things without facing the wrath of the public.

    Hakluyt, why do you think so highly of the FISC? I’m not national security law expert, but I’ve always understood that it has never turned down a warrant request. I’d expect a very high ratio of grants versus denials, but 100% is a bit much. And I have to quibble when one starts referring to “efficieny” and the FBI in the same sentence 🙂 Though I agree that the cases they bring to the FISC are likely more thoroughly vetted than the typical local warrant request.

  115. “I’m not national sercurity law expert?” Please read with Russian accent, ala “Moose and squirrel”. Jesus, now the NSA will start monitoring Hit & Run. Sorry, everyone.

  116. The ONLY reason to go around the FISA court is to get into some really, really, inappropriate shit. Given that the court has rarely turned down a government request, and given that it will issue warrants AFTER the fact as long as Justice goes to the court within 72 hours, there is no legitimate reason for an executive end run. Much less a three year and counting end run. We can but speculate at how bad the shit must be that Bushco won’t take it before such a home team friendly bunch of judges. This is seriously scary stuff.

  117. First, why on earth did the Times, apparently at the Bush administration’s request, sit on this story for a full year?

    Because they’re afraid of losing access? Doesn’t the Bush administration refuse access to journalists who displease them?

    Or maybe Rove has some secret dirt about the Times editors.

  118. Hakluyt, why do you think so highly of the FISC? I’m not national security law expert, but I’ve always understood that it has never turned down a warrant request. I’d expect a very high ratio of grants versus denials, but 100% is a bit much.

    Hakluyt makes a point of disagreeing with anything Thoreau says.

  119. http://www.hakluyt.com/

    The Society is a registered charity inspired by and named after Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616), the famous collector and editor of narratives of voyages and travels and other documents relating to English interests overseas. His name was probably pronounced “Hack-loot”, since an earlier member of the family was recorded as an MP in 1304 as Hakelute, and not “Hackle-wit”, the family being of Welsh extraction and not Dutch, as is sometimes supposed.

    International Representatives
    USA: Dr Norman Fiering,
    The John Carter Brown Library, Box 1894,
    Providence, Rhode Island 02912
    and
    Professor Norman Thrower,
    Department of Geography, UCLA,
    405 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90024-1698

  120. “That won’t work, because if the government lacks the money to buy spy toys or build prisons it will simply BORROW the money. Don’t confuse our government with an organization or entity whose spending is limited by how much money it actually has.”

    True, but in a non-fiat money system, excessive borrowing comes to end at some point. So if we had a gold standard, it would be much harder for government to borrow the massive sums that they do now – they couldn’t just inflate the debt away, and would have to raise taxes eventually to service the debt.

    Of course, the inflation route entails paying the piper at some point, as well, but it is more hidden and less traceable and a slightly longer time frame, so it’s no wonder the pols, especially those that are term-limited, choose this option.

  121. I’m not national security law expert, but I’ve always understood that it has never turned down a warrant request.

    A journalist at Bush’s press conference today–as I recall–said that of the more than 19,000 FISA applications submitted since 1978, the FISA court denied only five (5). Perhaps someone with more time can dig up a reference for that?

    Considering that batting average, and my suspicion that the court would tend to be even more sympathetic to the government post 9/11, I think I’m back to my original premise. …which is that the Bush Administration does things like this, not out of some novel, grand strategy, but merely because they’re incompetent.

    President Bush must get the worst legal advice in American history. …Either that or he doesn’t listen to what his advisors tell him.

  122. Ken: Bush has appointed the worst sort of corporate lawyers to his government. The sort that figures out what the CEO wants to do and then writes a legal opinion that gives him the cover he needs to do it. If he gets caught, he can point to the legal opinion and say, “hey, looks like I got some bad advice.” He did his due diligence. It was his lawyer that screwed up.

    But what lawyer ever went to jail for giving crappy legal advice?

    Bush relies on a few smarmy sharp-operator CEO tricks he learned from his early business partners. He’s never advanced beyond the level of a used-car salesman. What they should have told him was that you can only go to that well so many times before people catch wise to what you really are.

  123. If the government no longer feels compelled to follow the law, then neither shall I.

  124. Pro Libertate,

    I’m not national security law expert, but I’ve always understood that it has never turned down a warrant request. I’d expect a very high ratio of grants versus denials, but 100% is a bit much.

    I think I already answered that question.

    A-Ha,

    When thoreau says something interesting or insightful on this or any matter I might have the oppurtunity to disagree with him.

  125. I’m not at all surprised the NSA is spying on our telephone conversations and email. The day after the 9/11 attacks, I called up a friend of mine living in Lausanne, Switzerland (we’re both Americans) from my home in Berkeley, California. I wanted to hear unfiltered what the reaction was to this event from the other side of the pond, and also just to emote a bit with a longtime friend from my grad school days. As our conversation developed, I of course started to use words like bin Laden, World Trade Center, Islamic terrorists and the like. Soon after the first use of these words, our connection was lost. I called back, and resumed the conversation. As soon as these words again crossed the ether, the line went dead a second time. I called a third time, said the magic words, and lost the line again. Finally, I called a fourth time, and we finished our conversation without being cut off, apparently because we avoided using obviously sensitive words. It was eerie. I then knew that Big Brother was listening, at least to all international calls, and was somewhat surprised that BB was so clumsy that he could not just listen in without interrupting the call. But maybe back then in 2001, the system was just overloaded by the sudden increase in relevant call volume immediately after the attacks. Or, maybe “They” were actively trying to disrupt potential terrorist communication in the immedate aftermath. There was never any follow on to this event, to either of us, but I am sure there is at least one file on me somewhere in the bowels of the NSA/FBI/CIA/ETC. I just hope it’s not too inaccurate, and that they don’t wast their time on (mostly) harmless people like me and miss the bad guys.

  126. That’s an eerie story Mark V. I’ve always assumed they watch what we write on this site. Especially when the hot heads show up callin’ everybody against the war a traitor, etc. I assume the hotheads go to the CIA’s website and send them a link.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.