McPaper and Osama, Sittin' in a Tree


Some of the dogged supporters of warrantless government surveillance have rushed in to defend the NSA phone call database program. It's more than could have been expected from their takes on the first iteration of this story—the revelation, six months back, that the NSA was tapping international calls. At the time, commentator/novelist Michelle Malkin raged against "civil liberties Chicken Littles" who thought warrantless wiretapping was a big deal or something.

Those who actually read the piece will note that the paper must grudgingly acknowledge that it is talking about the NSA's monitoring of international communications (e-mails, cellphone calls, etc.) only; the agency still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

It turns out that this isn't 100% true—the NSA isn't seeking warrants as it assembles "a database of every call ever made" in the United States. Malkin has an answer for that, too.

Translation: NSA–gasp!–is doing its job.

Not to pick on Malkin. Her take is fairly representative of civil liberties restrictionists in the media at large, and her blog provides links to some similar takes on the story. Here's AJ Strata, upon learning that the telecom Qwest refused to go in on the data mining because the government wasn't providing warrants:

USA Today just tipped off the terrorist how to avoid detection and put the people in Qwest's areas in danger because now it is known those areas have the least protection and should be targeted! What are these people THINKING! Someone needs to go to jail.

Let's assume this isn't a completely nutty reading of the situation. Wouldn't it be a huge break in the War on Terror if terrorists started clustering in the areas serviced by Qwest? Assuming they're all dumb enough to use land lines and not change cell phones or phone cards or anything (these are the goofballs who forget that the government taps phones unless the New York Times reminds them, remember), they'll be constricted to one part of the country and easily targeted by our intelligence agencies. It's the flypaper strategy gone fiber-optic!