Monday, June 10

Oh, Well, If Marc Thiessen Says It’s All Right...

Marc Thiessen, "Big Brother Isn't Watching You".  June 10

LISTEN, weren’t these the guys who were just screaming about how it was First amendment apostasy for one guy in Cincinnati to do his job by asking Teabagging “social” organizations to fill out a little paperwork? Impeachable  First amendment apostasy?
The exposure of the PRISM program under which the NSA monitors foreign terrorists on the Internet, as well as the leak of a top-secret court order requiring Verizon to share calling data with the government, are incredibly damaging to national security. These leaks give terrorists information they did not have about our collection activities. They undermine the willingness of American companies to cooperate with us because these leaks have put their international reputations at risk. And they teach everyone — including sources and liaison partners — not to work with us because we cannot keep a secret.

Gott I’m Himmel, “giving terrorists information they didn’t have”? Is there any greater and ongoing insult to the intelligence of the American public than the National Security swindle? If you’ve simply got to convince us there’s a vast SPECTRE out there bent on wiping out the American Way of Life, the beneficent work of Capital, and the cuteness of puppies, couldn’t you start by sounding like you know what you’re talking about? Anybody who’s read a headline in the last twelve years knew all this. International Terra, Inc. is like some global network of irritable junior-high Facebook posters?

And “putting international reputations at risk”? It’s now revealed that we can’t keep a secret? You reveled in our use of international kidnapping and torture! For fuck’s sake, was that in the Chamber of Commerce brochure?
The Verizon court order shows that what is being tracked is not the content of the communications but the records of which phone number called which number, as well as the location and duration of the calls. In Smith v. Maryland , the Supreme Court held that there’s no reasonable expectation of privacy, and thus no Fourth Amendment protection, for the phone numbers people dial (as distinct from the content of the call), because the number dialed is information you voluntarily share with the phone company to complete the call and for billing purposes.

A 5-4 vote of the Burger Court (Motto: “You Think We’re Bad? Just Wait.”) in the early days of the As Long As They’re Arresting Bad People theory of law enforcement conduct. Suggesting that Smith has established Fourth amendment guidelines for all times and all further development of communications technology is, I think, a bit optimistic on your part. Not that I expect a return of Constitutional protections to break out any day now.

Funny thing, too: the right to intercept international transmissions (and not just the wrapper) has always been asserted since the Trans-Atlantic cable. So why all the insistence that Prism is super-duper black-letter law, plus we’ve got a warrant, and so, in conclusion, Don’t Worry About It? Hmmmmm? Some of us did live through the Nixon administration, Marc. The rest of you can look it up.
Why does the NSA need to collect all that data? One former national security official explained it to me this way: If you want to connect the dots and stop the next attack, you need to have a “field of dots.” That is what the NSA is collecting. But it doesn’t dip into that field unless it comes up with a new “dot” — for example, a new terrorist phone number found on a cellphone captured in a raid. It will then plug that new “dot” into the “field of dots” to find out which dots are connected to the new number. If you are not communicating with that terrorist, your dot is not touched. But the NSA needs to have the entire field of dots so it can unravel the network connected to that terrorist.

Yeah, the old “If You’re Not Doing Anything Wrong, Why Do You Need Rights?” routine. It doesn’t deserve an answer. The law enforcement “interest” in dot collection includes your browser history, and any dots you leave in your underwear. Because that’s how authoritarians operate. It’s why we so desperately need to hold people upside down and pour water up their noses, too. Only there’s not a single example of this working. I refer you, sir, to that administration you were a part of. Have a look at that Terror Alert Color-Coded thingy. Never raised before any international terror attack. Raised any number of times before…nothing. All the cloak-and-dagger shit in the world still leaves you with a coin-toss about its usefulness. And every, every extraordinary police power results in extraordinary abuses.
Unfortunately, some on the right are joining the cacophony of condemnation from the New York Times and MSNBC. The programs exposed in these leaks did not begin on Barack Obama’s watch. When Obama continues a Bush-era counterterrorism policy, it is not an outrage — it is a victory.
And when those programs are exposed by leaks, it is not whistleblowing — it’s a felony.
Well, gee, I guess y’all should have seen it comin’, then.


Bob said...
But, but, but....a TV writer who covered crime for the Baltimore Sun 30 years ago also believes we're being a bunch of sourpusses over this.
Jack Bauer taught us that tortue is cool and Omar Little can now teach us that cops need to do whatever it takes to keep Omar in check.

R. Porrofatto said...

All this shit was news back in 2003 and 2006; only a few of the acronyms changed. Was there some bottle this genie got stuffed back into since that no one ever reported? Did lots of loud Sunday talk-show condemnation and congressional speechifying in the ensuing years result in a single piece of legislation to mitigate this crap, or monitor the NSA in any way? Did the memory hole just belch up Ron Wyden soundbites or something?

My cynicism has been nourished daily since 1980, and it was already pretty fat, so I have no expectations that the latest "revelations" will produce anything more than a lot of anti-Obama gasbaggery (once everyone stops trying to figure out if the actual whistle-blowers are traitors or not). Predictability can be comforting, in a depressing kind of way.

randy said...

Hi, Nice post but I'm still against with the gov't sticking it's head on our right to privacy.