Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 19, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

WHAT IS THE NSA UP TO?....So what's the nature of the secret NSA bugging program? Why did the Bush administration feel like they couldn't continue to seek warrants via the usual FISA procedures? Take a look at the following quotes and you can see a single thread that starts to emerge:

  • Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, telling reporters why Bush didn't simply ask Congress to pass a law making the program clearly legal: "We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program."

  • President Bush, answering questions at Monday's press conference: "We use FISA still....But FISA is for long-term monitoring....There is a difference between detecting so we can prevent, and monitoring. And it's important to know the distinction between the two....We used the [FISA] process to monitor. But also....we've got to be able to detect and prevent."

  • Senator Jay Rockefeller, in a letter to Dick Cheney after being briefed on the program in 2003: "As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveiliance."

  • New York Times editor Bill Keller, explaining why the Times finally published its story last week after holding it back for over a year: "In the course of subsequent reporting we satisfied ourselves that we could write about this program withholding a number of technical details in a way that would not expose any intelligence-gathering methods or capabilities that are not already on the public record."

None of these quotes makes sense if the NSA program involved nothing more than an expansion of ordinary taps of specific individuals. After all, the FISA court would have approved taps of domestic-to-international calls as quickly and easily as they do with normal domestic wiretaps. What's more, Congress wouldn't have had any objection to supporting a routine program expansion; George Bush wouldn't have explained it with gobbledegook about the difference between monitoring and detecting; Jay Rockefeller wouldn't have been reminded of TIA; and the Times wouldn't have had any issues over divulging sensitive technology.

It seems clear that there's something involved here that goes far beyond ordinary wiretaps, regardless of the technology used. Perhaps some kind of massive data mining, which makes it impossible to get individual warrants? Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Lots of people have suggested that the NSA program has something to do with Echelon, a massive project that vacuums up communications of all kinds from all over the globe. The problem is that Echelon has been around for a long time and no one has ever complained about it before so whatever this new program is, it's something more than vanilla Echelon. What's more, it's something disturbing enough that a few weeks after 9/11 the administration apparently felt that even Republicans in Congress wouldn't approve of it. What kind of program is so intrusive that even Republicans, even with 9/11 still freshly in mind, wouldn't have supported it?

Kevin Drum 11:28 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (260)

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Comments

Bingo. The best discussion I've found about this on the web tonight is at Josh Marshall's TPM Cafe.

Posted by: Arminius on December 19, 2005 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

Probably a reverse data mine, actually. They probably took some real AQ detainee's laptop, looked at the protocol (email addresses, common words used, Web Sites visited, etc.) and then searched every computer in America to see if they could find another user with the same protocol. When they did, they probably sought a warrant to investigate further. Of course, this is just a slightly higher-tech version of wiretapping every Arab American in the United States and listening for certain code words.

Posted by: Elrod on December 19, 2005 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

yes, data mining; also, the ability to examine emails retroactively. This really is Big Brother.
I suspect there is also an improvement in voice transcription technology involved. These powers are scary, but I think with oversight, and especially with division of responsibility, they could be handled.

Posted by: marky on December 19, 2005 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

One also wonders, if like Nixon, Bush used his wiretapping to get an edge in the 2004 presidential campaign since I understand this has been going on since then...

Posted by: MNPundit on December 19, 2005 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

Cripes, Kevin, people have been trying to point this technology factor out to you since this morning.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 19, 2005 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

Oh crap!

Everyone knows now, thats just great!

Uh uh, your not done, theres more to tell.

Posted by: Sideline on December 19, 2005 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

The administration keeps saying the program targets those with known ties to al qaeda. They not say that they are monitoring only these targets. How many people associated with these targets are under surveillance? How many layers deep does the surveillance go? These questions must be a subject of inquiry.

Posted by: MassachusettsLiberalinDC on December 19, 2005 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

Cripes, Kevin, people have been trying to point this technology factor out to you since this morning.

Right tbrosz. Sheesh, if Kevin just reads something other than his typical left wing blogs he would have realized that.

Posted by: Al on December 19, 2005 at 11:41 PM | PERMALINK

The original description of the program picked up by CNN and local news is a lie. The NSA has not been eavesdropping on people with a suspected tie to suspicious person overseas. The NSA has been sifting through EVERYBODY'S communication, at least international, probably domestic as well. This will come out soon enough. The question is, Will the public care?

Posted by: nycq on December 19, 2005 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

"searched every computer in America to see if they could find another user with the same protocol."?

That's simply not possible. I'm willing to believe that there's a fair amount of wiretapping going on at the major ISPs and Internet backbones, but there's just no way they could be doing that without being caught. People monitor network traffic.

Posted by: crg on December 19, 2005 at 11:44 PM | PERMALINK

The NSA has been sifting through EVERYBODY'S communication, at least international, probably domestic as well.

And think how much more efficient it would be if you let them look for other crimes besides terrorism. After all, Al Qaeda only managed to kill about 3000 people, that's nothing compared to domestic murders. I think this modest proposal would be well-received by most of our law-abiding citizens.

Posted by: dr2chase on December 19, 2005 at 11:48 PM | PERMALINK

Al:

That wasn't the point. This was on KEVIN'S blog. The first commenter I noticed that linked to someone with this theory was shrink in sf. Of course, Kevin dismissed this mass monitoring rationale then as "laughable."

When Kevin was later puzzling until his puzzler was sore about why the administration couldn't use the standard FISA channels when the FISA was so cooperative, I pointed out the technology issue again. I wasn't the only one, either.

It's the most obvious reason I could think of for this situation, and it's equally obvious that releasing enough information to satisfy the vultures would destroy the operation.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 19, 2005 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Who knows how many computers the NSA searched? It's still a fishing expedition. And it's illegal.

Posted by: Elrod on December 19, 2005 at 11:51 PM | PERMALINK

And another proposal. All this use of words like "terrorism" and "insurgent" in blog comments, is likely to burden the NSA's computers. In the spirit of helping them catch bad guys, I propose that henceforth we should pig-latinize watch words (and don't tell any errorist-tays that you might know; wouldn't want to tip our hand, now, would we?)

And what the heck is the Pig Latin for that i-word, any way? I can never remember that part of the rule.

Posted by: dr2chase on December 19, 2005 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

Well, that would square with this little nugget from the NYT story:

"A complaint from Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the federal judge who oversees the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court, helped spur the suspension, officials said. The judge questioned whether information obtained under the N.S.A. program was being improperly used as the basis for F.I.S.A. wiretap warrant requests from the Justice Department, according to senior government officials. While not knowing all the details of the exchange, several government lawyers said there appeared to be concerns that the Justice Department, by trying to shield the existence of the N.S.A. program, was in danger of misleading the court about the origins of the information cited to justify the warrants.

"One official familiar with the episode said the judge insisted to Justice Department lawyers at one point that any material gathered under the special N.S.A. program not be used in seeking wiretap warrants from her court. Judge Kollar-Kotelly did not return calls for comment."

Posted by: Quaker in a Basement on December 19, 2005 at 11:53 PM | PERMALINK

It's just fishing with a big net versus using a line and sinker for one lone fish.

FISC does approve batch processing, but each name still needs to be validated individually. NSA wanted to take in as much as they could and sort through it later, often using names that elicited vague suspicion but not anything solid enough for a warrant; but then it would also be a pain in the ass for the FISC admin to approve a computer generated list so large in the time NSA wanted to process it.

Posted by: bubba on December 19, 2005 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

From the NYT:

> "People are running around saying that the United States is somehow
> spying on American citizens calling their neighbors," Mr. Gonzales
> said. In fact, he said, it was "very, very important to understand"
> that the program is limited to calls and communications between the
> United States and foreign countries.

Thank you, We-don't-need-no-steekeng-Geneva-Conventions Gonzalez.

"...their neighbors." Right. White Miracle Whip America
needn't worry at *all* about this. Just thim greasy furriners.

Hey listen up, asshole -- I have a very, very good friend overseas I
speak to about three times a week. I suspect that many Americans do
as well, not to mention those of us with family in the middle east.

> Bush said, "People will say, if we're trying to make
> the case on Iran, well, the intelligence failed in Iraq,
> therefore how can we trust the intelligence in Iran?"
> Later, he added, "It's no question that the credibility
> of intelligence is necessary for good diplomacy."

Yeah, no shit, Sherlock.

What a fucking *imbecile* this guy is ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 19, 2005 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

Here's an idea:

It's just TIA gone secret. They take lots of data - financial transactions, travel, whatever else they can find - and they try to find patterns that relate to certain characteristics. The taps are a way of testing their efficacy of their assumptions and technique. In a way, they're sort of incidental, more for model checking than operational use.

Posted by: phleabo on December 19, 2005 at 11:58 PM | PERMALINK

Another possible facet of this is that the NSA may have contracted some of the sorting work out to a third-party vendor using proprietary software. Depending on the extent of that outsourcing (if any) the company may have been given primary collection responsibility, meaning they select the names and pull the data, which would establish a super-inconvenient scheme to approach the FIS Court with.

Posted by: bubba on December 20, 2005 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Carnivore.

Echelon.

I suggest doing a Google search on these terms. Perhaps enter "FBI" or "NSA" in the search field.

Lovely stuff.

Posted by: JG on December 20, 2005 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Although it's not quite the same thing, it might be interesting to bring the Able Danger program into this kind of discussion.

Here's something on numbers from the original NYT article:

While many details about the program remain secret, officials familiar with it say the N.S.A. eavesdrops without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands since the program began, several officials said. Overseas, about 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time, according to those officials.

That sounds like something fairly broadband to me. Also, 500 people at a time on a constantly-changing list might make jumping through even expedited FISA hoops a little tough.

Also from that story:

Several officials said the eavesdropping program had helped uncover a plot by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker and naturalized citizen who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting Al Qaeda by planning to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches. What appeared to be another Qaeda plot, involving fertilizer bomb attacks on British pubs and train stations, was exposed last year in part through the program, the officials said. But they said most people targeted for N.S.A. monitoring have never been charged with a crime, including an Iranian-American doctor in the South who came under suspicion because of what one official described as dubious ties to Osama bin Laden.

So, while not everything they looked at panned out, you can hardly say the program didn't work, either.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

The key seems to be from Sen. Rockefeller's letter: he's bothered by the program because (a) it reminds him of the John Poindexter's TIA project [a government group performing computer analysis against all public databases], and (b) he's not allowed to discuss it with "technical" staff so he can understand the details of what's actually being done.

Also, remember that the NYT admits they concealed some important information about the program at the administration's request. And even still, the white house is pissed that the story was published at all. But just getting faster wiretaps doesn't seem worth the risk and uproar-- they could already, legally, wiretap first and run to the FISA court second. Perhaps they were pissed about the story because there's more, much more... and they know that the really big shit is going to hit the fan any day now...

This ain't your momma's phone taps. This sounds like it could be something really, really big.

If it's automatic computer monitoring of a wide range of communications, it would explain why they can't just back off. Because there are no courts, not even FISA, capable of granting government spying access to the entire country at once. And it's obvious that such spying would have intel value. As long, of course, as you don't mind living in a police state.

Posted by: John on December 20, 2005 at 12:02 AM | PERMALINK

So if the idea is that ALL email is being recorded & stored in some monster pile, then what the NSA is doing is simply looking through it retroactively. Three notes:

GMail says it will store all email indefinitely.

Back 25 years ago, the New Statesman's Duncan Campbell (UK) broke a story that MI5 or 6 (I never knew the difference) had bugged every phone in the UK & whenever there was some great crime or event to investigate, would go back through masses of tapes looking for key words & phrases. I was skeptical, but they had investigaged, I was only a reader.

These techniques are sledgehammer work, fit only for investigative idiots. Which brings me to:

What's the difference between NSA techniques & Google?

Posted by: Droell on December 20, 2005 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Trackback doesn't appear to be working....

Reference of article at politiblogs.com

Posted by: zerohundred on December 20, 2005 at 12:04 AM | PERMALINK

...There is a difference between detecting so we can prevent, and monitoring. And it's important to know the distinction between the two....We used the [FISA] process to monitor. But also....we've got to be able to detect and prevent."


Ah! We must be talking about Bush's new Precrime unit!

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on December 20, 2005 at 12:05 AM | PERMALINK

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/19/AR2005121900924.html

Note Bush approval is rebounding. Just wanted to keep you in the loop and out of the bubble.

BTW - soon terrorists will change e-mail handles after every post according to some prearranged code to beat the eavesdropper. Thanks to your patriotic leaking NYT! Hope they trow the leaker in Leavenworth for 20 years.

Posted by: McAristotle on December 20, 2005 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: it's equally obvious that releasing enough information to satisfy the vultures would destroy the operation

Is "vultures" the new term for people who think that the president shouldn't be allowed to violate the law? Or who believe in quaint Constitutional notions like oversight and separation of powers?

Posted by: alex on December 20, 2005 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

and it's equally obvious that releasing enough information to satisfy the vultures would destroy the operation

But, but, but -- I ALREADY assume that people are reading my email, if only by accident (I can fumble-finger an address with the best of them). All well-run ISPs provide SSL access to their mailers; and while I would not want to bet against the NSA breaking any one SSL connection, millions a day is a tall order even for them. The mail is still stored in cleartext at the various servers, but that sort of search is much closer to a traditional warrant (and the putative owner of the data is readily identified). I expect that errorist-tays would at least be using SSL. That leaves maybe a network analysis, but that's about it.

Do we have the word of anyone credible (i.e., someone other than the usual Republican crooks and liars) that this was actually good for anything that would have been legal, if only they had gotten the FISA warrants?

Posted by: dr2chase on December 20, 2005 at 12:07 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz,
Even if helped nab the trucker in Ohio, was there no other way to find him? How helpful was the program? In any fishing expedition you're likely to catch something. But the Fourth Amendment explicitly prohibits fishing expeditions of this sort. I'll agree with Senator Sununu on this. If you're willing to give up basic liberties in order to have temprorary security, then you deserve neither liberty nor security.

Posted by: Elrod on December 20, 2005 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

Which number is greater? The number of times bush has "reauthorized" this program, or the number of vacations he has taken?

Posted by: bobbyp on December 20, 2005 at 12:12 AM | PERMALINK

The conservosphere seems to be making light of the http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode50/usc_sec_50_00001802----000-.html law. Since March 05, looks like W would have been off the hook. Since the program took place before that law hit the books, I'd say he's still on the hook. But what's scary to me is that they've gone back and changed the law to allow this sort of thing untrammeled by judicial oversight. Scary.

www.progunprogressive.com

Posted by: Sebastian on December 20, 2005 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

The original description of the program picked up by CNN and local news is a lie. The NSA has not been eavesdropping on people with a suspected tie to suspicious person overseas. The NSA has been sifting through EVERYBODY'S communication, at least international, probably domestic as well. This will come out soon enough. The question is, Will the public care?

Posted by: nycq on December 19, 2005 at 11:42 PM | PERMALINK

Coupled with Bush's kidnapping citizens and suspected brown men, shipping them off to secret prisons to be tortured and killed, the public might start to awake from their centennial slumber.

Posted by: Bob on December 20, 2005 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz [quoting NYT]: Several officials said the eavesdropping program had helped uncover a plot by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker and naturalized citizen who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting Al Qaeda by planning to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches

Bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches? I guess we're scraping the bottom of the barrel on terrorists these days. Hopefully all the good ones have already killed themselves.

Posted by: alex on December 20, 2005 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

If it's automatic computer monitoring of a wide range of communications, it would explain why they can't just back off. Because there are no courts, not even FISA, capable of granting government spying access to the entire country at once. And it's obvious that such spying would have intel value. As long, of course, as you don't mind living in a police state.

This is exactly correct. If it were possible for the government to use technology to sort through every digital communication, it's easy to see how this could uncover a terrorist plot before people were killed. On the other hand, do we really want to cede this sort of power to the government?

Posted by: drjimcooper on December 20, 2005 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

Another possible facet of this is that the NSA may have contracted some of the sorting work out to a third-party vendor using proprietary software.
Posted by: bubba on December 20, 2005 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Another interesting point, Bubba.

This is what one provider advertises publicly.

http://www.verisign.com/products-services/communications-services/connectivity-and-interoperability-services/calea-compliance/page_CS_CIS_NETDISCOVERY.html

http://www.verisign.com/products-services/communications-services/connectivity-and-interoperability-services/calea-compliance/page_dev029254.html

http://www.verisign.com/products-services/communications-services/connectivity-and-interoperability-services/calea-compliance/page_dev029258.html

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on December 20, 2005 at 12:17 AM | PERMALINK

A question. What kinds of barriers are there for sharing of intelligence between the NSA and DOD, specifically in regards to US civillian data?

Posted by: phleabo on December 20, 2005 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

...bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches....

Ya' gotta' be kidding. That's a laffer, but well in keeping with OBL's low tech war that has Americans too terrified to live life either bravely or free. My sources in the terrorist networks tell me they've switched to unbreakable smoke signal codes employed in hookah bars.

Posted by: bobbyp on December 20, 2005 at 12:19 AM | PERMALINK

My guess is that the wiretaps are being chosen automatically. Obviously they can't monitor every overseas conversation, but they could use a computer program to pick which get monitored. The code isn't good enough for a FISA judge, and this would sound like TIA. The difference between detecting and monitoring? Detecting is while you are still looking, once a person finds something of interest you get monitored. Until then, the computers look at timestamps, call patterns, caller locations, etc.

David

Posted by: David on December 20, 2005 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

I'll agree with Senator Sununu on this. If you're willing to give up basic liberties in order to have temprorary security, then you deserve neither liberty nor security.

Did Senator Sununu credit Ben Franklin as the original source of that quote?

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2005 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

"And what the heck is the Pig Latin for that i-word, any way? I can never remember that part of the rule."
Posted by: dr2chase on December 19, 2005 at 11:53 PM

Itay ependsday onay ethay ialectday. Erewhay Iay omecay omfray, itay ouldway ebay "insurgentay".

Posted by: 2.7182818 on December 20, 2005 at 12:20 AM | PERMALINK

rmck1: I have a very, very good friend overseas I speak to about three times a week.

So you admit that you're a terrorist.

Posted by: alex on December 20, 2005 at 12:21 AM | PERMALINK

BTW - soon terrorists will change e-mail handles after every post according to some prearranged code to beat the eavesdropper.
Posted by: McAristotle on December 20, 2005 at 12:06 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, because NOBODY ever thought of using an AOL CD with free hours to register dozens of bogus accounts to log on with anonymity.

Get a new brain McAnus. Your old one is past it's warranty, and it shows.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on December 20, 2005 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

Elrod:

I'll agree with Senator Sununu on this. If you're willing to give up basic liberties in order to have temporary security, then you deserve neither liberty nor security.


That, of course, assumes that Sununu, or the American people for that matter, are willing to live with the consequences of a less effective intelligence system. Refusing to trade one's freedom for more safety is a valid concept in a free country. But if something bad happens in the next few years, good luck selling that to the average citizen. "Why didn't they connect the dots?" is what you'll hear.

In over four years we have not had another attack on U.S. soil, something that still surprises the hell out of me. Something seems to be working.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

"McAnus." Do you people think these up in the middle of the night, write them on a pad by your bed, and giggle about it all the next morning?

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 12:26 AM | PERMALINK

Someone beat me the punch and the person even shares my initials. So strange.

As JG put it, I strongly suggest doing some reading on Echelon. The EU put a lot of information on Echelon into public record based on their concerns about US spying on Europe businesses.

Echelon is supposed to only be used on foreign countries. Turning on U.S. communication would be a major change. It is also the most likely thing that NSA would be able to turn on the project so quickly after 9/11.

Carnivore is also an interesting facet of Echelon. Carnivore is a tool. Echelon is the program.

When you read about Echelon, it sounds crackpot, but a lot of the information is available in public record and acknowledge by other countries. I believe Australlia's prime minister (or former PM) is on the record about Echelon.

Posted by: Jason Grigsby on December 20, 2005 at 12:28 AM | PERMALINK

Osama_Been_Forgotten: Yeah, because NOBODY ever thought of using an AOL CD with free hours to register dozens of bogus accounts to log on with anonymity.

Of course not. Before this terrorists just assumed that their communications couldn't be tracked, and typically wrote emails like:

From: "Osama bin Laden"
To: "Mohammed Atta"
Subject: Planned terrorist attack in America
Date: Sept. 10, 2001

Dear Mohammed,

Please find attached a list of your co-jihadists, their current locations, phone numbers, contact information, and the flights they plan to take in order to hijack the planes and fly them into large buildings.

P.S. Do *not* show this email to US law enforcement officials.

Posted by: alex on December 20, 2005 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

The first paragraph in the Elrod reply above should be in italics.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 12:29 AM | PERMALINK

In over four years we have not had another attack on U.S. soil, something that still surprises the hell out of me. Something seems to be working.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

Clinton managed to not have another attack by Al Qaeda on U.S. soil for eight years. WTC in 1993, and then not until 2001.

Posted by: Murray on December 20, 2005 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz,

At the present time, it doesn't matter whether the American people are "willing to live with the consequences of a less effective intelligence system." The fourth amendment to the US Constitution clearly protects these same citizens from unreasonable searches. If the US citizenry would like to give up that protection, they can do so through a Constitutional amendment.

On another note, isn't it ironic that if this fucking administration had heeded warnings of an imminent terrorist attack in the summer of '01 (gathered through old-fashioned, legal methods, I might add) there would never have been a 9/11 and by extension, this current crisis. Incredible

Posted by: drjimcooper on December 20, 2005 at 12:33 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz wrote: "That, of course, assumes that Sununu, or the American people for that matter, are willing to live with the consequences of a less effective intelligence system."

We managed to survive the cold war with a "less effective intelligence system," tbrosz. Are you asserting that the danger is greater now than it was then? And hell, yes, I'm willing to live with the consequences.

"Refusing to trade one's freedom for more safety is a valid concept in a free country."

Gee, how nice of you to acknowledge that.

"But if something bad happens in the next few years, good luck selling that to the average citizen. 'Why didn't they connect the dots?' is what you'll hear."

And most likely appropriately so, since we didn't need this kind of monitoring or the Patriot Act or any of these new powers to have stopped 9/11.

"In over four years we have not had another attack on U.S. soil, something that still surprises the hell out of me. Something seems to be working."

Oh, please...not that same old bullshit again. I'm not even going to bother.

Posted by: PaulB on December 20, 2005 at 12:34 AM | PERMALINK

In over four years we have not had another attack on U.S. soil, something that still surprises the hell out of me. Something seems to be working.

Tell that to someone in London. Where, by the by, they don't have a Constitution that "fetters" their Parliament and executive branch, and intelligence services have considerbly more leeway to operate.

Posted by: eponymous coward on December 20, 2005 at 12:36 AM | PERMALINK

Laugh it up about the Brooklyn Bridge.

More on Faris here.

The plot was called off because of tight security at the bridge, not because it would be infeasible to weaken the 15" multiple-wire cables with an acytelene torch.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

alex:

> rmck1: I have a very, very good friend
> overseas I speak to about three times a week.

> So you admit that you're a terrorist.

Well, if you put it *that* way ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

I found more on the bridge here. Fortunately, there's more redundancy to the structure than I thought.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

Just for starters:

Echelon -- here and here.

Echelon and Carnivore -- here.

Carnivore -- here.

Links include other links and lots more if you Google around.

Posted by: JJF on December 20, 2005 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

That, of course, assumes that Sununu, or the American people for that matter, are willing to live with the consequences of a less effective intelligence system.

The words of a coward.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on December 20, 2005 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz,
First, I should point out, as Global Citizen did, that Sununu was quoting Ben Franklin. Anyway, I think the larger principle is what makes America America. Do we make policy in a moment of panic, or upon sober and deliberate analysis? Shortly after 9/11 Americans were terrified of everything. I distincly remember playing a softball game a week after 9/11 and everybody looking suspiciously at an airplane heading toward O'Hare Airport. Of course there was nothing abnormal about the flight path, but none of us ever noticed it before. Americans, myself included, were paranoid in the weeks after 9/11. But did that paranoia warrant the surrender of basic liberties? Apparently Russ Feingold was the only Senator who thought otherwise in those weeks. Not only was he the only Senator to vote against the Patriot Act. He was the only Senator to actually read the entire Patriot Act before the vote. Looking back, Feingold was the voice of sanity, not John Ashcroft and others who rammed through a Patriot Act that included a host of dubious provisions that never even received any debate on the Hill.

Yes, it's remarkable that we haven't been attacked since 9/11. It's remarkable that we were only attacked once between the WTC bomb of 2/93 and 9/11/01, and that was at Oklahoma City. Frankly, I think it's luck. Terrorists plotted awful things throughout Clinton's Presidency - the Lincoln and Holland Tunnel bombings, the Millennium airport bombings, etc. Old-fashioned detective work and luck helped stop those plots. Perhaps the same has happened under Bush as well. But I've seen no evidence that we need to surrender ourselves to mass warrantless surveillance, imprisonment without habeas corpus, or any other draconian measure proposed by the Bush Administration in order to have more security. The time to judge whether or not we should restrict these liberties is not in the panic immediately following an attack, but in the months and years that follow when lawmakers can soberly examine what sort of balance we need to strike between liberty and security. The NSA spying program, if it's the sort of massive data mining project we think, is far too intrusive for those who actually care about civil liberties. Whether that includes the majority of Americans, I have no idea.

Posted by: Elrod on December 20, 2005 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

The plot was called off because of tight security at the bridge, not because it would be infeasible to weaken the 15" multiple-wire cables with an acytelene torch.

Or you'd be completely wrong once again.

Faris admitted to traveling to New York City in late 2002 to examine the bridge, and said he concluded that the plot to destroy the bridge by severing cables was unlikely to succeed because of the bridge's security and structure.
Posted by: Windhorse on December 20, 2005 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

Unlikely that high-tech intelligence is making us safer. Osama found out back before 9/11 that we were listening in on cell phone conversations - isn't that how Clinton knew where to send the cruise missiles that one time? They're learned that lesson, which is why they use human couriers for their messages these days.

The main reason we haven't been attacked over here is that W and his Bush League minions are doing exactly what Osama bin Ladin wanted: conducting a war of aggression against a secular Muslim country. We're doing Osama's recruiting for him, and destroying our reputation for freedom at the same time. He won't attack us over here again unless we start doing something intelligent - and there's no danger of that with the big W in charge...

Meanwhile, we're getting set up to have a religious theocracy imposed upon us by the Bush League.

Posted by: RepubAnon on December 20, 2005 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz:

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen. -- Samuel Adams

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on December 20, 2005 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK

And what a great plot this is, my friend. For only $99 (American), I will sell you a plot to take don the Brooklyn Bridge!

This plot not only comes with unsurveillable email communications (pig latin not included), it also comes with ACETYLENE TORCHES! How much would you pay? $299? $199? No! for only [blink tag]*$99*[/blink tag] you have your VERY OWN PLOT TO BRING DOWN THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE!

Operators are standing by!

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

Another possible facet of this is that the NSA may have contracted some of the sorting work out to a third-party vendor using proprietary software.
Posted by: bubba on December 20, 2005 at 12:01 AM | PERMALINK

Choicepoint comes to mind.

Also, a while back there was some bit about NSA peep/s working for Google.

Posted by: lellis on December 20, 2005 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK

I am so non-plussed my head hurts...How is this happening in a country as well-armed as we are?

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2005 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

"Praise Allah! We start cutting the cables at 0700 ... now"
*Sssssss*
"So, how long is this going to take?" ssssssss
"No time! Look, I'm almost through the first strand." ssssss....
*SNAP* Thread, under tons of tension, snaps and cuts Terrorist #1 in half
Ssssss...
Terrorist #3 to #2: Points to still-lit torch. "You gonna pick that up?"
"How many strands are left?"
"Six thousand."
"I got a better idea. Lets go on liberal message boards and troll as conservative twits."
"Praise Allah! Done."

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 1:01 AM | PERMALINK

I am so non-plussed my head hurts...How is this happening in a country as well-armed as we are?

Because the ones with the guns voted for this asshole?

Posted by: drjimcooper on December 20, 2005 at 1:02 AM | PERMALINK

drjimcooper, David, others: Thanks for the good work. This is big. We have to get it out there so the media and Congress will ask questions.

Posted by: Libby Sosume on December 20, 2005 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

The confusion cleared up right after I hit "post"

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2005 at 1:06 AM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen:

Because 20 fanatical mongos armed with box cutters and incomplete flying lessons crashed through our deepest vulnerablity as a free nation: Our openness.

All the smart bombs and night-vision goggles in the world can't plug that gap -- which is the price of freedom.

And we, so used to feeling invulnerable, an exception among nations steeped in histories of bloody conflict, became as Adam after the Fall -- ashamed at our nakedness.

And so, here we stand, leaving the Garden of our civil liberties, some of us looking over our shoulders in deepest regret.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 1:07 AM | PERMALINK

Beautifully, elloquently put, Bob.

I am just quixotic enough to believe that it is not too late - not yet - we still have a chance to round up these rascals, hold them to account, and take back our country, damnit!!!

In the meantime the flag that my husband received upon his retirement is hanging in our patio doors, at distress.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2005 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

Bob:

Well said and apt.

Dan Kervick recently posted a similar thought about "openness." Hopefully he won't mind me reposting it here:


Perhaps you believe that Father George, your Glorious Leader, has some sort of extrasensory perception that enables him to identify terrorists with infallible accuracy. I don't.

Americans are not cowards - at least not most of them. In order to protect themselves from tyranny and oppression, they are willing to accept checks and limitations on government power. And they know that these limitations can in some situations leave them less safe than they would be if they had a government that was free to spy on or lock up everyone who looked funny or said something suspicious.

If you live out in the open air, rather than cowering indoors, you accept a greater chance that someone may shoot at you. If you choose to live in the open space of liberty, you accept some of the risks that attend liberty. You accept that saying "no" to fear and totalitarian government means placing your safety in a certain amout of jeopardy, along with the rest of your fellow-citizens.

It's funny how so many of the President's supporters, who like to extol the sacrifices that the War on Terrorism imposes on us, are unwilling to make the most basic sacrifice that all Americans have been asked to make in ever generation - the sacrifice of their absolute safety in exchange for freedom. But that's the only reason for many that the country is worth dying for in the first place.

I'm grown so weary of the un-American fascist cowards who have somehow come to run our country, with their hatred of the constitution, and their stables of ambitiously servile and obeisant lawyers providing opinions to protect them against future prosecution.

Posted by: Dan Kervick on December 17, 2005 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by: Windhorse on December 20, 2005 at 1:20 AM | PERMALINK

Global:

You know what totally demoralizes me? All these ends-justifed arguments. Gonzales says "oh, it only affects phone calls to foreign countries." Bush says "we can't be a single day without these powers." Republicans say "And what will the Democrats do when there's another 9/11?" Krauthammer says "surely no one would question the morality of torture if it prevented a catastrophic loss of civilian life."

Where is the idea of inviolable principle? Where is the idea that if we become like our enemies, our enemies have won? Where is the respect for the founding document of this nation -- the one the president is sworn to uphold?

I feel like I'm going to fucking start crying and never stop sometimes ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 1:25 AM | PERMALINK

Did anyone see the article about the USAF Reserve Lt. Colonel who was arrested for vandalizing cars with pro-bush and pro-limbaugh bumper stickers?

Clark nailed it at the convention when he said "any political party that claims to have exclusive support of the American military is perpetrating a fraud against the American people."

Funny how the vets returning from war and running for office are running as Democrats in something like 8 out of 10 instances, isn't it?

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2005 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

The USSID (18) covering this type of activity is specific on what can be done, but not clear on what can't be done. If I am monitoring a cell tower (by satelite, drone, or tactical vehicle) how do I know when I have my suspect? I can either have pre-information on his exact telecommunication freq, or I can open each packet, look at the information and dump the chaffe. But, by opening Joe Blows packet, I could technically be spying on US citizen. By getting a voice message out of the airwaves (perfetly legal) that is critical, no work can be done until geolocated. If that now turns out to be 3.5 miles off NY coast that is ok. If it is in NY city, that is spying on US citizen and discarded. How do you know where it is until it is processed? If it turns out to be in the US, then it can not be processed. But wouldn't you want to find out if it is ok to use before useing it. (mixed thoughts on whether to use it. I personally am scared of internal CONUS processing, but also don't want to see more attacks)
This is not wiretapping or data mining, it is clearing out the chaffe. That is why Rockefeller is concerned with technology, it is detecting not monitoring, and collection methods are always classified (remember we never acknowledged we had sattelited until late 1970)

Posted by: sinop85 on December 20, 2005 at 1:29 AM | PERMALINK

Now they are vandalizing cars out of frustration and a breakdown of perceived order. These are the guys with the weaponry...Can anyone say "bloody coup?"

I am starting to become very frightened at the prospects that are held by the very near future.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2005 at 1:30 AM | PERMALINK

Global and/or Windhorse:

Forgive my ignorance of basic civics, but what does an American flag flown at distress look like?

I'm assuming it's not half-mast.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK

A flag at distress has the field of stars in the lower right corner, versus the upper left. In the common vernacular, it is upside down.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2005 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

Here's one mainstream conservative who gets it:

Why Didn't He Ask Congress?

By George F. Will
Tuesday, December 20, 2005; Page A31

The president's authorization of domestic surveillance by the National
Security Agency contravened a statute's clear language. Assuming that
urgent facts convinced him that he should proceed anyway and on his
own, what argument convinced him that he lawfully could?

Presumably the argument is that the president's implied powers as
commander in chief, particularly with the nation under attack and some
of the enemy within the gates, are not limited by statutes. A
classified legal brief probably makes an argument akin to one Attorney
General John Ashcroft made in 2002: "The Constitution vests in the
president inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence
surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their
agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that constitutional
authority."

Perhaps the brief argues, as its author, John Yoo -- now a professor
of law at Berkeley but then a deputy assistant attorney general --
argued 14 days after Sept. 11, 2001, in a memorandum on "the
president's constitutional authority to conduct military operations
against terrorists and nations supporting them," that the president's
constitutional power to take "military actions" is "plenary." The
Oxford English Dictionary defines "plenary" as "complete, entire,
perfect, not deficient in any element or respect."

The brief should be declassified and debated, beginning with this
question: Who decides which tactics -- e.g., domestic surveillance --
should be considered part of taking "military actions''?

Without more information than can be publicly available concerning
threats from enemies operating in America, the executive branch
deserves considerable discretion in combating terrorist conspiracies
using new technologies such as cell phones and the Internet. In
September 2001, the president surely had sound reasons for desiring
the surveillance capabilities at issue.

But did he have sound reasons for seizing them while giving only
minimal information to, and having no formal complicity with,
Congress? Perhaps. But Congress, if asked, almost certainly would have
made such modifications of law as the president's plans required.
Courts, too, would have been compliant. After all, on Sept. 14, 2001,
Congress had unanimously declared that "the president has authority
under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of
international terrorism," and it had authorized "all necessary and
appropriate force" against those involved in Sept. 11 or threatening
future attacks.

For more than 500 years -- since the rise of nation-states and
parliaments -- a preoccupation of Western political thought has been
the problem of defining and confining executive power. The problem is
expressed in the title of a brilliant book, "Taming the Prince: The
Ambivalence of Modern Executive Power," by Harvey Mansfield, Harvard's
conservative.

Particularly in time of war or the threat of it, government needs
concentrated decisiveness -- a capacity for swift and nimble action
that legislatures normally cannot manage. But the inescapable
corollary of this need is the danger of arbitrary power.

Modern American conservatism grew in reaction against the New Deal's
creation of the regulatory state, and the enlargement of the executive
branch power that such a state entails. The intellectual vigor of
conservatism was quickened by reaction against the Great Society and
the aggrandizement of the modern presidency by Lyndon Johnson, whose
aspiration was to complete the project begun by Franklin Roosevelt.

Because of what Alexander Hamilton praised as "energy in the
executive," which often drives the growth of government, for years
many conservatives were advocates of congressional supremacy. There
were, they said, reasons why the Founders, having waged a
revolutionary war against overbearing executive power, gave the
legislative branch pride of place in Article I of the Constitution.

One reason was that Congress's cumbersomeness, which is a function of
its fractiousness, is a virtue because it makes the government slow
and difficult to move. But conservatives' wholesome wariness of
presidential power has been a casualty of conservative presidents
winning seven of the past 10 elections.

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone remember the New Yorker article with Lawrence Ellison, in which he comments on the data mining that Oracle is doing for the US Gov't? I can't find it online or in Lexis.

The key quote was Ellison (paraphrased): 'Don't trouble me with these precious concerns about privacy. We crossed that threshold years ago. You have no idea what we're capable of doing now.'

Posted by: djangone on December 20, 2005 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

Will's column, finis:

On the assumption that Congress or a court would have been cooperative
in September 2001, and that the cooperation could have kept necessary
actions clearly lawful without conferring any benefit on the nation's
enemies, the president's decision to authorize the NSA's surveillance
without the complicity of a court or Congress was a mistake. Perhaps
one caused by this administration's almost metabolic urge to keep
Congress unnecessarily distant and hence disgruntled.

Charles de Gaulle, a profound conservative, said of another such, Otto
von Bismarck -- de Gaulle was thinking of Bismarck not pressing his
advantage in 1870 in the Franco-Prussian War -- that genius sometimes
consists of knowing when to stop. In peace and in war, but especially
in the latter, presidents have pressed their institutional advantages
to expand their powers to act without Congress. This president might
look for occasions to stop pressing.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Bear in mind -- I loathe this guy. But this is just to remind
wingnuts that some of their heroes haven't drunk the Kool-Aid.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone remember the New Yorker article with Lawrence Ellison, in which he comments on the data mining that Oracle is doing for the US Gov't? I can't find it online or in Lexis.

The key quote was Ellison (paraphrased): 'Don't trouble me with these precious concerns about privacy. We crossed that threshold years ago. You have no idea what we're capable of doing now.'

Posted by: djangone on December 20, 2005 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

Have you seen this? ->http://www.optimizemag.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=166403982

Posted by: jackson on December 20, 2005 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen >"...In the meantime the flag that my husband received upon his retirement is hanging in our patio doors, at distress."

Bless both of ya...

"There's this peculiar asymmetry in time which is that you can know
everything you want about the past and you can't change a bit of it
and you can know absolutely nothing about the future but what you
do changes everything." - Stewart Brand

Posted by: daCascadian on December 20, 2005 at 2:01 AM | PERMALINK

Massive data mining indeed: the NSA monitors ALL communications satellite traffic in realtime. See http://cryptome.org/sigint-hr-dc.htm#ECHELON
The NSA is the largest intelligence agency in the world.

Posted by: pzykr on December 20, 2005 at 2:03 AM | PERMALINK

i'm a geek so i thought it went without saying, the internet depends on the worldwide satellite network extensively, so not only all voice communications but all internet traffic is monitored in realtime by a phalanx of supercomputers which are part of the ECHELON system. There's more we don't know than what we know, of course.

Posted by: pzykr on December 20, 2005 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

djangone >"...Lawrence Ellison, in which he comments on the data mining that Oracle is doing for the US Gov't?..."

no surprise there

Mr. Ellison & his company were started by the U.S. intelligence community to do exactly that

"There's this peculiar asymmetry in time which is that you can know
everything you want about the past and you can't change a bit of it
and you can know absolutely nothing about the future but what you
do changes everything." - Stewart Brand

Posted by: daCascadian on December 20, 2005 at 2:11 AM | PERMALINK

i just caught an NSA flag for writing about ECHELON in all caps.....

Posted by: pzykr on December 20, 2005 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK

Osama found out back before 9/11 that we were listening in on cell phone conversations - isn't that how Clinton knew where to send the cruise missiles that one time? They're learned that lesson, which is why they use human couriers for their messages these days.

Remember how Osama found that out?

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

throsz:

You're so right, dude.

Why in god's name did we ever include that pesky First Amendment?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 2:23 AM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz, the blow torch idea was idiotic. Everyone knows you take out steel structures with thermite and asbestos blankets.

Posted by: gq on December 20, 2005 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

throsz:

Notice how yer buddy George Will eviscerates your carping at Congress?

Nice, huh ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 2:25 AM | PERMALINK

Osama_Been:

I'm surprised you can quote Samuel Adams without your brain exploding. You might want to look up the context of that quote.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 2:30 AM | PERMALINK

Why in god's name did we ever include that pesky First Amendment?

I seriously doubt that the main reason freedom of the press was protected by the Founding Fathers was so that newspapers could print America's military secrets.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

Remember how Osama found that out?

No, but I remember who armed him, trained him, and whose support of repressive regimes in the ME created him in the first place.

I also remember who didn't take the intel warnings seriously and went on vacation instead.

All of which is more relevant.

Posted by: Windhorse on December 20, 2005 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

throsz:

You might want to grapple with Will's argument against unchecked executive power.

It's nicely historically contextualized, and places Will's objection well within the mainstream of modern conservative thought.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

All the conservative moaning about how uber-surveillance is helping us catch terrorists is really quite a load of b.s.

We don't need to watch everybody constantly to stop a few violent guys. What you watch everybody constantly for is so you can oppress everybody and enforce a narrow, political uniformity on a nation. It's a Gestapo.

These are just a bunch of nutty, McCarhtyist Republicans running this shit. Anything to fuel their paranoid little fantasies and to spend their whole entire lives playing soldier, like when they were kids. They just love labeling people 'semi-communists' and then watching them to see if they speed when they drive, spill their yogurt on the kitchen floor every once in a while, etc.

Posted by: Swan on December 20, 2005 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

It's just a power-trip. The president should follow the law.

Posted by: Swan on December 20, 2005 at 2:40 AM | PERMALINK

First of all, Kevin, many people have been complaining about Echelon for years, not least the European Parliment. You may not feel such people are worth taking seriously, but in that case, you have the burden of proof of arguing that the current situation merits being taken seriously and Echelon does not.

Given that Bush can monitor all the international communications he wants under UKUSA agreement, without even bothering with FISA, these are the likely objectives here:

1) To make the US ubiquitous survellience franchise independent of our allies. This would be consisent with Bush's general policies.

2) To extend Echelon in effect, though possibly as another program, to domestic survellience.

In either case, Echelon is central to the discussion, and I'm sorry if acknowledging the importance of this forces you to re-evaluatre some previously held assumptions.

Posted by: Martin Bento on December 20, 2005 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

throsz:

It was a secret that America monitors the cell phone calls of its sworn implacable foreign enemies?

If Osama didn't believe it before -- his bad for one seriously whopping brainfart.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 2:41 AM | PERMALINK

deCascadian: Great quote!

But Oracle actually got its start by snatching SQL from under IBM's noses and making a business of it. Ellison's cutthroat business practices proved a perfect match for government data work, though.

I'm really wishing I could find that article now, because Oracle is going to be shown to be the company closest to the heart of this, bet you a PETA data mine.

Posted by: djangone on December 20, 2005 at 2:42 AM | PERMALINK

I thought we learned about cell phone tracking missiles when the Russians killed Dzhokhar Dudaev in 1996. I'm not sure why it was publicized, but I thought it was because the russians were proud of their accomplishment.

After that no high value targets with appropriate levels of paranoia would allow a cell phone in their presence.

Posted by: gq on December 20, 2005 at 2:44 AM | PERMALINK
Please check out some relevant information Posted by: david mailess on December 20, 2005 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

Remember how Osama found that out?

I believe it was from the Washington Times, my favorite cult newsrag.

Seriously Tom, you're an engineer, so I must assume you've seen welding torches before. Do you really think a plot to cut the Brooklyn Bridge's suspension cables - without being detected - seriously? That's a little like flashing an AFA workshop. I used to expect more of you. As it is...I can only quote Billy Pilgrim, "So it goes."

Posted by: LW Phil on December 20, 2005 at 3:00 AM | PERMALINK

Echelon has been around for a long time and no one has ever complained about it before

Excuse me, I think you mean no American has complained: we're not thrilled about being spied on by an ally (allies on paper, at least).

Posted by: derek on December 20, 2005 at 3:03 AM | PERMALINK

LW Phil:

I believe you are correct about the Washington Times being the leak source, which doesn't vindicate them in my mind at all. Remember, it was also Fox News that was one of the worst spreaders of false information during the Katrina hurricane.

To be more precise, I think it was satellite phone tracking that was compromised, not cell phones.

I'm an aerospace designer. I have no idea how well an acetylene torch could cut through a multiple-wire cable, since I've never used one. I would imagine it would take hours. For the record, I don't do much carpentry either.

Posted by: tbrosz on December 20, 2005 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

Electronic Privacy Information Center has been complaining about it for years (epic.org), as have other privacy advocates.

Posted by: pzykr on December 20, 2005 at 3:13 AM | PERMALINK

throsz:

Well, seeing that you're willing to criticize some of the less responsible right wing punditry -- how about the more reputable George Will?

But maybe you've read his Op Ed I posted. After all, you've stopped complaining about Rockefeller and Reid :)

Intelligent conservatives agree: There wasn't proper Congressional oversight.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 3:22 AM | PERMALINK

Tom -
Thank you for responding. As a former carpenter, albeit not a metalworker, let me assure you the degree, and quality (Wien's Displacement Law comes into play here) of light created by a welding torch attempting to cut through a single suspension cable on a far lesser bridge that the Brooklyn would attract every law enforcement unit within 20 miles. Maybe even 50.
Whatever. Thank you for being honest.

Posted by: LW Phil on December 20, 2005 at 3:28 AM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't using a blow torch to cut the suspension cables of a bridge be somewhat like cutting off a branch one is standing on?

Posted by: pzykr on December 20, 2005 at 3:38 AM | PERMALINK

It seems clear that there's something involved here that goes far beyond ordinary wiretaps, regardless of the technology used. Perhaps some kind of massive data mining, which makes it impossible to get individual warrants? Stay tuned. The administration keeps saying the program targets those with known ties to al qaeda. They not say that they are monitoring only these targets. How many people associated with these targets are under surveillance? How many layers deep does the surveillance go? These questions must be a subject of inquiry.

Posted by: MassachusettsLiberalinDC on December 20, 2005 at 3:43 AM | PERMALINK

Please check out some relevant information on
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some relevant pages
more info
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pages in the field
relevant pages
check out this one

Posted by: david mailess on December 20, 2005 at 3:52 AM | PERMALINK

I hope your Golden Shield chickens turn into Emus and kick your dunny down.

Your and empire in the 21st century - of course you need a Totalitarian Information Agency!

But just as we borrowed the internet so we shall ' borrow' PAM the terminatrix. Your chimperor's days are numbered. Your entire evil empires days are numbered. It is written. You are the last empire.

Good fucking riddance arseholes.

Posted by: professor-rat on December 20, 2005 at 3:54 AM | PERMALINK

david: Go spam yourself!

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2005 at 4:06 AM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't using a blow torch to cut the suspension cables of a bridge be somewhat like cutting off a branch one is standing on?

True, but remember we're talking about jihadi suicide types here. As stupid as the original accusation is, let's be logically consistent here. Sawing off a tree limb in that perspective, is a one-way ticket to heaven.

Which doesn't excuse the initial stupidity of the claim.


Posted by: LW Phil on December 20, 2005 at 4:09 AM | PERMALINK

Professor Rat, I understand your frustrations and your sentiments, but there are 49.5% of us who disagree vehemently with the empire-building and jingoism. Would you doom us, the loyal opposition, to the same fate?

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 20, 2005 at 4:18 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe we have to go beyond the common sense meaning of a statement like this:

While many details about the program remain secret, officials familiar with it say the N.S.A. eavesdrops without warrants on up to 500 people in the United States at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands since the program began, several officials said.

Try reading it from the point of view of a programmer involved in building the surveillance system in question. There is nothing that says that the list of 500 people in question couldn't change, say, every 30 milliseconds, as the system switches rapidly between thousands of international calls and communications.

Imagine how much data one they handle with a 500-CPU supercomputing cluster, with each node handling multiple calls in a multiplexed manner.

What we have here is likely a massively parallel effort monitoring a large subset of all international communication. Yet the whole thing monitors only "500 people at a time" - it just happens to be a very short time.

Posted by: Thor's Hammer on December 20, 2005 at 4:42 AM | PERMALINK

Hammer, I like the way you're thinking, but you may need to upscale your suppositions. AFAIK, Fort Meade is the world's biggest consumer of supercomputers.

Posted by: bad Jim on December 20, 2005 at 4:51 AM | PERMALINK

So can it understand Navajo? What about pig latin? Hmmm....

Posted by: Johnny Appleseed on December 20, 2005 at 5:29 AM | PERMALINK

Or its the same item, but the media needs a new attack to cooperate with the Dems on and is simply putting a new spin on a variant of Echelon...

----------

No, but I remember who armed him, trained him, and whose support of repressive regimes in the ME created him in the first place.

Posted by: Windhorse on December 20, 2005 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

If you believe that, then isn't the moral response - to fix the Mid East situation you created?

Posted by: McAristotle on December 20, 2005 at 6:02 AM | PERMALINK

PZKYR Writes: Wouldn't using a blow torch to cut the suspension cables of a bridge be somewhat like cutting off a branch one is standing on?

Duhhh! That's why the call them Suicide Welders. And they're enemey no. 1

Posted by: troll on December 20, 2005 at 6:03 AM | PERMALINK

Asking a pilot school to teach you to fly a plane without learning to land sounded pretty stupid too...

Posted by: Mcaristotle on December 20, 2005 at 6:09 AM | PERMALINK

Osama found out back before 9/11 that we were listening in on cell phone conversations - isn't that how Clinton knew where to send the cruise missiles that one time?

Remember how Osama found that out?

Yes. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) told him.

Posted by: ajay on December 20, 2005 at 6:59 AM | PERMALINK

there have been plenty of complaints about echelon and its fbi clone, carnivore... and both of them are pretty freakin' far from "vanilla..." go check your facts... here's some links...

http://www.echelonwatch.org/

http://www.aclu.org/search/search_wrap.html?account=436ac9516921&q=echelon&imageField.x=8&imageField.y=5&imageField=search

http://search.crownpeak.com/cpt_redirect/5741?account=436ac9516921&qid=339

http://www.aclu.org/privacy/spying/15419prs20010508.html?ht=echelon%20echelon


http://takeitpersonally.blogspot.com/

Posted by: profmarcus on December 20, 2005 at 7:07 AM | PERMALINK

airplane al qaeda al-zarqawi anthrax assassination attack bin laden bomb bush castro chavez chemical cheney drugs gumby iran iraq islam jihad mao nuclear osama suicide terror weapons white house

There. You're in it to, Drum.

Posted by: Lupin on December 20, 2005 at 7:10 AM | PERMALINK

It sounds like the Bush Administration has been harvesting e-mails, instant messages and phone messages for years.

Simultaneously, the administration has approved the surveillance of Quaker Meetings and the Quaker-led American Friends Service Committee (Denver, Lake Worth FL, probably many other cities). Why? Because one of the Quakers' deeply held religious beliefs is an opposition to war and "all outward forms of strife."

Is there a connection between President Bush's secret authorization of domestic surveillance and the systematic, secret surveillance of Quakers? At what point does this constitute religious persecution?

It appears President Bush has subverted the idea, present since the earliest days of our nation's inception, that America can serve as a haven from religious persecution.

Posted by: pj_in_jesusland on December 20, 2005 at 7:14 AM | PERMALINK

1) The level of monitoring you guys are talking about would require complicity from ISPs or email services. Someone needs to ask google/comcast/etc if they gave the nsa our data.

2) The Gonzales quote - maybe he misspoke and meant something more like "we couldn't amend FISA because the amendment would reveal the nature of the program, thus making it less useful."

3) This is probably a stretch but wouldn't it be delicious if the NSA program was a violation of the DMCA? They would have to realize that any idiot can encrypt their emails/data... how would they monitor the internet if they couldn't read the encrypted stuff? I bet they have a shitload of hardware cracking encrypted emails between paranoid russian software engineers all day. From the DMCA text: "No person shall manufacture, import, offer to the public provide, or otherwise traffic in any technology, product, service, device, component, or part thereof, that is primarily designed or produced for the purpose of cicumventing a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title;..." I guess personal emails probably wouldn't count as "a work protected under this title", huh? Protection for them and not for us...

Posted by: ButrosButros on December 20, 2005 at 7:36 AM | PERMALINK

Butros finally touched on what has seemed obvious to me.

The data mining in emails is moot anyway. Anyone wanting to keep their communications secret are using PGP encryption anyway.

Posted by: Simp on December 20, 2005 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

"snatching SQL from under IBM's noses and making a business of it."

Minor quibble, Djangone. IBM made billions from SQL before Ellison ever heard of it, and continues to do so. Ever heard of DB2? Not the toy one on the desktop, but the mainframe one that holds about 80% of the world's data? It's almost certainly what the NSA is keeping all of this shit in.

Posted by: cn on December 20, 2005 at 8:01 AM | PERMALINK

PGP? That got cracked years ago. The NSA scarfs on PGP.

Posted by: Monkey on December 20, 2005 at 8:27 AM | PERMALINK

Typically, avoiding all of these legal issues, from the Immense Logical Fallacy known as talk-radio comes the cry that none of this matters because (like torture, I guess) THERE HAVE BEEN NO MORE 9/11'S SINCE 9/11 SO, SEE, IT WORKS! Thank you George W. Bush! End of story.

Of course, now they're hoping that Bush sics the NSA on the left-wing's systematic campaign of hatred directed at Christmas and traditional Christians. Boy, wouldn't that be neato?

Posted by: R. Porrofatto on December 20, 2005 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

If you believe that, then isn't the moral response - to fix the Mid East situation you created?

Sure, but not by allowing the same people, or philosophical offspring, to do the fixing. If someone fucked something up by doing something stupid, I don't trust them to come up with a new batty idea to fix their fuck-up.

The bed can't be unshit, but, quoting The Poorman, we know who shit there and how often. The first step is getting them out of the bed.

Posted by: ChrisS on December 20, 2005 at 8:58 AM | PERMALINK

I read this above:

"That's simply not possible. I'm willing to believe that there's a fair amount of wiretapping going on at the major ISPs and Internet backbones, but there's just no way they could be doing that without being caught. People monitor network traffic."

Actually, this is entirely possible. In fact, major manufacturers of routing equipment (like Cisco) have built in to their routers something they like to call "legal surveillance". One of the criteria of these router boxes is that multiple law enforcement agencies be allowed to monitor activity without any of them knowing someone else is monitoring.

Cisco was discussing this publicly 2 1/2 years ago.

You can read more about the Cisco's aims and plans (and I assume products now) at this link:
http://news.com.com/2010-1071-997528.html

Posted by: William T on December 20, 2005 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Times finally published its story last week after holding it back for over a year

Does anyone definively know yet whether the Times knew of this before the election? I have seen speculation, but I really want to know if the Times was holding this story back during the election. Bueller? Anyone?

Posted by: patrick on December 20, 2005 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone wanting to keep their communications secret are using PGP encryption anyway.

It's not just PGP. If you use SSL (TLS, ports 465 and 993 and 443 for secure SMTP, IMAP, and HTTP) then your communications are pretty-well encrypted without any additional work on your part. The mail is still stored in the clear at the ISP, but (1) it's clear whose mail that is -- no need for a drift-net warrant and (2) if the government contacted dozens of ISPs to sift through stored email in bulk, I think we might hear about it.

Posted by: dr2chase on December 20, 2005 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

"That, of course, assumes that Sununu, or the American people for that matter, are willing to live with the consequences of a less effective intelligence system."


I love tbrosz's satirical side!

Posted by: Ace Franze on December 20, 2005 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

> Someone needs to ask google/comcast/etc
> if they gave the nsa our data.

Feel free to ask, but the Patriot Act makes it illegal for them to answer even if they were inclined to do so.

As Kevin says, Echelon and similar technology have been discussed since the early 1980s (some e-mail clients I used in the 1982 time frame automatically added "NSA food" to your messages). So that is nothing new.

If this is actually something new (as opposed to just using the NSA to spy on political opponents and journalists, which is what I suspect the root problem is here), it is probably more along the lines of the convict Pointdexter's TIA: the NSA is now capable of downloading essentially /all/ records from Choicepoint, credit card companies, ATMs, cell phones (both trap-and-trace and physical locations), etc and running very powerful pattern recognition algorithms on the total dataset. The result is statistically-based flags that certain people need to be watched. Statistics is always a hard sell in the courtroom (if lawyers could have become engineers, they would have), so there might have been a concern that no warrant would be issued even by FISA on such evidence (which I doubt - FISA has granted everything ever asked for).

However, as I said earlier, I think it is a lot simpler: Rove was tapping Kerry and Dean's e-mail , phone calls, and financial records. Given that there is documentary evidence that indicates Bolton did exactly that it isn't much of a stretch.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on December 20, 2005 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

OMIGOD..couldn't get to my computer while WJ had on Victoria Toensig (she of the PLAMEGATE crapola providing story) and James Bramford (I think) "debating" this NSA issue...he may be a smart guy but no match for her continued deflection of the issue over to "the president had used congressional oversight" and some phony complaint about what would happen to cell phone numbers potentially found on OBL phone?????? PLEASE, PLEASE let it be true that this arrogant, ignorant, lying, tyrant has finally stepped over the line and that there will be an awakening and subsequent involvement in DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT by our paid for media!

Posted by: Dancer on December 20, 2005 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

"In over four years we have not had another attack on U.S. soil, something that still surprises the hell out of me. Something seems to be working."

Posted by: tbrosz

Well, I see that you've improved your BS by one step - by not saying 'since 9/11', you're covered about the anthrax attacks.

Second, if you'd care to review the pre 9/11 frequency of Al Qaida strikes on US soil, you might see that Bush ain't anywhere nearly as good as Clinton.

BTW - keeping track of the frequency of events is a basic tool of reliability engineering. I guess that we can call BS on your claim to be an engineer.

Posted by: Barry on December 20, 2005 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Frighteningly, "King George" has lost its underground humor.

If we become an outcome based government, what's next?

Posted by: ELR on December 20, 2005 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I see that you've improved your BS by one step - by not saying 'since 9/11', you're covered about the anthrax attacks.

That was most likely an internal event. Noticed how no jihadis laid claim to that one?

Second, if you'd care to review the pre 9/11 frequency of Al Qaida strikes on US soil, you might see that Bush ain't anywhere nearly as good as Clinton.

Embassies are US soil. The USS Cole was close enough. We haven't had any of those either in the last four years.

BTW - keeping track of the frequency of events is a basic tool of reliability engineering. I guess that we can call BS on your claim to be an engineer.

Cherry-picking your evidence to support a narrow definition is BS too.

Posted by: Red State Mike on December 20, 2005 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

What kind of program is so intrusive that even Republicans, even with 9/11 still freshly in mind, wouldn't have supported it?

The answer is simple: a program that essentially brings an end to our open society and our democracy. A program that de facto establishes a police state the likes of which Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin could only dream about. A program that flat-out violates numerous laws and the Bill of Rights.

They eschewed the legal avenues of FISA court and Congress because it is an illegal program to conduct illegal spying for illegal reasons. Occam's Razor.

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on December 20, 2005 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

I am afraid. I am afraid of the Executive Branch of my own country.

From USA Today

And he was cool toward investigations. "An open debate would say to the enemy, 'Here is what we're going to do.' And this is an enemy which adjusts," [The President] said.

Those are some of the scariest words I have ever heard from any President of the United States. I have certainly heard dictators and leaders of other despotic regimes make such statements, but my President??

Apparently, the United States public does not have the right to hold a debate on whether our fourth amendment rights can be unilaterally suspended at the whim of the Commander in Chief. Please explain how congressional hearings on whether the President has to obtain a warrant expose methods and procedures to external entities.

This administration has done some truly outrageous things, but this one actually has me absolutely terrified of the path this country is moving towards.

Why does the Congress have to repass a law every time this Administration says they don't like the current one? The system has been turned on its head.

And remember, if this power is upheld, it will be used to justify almost anything this or any future President sees fit. I wonder if Justice O'Connor knew she was writing a decision that would be used to spy on American citizens. Maybe she did, maybe she didn't, but that is the true definition of the slippery slope.

Posted by: justmy2 on December 20, 2005 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

RSM-

"Embassies are US soil. The USS Cole was close enough. We haven't had any of those either in the last four years."

How many mortars have been launched at the Green Zone in Baghdad over the past 2.5 years?

Cherry-picking terror attacks outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, and ignoring the fact that Americans are now attacked daily by Jihadists... well "BS" really doesn't even begin to cover it.

You wanna brag about the success of the flypaper strategy, you go right ahead.

Posted by: Violet on December 20, 2005 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Please provide one specific example where the administration abused these powers to the detriment of an innocent U.S. citizen. JUST ONE. That's all I am asking for is just one. Surely with all of the hysteria surrounding this, there has to be many examples of abuse on the part of the Bush administration, so provide for me just one specific example. JUST ONE.

Posted by: Jay on December 20, 2005 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

justmy2, he is not your president. He represents about 40% of all US citizens that vote, if that.

Posted by: whosays on December 20, 2005 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

An outgrowth of the current 'snoopgate scandal' is that, when you've been torturing people and using rendition to move people to secret prisons, your former allies don't do anything for you anymore. After what happened with that German citizen, does anyone really think they care whether they piss us off anymore?

It sure would have been nice to get this guy and try him for the death of that Navy diver. Too bad we have ZERO standing with our allies anymore. When you let clowns who know nothing about defending America run your country into the ground, this is what you end up with.

And how is the Bush administration defending America? Pretty darn good job they've done, what with all those illegal aliens streaming across the unprotected border and coming through all the undefended ports. Eavesdropping has all by solved that particular problem, hasn't it?

Germany frees killer of U.S. diver
By CNN Correspondent Chris Burns
Tuesday, December 20, 2005; Posted: 9:31 a.m. EST (14:31 GMT)

BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A Hezbollah militant sentenced to life in Germany for murdering a U.S. Navy diver during the 1985 hijacking of a U.S. jetliner has been freed, officials said.

The German government denied on Tuesday the release was related to the freeing of a German hostage in Iraq.

Mohammed Ali Hamadi was released Thursday and allowed to return to his native Lebanon on the next day, after qualifying for parole after 19 years in prison, said Ulrich Hermanski, spokesman for the North Rhine Wesphalia state justice ministry.

"There was no special treatment," Hermanski said in a telephone interview.

The decision was a state, not federal one, said federal Justice Ministry spokeswoman Eva Schmierer told a news conference.

"The federal government has nothing to do with it," she said. She denied reports the U.S. government had an extradition request for Hamadi.

Hamadi was convicted in 1989 in Frankfurt, Hessen state, for the beating and shooting of Robert Dean Stethem, a 23-year-old U.S. Navy diver whose body was thrown on the tarmac at Beirut airport during the hijacking of TWA Flight 847.

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 20, 2005 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Why has no one asked what kept the Times from releasing this story when they first found out about it? If ,indeed ,they had it "over a year" ago,it could have been out in October of 2004.I believe that something big was happening in the country at the time. What was it now? Ohhhh yes!!
THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS!

Posted by: John Hickson on December 20, 2005 at 10:19 AM | PERMALINK

CONSIDER THIS: arguing the constitutionality of NSA actions, the letter of the law, may produce results and may stimulate the neurons of smart people and still not register with the average voter and may indeed produce only a stalemate -- a better strategy may be to argue the spirit of the law here because by that standard what Bush is doing is much more clearly an abuse of power by the executive branch viz what the founders intended. The other virtue of this line of attack is that it counters what will no doubt be the republican stategy: complicate the issue so much that the average voter zones out.

Posted by: saint simon on December 20, 2005 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Keep the heat up on this one -- this is the downfall of the Bush Presidency.

Posted by: Bob Loblaw on December 20, 2005 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

The Lyin', the Switch, and the War Probe


You know what the key word is - Allah.

Posted by: arborverde on December 20, 2005 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

It might be illegal for the American government to spy on Americans willy-nilly, as it is in Britain, but did you know that British intelligence spies on Americans for Uncle Sam and vice versa? Each just tells the other what they want, and they swap.

It's like hiring an assassin to murder someone -- your hands are clean!

Or are they?

Posted by: Just a thought on December 20, 2005 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

Jay wrote:
Please provide one specific example where the administration abused these powers to the detriment of an innocent U.S. citizen. JUST ONE. That's all I am asking for is just one. Surely with all of the hysteria surrounding this, there has to be many examples of abuse on the part of the Bush administration, so provide for me just one specific example. JUST ONE.

Posted by: Jay on December 20, 2005 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

Boy are YOU stupid. If it's secret (& illegally so), just how the hell are we supposed to cite an example of "just one" case in which a citizen's rights have been violated? Even posing your question shows you've already lost the argument.

Second, you miss the point. Each and EVERY use of these 'powers' constitutes a violation that substantively damages the rights and liberties of ALL Americans, collectively as a people and individually as citizens.

What part is it about America don't you get? or like?

Posted by: SombreroFallout on December 20, 2005 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Jay--

Let's see. The entire project was secret until Friday, the NYT is still withholding information, and nobody really knows yet what the hell the NSA is actually doing. Nobody outside the NSA has even seen a list of names of people targeted.

But since the readers of Kevin Drum's blog haven't already identified an individual case in which someone was harmed, then the government should get the benefit of the doubt when they spy on US citizens without warrants.

Is that what you're saying?

If so, then ol' Ben Franklin had it right. People like you deserve neither liberty nor security.

Posted by: Violet on December 20, 2005 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

As Rev Martin Niemller said in 1936, "Please provide one specific example where the administration abused these powers to the detriment of one German citizen".

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 20, 2005 at 10:30 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I am glad you are bird-dogging this angle of the story, and drawing other bloggers' attention to it. It is important - so important that when all is known it may well rival Iraq as the defining story of Bush's presidency.

Therefore, I won't make a big deal about the sheer silliness of your final, update paragraph, wherein you claim the technology must be something new and big, because "Echelon has been around for a long time and no one has ever complained about it before."

Posted by: Libby Sosume on December 20, 2005 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not usually a tin-foil hat person, but I agree with Cranky. That the administration was spying on domestic "enemies" is the only thing that makes sense here.

There is too many violations for it to be a new technology. You would think that they'd stop requesting new feeds and just keep with the ones they have. At least if it is competently put together (well..hmmm...).

Posted by: Karmakin on December 20, 2005 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Since the paranoid factor in this thread is quite high, I'll throw out this little new tidbit that caught my attention a few years ago.

Gold sold: The Carlyle Group dishes out $72M

" The Gold Building in downtown San Jose, home to one of the Internet's largest network access points, has sold for a whopping $71.75 million.
... MCI WorldCom leases space there to operate its Metropolitan Area Ethernet (MAE West), which controls roughly 40 percent of the nation's Internet traffic. "It's the main location for Internet users, and they're willing to pay whatever it takes to get there..."

You all remember the Carlyle Group, right?

http://www.google.com/search?q=carlyle+group+surveillance+NSA&btnG=Search&hs=iV3&hl=en&lr=&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial

Posted by: oooweeeeoooo on December 20, 2005 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Earlier: "And think how much more efficient it would be if you let them look for other crimes besides terrorism. After all, Al Qaeda only managed to kill about 3000 people, that's nothing compared to domestic murders. I think this modest proposal would be well-received by most of our law-abiding citizens."

Fine with me. Let's define the relevant crimes first, then have a serious go at it. Sunset provision every 3 years or so; if we don't like it, we can change or drop it.

Posted by: Terry Ott on December 20, 2005 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Therefore, I won't make a big deal about the sheer silliness of your final, update paragraph, wherein you claim the technology must be something new and big, because "Echelon has been around for a long time and no one has ever complained about it before."

True. Lots of people on the left and the right have complained about Echelon for years.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

Atrios points out that Bush lied to the American people about this in an April 24, 2004 speech before the election:

"Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

If this was a proper country there'd be tens of thousands of outraged demonstrators before the White House right now....

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

Embassies are US soil. The USS Cole was close enough. We haven't had any of those either in the last four years.

OK, let's count the USS Cole as one strike by Al Qaeda against a US military target during the Clinton years. Add the two embassies and we're up to three. Now let's count up the terrorist strikes against US military and government targets during the Bush years -- we're up to several thousand, aren't we? If Iraq is, as Bush says, the central front in the War on Terra (TM), then every roadside bomb and sniping and mortar attack against a US patrol or government agency in Iraq has to count as a terrorist strike.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

on the technology: NSA and its contractors have probably been building massive number/ IP address to number/ IP address tables for telephone and Internet traffic and using these to generate social networks. The social networks graphs can in turn be used to identify central and choke points that guide further attention. The methodology presumes guilt by association and also, if publicized, would have raised serious questions about continued US control of the Internet.

Posted by: Athought Intime on December 20, 2005 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Similar to A.I. just above, another thought occured to me: the majority of the Internet's DNS (name resolution) root web servers are in the United States. 90% of the clicks on the Internet worldwide probably generate a request to one of those servers or one of the 2nd-tier servers maintained by the 5 or so biggest Internet service providers. Monitoring all DNS resolution would be fairly simple by today's standards and would provide a heck of a lot of useful traffic analysis that could be combined with the aforementioned Choicepoint data.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on December 20, 2005 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Josh Marshall notes Bush's poll numbers after his recent frantic "OK, I fucked up" series of speeches:

"Quite a spread. Polls of the president's approval rating over the last week are, in order from most recent, 41% (Gallup), 47% (ABC/Post), 42% (Fox), 50% (Hotline), 39% (NBC)."

Let's see where they go after this recent revelation....

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

I haven't yet read all of the comments above, but I did want to make a point that I haven't yet seen made explicitly.

Whether or not this new program goes well beyond what would ever have been feasible given the constraints of FISA, and going to a FISA court, there still is NOT, so far as I can make out, anything that revealing the existence of this program would lead terrorists to believe that they might not have reasonably speculated before.

That is, for all they could possibly know, whatever kind of communication they might have engaged in WOULD have been subject to a wiretap under FISA IF the authorities had had the proper authorization from the FISA court. Terrorists would have no way of knowing apriori that the authorities did NOT have that authorization.

Thus, Bush's claim that merely revealing the existence of the program, and describing very generally how it functions, tells the terrorists nothing that they might not have feared before in any case. There is nothing they might have done or avoided in the light of the knowledge of the program that they might not have done or avoided before.

This is especially so since I'm sure the program itself hardly is perfect in its execution -- even if it automatically monitors every conversation and email throughout the world at all times, it could not be unfailingly correct in the results it provides. It has, I have no doubt, significant limitations that would encourage terrorists to take at least some risks in their conversations and emails -- probably whatever risks they thought they were taking before.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 20, 2005 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

My sentence above:

Thus, Bush's claim that merely revealing the existence of the program, and describing very generally how it functions, tells the terrorists nothing that they might not have feared before in any case.

should be instead,

Thus, Bush's claim that merely revealing the existence of the program, and describing very generally how it functions, undermines national security, is simply false. In fact, doing so tells the terrorists nothing that they might not have feared before in any case.
Posted by: frankly0 on December 20, 2005 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

I just think that our government endlessly pushing the envelope on what kinds of surveillance capabilities they need is really questionable. I think perhaps the people responsible really believe the rationales they advance, when the story breaks, for these kinds of practices, but where does it end? And who's to say that they don't abuse it? If you read the new NYT article about FBI domestic surveillance, it wounds like the FBI is completely staffed by individuals who are very, very right-wing, to the point that they're out of sync with the rest of the country.

My basic point about this whole thing is that they can say whatever they want, and they can even believe it-- but we all have to ask at what point does it start to become something that's on the threshold of fascism. Because the road to one-party government may be paved with good intentions; it probably always starts with a bunch of people who can be conviced that they have to go too far in order to protect people.

Posted by: Swan on December 20, 2005 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone definively know yet whether the Times knew of this before the election? I have seen speculation, but I really want to know if the Times was holding this story back during the election.

Yes, they did. They apparently had the story in fall of 2004, when it might have done some good. The LA Times reports that "The New York Times first debated publishing a story about secret eavesdropping on Americans as early as last fall, before the 2004 presidential election. But the newspaper held the story for more than a year and only revealed the secret wiretaps last Friday, when it became apparent a book by one of its reporters was about to break the news, according to journalists familiar with the paper's internal discussions."

Damn liberal media -- always covering up the Republican regimen's criminality. If that doesn't show liberal bias then nothing does....

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen: In the meantime the flag that my husband received upon his retirement is hanging in our patio doors, at distress.

Good idea. I think I'll do the same with mine. In fact, I think all of us with flags should hang them at distress until this rotten lying criminal and his corrupt gang are impeached and thrown out of office.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan, I share your frustration but at least the following gives me hope that editors will have our back on this issue:

Asheville Citizen Times

http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051220/OPINION01/51219014/1039

Posted by: ELR on December 20, 2005 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

For the Radical trolls here: how does the expansion of a "use of force" resolution (not even a declaration of war, but so be it) into a "blanket permission to spy on everyone" fit into the concept of Original Intent?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on December 20, 2005 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

Sombrero and Violet, first of all this is an authority that every president has had, Bush has only sought to expediate the process because of the urgency of terror cells that may exist on our soil. To my understanding there have only been 30 instances since 911 that the admin. has bypassed the FISA app. process to surveill possible terrorist communique. That's an average of seven times per year. IMHO, we are getting our panties all in a bunch based on the hypothetical, tatamount to saying that all kids have access to drugs, oh god they are all going to become drug addicts. I also will submit that since every president has had this authority, you are only concerned now because that authority lies in the hands of GW.

Posted by: Jay on December 20, 2005 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

O LITTLE TOWN OF WASHINGTON
(sung to the tune of O Little Town of Bethlehem)

O little town of Washington
How still we see thee lie
To all thy creep Republicans
The countless dollars fly.
Yet on dark K Street lurketh
That bastard Tom DeLay
Our darkest fears of many years
Have all come true today.

Ron Earle he knows no mercy
'Round Texas he doth go
While Congress sleeps, the DA keeps
His watch on wand'ring dough.
All thinking heads together
Revile Tom's lying heart
When he's sitting in Ossining
Redistricting will start!

How silently, how silently
To Bush is power giv'n!
The Press imparts to human hearts
More pablum straight from heav'n.
No ear can hear his morals,
But in this world of spin,
Where pundits will receive him still,
McClellan enters in.

O drunken George of Crawford
Read any book, we pray
Cast out your sin and enter in
To rehab, please, today.
We hear the Christmas gaggles
The great glad tidings tell:
The NSA is watching us
Our rights have gone to Hell.

Posted by: DoubleD on December 20, 2005 at 11:29 AM | PERMALINK

Long before cell phones, long before fiber, the DoD (prob. it is the NSA today!) manned a listening station in Harrogate, Yorkshire, England, which recorded and sampled as best they could, every international telephone call they could hear. It was there in the first half of the 60s. Nowadays they catch the whole lot -- all long distance calls, from a great number of posts and they could not care less whether either or both parties are here in the US. They did not care back in the 60s either.

About a month after the well-known Israeli attack on Jenin, (?some time in 2002) a Balkan-doctor-immigrant of my acquaintance called to ask if I had any idea why he could go on-line (via telephone) on his lap top to check his bank balance. I asked him a a few questions and it turned out he had received and forwarded pictures received from Medecins sans Frontieres friends which were of the dead Palestinians. We tested another lap top on his line and it could not get on line, and we tested his lap top on another telephone line and it would not work, though other machines worked on the second line. After a few days his telephone line functioned again for data access, but he had to get his lap top's ID changed to get it on-line again.

A data security friend with lots of Bell Labs very-secret-indeed experience agreed with me that the Balkan was verey ingenuous not to think that GWB was spying on all of us, even then.

Big Brother even works on behalf of our so-called "allies".

Even with multi tera-byte searching it is pretty incredible that they should feel there is value in such random oversight. Surely it is a bit like battlefield intelligence ---- by the time it had been decoded and analysed it tends to be irrelevant. If we had a security service, with proper oversight from about three committees, Josef W Bush would not have been permitted to act thus.

BTW, betcha K Drum is right, and this is a lot bigger than is being let on, and that it is of massive Abel Danger-like proportions. Bet we are all in it, on record, even Norom, Al/Alice/Whoever, tbrosz et al. Ho Hum.

Posted by: maunga on December 20, 2005 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

OK, let's count the USS Cole as one strike by Al Qaeda against a US military target during the Clinton years. Add the two embassies and we're up to three. Now let's count up the terrorist strikes against US military and government targets during the Bush years -- we're up to several thousand, aren't we? If Iraq is, as Bush says, the central front in the War on Terra (TM), then every roadside bomb and sniping and mortar attack against a US patrol or government agency in Iraq has to count as a terrorist strike.

Let me correct that. We're probably up to at least over ten thousand attacks, considering a rough rate of 50-80 attacks per day in Iraq lately.

The Clinton years: three attacks, two embassies and one warship damaged, several dozen casualties.

The Bush years: tens of thousands of attacks, the Pentagon attacked, nine New York office towers destroyed, four jetliners obliterated, and well over ten thousand American casualties.

You can't argue with success....

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

on the law: under the intelligence reform acts of the 1970s, the president does not have the power to circumvent FISA courts, but only the power to seek permission retroactively. That is why the Bush administration is touting the dubious argument of inherent power under the war resolution.

on the actualities: the number of FISA circumventions has not been specified, but is much more likely than 30. Besides, if some of the wires were not on specific individuals, but sniffing packets near ISPs or mirroring some DNS, that amounts to a heck lot more than 30.

on importance of disclosure: Yes, Al Qaeda people and others probalbly think they are being surveilled, but might have thought that message passing through secondary and tertiary links (including anonymous resenders) was relatively secure. Knowledge or reminder that NSA was doing a Poindexter TIA type program per the Jay Rockefeller letter) could easily disabue them of that thought. Besides silence is the needed cover for giant fishing expeditions.

Posted by: Athoght Intime on December 20, 2005 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

In over four years we have not had another attack on U.S. soil, something that still surprises the hell out of me. Something seems to be working.

Time between WTC attack in 1993 and the 9/11 2001 attack please? Something must have been working. And we didn't have to strip our liberties.

Posted by: ckelly on December 20, 2005 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan, 8 months in to the Bush presidency and you lay all the blame of 911 on him, ignoring the 8 YEARS Clinton had to deal with Al Qaeda. How liberal of you.

Posted by: Jay on December 20, 2005 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

Jay, I for one am damn worried that this authority lies in the hands of George W. Bush. The man has proven his incompetency time and time again even before he became president. Remember, this is also the guy that thinks being a dictator makes things so much easier.

Posted by: whosays on December 20, 2005 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans love to move the goalposts.

A President who defends the country and keeps terrorists from attacking us is doing his job.

You don't give someone a bonus or reward or a free pass to break the law because they've been doing the bare minimum. You don't reward mediocrity and simply showing up.

Well, in this day and age, maybe you do.

Posted by: Pale Rider on December 20, 2005 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

whosays, thank you for proving my point. Now go on and unravel those panties.

Posted by: Jay on December 20, 2005 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Now let's count up the terrorist strikes against US military and government targets during the Bush years -- we're up to several thousand, aren't we?

No, we're not, because Iraq is a war, and Afghanistan is a war. And if you play that silly game, you have to include Khobar Towers, and Somalia, and Bosnia, and continuing activity in the no-fly zones, and the attempt on ex-President Bush's life, and a few other events.

Posted by: Red State Mike on December 20, 2005 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

I am happy to prove your point. W is a dangerous incompetent president.

Posted by: whosays on December 20, 2005 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK
None of these quotes makes sense if the NSA program involved nothing more than an expansion of ordinary taps of specific individuals. After all, the FISA court would have approved taps of domestic-to-international calls as quickly and easily as they do with normal domestic wiretaps.

Again, Kevin makes the mistake of ignoring the possibility that the Bush wiretaps had flimsier grounds than previous wiretaps; the fact that Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court always has approved prior requests does not mean that they are merely a rubber stamp. If Bush's intended wiretaps were not justified to the same degree as the previous administrations' requests -- which is almost certainly in the case of those where they did not apply for warrants since it is, judging from the fact that some pushback from the FISC apparently occurred even where warrants were applied for, in the cases where they did apply for warrants.

I don't understand, Kevin, why you persist in treating the FISC as if it were a random process such that the rate of approval is simply a universal constant and completely independent of the content of the warrant applications. Well, perhaps I do, as you've developed a theory which has really nothing to recommend it over a large number of other possibilities without this strained interpretation, but still.


It seems clear that there's something involved here that goes far beyond ordinary wiretaps, regardless of the technology used. Perhaps some kind of massive data mining, which makes it impossible to get individual warrants? Stay tuned.

Since individual warrants aren't required (the warrants must be specific, not "individual"), that's not the problem, or at least, it doesn't clearly articulate the problem. Aside from the fact that your conclusion that this is something other than ordinary wiretaps with extraordinarily weak justification of the conclusion that the targets are "foreign powers" as defined in FISA is based on a completely unjustified and rather bizarre assumption about the operation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as discussed above, "massive data mining", as you suggest, would not be "electronic surveillance", but a process applied to the product of electronic surveillance.

If "massive data mining" or some similar widespread analysis technique relates at all to the core of the reason that the Bush Administration hasn't sought warrants -- a conclusion which, I repeat again, I feel is completely unwarranted though worth considering as a possibility -- the the actual reason is that the Bush Administration is conduct widespread electronic surveillance on persons who are not, and are not even minimally suspected to be, foreign powers or agents of foreign powers. And that's why they couldn't get the warrant -- its not that warrants would be impractical for technological reasons, its an absence of any reasonable justification for the particular surveillance of US persons. It is, if your suggestion of the nature of the program is correct, a quite simple, cut-and-dried example of an unreasonable search.

UPDATE: Lots of people have suggested that the NSA program has something to do with Echelon, a massive project that vacuums up communications of all kinds from all over the globe. The problem is that Echelon has been around for a long time and no one has ever complained about it before so whatever this new program is, it's something more than vanilla Echelon.

Usually, its the right-wingnut trolls around here that bring up the outright lie that no one has complained about Echelon before. A simple Google search with the terms "echelon" and "civil liberties" together will show that lots of people have been complaining about Echelon for years. This is even worse than your groundless treatment of the FISC as making its decisions without substantial consideration of the content of applications. Where that is a strained but possible interpretation of the known facts, this goes straight into the territory of outright and verifiable untruth.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 20, 2005 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

GW Bush has been rewarded for being mediocre his whole life. Why should things change now?

Posted by: whosays on December 20, 2005 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

RSM, I might agree that we are in a war in Iraq but are we still in a war in Afghanistan. The conservatives that post here all say Afghanistan is a huge success. Haven't we won that war? Do you think the 'war on terror' is a war too?

Posted by: whosays on December 20, 2005 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Orrin Hactch was the first to leak this info out years ago,Osama stopped using his sat phone minutes after Hatch let the cat out of the bag,So throw the treasones rightie in Gitmo.

Posted by: scott on December 20, 2005 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Google has a lot more info sitting on their hard drives than the NSA/Echelon does, and it's better indexed.

All the government needs to do is to ask Google to build them a search form that allows them to search all the "private" data that Google collects on you that they prune out of normal search results.

It's not "evil" if the government asks you to do it.

Posted by: BC on December 20, 2005 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK
In over four years we have not had another attack on U.S. soil, something that still surprises the hell out of me.

Its been less than four years since the LAX attack, although its nice that you've modified the standard line to of no attacks since 9/11 so as to avoid the usual problems with the anthrax attacks of 2001.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 20, 2005 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

I think that what is important about calling the Brooklyn Bridge blowtorcher a terrorist is how pathetic this behavior was. And I think that is true of pretty much all of the "great" AQ-conspiracy arrests made by Ashcroft etal.
So when does a few guys bullshitting become a conspiracy ? What overt acts were done? One guy comes to NYC and looks at the bridge. No other overt acts, no collection of gas torches etc. But talking to another person about doing this becomes a conspiracy.
And I am not a lawyer or legal scholar but I do not think this extension of the idea of conspiracy starts with Ashcroft.Nobody much argued with its use against mafia types.

Even more chilling is the anti-regicide law. It is against the law to say you want to harm the president. The mere utterance of that notion is I believe a criminal act. This was the start of modern thought control. I suggest it was there that was the law that allowed the sea change that followed. "Kill the Umpire" is fine. "Kill the President" is a crime. The president is the one individual with special rights above and beyond all others.The mere utterance of that notion is I believe a criminal act.Free speech in this regard is no longer allowed.
This was the start of modern thought control. I suggest it was there that was the law that allowed the sea change that followed.Perhaps it is the one that needed more careful review.
Because it is only series of small reasonable steps (the weakness of our legal system small reasonable steps evolve to an utterly absurd result because there is little overall review)to making illegal the conversation: " I wish I had my .45. Bam that Ump is history and then maybe we would have a fair chance to win" with the answer: "Great idea"
A indictable conspiracy to commit murder?

Posted by: aeolius on December 20, 2005 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

No, we're not, because Iraq is a war, and Afghanistan is a war. And if you play that silly game, you have to include Khobar Towers, and Somalia, and Bosnia, and continuing activity in the no-fly zones, and the attempt on ex-President Bush's life, and a few other events.

You seem a bit confused (more than usual). Is Iraq a war, or is it, as Bush says, the Central Front in the War on Terror (TM) ? If its's a war then the people we're fighting are guerillas, not terrorists -- but that's not the Republican talking point, which maintains that what we're doing over there is fighting terrorism. If, as the Republican fanatics all claim, we're fighting terrorism then the people we're fighting are terrorists and their attacks are terrorist attacks -- Q.E.D. Remember, these are your side's definitions, not mine. How awfully convenient (and shamefully dishonest) of you to keep flip-flopping on whether your foes are guerillas or terrorists.

And no, if we play that silly game we don't have to include Bosnia or Somalia or Kosovo etc. since none of those were conducted by Al Qaeda or its affiliates, and it's Al Qaeda terrorism that we're discussing. Get on the ball, for god's sakes, and learn to pay attention.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan, are honestly saying that had Gore been elected in 2000, 911 would not have happened? and please provide your vision of a peaceful Al Qaeda and a "contained" Saddam under a Gore presidency. Since we continue to play silly games..........

Posted by: Jay on December 20, 2005 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Jay,

Bush came into office determined to be the Un-Clinton. When Clinton told Bush, face-to-face, that his biggest international challenge would be terrorism (OBL) Bush responded with the words, "I disagree."

Bush thought Saddam was the big thing. And that's where his administration put their attention.

Posted by: obscure on December 20, 2005 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

aeolis,

Absolutely correct in the criminality of uttering any considerations of harm against our President - Now, if those damnable pinko liberals in Congress would stop filibustering the new Anti-Dictator Comments Act, we could all sleep better.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 20, 2005 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Run out and play, Jay, you mouth-breathing freak. Do you honestly think I'm going to waste my time "debating" someone as stupid as you?

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

obscure, wow I didn't know you were actually at that meeting. I am sure you can provide for us the actual recording of that conversation or at least the transcripts. It seems to me that Bush has dismantled the Taliban and captured or killed 70% of Al Qaeda in the process, so maybe he didn't "disagree" completely. BTW that is a lot more than Clinton ever did and I thought the blue dress was Clinton's biggest concern.

Posted by: Jay on December 20, 2005 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Run and hide Stefan, just like liberals always do.........

Posted by: Jay on December 20, 2005 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

IIRC, that was the public account given by Bill Clinton. Never contested by the administration.

Are you denying it's accuracy, Jay?

(I don't much give a shit about "it seems to me..." on the grounds that you're not terribly smart.)

Posted by: obscure on December 20, 2005 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I believe it was on a show on Air AMERICA (perhaps Rachel Maddow's?) when Rice was asked how many senior people in the hierarchy of Al Qaeda are we known to have killed and she said 70% she was then asked how many senior people are IN Al Qaeda and she went on to say anywhere from 20-200.

Posted by: robbymack on December 20, 2005 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Jay,

Methinks that Stefan is much too busy to emulate Twigless in sitting stunned in a chair for several minutes and then being flown to a rabbit hole - Or wandering aimlessly around his ranch with a jug of Jim Beam after hearing of Katrina - or running to Alabama after drug testing of pilots was introduced in 1972.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 20, 2005 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

No wonder tbrosz loves this WAR so much, it's the first one that has been paid for with TAX CUTS!

Posted by: robbymack on December 20, 2005 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Smegma doth goo Jay's eyes.

Posted by: Onus Bungee on December 20, 2005 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan, are honestly saying that had Gore been elected in 2000, 911 would not have happened?

I too think that this is plausible.

Why? Because Gore would have listened to both Sandy Berger and Richard Clarke from the very beginning of his Presidency. And, when George Tenet went around in August with his hair on fire over the possibility of imminent terrorism, Gore would have let his hair catch fire too.

There were a number of points and ways in which the authorities came close to exposing the plot before it came to fruition. We would have had a good chance, or at the very least a very much improved chance, of catching the plotters had general alertness been raised at the highest level of the government, which it clearly was NOT under Bush.

What can I say? Competence counts. Bush never has and never will come within eyesight or earshot of it. I don't think he even know what it looks like, given his appointments.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 20, 2005 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

One word "Carnivore".

On steroids, with out controls.

Posted by: J on December 20, 2005 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to me that Bush has dismantled the Taliban and captured or killed 70% of Al Qaeda in the process,

robbymack: I believe it was on a show on Air AMERICA (perhaps Rachel Maddow's?) when Rice was asked how many senior people in the hierarchy of Al Qaeda are we known to have killed and she said 70% she was then asked how many senior people are IN Al Qaeda and she went on to say anywhere from 20-200.

Without breaking my desire not to debate the submental, let me try to put this to rest. The "70% of Al Qaeda's leadership" claim is a fallacy. First, as robbymack points out, if we didn't even know if the leadership consisted of 20 or 200 people then we surely couldn't know what percentage we'd killed or captured.

Second, the 70% figure derives from the Al Qaeda leadership that was known to US intelligence prior to September 11, 2001. This excludes, obviously, those who were not known to us and any who have entered the leadership since that date.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Monkey:

> PGP? That got cracked years ago. The NSA scarfs on PGP.

All cracking the algorithm does is give you a hieruistic. You
still need dedicated computer time to crack each individual message.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on December 20, 2005 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

What is the major reason there has not been another attack on the order of 9/11 on American soil?

Because we are all of us on a heightened state of alert since 9/11. If we had been as vigilant on the issue before 9/11 as we have been since, the plotters would have been caught any number of ways.

How likely is it, for example, that they would have been able to study how to fly jets as they did without serious scrutiny in our current state of awareness? About zero probability, I'd think.

The fact is that al Qaeda had exactly one chance to pull off an enormous surprise, because after a successful attack, they would forever be under heightened vigilance.

That chance is over, never to return.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 20, 2005 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

You seem a bit confused (more than usual). Is Iraq a war, or is it, as Bush says, the Central Front in the War on Terror (TM)?

It's a war like the war on drugs is a war. One you fight militarily, politically, economically.

If its's a war then the people we're fighting are guerillas, not terrorists

Non sequitur

-- but that's not the Republican talking point

You should find one to take this issue up with.

which maintains that what we're doing over there is fighting terrorism.

We are. We are fighting the key source of terrorism, which is the fact that the countries over there are $%&-holes that offer nothing to their people but dictatorships, theocracies, or corrupt kingdoms.

If, as the Republican fanatics all claim, we're fighting terrorism then the people we're fighting are terrorists and their attacks are terrorist attacks -- Q.E.D.

QED not. Another non sequitur. If we fight terrorism by providing post-earthquake aid to Pakistan or post-tsunami aid to Malaysia to win hearts and minds...who's the terrorist? The cold north wind?

If we throw out Saddam to bring a just government to the Middle East with the goal of giving their youth a plan B (plan A being strap a bomb to yourself) that doesn't make Saddam a terrorist. Evil, yes. Terrorist, no.

But the ones blowing up Iraqi women and children are terrorists.

Remember, these are your side's definitions, not mine.

My side? Remember, this is your pigeon holing, not mine. Not everyone who isn't a democrat is a republican. I lean conservative, which is NOT the same as republican. Pay attention.

How awfully convenient (and shamefully dishonest) of you to keep flip-flopping on whether your foes are guerillas or terrorists.

How awfully inconvenient that I don't fit neatly into your "us versus them" dem/repub mentality.

Posted by: Red State Mike on December 20, 2005 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Nice try, Mike, but no. This all started when you claimed that there had been lots of terrorist strikes during the Clinton years: "Embassies are US soil. The USS Cole was close enough. We haven't had any of those either in the last four years." I pointed out that we had, indeed, had lost of those in the past four years -- over ten thousand, in fact -- if by "lots of those" you mean terrorist strikes against US targets. Or are you arguing that the guys mortaring the Green Zone or setting off IEDs against US patrols are not terrorists? If that's what you're arguing, then you're severely out of sync with current Republican talking points, which are that Iraq is fundamentally a fight against terrorism. We may indeed fight terrorism by other means such as diplomatic and economic, but Republicans claim that the best and most effective way to fight it is military.

And you still lost the argument. You pointed to three attacks by Al Qaeda or AQ-affiliates against US targets during the Clinton years. I point to tens of thousands of attacks causing tens of thousand of casualties.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

We are. We are fighting the key source of terrorism, which is the fact that the countries over there are $%&-holes that offer nothing to their people but dictatorships, theocracies, or corrupt kingdoms.

Then we should have invaded one of those countries that produced the terrorists -- such as Saudi Arabia -- instead of Iraq, which didn't. No Iraqi was shown to have engaged in anti-US terrorism prior to our invasion.

QED not. Another non sequitur. If we fight terrorism by providing post-earthquake aid to Pakistan or post-tsunami aid to Malaysia to win hearts and minds...who's the terrorist? The cold north wind?

No, the non sequitur is yours, as the topic under discussion is the fighting in Iraq, not Malaysia (I think you mean Thailand) or Pakistan relief efforts. My point was that if, as the right wing does, you define your enemies in Iraq as "terrorists" then you must concede that their attacks against you are also "terrorist attacks." You can't say they're terrorists when justifying the war but then say they're not terrorists when you try to claim that there have been no terrorist attacks against the US.

If we throw out Saddam to bring a just government to the Middle East with the goal of giving their youth a plan B (plan A being strap a bomb to yourself) that doesn't make Saddam a terrorist. Evil, yes. Terrorist, no.

Since Iraq's youth wasn't strapping bombs to themselves before we invaded, it seems somewhat odd to have invaded to make them stop what they were never doing. Perhaps we should have invaded Saudi Arabia or Palestine instead?

But the ones blowing up Iraqi women and children are terrorists.

So since they often blow up these women and children when they cluster around US vehicles, then these attacks are terrorist attacks against US targets, then.

My side? Remember, this is your pigeon holing, not mine. Not everyone who isn't a democrat is a republican. I lean conservative, which is NOT the same as republican. Pay attention....How awfully inconvenient that I don't fit neatly into your "us versus them" dem/repub mentality.

Actually, you fit perfectly into it, even to the point of calling yourself "Red State" Mike to further point up the Red/Blue divide. You may lie to yourself that you're a rugged individualist, a bold thinker, but you post here in constant defense of Bush. You're one of Bush's Bitches.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

I believe the policies and actions directed by George W. Bush have created more terrorists than they have destroyed.

Posted by: idontknow on December 20, 2005 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

They're watching more or less everything, that's their job: http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2005/12/20/Wiretap-Technology

The legal issues and the policy issues are colliding here.

Posted by: Tim Bray on December 20, 2005 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

I mean he himself siad you are either with us or against us. So anyone who thought he was engaging this challenge in the wrong way is automatically on the 'outside'. Enemy of the state.

Posted by: idontknow on December 20, 2005 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

The two technologies in question here are very simply speech analytics and text analytics. These are both at a higher level than pure data mining, but rely on principles of data mining to detect and identify patterns of speech, or patterns in the written word, by virtue of a volumnious scanning algorithms.

Posted by: WherestheOutrage on December 20, 2005 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

If we throw out Saddam to bring a just government to the Middle East with the goal of giving their youth a plan B (plan A being strap a bomb to yourself) that doesn't make Saddam a terrorist. Evil, yes. Terrorist, no.

Ah, I see. So Saddam was not a terrorist but, in order to fight terrorism, we had to invade his non-terrorist country instead of the countries that really supported terrorism and actually had their youth strap bombs to themselves. With the result that the Iraqi youth who were not previously strapping bombs to themselves and launching terrorist attacks against the US are now doing so.

Well, that makes perfect sense.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan
Actually, you fit perfectly into it, even to the point of calling yourself "Red State" Mike to further point up the Red/Blue divide.

I wandered to this blog randomly months back, used "mike" as the moniker, and instantly got confused with another "Mike" by patrons. So I used "red state mike". No conscious effort to rock your world.

You may lie to yourself that you're a rugged individualist, a bold thinker, but you post here in constant defense of Bush. You're one of Bush's Bitches.

Harsh words coming from a cheap humorless prig whore of the left.

Yea, see the Katrina threads. Or energy policy threads. Or evolution and intelligent design threads. Better yet don't, since that might upset your simplistic whore-of-the-left red/blue worldview.

Your existence depends on there being a right so you can juxtapose yourself. The right provides you your entire raison d'etre.

You don't even pretend to be anything other than a cheap whore to the left, rattling off one Daily Kos talking point after anthoer. I haven't seen you pull up an even slightly innovative thought in the months I've been here. Everything you post is derivative. Just pulling from your short list of dranged Bush Hating memes thread after thread. Well, fine, if you want to be lumped in an intellectual class with conspiracy is nuts and Advocate for God, I'm sure they'll be glad to have you.

Posted by: Red State Mike on December 20, 2005 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Heh...that "Bush's Bitch" got to you, didn't it?

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

In my experience Stefan is quite humorous. I guess it depends on who is reading him. I haven't seen any evidence that he is prudishly proper and if he is a whore of the left there is no evidence that he is a cheap whore.

Posted by: whosays on December 20, 2005 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

No, I'm top dollar.

By the way, "whore" is an ugly word. I prefer tramp...

You can also call me a slut, but it'll cost you extra.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

One problem we 'whores of the left' have is that we just don't understand why or how Georgie boy induces complete adoration from 40% of the voting public.

Posted by: whosays on December 20, 2005 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Is that secret project by Poindexter still around where we get to purchase futures in the outcome of world leaders? I'm just sayin'!

Posted by: parrot on December 20, 2005 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

Go bloggers! This idea of yours, Kevin, will show up in the MSM much sooner than it would have in a non-blogging world. Kudos to you and to truth-seeking bloggers everywhere!

Posted by: romdinstler jones on December 20, 2005 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

Here is an example of our covert tax dollars at work--intimidating library patrons:

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/daily/12-05/12-17-05/a09lo650.htm

Posted by: Ross Best on December 20, 2005 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

jay writes: Stefan, 8 months in to the Bush presidency and you lay all the blame of 911 on him, ignoring the 8 YEARS Clinton had to deal with Al Qaeda.

clinton was president for 36-days before the first wtc attack in feb. 93......

never heard anybody blame g.h.w.b. for that one


and on a different tack...

how can americans be safer since 9-11.....if more americans are dead from terrorists in iraq?


Posted by: thisspaceavailable on December 20, 2005 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

I hope like hell that someone uncovers the real reason(s) BushCo didn't go to the Congress to get whatever parts of FISA changed they didn't like, or were afraid of. And I hope it shows up in the mainstream media in some form. It may be enough to blow the lid finally off this criminal conspiracy occupying the White House.

My worst fear is what happen when--not if--another terrorist attack happens in the U.S. We've created a monster by terrorizing Iraq and allowing the criminal conspiracy to turn our country into what many people see as the true "evil empire." If we don't impeach Bush and another attack happens on that bastard's watch, we're truly fucked. They've been laying the grounds since 9/11 for suspension of the Constitution, working with local police and sheriff's departments. I'm not really a conspiracy nut, but then I never thought things would have come to all of this.

And why the wingnuts can't see that they'll suffer too if this comes to pass is beyond me.

Posted by: a_retrogrouch on December 20, 2005 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Heh...that "Bush's Bitch" got to you, didn't it?

It'd have been OK if you had said McCain.

Posted by: Red State Mike on December 20, 2005 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

targets those with known ties to al qaeda

if the ties are known
then why worry about whether you could get a warrant because of course you could, easily.

they are lying as usual

Posted by: lilybart on December 20, 2005 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

"But this call chain could very well have grown out of control, the source admits. Suddenly, people ten and twelve degrees of separation away from Osama may have been targeted."

Holy crap! Doesn't 12 degrees of separation get you just about everywhere. I mean what if one of the bad guys got a call from Bangalore about changing his long distance carrier? I mean even that Mongolian nomad that hasn't ever heard of Pepsi would be included.

Posted by: ranaaurora on December 20, 2005 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Mike, your comments in the Katrina threads don't exactly exonerate you from your Bush-loving tendencies -- except perhaps one post where you tore tbrosz a new one (thanks, by the way). You admitted the situation was "bad," but you spent an awful lot of time there jumping on people for criticizing Bush while bashing the state and local governments.

As for Stefan being "humorless," I have empirical proof to the contrary:

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_10/007331.php#725269

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_10/007331.php#725391

Pretty funny stuff, you have to admit.

Posted by: Windhorse on December 20, 2005 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

whosays,

Bush owns 40% of the populace because he's an honest, likeable and straight shooting guy and an extremely savvy politician. Conservatives do not like his big spending habits but he's extremely sound and tough on foreign policy, he's a tax cutter and he's done an excellent job in promoting conservative judges. On top of that he's been the best leader of any party since FDR.

He's not only advancing conservatism in America but across the world. The UN, Old Europe and Canada have been totally marginalized. Hugo Chavez knows how to manage the MSM but it still nothing more than a clown. Jacques Chirac, Gerhard Schroeder and Paul Martin have all been fully marginalized by scandals and are either out of office or will soon be out of office. Removing over 100,000 troops from Germany and reducing NATO to a shell is but one example of how GWB has marginalized liberal Europe.

Meanwhile Consevative leaders such as John Howard and Junichiro Kouzimi are at their peak and Tony Blair despite constant disagreements with his own left remains in power in the UK. Tony even signaled to the fanatics that Kyoto is a dead letter.

Best of all is the UN has been completely bypassed by creating coalitions as soon as the US determines the mission and then invites participation. GWB has proven the UN has very limited uses and we do best when we are in the lead.

History will prove GWB has been a very effective President. Not much changed under Clinton. Everything changed under Bush.

Posted by: rdw on December 20, 2005 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: bush is.....an honest, likeable and straight shooting guy

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way." - GWB 4/20/2004

Posted by: thisspaceavailable on December 20, 2005 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Bush owns 40% of the populace because he's an honest, likeable and straight shooting guy and an extremely savvy politician.

Since, as we know, 60% of the population hates honest, likeable and straight shooting guys.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 5:34 PM | PERMALINK

Not much changed under Clinton. Everything changed under Bush.

Just like everything changed under Hoover.

Posted by: Windhorse on December 20, 2005 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

"History will prove GWB has been a very effective President. Not much changed under Clinton. Everything changed under Bush. "

Yeah, like that pesky Constitution and Separation of Powers we used to have. Strange how all those weak presidents just let those stay the law of the land.

Thank God for the 40% who believe is safety over freedom. As the patriot said, "Give me peace of mind, or give me totalitarianism."

Posted by: DJ Adequate on December 20, 2005 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK

Not much changed under Clinton. Everything changed under Bush.

Not much changed under Kerensky. Everything changed under Lenin.

Posted by: Stefan on December 20, 2005 at 5:54 PM | PERMALINK
History will prove GWB has been a very effective President. Not much changed under Clinton. Everything changed under Bush.


Which is a funny argument for you to make, given your propensity for spouting "Clinton did it first" diatribes when Bush is challenged (as recently you have in several of the FISA search-related threads.)

Posted by: cmdicely on December 20, 2005 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

It sounds like Kevin might be right about some new technology being at issue here, but wrong on the legality of the intercepts and the claim they violate FISA (from Powerline):

From the November 2002 decision of the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, in Sealed Case No. 02-001:

The Truong court [United States v. Truong Dinh Hung, 4th Cir. 1980], as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. *** We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power.


Those are cases that deal with electronic intercepts inside the United States, so intercepts outside the United States that coincidentally sweep in messages sent from America would seem to be obviously within the President's inherent Article II powers.

Posted by: brian on December 20, 2005 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that Echelon has been around for a long time and no one has ever complained about it before so whatever this new program is, it's something more than vanilla Echelon.

Yes, and that something more is that instead of Bill Clinton doing it, it is now being done by Bushitlerburton.

Posted by: a on December 20, 2005 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

brian:

Other trolls -- "Al" mostly -- have already tried to sell that misleading excerpt from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review decision here, and had it torn apart. If we can't get smarter trolls and have to have those that rely on blind parroting of Powerline, perhaps we could at least get more up to date trolls.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 20, 2005 at 6:21 PM | PERMALINK

Whew, what a relief - I don't have to laugh at anymore of Stefan's fine work - Geez, and I thought he had wit.
Thanks to Tailhook Charlie, I have been "born again" - Yes, you took your little Stutka and dive bombed the hell out of that little tramp.
Sure opened all of our eyes down here at the mission. We were going to vote for him as Wag of the Week - Now, we will have to defer to MJ Memphis.
Now, Tailhook, go back to the Open Kool-Aid Bar and get sloshed ala Las Vegas Tailhooking.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on December 20, 2005 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

windhorse,

This isn't a depression. In fact, look for the 3rd Qtr GDP to be revised up again to 4.5% and look for 250K job adds in the next employment report. Today we had an excellent wholesale price report as well a strong new home construction report.

Most shocking of all, I may have to eat my words on the dead economies of Old Europe. Germany of all places is showing real life. I'd like to eat my words on this. It would be a big benefit for the global economy for Old Europe to help the USA with the heavy lifing.

Sorry my friend, the US economy is in excellent shape.

Posted by: rdw on December 20, 2005 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

I don't have a propensity for shouting Clinton did it 1st. But when it does happen it's a beautiful thing. In this case it's epecially poetic because Jamie Gorlich was out there running her mouth attacking Bush obviously completely forgetting a couple of recent inventions; videotape and search engines.

I am certain Jamie has been spitting blood getting quoted on Foxnews, all over talk radio and on the internet in support of GWBs position. I can't imagine Slick Willie is too happy either. Don't doubt for a second the WH will be using Jamies insightful analysis.

Politically GWB is holding the aces here. Americans are not overly worried about terrorists civil rights. You'll get the usual crowd of liberians and other flakes with their hair on fire over their civil rights but the other 95% of the population is quite sane.

Meanwhile GWB is doing everything but begging the democrats to take this to his Supreme Court. Clinton specialized is losing all ofhis cases regarding Presidential Power. This is merely another Clinton legacy for GWB to reverse.

Posted by: rdw on December 20, 2005 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

stefan,

Everything changed under Kerensky. The empire was lost.

Slick Willie was a consensus poll driven President. He came into the office because he wanted to be President and not because he wanted to do thngs. He didn't have any real core values and did whatever was necessary to remain personally popular.

In 25 years they'll look back on Clinton and won't remember much of anything.

Kyoto is a great example of how he worked. I think it is a piece of garbage and without question has caused more pollution by transferring manufacturing for the very efficient developed world to the much less efficient undeveloped world. But Clinton was a true believer. So what's he do. He signs it and then, because it's not popular, he puts it in a draw and does not a single thing to promote it. His poll numbers were obviosuly more important.

That's not the worst of it. He left that piece of crap for the next President knowing that President (Gore or Bush - he didn't know which)

1. would have an extremely hard time getting it passed and it was a long shot

2. if they failed they would be blamed, not Slick Willie.


Slick Willie tours Europe and tells everyone, "I signed it, that GWB would not pass it. I did everything humanly possible to pass it".

The man is a fraud. That is exactly what he would have said if Gore was President. "I did my part".

The good news for GWB is that nonsense sells in Canada and Europe but no one else cares.

Posted by: rdw on December 20, 2005 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK
Politically GWB is holding the aces here. Americans are not overly worried about terrorists civil rights. You'll get the usual crowd of liberians and other flakes with their hair on fire over their civil rights but the other 95% of the population is quite sane.

If, as you seem to think, the vast majority of Americans don't actually care about their own civil rights, and are happy about the Administration exerting unreviewed, uncontrolled search powers with no justification offered to anyone based on the unreviewed determination of the working staff of the NSA that someone might be associated with terrorism, (and likewise supporting detention without process, torture, and the other extraordinary practices of this administration) then certainly America doesn't deserve freedom, and the path to tyranny that the nation would then be on would be nothing but what the people, for the most part, want and deserve.

Eventually, of course, as always happens to tyrannies of this sort, the abuses will become so extreme that the regime and system that perpetrated them will be utterly destroyed, torn out root and branch, and replaced, most likely in a paroxysm of extraordinary violence and, sadly, not all that likely with anything much better. But several cycles of tyranny and rebellion down the line, democracy and the preservation of fundamental rights will likely emerge anew.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 20, 2005 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

thisspace,

I am not quite sure what value that GWB quote is. I don't have the context. We do however have the context of the 1994 quotes from Jamie Gorlich and it's the exact same situation.

I'm not a lawyer and not even thinking of getting in the weeds on this. However it's very clear this is a separation of powers issue and the WH is not at all shy in wanting a legal fight. They will assert their position on Presidential Powers in front of the Alito / Roberts Supreme Court and let the chips fall where they may. Congress can pass as many laws as they want. If they usurp Presidential power they're not worth the paper they're written on.

I know this as well. You get Joe Biden or John Kerry out there pontificating on the legal aspects of this you'll get killed politically. Classifying either of those morons as 3rd rate lawyers is grossly unfair to 3rd rate lawyers. Neither is in control of their mouth and each is supremely impresed with themselves. Thus They have a unique ability to make jackasses of themselves every time they talk.

Posted by: rdw on December 20, 2005 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

Your hair is on fire. Take a shower.

Americans don't care about terrorists civil rights. Our own civil rights are in fine shape. If GWB needs to delegate the ability to listen in on the conversations of known terrorists and their associates and contacts PLEASE DO! If he thinks he needs to give the investigators special powers for the war on terror ABSOLUTELY. In this case we're not losing a shred of any civil right since the President has already had this ability but if he made the case for a short term sacrifice in order to improve out security I'm FINE.

Unlike liberals I don't see out troops as torturers and I don't see the FBI or the NSA as the gestapo. I kow it's hard to believe that anyone could possibly have a higher regard for civil rights than a liberal but in fact a large percentage of FBI agents become FBI agents to protect ALL of those civil rights. You talk, they do!

You are the classic liberal elitists and as a political matter, a gift for God. Conservatives have no better friends than liberal elites. George Clooney recently commented it bothers time the term 'liberal' has fallen out of favor and he's like to change that. Liberians and other flakes hyper-ventaliating over a book search ain't gonna help!
We are at war!

BTW: Neither is Syrianna or Good night and Good luck going to help. They attracted small audiences of true believers. When you only speak to the choir you convince no one.

Posted by: rdw on December 20, 2005 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

rdw I don't know what you're smokin' but it packs quite a punch. Re. P. Martin and Canadian elections. The right wing (Conservative) was decimated in 1995 after Mulroney quit as P.M. Next election P.C.'s went with Free Trade and G.S.T. (Goods and Services Tax). The Liberals opposed both and slaughtered the Consertvatives at the polls. Libs then proceeded to institute both and were repeatedly re-elected ! Despite that, the only reason Martin doesn't hold a majority is because of four parties fighting for the popular vote. Bush doesn't affect any of this. But his ambassador was called out on interposing his 2 cents worth re: America-bashing on the campaign trail.

Posted by: opit on December 20, 2005 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

opit,

i have no idea what you are babbling about.

I never suggested GWB was influencing Canadian politics. GWB has been studiously ignoring Canada. We're on auto-poilot. We have highly integrated economies and it will remain so. The fact is Canada has an incredibly small diplomatic footprint for a country with a large economy.

You didn't support us in Iraq but let's be honest. What support could we get? You have a very small and inexperienced military. You're presence in NATO is welcomed and NATO will continue to hang around BUT it will never be as large or as influential as it was in 2000. The support in Afghanistan but lets agree the heavy lifting has been done and the heavy lifting remaining will still be done by US special forces.

Paul Martin and his party is in trouble because of their corrpution and ineptitude. The real event I look forward to is the reconing to come over KYoto.

How much is is going to cost you for missing your targets? Are you going to pay the russians $10M, $20M, how much? The russians have contempt for Kyoto and haven't done a thing to lower pollution yet Canada will be paying them. If that's not liberalism I don't know what is.

BTW: I am hoping ANWR fails. We'll just get it from the tar sands. I'd much rather trash canada than alaska

Posted by: rdw on December 20, 2005 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

This suggests Admiral Poindexters "Total Information Awareness" program never went dark,that what they're trying to do is eavesdrop on everything and everyone they possibly can as long as they can while watching for certain patterns and keywords and such. Terrorists? Sure,but also anyone and anything the Bush administration(and indeed,anyone who has access)doesn't like or trust,which seems to be just about everything and everyone...The implications are immense. On they other hand,maybe they're lying about this too...

Posted by: James on December 20, 2005 at 10:29 PM | PERMALINK

rdw=roll dat weed. Wow. That is some serious trolling, dude. Carrying water for the anti-christ!
High five that prince of darkness Rove for me.

Posted by: Sparko on December 20, 2005 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see any mention of MATRIX, the "terrorist identification" program developed by Seisint, Inc. and sole-sourced to the Dept. of Justice. I don't know how to link, but just put company name and founder Hank Asher (since resigned because of former drug smuggling involvement). Here's a bit from an AP story May2004.
"Before helping to launch the criminal information project known as Matrix, a database contractor gave U.S. and Florida authorities the names of 120,000 people who showed a statistical likelihood of being terrorists, sparking investigations and arrests.
The "high terrorism factor" scoring system also became a key selling point for the involvement of the database company, Seisint Inc., in the Matrix project....
"Seisint and the law enforcement officials who oversee Matrix insist that the terrorism scoring system ultimately was kept out of the project, largely because of concerns about privacy...
"A records request by the AP in Florida turned up "briefing points," dated January 2003, for a presentation on Matrix to Vice President Dick Cheney and other top federal officials delivered jointly by Seisint, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida's top police official."

Posted by: Cassandra on December 20, 2005 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

I see that other people are also thinking a Super-Echelon that scans all net communication and then can backtrack all communications from the node points.

Posted by: Easter Lemming on December 21, 2005 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK

posted by rdw:
---
Your hair is on fire. Take a shower.

Americans don't care about terrorists civil rights. Our own civil rights are in fine shape. If GWB needs to delegate the ability to listen in on the conversations of known terrorists and their associates and contacts PLEASE DO! If he thinks he needs to give the investigators special powers for the war on terror ABSOLUTELY. In this case we're not losing a shred of any civil right since the President has already had this ability but if he made the case for a short term sacrifice in order to improve out security I'm FINE.

Unlike liberals I don't see out troops as torturers and I don't see the FBI or the NSA as the gestapo. I kow it's hard to believe that anyone could possibly have a higher regard for civil rights than a liberal but in fact a large percentage of FBI agents become FBI agents to protect ALL of those civil rights. You talk, they do!

You are the classic liberal elitists and as a political matter, a gift for God. Conservatives have no better friends than liberal elites. George Clooney recently commented it bothers time the term 'liberal' has fallen out of favor and he's like to change that. Liberians and other flakes hyper-ventaliating over a book search ain't gonna help!
We are at war!

BTW: Neither is Syrianna or Good night and Good luck going to help. They attracted small audiences of true believers. When you only speak to the choir you convince no one. ---


rdw, you could not be more wrong about everything you said. you and your complete ignorance are why america is going to become a police state very shortly, that is, unless the general public is actually informed of the truth of our situation. you are in desperate need of elightenment. perhaps if you actually thought and analyzed anything that is pouneded into your head you would realize that this wiretap issue is mereley a very small part of a MUCH larger force that is moving against the american people, and that it is not a partisan issue. but your mindless finger pointing and programmed thought of blaming the other side keeps you from seeing anything as it is.

Posted by: soku on December 21, 2005 at 3:22 AM | PERMALINK

oh and btw:

"I'm grown so weary of the un-American fascist cowards who have somehow come to run our country, with their hatred of the constitution, and their stables of ambitiously servile and obeisant lawyers providing opinions to protect them against future prosecution."

Posted by: Dan Kervick on December 17, 2005 at 7:52 PM


THANK YOU! at least someone on here has some balls. im glad that not EVERY other person responding to this article is not completly full of shit. and to all you ignorants out there...fucking find out for yourself what really happened on 911. we owe it to the people that were murdered in the towers for some fucking elitists' selfish ambition to bring the criminals in office to justice.

Posted by: soku on December 21, 2005 at 3:41 AM | PERMALINK

Mike, your comments in the Katrina threads don't exactly exonerate you from your Bush-loving tendencies -- except perhaps one post where you tore tbrosz a new one (thanks, by the way). You admitted the situation was "bad," but you spent an awful lot of time there jumping on people for criticizing Bush while bashing the state and local governments.

Well, the "It's all Bush's fault for everything" spot was filled on the blog roster, while the "No it's not and you're a dumb#$%" section had a number of positions open. In short, I evolved to fill a niche in the blog ecology. The universe demands balance.

As for Stefan being "humorless," I have empirical proof to the contrary:

Just because I said he's a humorless prig doesn't mean I think he's a humorless prig. In fact, I don't even know what "prig" means. Although from here on out, I shall always associate it with "Stefan".

http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_10/007331.php#725269 http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_10/007331.php#725391

Pretty funny stuff, you have to admit.

Yea...all this time I thought it was Al stealing his name. My bad.

Posted by: Red State Mike on December 21, 2005 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

Hi all..

We are entering the Twight Zone: NSA's program
might be some kind of "addressability"
scheme where they are trying to partition
all communicating entities (email, cell, landline,
etc) into a sort of "Kevin Bacon" graph.

The idea would be to find out who is "related" to
whom, to isolate out cells and sleepers. Even
stenganography would be vulnerable to this
approach; at least you'd know where to focus
a search. In order to find a needle in a
haystack, you have to get rid of some hay...

This might explain "detect and prevent" as
well as lack of warrants: the NSA is trying to
overlay an addressing scheme over all networks,
in order to narrow the focus for more
intensive search methods like vox recognition
("monitor"). The danger is, unwarranted
partitioning might dig up other networks
and put them under the microscope (think
"track all bowling clubs, monitor all
Quaker sewing circles").

Posted by: Cal on December 21, 2005 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the secret technology is this?

http://radar.oreilly.com/archives/2005/04/non_obvious_rel.html

Posted by: Anonymous on December 21, 2005 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: anonymous on December 21, 2005 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

How many movies have we seen come true. The briliance of some "conspiracy minds" to purge their beliefs on to the main screen for all to see.

My fear: The real life Minority Report

Do you know what the Government can do???? Invasive or protecting, you decide! I'm disconnecting my phone and computers and putting in a woodstove, to hell with this garbage.....

Posted by: Ira on December 21, 2005 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

dfgfdf

Posted by: dfasdf on December 21, 2005 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

On top of that he's been the best leader of any party since FDR. - rdw

What about Ronald Reagan? What about Eisenhower? Remember how the first one bested the Soviets and the other one beat the Nazis? Those bad guys had tanks and planes.

GW can't get team together that can beat farm boys even though he has freakin' lasers at his disposal.

And GW signed CAFTA. How could you forget to mention such an accomplishment?

In short, you're a fascist. One of the very same kind that Reagan and Eisenhower defeated.

I'm disgusted that you label yourself a "Republican" because you obviously are not.

Posted by: MrTwist on December 21, 2005 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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