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Tilting at Windmills

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December 24, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

MORE ON THE NSA PROGRAM....James Risen and Eric Lichtblau provide some additional technical information about the NSA's domestic spying operation today:

"There was a lot of discussion about the switches" in conversations with the court, a Justice Department official said, referring to the gateways through which much of the communications traffic flows. "You're talking about access to such a vast amount of communications, and the question was, How do you minimize something that's on a switch that's carrying such large volumes of traffic? The court was very, very concerned about that."

....What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.

This is interesting stuff, and it sounds like pretty useful stuff to me, too. This program and this technology might very well be important elements in the fight against al-Qaeda.

But that's not the point. The point is that it appears to be illegal, and if George Bush believed it was genuinely critical to our national security he should have asked Congress to pass legislation authorizing it. The president is simply not allowed to decide for himself to break the law simply because it's inconvenient, and the excuse that he couldn't go to Congress because that would expose valuable secrets to al-Qaeda is laughable. It's tantamount to saying that he never needs to ask Congress for approval of any black program because that might somehow tip off al-Qaeda to its existence. Not only is that untrue (Congress routinely holds closed hearings to discuss sensitive issues), but it's a transparent rationalization for the president to do practically anything he wants with no oversight at all, and that just doesn't fly, wartime or not.

Kevin Drum 1:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (110)

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Comments

It's like they went searching for the Zimmerman telegram and ended up being Zimmerman. They told these companies they have carte blanche to monitor 'calling patterns' and store the information, and that formerly applicable laws are all unapplicable. How secure is that storage? Hackers are still breaking into the Pentagon, how secure is Verizon?

If the formerly applicable laws are all void, can these companies access that data at will, or sell access to it? If the government can exploit a grey area they don't want anyone talking about surely the government won't object when a few executives do the same. A lot of people had to have known about these data bases, a lot of Republican types, the kind of people who would sell their mothers for parts.

Think of the class-action law suit. Every single person on Earth vs. ten corporations and George Bush.

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 1:21 AM | PERMALINK

cld has it. Information integrity is critical to an information economy.

Does anybody know what models would be useful in determining the economic consequences of undermining legal protection of information?

(A friend of mine told me once about how eBay was having a helluva time getting the Koreans to buy into the idea that you could buy something from somebody you didn't see - and that they would actually send you the stuff. We can't underappreciate the value of systemic confidence.)

Posted by: Saam Barrager on December 24, 2005 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

Knowing how much you political animals like being herded around I would say that you could run this ' Totalitarian Information Agency' for yourselves when you take over ' Animal Farm'.
All you have to do is strip off the IDing identification and tag it with encryption. So when your data-miner strikes a ' seam' you can then go to the judge and get the other half of the encryption key.

So now we have a safe and secure intelligence system firing the great Beast that is the Amreikkkan Empire can roar again.

And that aint the half of it!

Wheel back in Hillary's ' Terrorist casino'!

Wheel back in PAM the terminatrix!

Then humanitarian wars will be ables to be waged from anywhere with netcentric accuracy and minimal collateral damage!

We got the internet from the genius's at DARPA so why not the TIA and PAM?

For more on PAM read these articles - then write yr representative. Thank youse for yr time.

http://www.nex.com/innews.htm

Conservatives who are mainly stupid and mainly criminal can't be trusted with this awesome power. Only the political animal elite can - Four legs good! Two Legs BAD!'

Posted by: professor-rat on December 24, 2005 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

All these lies can be traced back to one two year old lie - when they supposedly canceled Total Information Awareness.

Poindexter's original plan called for putting everything they scooped up into a 'master database.' Maybe we should be asking if that database actually exists. That could be the Mother of All Enemies Lists.

Posted by: stranger on December 24, 2005 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

If they can look for one thing, they can look for another, and no communication is safe from them. If they get away with this, the Fourth Amendment follows the First into the fire. Eight to go.

Posted by: Repack Rider on December 24, 2005 at 1:42 AM | PERMALINK

Off topic, but this is something I've been mulling:

When one administration leaves office it's normal to brief the incoming administration and turn over files etc.

When King George leaves office, can we really expect co-operation if the incoming administration is Democrat? Hilary or Obama or whoever it is will be walking into bare offices.

You heard it first here.

Posted by: 2.7182818 on December 24, 2005 at 1:47 AM | PERMALINK

It suggests that it's not a single database, but disseminated databases that can be trolled at request whenever somebody thinks up a new 'pattern'. Say, bifocals/broken/hillary.

But meanwhile the databases are sitting there subject to corporations independent security precautions.

And the government, or the corporation, might hire some third party to run the actual data-mining.

Some Texas company guys like that would trust. A trusty company. A sort of Halliburton, or Carlyle Group. . .

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

I'm with stranger. We have no idea how much and what the full range of info THEY have. Reports of photos of dissidents, or just anti-war protestors,at demonstrations; infiltration of harmless peace groups, etc. THEY give out info grudgingly and in small increments as a general policy,so one might assume, with good reason, that the mother-lode is out there somewhere.

Posted by: Robert Persinger on December 24, 2005 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

Your personal fascination with massive datamining has blinded you to the immensely slippery slope that this sort of snooping will inevitably lead to.

Posted by: lib on December 24, 2005 at 1:55 AM | PERMALINK

lib,

What's that?

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

cld

are you putting me on?

Posted by: lib on December 24, 2005 at 2:05 AM | PERMALINK

No, --what?

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 2:07 AM | PERMALINK

lib,

Sorry, I just think it's the unsupervised, unregulated datamining that is the slippery slope.

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

1) It's not illegal, all protests to the contrary. The NSA is not required to obtain warrants from the FISA court before doing surveillance if one of the objects of the surveillance is an agent of a foreign power (which includes US citizens who have connections to terrorists.) Read USSID 18, which makes it very clear that the AG can authorize warrantless surveillance without the FISA court even knowing about it. Bill Clinton approved USSID 18.
2) You've misrepresented the program. Both Congress and the FISA court were routinely informed of the program. Even the Times admitted that. To claim there was no oversight is false.

Posted by: antimedia on December 24, 2005 at 2:10 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah, but what do they do when they find something curious?

Do they believe they need a warrant to hack us and mine our hard drives?

Posted by: asdf on December 24, 2005 at 2:13 AM | PERMALINK

Assigning a government monitor to every citizen in America might be useful as well, as might requiring all buildings to be made of glass, and having surveillance cameras on every block in the country.

Which part of we're losing our constitutional republic don't people understand?

The point is not simply whether this president broke the law, although it certainly appears that he did, and he ought to be impeached and removed from office if that is the case. The point is that this is what happens to countries as they cease to be republics, and become empires.

As the Romans (and to some extent the Athenians before them) learned the hard way, imperial drift distorts the politics of the republic beyond reognition, demagogy and opportunism replace rationalism and accountable governance (sound familiar?), and basic values - like say liberty, the rule of law, and constitutionality - go out the window in pursuit of security (from escalating blowback). The police state replaces culture as chief mediator of social mores.

If America's imperial drift is not halted, her republican institutions will at some point in the not-so-distant future exist in name only. If it is not Islamo-fascists at the gates it will be radical, anti-globalization leftists or aggrieved indigenous peoples; no imperial power is safe for long. And no imperial power can retain its democratic, or republican foundations over time.

Unless we a) purge the system of corporate and public employee union money b) purge the political culture of demagogy and cravenness and c) roll up the American Empire (it was just as fatal to us with the imprimatur of the UN and EU in the 1990s; the 9/11 attacks were hatched during the pseudo-internationalist Clinton years). I don't care a lick whether we go isolationist or the imperial system is replaced with a more robust internationalism (that is actually accountable to the peoples of the world), but Empire is the problem, not just George W Bush.

Posted by: Blue Nomad on December 24, 2005 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

asdf, if anything is found that involves a US citizen, then by law the NSA can provide a summary (they cannot provide the raw data) to law enforcement (such as the FBI, and the LE agency can take the summary to the FISA court and request a warrant to begin surveillance that can lead to prosecution.

The NSA has no power to arrest anyone nor can they provide data to LE for prosecutions (other than the summaries.)

Posted by: antimedia on December 24, 2005 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

But what constitutes a 'connection to a terrorist'? Maybe they suspiciously frequent the same falafel stand?

Pretty soon they will be arguing that you don't have any right to information about yourself, but they have universal, unrestricted right to all information about you, e.g. they own you.

It's the same as when a doctor could tell you what to do, but you don't have any insurance, or $10,000 in cash, therefore you have no right to that information. That's why so many doctors are Republicans.

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 2:17 AM | PERMALINK

cld, in the specific case, signals constitutes the connection. IOW, if you call someone who is a terrorist or send email to them (or do either or both to someone who is connected to terrorists), then you will have established a pattern that will get attention. If the pattern continues over time, the interest will increase.

Eventually, enough patterns will shift the focus to LE investigation and possible prosecution - which will bring in all the civil rights protections of the Constitution and the laws and precedents.

You seem to have an amorphous fear of "they", as if there weren't living, breathing human beings and next door neighbors behind the "they" you fear.

Posted by: antimedia on December 24, 2005 at 2:24 AM | PERMALINK

Antimedia: if that was adequate protection, the government would be allowed to wiretap anyone without limitations if it had no intention of indicting them afterwards. Iit doesn't, because (as Nixon showed in no uncertain terms), an unscrupulous administration can use such secretly acquired information for illegal purposes. Thus the need for safeguards in the data acquisition itself -- including a mechanism for keeping the government from using what it's picked up from data mining for any goddamn purpose it chooses, or modifying the system secretly to monitor the citizens on any goddamn subject it chooses at a moment's notice.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw on December 24, 2005 at 2:32 AM | PERMALINK

just think it's the unsupervised, unregulated datamining that is the slippery slope.

Hate to be dramatic here, but all dictatorships have supervised and regulated snooping of citizens.

Posted by: lib on December 24, 2005 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

Merry Chrismas antimedia. The reason no one is playing with you is that they have lives around this time of year.

My understanding is that no one really knows what the NSA was precisely up to. If people were intelligent they would reserve judgement until the facts are known. However, the fact that folks in the judicial branch and intelligence services are excited about it probably means your wrong.

Posted by: asdf on December 24, 2005 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

antimedia,

You are positing that it's limited to a one-degree of separation connection. Data-mining looks at things in depth. They are trolling 15 or twenty connections deep and as far as we know reading out the phone calls and personal information of everyone of those people, information that could too easily be abused.

And my fear of 'they' isn't amorphous because I know exactly who they are, they are Republicans, the people who gave us the Diebold voting machine, stole two elections and have abused every privelege or prerogative they've ever had.

Republicans have no place in life except to facilitate corruption and to corrupt the gullible. Our government was invented explicitly to act against the kind of people who are Republicans, that's why they've been trying to destroy it or cripple it for 200 years.

Government exists to protect us from Republicans and now that they have had unfettered control over it they are free to use it in exactly the way they understand it, to hurt and destroy others.

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 2:40 AM | PERMALINK

"it's a transparent rationalization for the president to do practically anything he wants with no oversight at all..."

Kevin, you could apply this observation to virtually everything that has happened for the past five years.

Posted by: Kenji on December 24, 2005 at 2:48 AM | PERMALINK

lib,

Well, yeah, that's what I meant, --unsupervised and unregulated from my point of view.

The thing with Republicans is, if they got laws passed that made it perfectly lawful for them to do everything they wanted to do, the next generation of Republicans would be right out front trying to get around those very laws insisting they were too restrictive.

Republicans are just too stupid, brutal and vulgar to play within any set of defined rules. They're a subset of humanity, all too self-conscious that they are, as it were, Left Behind by evolution.

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

Our government was invented explicitly to act against the kind of people who are Republicans, that's why they've been trying to destroy it or cripple it for 200 years.

ZAZAZZing! And so true.

Though I will note that what constitutes "electronic surveillance" in FISA has loopholes:

1) if the US party is not a "particular, known" person
2) if a cable is tapped overseas
3) if it is radio comms and one party is not in the US

then the NSA can grab it and it doesn't count as 'surveillance' according to the law.

though such grabs do violate 4th Amendment rights. But our 4th Amendment rights are raped at the airport, and we say nothing.

Posted by: Troy on December 24, 2005 at 3:25 AM | PERMALINK

"One outside expert on communications privacy who previously worked at the N.S.A. said that to exploit its technological capabilities, the American government had in the last few years been quietly encouraging the telecommunications industry to increase the amount of international traffic that is routed through American-based switches." --New York Times

Sounds like reverse rendition.

Posted by: Ross Best on December 24, 2005 at 3:25 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, Antimedia, the only problem with what you're peddling is that pesky ol' Fourth Amendment. Please enlighten all of your fans here as to just how USSID 18 and/or the Attorney General somehow trump the Constitution.

Or maybe you're just full of shit.

Posted by: Nixon Did It on December 24, 2005 at 4:07 AM | PERMALINK

i'm amazed people are acting as if this could potentially be useful.

drinking from the firehose is not a useful intelligence gathering method. wannabe-omniscient evesdroppers inevitably drown themselves in the flood of "chatter", and any system which allows such things inevitably is used by those in power to maintain their hold on power.

it's really quite simple. this is not a useful program. even the most sophisticated echelon-style pattern recognition code pales, and will continue to pale, in the face of human conversation's unmatchable complexity. it's a Hard problem. in order to automate wholesale evesdropping - in order to divine the intentions of writers from that which is written, and understand the meaning thereof - human intelligence is necessary.

it's that simple. this program violates the fundimental rights of american citizens, is not suited to its stated purpose, and is brilliantly suited to dangerous unstated ones. for these reasons (although there are others), it should be abolished, and its creators charged with treason.

Posted by: sayke on December 24, 2005 at 4:10 AM | PERMALINK

The Fourth Amendment is,

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."


Republicans are now working to hard to be able to say that no cause is not 'probable', if your imagination is vivid enough, or fixated enough.

In a few days they'll come around to saying that phone calls were never intended by God to be private and that it uses 'public' bandwidth and therefore might as well be taking place in a restaurant, or on the street corner, which will obviously mean that just anybody could wiretap just anybody anytime.

Which will give them the chance to say that just anybody does not have the inherent right to public access, that public access is a privilege.

But, you will say, if it is just like hearing someone talking on the street corner I am within my right to be in public, and they will say that you don't have a right to be in public, because that is a privilege accorded to citizens, and a privilege has obligations, and one of those obligations is to respect authority, which in this case is saying that a private person does not have the right to wiretap someone else. Do you really disagree with that?

So, plainly, they are wrong at the first point: phone calls have an inherent expectation of privacy, and you have an inherent and exclusive right to your own information, and the bandwidth is exclusively your own while you are using it, whether rented from a phone company or not, because it is provided for no purpose but to channel your personal information, and garnering information out of your personal conversation unwarranted is violating the Fourth Amendment, and, also, stealing.

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 4:29 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a quick little test for those of you interested in finding out what the NSA is capable of:

Take your cellphone to a local cafe and then phone your house; leave a message on your answering machine about some plot you have to do serious terrorist-like damage (call only yourself, please - you don't want to get family or friends involved in this little test); use lots of words that you think are likely to be, shall we say, attention-getting.

See how long it takes before there's a knock at your door.

Posted by: Wonderin on December 24, 2005 at 5:02 AM | PERMALINK

Experiment to see if your mail is being tapped by the gov't


note: "It is not a good idea to try this if you hope to ever again fly on an American airline without first being strip-searched by the TSA monkeys."

Posted by: Den on December 24, 2005 at 5:45 AM | PERMALINK

"...the excuse that he couldn't go to Congress because that would expose valuable secrets to al-Qaeda is laughable."

That's not why he didn't go to Congress. AG Alberto Gonzalez made it clear that the Administration considered going to Congress but was advised that they would not likely be able to get it passed.

Posted by: pzykr on December 24, 2005 at 6:14 AM | PERMALINK

"AG Alberto Gonzalez made it clear that the Administration considered going to Congress but was advised that they would not likely be able to get it passed."

If they couldn't get it through a Delay controlled Republican Majority House and a Democratic Senate that was willing to do almost anything after 9/11, don't you think that maybe they should have re-thought the idea?

Posted by: tomeck on December 24, 2005 at 6:46 AM | PERMALINK

This entire issue begs the question of whether a civilization can sustain itself when it reaches this stage of complexity. If it can, is it one that we want to live in?

Ask yourselves how many issues that confront us in our advanced technological civilization are not related to our adapting to technology. We pile technological fixes on top of technological fixes while our enemies find easy entry with such simple tools like box cutters.

I am sure that the enemy has found means of adapting and remaining invisible from any intelligence gathering technology we can devise. In the meantime we are lost and diverted from the real big threats to our long term security and freedom.

Posted by: lou on December 24, 2005 at 6:56 AM | PERMALINK

I thought he did ask for it. It was the Total Information Awareness project, TIA, which the Congress specifically forbade him to do.

Posted by: Nathan Rudy on December 24, 2005 at 7:25 AM | PERMALINK

C'mon guys. You are missing it. You are being bamboozled. Get serious.

This article is based on a selective, government-approved leak, intended to make you think they are doing something of maybe arguable legality, but really nothing more serious than the TIA program. It is supposed to divert your attention from what they are really doing, which is far more serious.

Do the arithmetic. If all they are doing is tracking the meta information for pattern analysis, how much data storage does that take? How much computer horsepower?

Let's guess: A few million calls/day times maybe 100 bytes per call. Even with indexes, you could store a month of data on the 300 GB hard drive I just bought for $99 (after rebates) at OfficeMax.

Put it another way: This article suggests they are working with no more data than Vonage keeps on its 11M customers just to do its own monthly billing.

Is that the scale on which NSA operates?

Hell no. They have farms of Cray Supercomputers. They buy solid-state drives in the multi-terabyte range.

This so-called "data mining operation" would be chickenshit.

What are they really doing? They are wiretapping the conversations themselves. It is an illegal bugging operation on Americans on a MASSIVE scale.

Posted by: Libby Sosume on December 24, 2005 at 8:09 AM | PERMALINK

Libby
i suggested just that in a comment here about four days ago: not one person made any response to my comment...i wondered if folks thought i was a kook.

Posted by: pzykr on December 24, 2005 at 8:26 AM | PERMALINK

Ditto here. I've been saying this for four days myself on several different blogs.

Posted by: Libby Sosume on December 24, 2005 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

"...Our government was invented explicitly to act against the kind of people who are Republicans, that's why they've been trying to destroy it or cripple it for 200 years...."

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 2:40 AM

cld, I'm no fan of that gang of crooks either, but let's remember this is the party of Lincoln we're talking about. Currently most (but not all) are reprehensible, but your sweeping generalization is an over-reach.

Posted by: 2.7182818 on December 24, 2005 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin says: This is interesting stuff, and it sounds like pretty useful stuff to me, too. This program and this technology might very well be important elements in the fight against al-Qaeda.

I say: If "liberals" like Kevin are ever in charge, we are just as fucked as we are now, with Bush and Co.

Will the last person to leave America please turn out the lights?

Posted by: Steve on December 24, 2005 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

i'm amazed people are acting as if this could potentially be useful.

i'm so with you, sayke. our intelligence problems aren't due to lack of data, they're due to difficulties in analyzing the signals in the noise and disseminating the resulting intelligence. adding more noise to the mix is exactly the wrong thing to be doing.

sort of like invading iraq, actually.

Posted by: fiend on December 24, 2005 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

This is fascist over-reaching of the most dictatorial sort.

The notion that there was oversight is a lie, from the fascist dictators. Oversight implies that the oversighters can veto it. They could not. They were merely notified, and required, under penalty of law and under threat of massive jail sentences, to say nothing. That isn't oversight. That's bullshit crap.

Posted by: dataguy on December 24, 2005 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Anyone who investigates data and looks for patterns knows that patterns are always there. Finding patterns is easy. It is finding patterns in the data which mirror the patterns of life which is difficult.

Thus, the idea that datamining can tell us something is contradicted by all the experience of science. You must go in with a hypothesis to come out with something other than crap.

That what King George the Ratfucker is finding. He's massively violating the civil rights of Americans, and ending up with some idiot who wants to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch.

Posted by: dataguy on December 24, 2005 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Steve: What you said. Indeedy.

Posted by: Libby Sosume on December 24, 2005 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Also note the political argument here: Congress is a threat to national security because Bush cannot trust them. Therefore, consultation/seeking legislation necessary is moot. Bush is founding his imperial authority not in the law but his judgment about the trustworthiness of Congress. How convenient that it allows him to do what he wants and wrap it in the packaging of "all necessary measures." This guy is dangerous to democracy in a way that combines the personality defects of autocrats - paranoia and an overestimation of his power of judgment.

The whole idea that "doubt" is giving in to the enemy is an excuse to suspend critical judgment.

Posted by: Some Guy on December 24, 2005 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK


If prior evidence over the last few years wasn't enough, the recent few weeks of news about torture, secret prisons, Padilla, wiretapping and the FBI's illegal nuke snooping should be enough to prove that Bush has systematically sought to subvert the Constitution.

Posted by: tinfoil on December 24, 2005 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

This whole thing might be debatable if the Congress had actually declared war. Instead we are awash in Orwellian bullshit: "I am a wartime President".

Posted by: horatio on December 24, 2005 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans are now working to hard to be able to say that no cause is not 'probable'.

Well no, what the administration is saying is that the type of surveillance they're engaging in -- mostly huge scale monitoring of electronic communications in an efforto to scan for patterns suggestive of terrrorist activity -- doesn't constitute an "unreasonable" search or seizure given the president's national security prerogatives and our current state or war.

Wiretapping a political enemy's phone is unreasonable. Lumping your and my phone conversations with 10 million others to see if any of them are calling suspicious numbers in Saudi Arabia isn't. Most Americans agree with me.

I do think new legislation is called for; I'd prefer that Congress flesh out some rules and procedures. I would like to see warrants necessary once the data mining/scanning leads to focus on an individual American.

But requiring warrants to scan the literally millions of data transmissions connected to foreigners or terrorist cells isn't practical.

Here's where the Democrats and left-liberal sound machine ill serves the country. Rather than screaming from the rooftops about how evil King George is, they ought to be quietly seeking out allies on the other side of the aisle, and carefully and responsibly crafting legislation to regulate what is a necessary security operation.

Posted by: P.B. Almeida on December 24, 2005 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Bush and his apologists are lying through their teeth. If all this involved was a couple of phone calls from al-Qaeda to actual agents here about imminent operational plans it wouldn't be an issue. That's what they try to make it sound like. But instead this looks like it may be about data-mining and investigating people at several degrees of separation. Does opening an e-mail from someone who got an e-mail from someone who does business with someone who knew someone who advocated a Palestinian state qualify you as a terrorist?

Posted by: tomeck on December 24, 2005 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

An ambitious president will take as much power as he or she can as long as a compliant Congress and judiciary supports them.

It's a lot easier job for a President to push down Constitutional barriers to civil rights because he/she already has so much authority, can operate in relative secrecy and there are fewer people standing in the way. Particularly so if you surround yourself with sycophants, toadies and collaborators.

We need to pick our battles one by one until we have enough power to push back. Mainly we need to keep winning more elections. The Virginia and New Jersey governorships were a good sign about where Americans' values really lie. We need to make it clear we provide a welcoming alternative to people tired of Bush's imperial Presidency and policy agenda.

Posted by: pj_in_jesusland on December 24, 2005 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting, maybe. Useful, no: quite the opposite. You keep missing the point, which is that this program has nothing to do with terrorism. It has to do exclusively with domestic dissent. It is COINTELPRO and the Huston plan all over again, nothing else. Terrorism is merely a dishonest pretext.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on December 24, 2005 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

AND yet we're being told this is about terrorist problems

But this "large data-mining operation" doesn't sound at all like terrorist inspecting. IS it commercial reasons? Why is Bush doing this? It's not terror related and we will never know why Bush allowed this illegal act until he is investigated.

It matter little that we've told that "Alito said attorney general should be free from liability when acting in name of national security" if we don't really know what Bush was doing with mass amount of info he received - I have serious doubts that it was about terrorist activities.

We have to push for the investigation even as rightwing pundit insist it was all in the name of national security. They don't know why Bush was data-mining on such a massive level - we all don't know what Bush was doing with info he receives and so until Bush data-mining operation is investigated - what was Bush doing with this information.

If you watch the video on the crooksandliars website - you can see Bush outright lying to Americans as he say over and over again that a court is the only authority to look at private information all the while Bush was doing wiretappes illegally. Bush lies outright - knowing full well that is LYING.

Bush should be impeached - Bush lied with the intend of misleading the nation. WATCH those video's. Bush lies and smiles every time that tells the lie.

Frank Rich was right - Bush thinks we're stupid.


Posted by: Cheryl on December 24, 2005 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

PB - I changed your last sentence a bit -

Rather than illegally wiretapping millions of phone lines, Bush ought to be quietly seeking out allies on the other side of the aisle, and carefully and responsibly crafting legislation to regulate what is a necessary security operation.

Posted by: tinfoil on December 24, 2005 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

"Phone calls are inherently private" - wrong. They are statutorily private with exceptions.
If, presumably, after you discuss your plot to bomb the bridge you also mention you intend to skip out without paying the check, that information could not be used against you in court.That would not preclude tightening the bridge security.

Posted by: Walter E. Wallis on December 24, 2005 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Here's an interesting article about the practical problems of such a system, considering the limitations of today's technology. It doesn't necessarily mean the system can't be effective at a later date, but Bush's justification is that he needs it, and he needs it now. Right? It looks like there's a good chance that this program is both illegal and ineffective... remind you of anything?

Posted by: worm eater on December 24, 2005 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

Rather than screaming from the rooftops about how evil King George is, they ought to be quietly seeking out allies on the other side of the aisle, and carefully and responsibly crafting legislation to regulate what is a necessary security operation.

You seem to think that a reasonable solution to a clear violation of the law is to conspire with one's opposition to re-mold the law until it fits the activity.

What a crock of crap.

First of all, Bush - on this issue - is getting opposition from not only Dems but from Reps and from the Judiciary. To redefine this as a bi-polar situation is to obfuscate the truth of the matter. So, clearly "the other side of the aisle" covers a big circle.

Second of all, there are already laws covering surveillance and when warrants are necessary (BTW these are liberally granted by a VERY secret court that does not publish its rulings so terrorists can't possible be informed of the decisions). Mr Bush has already admitted that he brushed aside the existing law. His stated reasoning appears to be quite specious considering the facts. Hence, the oposition coming from many directions.

Going back for a legialative "re-do" doesn't address the crime in the first place.

Posted by: rainyday on December 24, 2005 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Rather than illegally wiretapping millions of phone lines, Bush ought to be quietly seeking out allies on the other side of the aisle, and carefully and responsibly crafting legislation to regulate what is a necessary security operation.

It's way past time to show Bush that in our county, a dictatorship, just so long as he's the dictator, is not easier than democracy.

Posted by: Boronx on December 24, 2005 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Wonder if our recently disclosed spy net hasn't seached on words such as, DEMOCRAT, LIBERAL, ACLU, POLICTICAL ANIMAL, FIREDOGLAKE, and so forth. Just a thought . . . See ya in the camps.

Posted by: R W Greene on December 24, 2005 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Why is NASA spying on us, don't they have rockets to launch. Isn't spying the FBI's job?

Posted by: Matt on December 24, 2005 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

William Arkin blog in Washington Post has theory that Bush plan is data mining that monitors everyone in fishing expedition to find terrorists as indicated in Section 126 of the 2005 reauthorization act for Patriot Act. Is this the package that Bush is trying to rush through Congress? Could it validate retroactively what Bush has already done, at least in terms of public opinion?

http://blogs.washingtonpost.com/earlywarning/2005/12/the_curious_sec.html#more

Posted by: Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on December 24, 2005 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

P. B. Almeida: "Wiretapping a political enemy's phone is unreasonable. Lumping your and my phone conversations with 10 million others to see if any of them are calling suspicious numbers in Saudi Arabia isn't. Most Americans agree with me. "

Is there anything about the history of this administration that should lead anyone to believe that the program - whatever it is - is limited to just this? You don't know, any more than I, what the program involves, and we have no way of knowing the extent to which we are being protected, or the extent to which our civil liberties have been breached. Based on the gross errors in judgment on the part of this administration, I don't share your confidence that this is either effective or constitutional.

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

The Democrats in Congress should find some carpenters and begin building a gallows and perhaps, a guillotine, on the sidewalk outside the White House and begin practicing for the public executions of traitors like Bush, Cheney, Rove, etc. Maybe that would put the fear of God in these people.

Posted by: The Liberal Avenger on December 24, 2005 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

I don't share your confidence that this is either effective or constitutional.

The test for people like PB should be - Do they have the same confidence in all past and future administrations? Nixon being the good past example. What about Delay, if god-forbid he got the presidency? Hillary? Pick your favorite political boogeyman...

A power, once ceded to the presidential office, will not be easily checked or taken away.

Posted by: tinfoil on December 24, 2005 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Bush, Cheney et al do not believe in the Constitution with three branches of equal power to provide checks and balances.

They believe in the Unitary Executive Theory which Wikipedia defines as, "US Political Theory advocating expansive presidential powers and nearly absolute deference to the Executive branch from Congress and the Judiciary.

Including presidential authority to decide law."

So when Bush rhetorically asks if he has the authority to do something, and he answers himself with "absolutely" this is what he is talking about. Absolute power in his individual hands.

Google on "unitary executive branch" to learn more.

Posted by: joeiscoffee on December 24, 2005 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

This is interesting stuff, and it sounds like pretty useful stuff to me, too. This program and this technology might very well be important elements in the fight against al-Qaeda.

This is interesting stuff, and it sounds like pretty useful stuff to me, too. This program and this technology might very well be important elements in the fight against Emmanuel Goldstein, the Enemy of the People.

War is peace.

Ignorance is strength.

Freedom is slavery.

Now, how many fingers am I holding up?

Posted by: Roman Berry on December 24, 2005 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

P.B. Almeida,

To say that this is simply to identify connections to certain select foreign countries and nothing else is certainly the 'innocent' explanation, and one the Republicans are strongly pushing. But if that were really true, it simply wouldn't be enough to have caused all this hoopla. It's something that I actually assumed they did anyway. There would be no reason to conceal something that unambiguous from any Congressperson.

So that is just absolutely wrong. This thing is capable of not just identifying connections, but recording the entire content of the calls.

It records and stores the entire content of calls, first by identifying somebody who had a 'connection' to somebody who had to phone somebody in Riyadh for something, then tracks every call that person makes, and every call of the people he called, twenty or more layers deep. It's been reported, and not denied, that the NSA can suck in 650 million phone calls a day, and can record every one of them.

"Rather than screaming from the rooftops about how evil King George is, they ought to be quietly seeking out allies on the other side of the aisle, and carefully and responsibly crafting legislation to regulate what is a necessary security operation."

You know it was Joe Biden who wrote the FISA law in the first place.

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

just to add on to tinfoil's rejoinder to the normally more sensible pb almeida: howzabout if we ask the republican noise machine to stop lying, stop pretending this is legal, stop acting like this isn't a constitutional problem, stop pretending that this administration would have prevented 9/11 had this program existed - in short, stop the standard crap that is their normal approach.

howzabout if we ask blunt and frist to start fulfilling their constitutional role.

howzabout, in short, if we stop acting like the dems have any power to ill-serve anyone by telling the frickin' truth, why don't we?

Posted by: howard on December 24, 2005 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

2.7182818,

My sweeping generalization, that the kind of people who constitute the Republican party have been trying to destroy the US government and society since it was founded, is not overreaching.

For the Tories in the American colonies, the Revolutionary War ended abruptly, they actually thought they were winning until, all of a sudden, the British capitulated. This left the Tory, the conservative personality, completely unrepresented in the foundation of the United States. This is really why church groups and states' rights idealists became such a force in the US, because the conservatives were trying to upset the apple cart through whatever forum they could find, and that's how they evolved a 'tradition' that is nothing but 200 years of treason when you add it all up.

When Lincoln came to the nascent Republican party to run in the Presidential primary, it was a fringe group, with a single idea and not very many people, meaning they could be easily manipulated, easily bought and won over through through sheer expediency. Remember, his business was as an attorney for the railroad industry, the Republican convention that year was in Chicago, the center of the railroad industry. It was the railroads who were interested in electing Lincoln and putting their power behind the Republican party, a small group they could completely buy. The expediency and access to power was too much for the original Republican group to resist. Lincoln was in last place going into the convention, and magically came out the nominee.

The point being the railroads did not want secession to succeed because that would have been a gross inconvenience to them. No single industry, not even the oil industry, is as powerful today as the railroads were in the 19th century. They literally held us together with bands of steel.

Add in to this the Scots-Irish culture of the region of the Confederate states, and their wildly romanticised and delusional history, and unique penchant for religious dementia and you have the Republican Party.

None of this is going away, so I simply think we should admit, their point has been made. They are not part of the United States, never have been and have always acted in a manner to damage or undermine it. So it is past time to divorce ourselves from the Confederacy.

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

What are those two famous sayings? or should I say: "The end doesn't justify the means -is no excuse for the law" They are above the law - admit it. No matter what evidence, or the amount of evidence, that shows up against them, there will be an equally impressive argument that will be made to justify it. I'm not only sick of this shit, I'm worried.

Posted by: DA on December 24, 2005 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

"I, for one, welcome our new giant ant overlords."

-- kent brockman

Posted by: clyde tolson on December 24, 2005 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

We certainly need ACTIVIST LIBERAL JUDGES to protect us from ACTIVIST CONSERVATIVE PRESIDENTS and their NEO-CON CABAL ADMINISTRATION, don't we?

JUST SAY "NO!" TO JUDGE ALITO!

Now that we know the NY Times sat on this explosive story to ensure Bush was elected, HE SHOULD NOT GET THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT on any APPOINTMENT but ESPECIALLY SUPREME COURT. He either appoints moderate to liberal judges or IMPEACH THE PRESIDENT, down to Nancy Pelosi, so we can have DEMOCRAT APPOINT JUDGES. JUST REMEMBER, we WOULD HAVE HAD MODERATE JUDGES had if the NY TIMES NOT manipulated our elections by withholding important information about this ADMINISTRATION acting unconstitionally.

Posted by: cowboyneok on December 24, 2005 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Now that we know the NY Times sat on this explosive story to ensure Bush was elected...

I'm suprised that anyone would believe that the NYT would do anything positive for Bush, much less ensure his election by not printing the story. Appears to me that the Times and Wash Post provide much of the news pressure against the Bush administration, and that was true before and during the election process as well.

Posted by: pencarrow on December 24, 2005 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

"I'm suprised that anyone would believe that the NYT would do anything positive for Bush, much less ensure his election by not printing the story. Appears to me that the Times and Wash Post provide much of the news pressure against the Bush administration, and that was true before and during the election process as well."

Fried baloney. The media's "War on Gore" is well documented. Google some of Maureen Dowd's columns before the election (or any other supposedly "liberal" columnist - they were ALL giving Boy George a free ride)

And as far as the wire tapping, remember who Ashcroft appointed as second-in-command after Bush was first elected? Barbra Comstock, formerly in charge of Bush's "oppo" campaign "research". I sleep better knowing she had access to this program's data, don't you?

Posted by: Dano347 on December 24, 2005 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I am totally pissed about this domestic spying debacle. I have college friends with names like Hudda, and Bahesta, and Fatima, and Nuzhat, and Wahdia. I speak with them a few times a year and I email them frequently. They all live in the middle east, having returned there after we graduated from college. I have Turkish friends from the time we were stationed there.

Am I in a dossier? Am I suspect? I have traveled to the middle east since 9/11. I have frequent international telephone calls and practically daily email exchanges with friends in that part of the world.

Are they going to swoop in and take away my military retirees dependant ID card? Am I going to lose my shopping priveleges? This kind of bullshit is most assuredly not what my husband and father served their careers in the military to protect. They served to protect us rather than to protect any one of the administrations that reigned between 1941 when my father enlisted and 2001 when my ghusband retired.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 24, 2005 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Just to be more particularly clear:

I don't remember if I ever accessed anything on a Saudi website or not, but if I did this program recorded it. Now I'm a 'connection'. Now I've accessed this forum, so you're all connected, too. Get it? You can thank me at Gitmo.

If you still don't believe that's how it works, remember one of the things that has always made aol unique is that it tries to mirror the entire internet everyday. The NSA has a lot more resources than aol.

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

Just saw some nut on the news trying to say this all boy scout-like good citizenship and nothing more.

Posted by: cld on December 24, 2005 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

I work with a guy who is from Nigeria, although he has bween a naturalized American for over 20 years. I asked him a while back if he knew then what he knows now, would he still have come to America? He thought about it for a moment before he said "No American has ever asked me that question before, I might have known that you would be the one." Then he took a deep breath and went on. "No." He said finally. "If I knew what would happen to America in two short decades, I would have gone to Germany."

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 24, 2005 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

And Germany is way more racist than the US.

Posted by: afigbee on December 24, 2005 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

We already know that this NSA thing is up to no good. I mentioned this in a thread the other night. Remember the NSA intercepts that Bolton requested and received?! The guess is that one was a phone call by Colin Powell (I forget the issue) and the other was Bill Richardson (Bolton wanted to know about what he was saying re: N. Korean negotiations). As you know, the administration would not allow the substance of these intercepts to be reviewed by the Foreign Relations Committee nor would they compromise by telling just one committe member whose conversations were requested by Bolton. It's such a small step from surveilling terrorism suspects to surveilling political opponents, protesters, even other administration officials.
I still remember a comment from someone on a news report in the summer of 2004 stating that the Republicans always seemed to be one step ahead of the Democrats. Actually, surveillance of Democrats was the first thought that crossed my mind. The whole scenario was a bit weird. I personally know a young man (16 at the time in 2002) who made a joking statement about assassinating Bush on a public internet forum.
He was met at school the next day by two secret service agents. His parents had also been called and asked to meet with the agents at the school.
The agents weren't pleasant, but of course they had been wrong about this young man. They told him his name would be kept in a federal database.
If this is the level of sophistication that the NSA uses to track terrorists, then I wish them luck. I can't imagine that any terrorist worth his salt would ever consider frequent (if any) electronic communications, nor, as we have seen, is there much need for such. There are cells working independently all around the globe. Data mining is not going to work for terrorism but it does present a huge threat to our democracy and our constitutional rights.

Posted by: nepeta on December 25, 2005 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

We need some highly public data mining of Bush's arrest record, his paying for a 15 year old girl's abortion, Cheney's drunk driving arrests and Laura Bush's drug dealing in college. That data mining might pay some dividends!

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on December 25, 2005 at 9:17 AM | PERMALINK

"If I knew what would happen to America in two short decades, I would have gone to Germany."
--Global Citizen

I would have that bootlip's bags packed and the car would be warming up in the driveway, to take him to the airport, within seconds of him saying that.

Posted by: Bill O'Reilly on December 25, 2005 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

He is a citizen. He has every right to ber critical. Besides, he is a scientist and we ain't producing those very fast. And fortunately he works with me, not you.

Just a little food for thought now, from thje NSA's own web site:

Americans expect NSA to conduct its missions within the law. But given the inherently secret nature of those missions, how can Americans be sure that the Agency does not invade their privacy?

The 4th Amendment of the Constitution demands it... oversight committees within all three branches of the U.S. government ensure it... and NSA employees, as U.S. citizens, have a vested interest in upholding it. Respecting the law is only a part of gaining Americans' trust.

The American people need to know, within the bounds of operational security, what NSA does and why they do it, and how they work within the Intelligence community and the Department of Defense to protect the Nation's freedom.

With each new day, NSA is writing new and unexpected chapters. The missions have never been clearer. The challenges have never been greater. The stakes have never been higher.

Merry Christmas
Happy Hannukkah
Peace on Earth; Goodwill to all (even the trolls) I'm feeling magnanimous today.

Peace, Shalom, Salaam;

Global Citizen

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 25, 2005 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

With each new day, NSA is writing new and unexpected chapters. The missions have never been clearer. The challenges have never been greater. The stakes have never been higher.

this should have been in italics. These words are not mine, they are from the NSA website. I flubbed the tag.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 25, 2005 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

I can't get over how ferociously the NYT is going after this story -- you'd think the Bushies were keeping Muffy and Buffy from playing golf at Augusta.
Let me put on my crass political stratergery hat for a minute and offer you nutjobs some advice: remember Max Cleland? If you guys want to keep debating how many civil libertarians can dance on the top of a coffee table in the faculty lounge, have a blast; but when we clean your clock in the next election, please don't say Diebold or Halliburton stole it from you.

Posted by: Minion of Rove on December 25, 2005 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

By the way, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you.

Posted by: minion of rove on December 25, 2005 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

global citizen,

So why does he stay? The cost of airfare to Germany isn't much. Perhaps he's not interested in living in a German ghetto with 30% unemployment? Think?

Posted by: rdw on December 25, 2005 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

"The point is that it appears to be illegal, ..." I think you are mistaken here. I have just read most of the relevent cases & the statutes (mostly FISA). This may be worrisome, but it most assuredly is NOT illegal. Four courts of appeals have, in dicta to be sure, made it clear this sort of surveillance is within the power of the executive. When you return from that trip to Europe, keep in mind that you are subect to search without warrant as you enter the US.

Posted by: JWS on December 25, 2005 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

The question was "If you knew then, what you know now..." This is where his life is now. This is where he owns his home, where he has built his life since 1980. His children are in school here, they speak English rather than German...Myriad reasons he stays. He doesn't dislike America, he dislikes the current foreign policy that this country engages in.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 25, 2005 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

BTW: Medical professionals are never unemployed if they are competent, and he is one of the smartest and most competent lab scientists I have ever worked with. Anyone who has ever needed an ER should hope he, and many more like him, do not get disgusted enough to just pack up and leave.

Posted by: Global Citizen on December 25, 2005 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

First of all, Global Citizen, good luck with your frequent international calls . Maybe you could play with them??? Just drop a few 'key words' here and there. A quick way to add some excitement to your life.

So I've been thinking...How can terrorists communicate if they have to avoid telephones, telegraphs, computers, (postal mail)? I've come up with an idea. First, they develop a code (e.g., 'puppy' means 'attack,' 'asleep' means
'now', etc., etc.) They then could go to a public internet forum, even Kevin's site, and
leave instructions or relay other information in a simple conversational posting using common words. NSA, eat your heart out.

Posted by: nepeta on December 25, 2005 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

First, they develop a code (e.g., 'puppy' means 'attack,' 'asleep' means
'now', etc., etc.)

Hmm, I think I see a pattern here. I sure hope the NSA figures it out before they say "the puppy is asleep" again.

Posted by: Jim Barnes on December 25, 2005 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for cutting to the quick, but you neglected to end with the logical conclusion: impeachment.

I keep hearing the issue framed between a question of how much of our civil liberties we are willing to sacrifice to fight the terrorists. To me, civil liberties and terrorism are not my primary worries. My main concern and fear is about unchecked executive power and the erosion of checks and balances. It is not a mere privacy issue. It is the functioning of our form of government and the very survival of our democratic republic that is at stake.

I wish the media would focus on the big questions rather than get lost in the pseudo-legal smoke screens Bush and his defenders keep throwing up.

Posted by: roberto on December 25, 2005 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

global citizen,


Life in a democracy can really suck if one is in the minority. But in the minority he is and you are. You lost the majority for a reason and until you recognize the current state of affairs and adapt you won't be getting it back anytime soon. You had the devastating losses in the house in 1994 and in the 5 elections since actully lost more ground. As last as 1992 the Democratcs had 267 house seats. Now you have 202. You've lost 65 seats for your lowest totals in 75 years.

In 1992 you had 57 Senate seats. Now you have 44. That's the lowest in 55 years.

Yet you condsescend.

How many times does one need to get hit in the head with brick before one sees a pattern? How bizarre is it that you think the answer is to become more liberal. Could it be any clearer your '68 version of liberalism is going the way of socialism? JFK would be appalled at the suggestion of conducting foreign policy on the basis of polls or perceived popularity. America must lead. Our European allies have a proven track record in this regard. It's a disgrace.

It's also rather 'informative' your friends wishes he settled in Germany rather than the USA but now that he's here he's 'stuck' BECAUSE HE HAS IT SO WELL! There's little question if he went to France and Germany he's be living in an ethnic ghetto and even if he found productive work his kids would be looking at 35% unemployument rates.

Posted by: rdw on December 26, 2005 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

global citizen,

Regarding the need for change; it was recently announced the states with the highest out-migration rates are the blue states of Mass, Maine and Michigan. Reading the recent business pages of massive union layoffs in the auto and newspaper industries it's not hard to predict this 35 year trend is still running very strong. Just as obvious is the red states are gaining this population.

Expect the 2010 census to result the transfer of 7 to 10 congressional seats to the South and West and the electoral votes with them. Now that the GOP has control of a majority of state houses and the redistricting map look for Tom Delay type results and the transfer of as many as 10 seats in the 2012 congressional elections.

Yet you still appoint clowns such as Howard Dean to the chair of the DNC and allow buffoons such as John Kerry, Teddy Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi to
serve as the facs and voices of the party. Certainly beloved by the very liberal left but equally despised by a majority of Americans. You have hit upon a magic formula all but certain to guarrantee continued minority status and the beauty of it all is that you remain steadfast in thinking you own the right path.

It is a shame the Europeans are no longer with us. But that's not our loss. It's their loss. As Bill Krystal pointed out they are the big losers of 2005. They have joined the UN in irrelevancy. They have had the weakest economy for almost a decade and the march to a constitution has been reversed. The UK will almost certaintly maintain their own currency and avoid further integration. The irony of Tony Blairs denounment by the left is his goal of further unity has been abandoned, perhaps forever. The left trashed Tony and by definition their own asperations with him.

2006 wasn't bad enough for the poor economic performance and many diplomatic setbacks but with the permanent transfer out of Germany of 100,000+ US forces NATO has essentilly been reduced to a regional national guard. On top of that we had a dramatic increase in social unrest among the regions large unassimilated minorities. It's clear the long predicted demographic bubble is closing in and has not been even remotely reconciled within national plans.

Germany makes deals to free terrorists because they are weak not because they are strong. The former PM goes to work for Vladimer because that's how Old Europe works. What difference does it make to be on Saddams payroll or Putins? The money is just as green.

Keep on looking North and to Old Europe for approval. It will also serve as a good signpost. If the French think we should be doing one thing, rest assured GWB will be doing the other. If you know anything of French history you know George has it right.

Posted by: rdw on December 26, 2005 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Global Citizen,

I'm glad you're friend feels so comfortable here he can denounce the country that has provided him a home, but I wish you would enlighten him on a little history. For 120 years we tried to live like (today's)Germany, or Scandinavia, but when we did Scandinavia coined the word Quisling. I too in dark moments wish we could be a city on a hill and lead by example rather than be the world's policemen, but there is still evil in the world, and evil has to sometimes be confronted by force.

Posted by: wks on December 26, 2005 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

To say the program just reads out 'connections' makes it meaningless. With internet connections by themselves, (and the increase in VOIP), which go from server to server, within a few steps you would have the pattern of the internet which would be altogether irrelevent.

The only way the program could work would be to read out content.

How do America's bankers feel knowing everyone of their confidential communications has been recorded and rummaged through?

Posted by: cld on December 26, 2005 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

That mass-employment industries in blue states are vanishing has nothing to do with any virtue in a red state, but the corrupt practices of Republicans allowing industry to vanish south of the border, or, in a couple recent famous cases, into Canada where they can be more competitive because that country provides national health care.

And, really, if all these blue state people end up in red states, they're going to keep on voting blue, you know.

Posted by: cld on December 26, 2005 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Let me put on my crass political stratergery hat for a minute and offer you nutjobs some advice:

Your selfless altruism is staggering...

Posted by: Gas Gluefish on December 26, 2005 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

but there is still evil in the world, and evil has to sometimes be confronted by force.

Step away from the window, wks, suicide is not a solution.

Posted by: Famous Last Words on December 26, 2005 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK


cld,

You've got a bunch of assumptions here, all of them wrong.

Jobs are not vanishing south of the border. Unemployment is at 5% with the creation of 2.1M jobs in 2005. High tax and high regulation states are losing jobs to low tax and lower regulation states. This is a transfer from blue to red. It IS a virtue of the southern states that they prefer lower taxes and regulation and a better business climate.

Health care is not 'free' anywhere. Toyota, Honda, Mercedes and other American car companies provide health care for their American employees as an employee expense in the USA and a a tax expense in Germany or Japan.

The 'Red' states receiving this net immigration
are not turning more liberal. It's just the oppposite. This transfer has been happening for over 3 decades and during that period the south and west has become progressively more conservative.

Those people moving are obviouly the more entranprenural, opportunitistic and flexible of the entire group. These are the least likely to prefer government intrusion into their lives. They are moving to find success and the last thing they need or want is for government to penalize them by sticking their hands further into their pockets.

If you want a good cry look at the last 3 census results and the electoral map realignment. In 2008 Hillary could win by picking up the same states as Kerry and Ohio. In 2012 Ohio won't be enough. Thus 2008 is absolutely critical for liberals. If the GOP picks up the Presidency your candidate in 2012 will have no choice but to move solidly to the center, if not what we consider today the right of center. Liberalism is dying.

Posted by: rdw on December 26, 2005 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Liberalism is dying.

In your fond dreams.

Jesus' message lives in spite of self-interested creeps like you.

Posted by: every man for himself on December 26, 2005 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

every man,

Jesus' message does indeed live on, stronger than ever. Thanks to Conservatives. The erosion of liberalism is not a dream. In 1992 there were 267 Democratic representatives and 57 Senators. Today there are 202 and 44.

BTW: a number of political pundits are predicting GWB will get yet another Supreme Court appointment. Either Stevens or Ginsburg will be leaving as early as this term due to health issues. Look for another stalwart conservative the likes of Roberts and Alito. With Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas and this 5th conservative along with moderate conservative Kennedy the court will be shaped for two decades.

Posted by: rdw on December 26, 2005 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Seems like what Thomas Payne and George Washington most feared, Abe Lincoln trembled about and Eisenhower later predicted has finally come to true inside the new CIA/DIA/NSA- controlled Bush White House. A unconstitutional "no standing army" Pentagon and an unconstitutional "secret blank check of marquee" CIA/DIA/NSA have spawned a "noble cabal" joined with the overwhelming financial might of client military industrial contractors, major industry and the ballot box might of US Judeo-Christian Fascists, every bit and more violent and extremist as our recently CIA armed-and-trained (-and maybe even...) Muslim Fascist "enemies".

Any honest assessment of this WW III (war on terror haha) global religious fascist conflict can clearly see that the idiotic creation of an illiberal conservative Jewish Fascist state inside of Palestine and the more recent theft of Jerusalem by Israel aided and abetted by it's conservative Christian Fascist political "allies" in the new British-American Empire is a slap in the face to all notions of secular Liberty that Americans once fought so dearly to free themselves of. There can be no freedom in a state based upon religious tyranny and no peace until the issue of Jerusalem has been resolved between extremists these three bloodthirsty 'faiths'.

In spite of this fact, the British American Empire has done nothing to achieve justice, peace and contiguous statehood for Palestine, instead deliberately launching a provocative and illegal aggression and occupation against hundreds of thousands of more innocent Arabs in Iraq.

The pattern of manipulative lies, lawlessness, noble curruption, arrogant violence and empty promises of 'democracy' for it's victims in this White House makes Eisenhower's Military Industrial Complex speech reverberate in empty silence. Indeed it reminds us more of Hitler's "Christian Nation" speeches.

We have already allowed our CIA/DIA/NSA Mafia to manufacture it's own "better than Stalin" Bin Laden Frankenstien, engineer us into unprovoked war and aggression upon a defenceless nation with it's lies and illegal media propaganda, and now we are expected to allow it spy upon us, presumably so it can manufacture it's defence contractor bosses a new multibillion dollar domestic "foe" to amplify or replace Bin Ladin with.

Peaceful and non aggressive nations have no enemies, but the genius of our Republic is no longer pacific because we have lost it.

But what happens when all foes of tyranny become the foes of this new Christian Fascist "Homeland Security" Gestapo?

Just why did the defence contractor's Pentagon rapidly and deliberately destroy incriminating Anthrax murder evidence, and possibly incriminating Able Danger data, and muzzle it's employees from Able Danger, yet keep mountains of illegal data on innocent anti-fascist civilian citizens?

Meanwhhile we are now faced with a White House that looks more and more like President Goober and Vice President Dr. Evil. Impeaching the one who has defied, defaced and broken our Constitution would be a pointless and empty exercise.

Hi Mr NSA criminal, how are those reports for Mullah Falwell coming?

Posted by: Pjs on December 26, 2005 at 8:35 PM | PERMALINK

Hah! Just on cnn, 'sources familiar with the NSA program admit to cnn that the government asked private companies to collect --and analyze data'!

Posted by: cld on December 26, 2005 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Innocent, innocent; they're innocent lambs --naive, even. No one could have foretold it was wrong.

Posted by: cld on December 26, 2005 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

What can possibly be the rationale they used to support the idea that private companies should analyze this data? That there are private companies more capable of analyzing signals intelligence than the NSA?

Or that they just plain don't trust the NSA. To give them the answers they want to hear.

Or do they feel wary that some of the data might fall into the wrong hands, and so the must Republicanalistically protect valuable American financial assets?

Posted by: cld on December 26, 2005 at 11:01 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus' message does indeed live on, stronger than ever. Thanks to Conservatives.

Heavens, you're absolutely right!

The part where Jesus said, "Give to the rich!"
The part where Jesus said, "Bankrupt the state!"
The part where Jesus said, "Settle your conflicts non-peacefully!"
The part where Jesus said, "Judge thine enemy, and upon him heapeth scorn!"
The part where Jesus said, "Respect not the law, for twas written by mere legislators!"
The part where Jesus said, "Foul is the smell of a Liberal Asshole!"

Amen. And thanks.

Posted by: every man for himself on December 26, 2005 at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's not just the NSA, either; here's an article by James Bamford,

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/25/weekinreview/25bamford.html?ex=1293166800&en=3d09922ebe6b2eac&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland&emc=rss

But according to a 2004 General Accounting Office report, the Bush administration and the Pentagon continued to rely heavily on data-mining techniques. "Our survey of 128 federal departments and agencies on their use of data mining," the report said, "shows that 52 agencies are using or are planning to use data mining. These departments and agencies reported 199 data-mining efforts, of which 68 are planned and 131 are operational." Of these uses, the report continued, "the Department of Defense reported the largest number of efforts."

How much of that is externally contracted? I don't object, not entirely, anyway, to data-mining by government agencies, but I would object if any of it were externally contracted.

The article also mentions the NSA has satellites with 'super-thin antennas the size of football fields'.

Posted by: cld on December 27, 2005 at 12:13 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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