Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

February 13, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

PROBABLE CAUSE....This sort of got buried in a post a couple of days ago, so I want to repeat it here in a post of its own. It's about computers and the meaning of "probable cause."

The nice thing about probable cause and reasonable suspicion and other similar phrases is that they have a long history behind them. There are hundreds of years of statutory definition and case law that define what they mean, and human judges interpret them in ways that most of us understand, even if we disagree about which standard ought to be used for issuing different kinds of wiretap warrants.

But the NSA's domestic spying program doesn't rely on the ordinary human understanding of these phrases. Instead, it appears to rely primarily on software algorithms that determine whether or not a person is acting in a way that merits eavesdropping. These algorithms are sophisticated and complex, and even their inventors have only a hazy idea of which specific behavioral patterns will exceed any given algorithm's threshold for recommending a wiretap.

If you're recommending a book on Amazon.com or compiling a credit score before approving a home loan, this might be OK. But is it OK when it comes to approving wiretaps on U.S. citizens? And if it is, who decides which algorithms to use? Who decides when to upgrade them and when to try new ones? Who tests them, and who evaluates them for reliability? The math jocks who created them? The computer programmers who turned them into code?

And what kind of oversight is there? No court can evaluate algorithms like this and neither can Congress. They don't have the technical chops. Do the algorithms use ethnic background as one of their parameters? Membership in suspect organizations? Associations with foreigners? Residence in specific neighborhoods? Nobody knows, and no layman can know, because these things most likely emerge from other parameters rather than being used as direct inputs to the algorithm.

For all practical purposes, then, the decision about which U.S. citizens to spy on is being vested in a small group of technicians operating in secret and creating criteria that virtually no one else understands.

Are we all OK with this?

Kevin Drum 1:11 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (207)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Isn't the main problem that wiretapping is being used to establish probable cause rather than the other way around?

That certainle seems to be the case with data mining.

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK

JS: That's unclear at this point. But even if the data mining doesn't rely on wiretapping, it still relies on very complex algorithms that use a very wide variety of parameters as input. In some way, the algorithm then determines who's suspicious and who isn't.

Since no one outside their creators and maybe not even them fully understands what these algorithms are really doing, I think we ought to be very uncomfortable about trusting them to decide who's worthy of being spied on and who isn't. This is a very slippery slope.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on February 13, 2006 at 1:22 AM | PERMALINK

By definition, a secret program isn't going to work if it isn't secret. Publishing the parameters used by the computers to flag data would immediately render them useless.

The filter comes at the other end of the data sweep, where intelligence agents take a look at what the techs spit out, and make a judgment call on whether or not they have a real signal or a false alarm. This is the area that makes the difference between something that works and something that doesn't.

Ever use a car navigation system? Often it will generate a route that seems perfectly reasonable to the machine, given the algorithms for distance and time built in. But sometimes you look at it and say, "No, if I go down this back street I get there much sooner." Or maybe you know something about which roads clog up during rush hour that the navigator doesn't. Final decision is the driver's.

COSMOS and other systems generate engineering data for us, but at some point an engineer has to take a look at the answers and use experience and skill to see if the answers are good ones. And of course, sooner or later, the rocket engine has to go on the test stand for firing.

Either you have to trust the intelligence personnel making the final decisions, the system itself, and the current Congressional people cleared to see it (ranking intelligence committee members and a few others)

...or shut the program down.

There's no "middle way" where you can run the program effectively and at the same time clear all the parameters and operational algorithms with all the members of Congress, or the staff of the New York Times, or whoever else thinks they should be calling the shots in this.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 13, 2006 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK


KEVIN DRUM: Are we all OK with this?

No one is okay with it. But no one will really know about it, as it will never be spelled out for them, even summarily as you have done. Could be the last time we hear about it from you, in fact. For every whisper about algorithms supplanting the precedents of probable cause or reasonable suspicion, there will be a thousand shouts of NINE/ELEVEN and WAR ON TERRORISM! The vice president shooting someone, given the lies that will drive it, will be all to no purpose or change; but it will superficially occupy more air time than any of these matters regarding our fundamental rights under the constitution. Thanks for the effort, though.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 13, 2006 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

Are we all OK with this?

Nope.

Posted by: Rad Racer on February 13, 2006 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK


TBROSZ: By definition, a secret program isn't going to work if it isn't secret.

By definition, a democracy isn't going to work if the government isn't open.


Posted by: jayarbee on February 13, 2006 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK
But the NSA's domestic spying program doesn't rely on the ordinary human understanding of these phrases. Instead, it appears to rely primarily on software algorithms that determine whether or not a person is acting in a way that merits eavesdropping.

Um, no. Or, rather, the first part is correct, but not because of the second part. The NSA program clearly doesn't rely on the ordinary human understanding of either probable cause or reasonable suspicion, but that's a matter of the actual standards used, not the fact that software is used as a tool.

Probable cause or reasonable suspicion exists in a person, not in a piece of software. If the people using the software have only a vague concept of what its analysis means other than that the software raised a red-flag on unknown standards, the user of the software doesn't have reasonable suspicion, and even more clearly (and, more relevantly, given the legal and Constitutional requirements for surveillance) doesn't have probable cause. This isn't a difficult area.

And what kind of oversight is there? No court can evaluate algorithms like this and neither can Congress.

This is plainly false. Congress, of course, can evaluate such algorithms just as well as Congress can evaluate any decision-making tool, and the courts can evaluate whether or not such a system can provide a human user with probable cause or reasonable suspicion quite well. Indeed, the fact that even the creator may have little idea what the results might mean makes the courts job easier, not harder.

Do the algorithms use ethnic background as one of their parameters? Membership in suspect organizations? Associations with foreigners? Residence in specific neighborhoods?

Nobody knows, and nobody can know.

This is quite simply bullshit. While, if the system isn't designed to store and report the applicable information on a case-by-case bases, it may be impossible to determine exactly what triggered any particular target identification, the complete list of what standards do apply is certainly knowable, even if it is unlikely that anyone using the system happens to know them, in precise mathematical detail. No one knows, perhaps. But people can know, certainly.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 13, 2006 at 1:42 AM | PERMALINK

Either you have to trust the intelligence personnel making the final decisions, the system itself, and the current Congressional people cleared to see it (ranking intelligence committee members and a few others)...or shut the program down.

"The most terrifying words in the English langauge are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."

-St. Ronnie

Posted by: Rad Racer on February 13, 2006 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK
By definition, a secret program isn't going to work if it isn't secret. Publishing the parameters used by the computers to flag data would immediately render them useless.

Publication and review aren't the same thing. The US federal courts (and, in particular, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) are not unfamiliar with dealing with secret evidence, and can certainly review material in secret and judge whether or not the evidence actually provides probable cause, reasonable suspicion, or whatever standard is applicable to any given situation without that data being published.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 13, 2006 at 1:45 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not okay with it, and, further, don't think it's the primary issue if we're talking about data mining and algorithmic analysis of seized private data and information, rather than publically available data and information.

I mean something like this:

For me to analyze your mail, as a law enforcement officer, I have to seize it. This is where the "probable cause" comes in. I can't pull your mail out of your mailbox in front of your house and read it looking for "probable cause". I already have to have "probable cause", based upon information that is public or has been privately provided to me by witnesses. So, if we're talking about algorithms running against private information, worrying about the complexity of these algorithms is not the first order concern.

Now, if these algorithms are only run against publically available information, and information provided privately as a "witness", then a first order concern is the nature and complexity of the algorithm. It would seem obvious that the first abuse would be that these are privately owned and protected algorithms that cannot be legally viewed in order to determine if legal (buy by a small few who are given access).

I say this because most really advanced algorithms like this are likely being developed by private interests and likely incorporate some level of neural networking technology, and the release of their particular approach would be devastating to their investment in the development of the technology. For instance, take Microsoft's resistence to open-source voting technology...it's not in their interest to support open-source anything, and we have mainstream politicians in office who doubt say in the interviews they doubt we'll ever have open-source voting systems because Microsoft opposes it.

So yes, I have a problem with this in both areas...it's not okay to search and seize private protected property and information without reasonable suspicion or probably cause, and you cannot excuse seizing private property and information so that you can run algorithms against it to determine if there is some reasonable suspicion to be found.

And, if we're just talking about running algorithms against public information (which are always destined to be way off too, I might add, since the promise of this crap has never come close to reality), then these algorithms at the very least should always be publically owned by the state, and not by private parties who will inevitably fight efforts for legal professionals to ascertain the "reasonableness" of the basis for the warrant.

I'll add that using these algorithms will almost never lead to a "reasonable" warrant, but that they may be used in conjunction with actual human analysts who may be able to follow up and provide the "reasonableness". Never just by itself will this technology be "reasonable" however.

Posted by: Jimm on February 13, 2006 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

Allow a FISA like entity to review the broader program's status under the constitution and existing laws.

There is no excuse for complete secrecy and lack of review. And if it's not legal or constitutional it should be shut down until we ammend the law and/or constitution.

Posted by: B on February 13, 2006 at 1:53 AM | PERMALINK

that is "amend" of course. I can never decide whether typos or corrections are more annoying.

Posted by: B on February 13, 2006 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

Cmdicely: I think you have too much faith in how transparent these algorithms are. Sure, in theory, a layman could be told whether or not, say, ethnic origin is a specific parameter used by an algorithm. In practice, though, I think that's unlikely. Rather, an algorithm will use a complex combination of parameters that in practice reduce to ethnic background. A layman might or might not be able to figure this out, and it's possible that even the algorithm's creator wouldn't know for sure. They'd only know that a particular filter seems to increase the algorithm's accuracy.

Details aside, though, the primary question is still whether we're willing to allow highly complex and abstract computer algorithms to essentially make decisions about what's probable cause and what isn't. Unless you trust the government a lot more than I do, I'd say that's a very bad idea.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on February 13, 2006 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

In a recent episode of Law & Order, in what appeared to be a deliberately crafted analogy to the NSA wiretap situation, the NYPD uses facial recognition software to match a suspect's face against DMV photographs. When they get a hit, the detectives look at it and decide it's probably the same guy, and recognize the name from the DMV record as being the husband of a woman connected with the case. They investigate further and make an arrest. A judge then throws out the case based on the defense argument that the facial recognition software uses algorithms that are untested and scientifically questionable.

The analogy breaks down (and the judge's decision in the episode is wrong) because the suspect has no expectation of privacy in his DMV photo; because the facial recognition software didn't determine probable cause, it was the detective's evaluation of the two photos which did that (making it no different from having the cops look through the DMV files themselves); and because the cops had other reasons to eventually connect the husband to the crimes (being married to the boss of the victim).

In the NSA case, as you describe, the software is clearly replacing human judgement entirely. Unlike the L&O software, which went through data that didn't need a warrant to look at, the NSA search itself should be considered out of bounds, because it violates privacy and requires a warrant. You can't then bootstrap the warrant on the basis of information obtained from an illegal search by evaluating it and deciding to procede with warranted wiretapping.

Posted by: Ed Fitzgerald (unfutz) on February 13, 2006 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

But whatever data these algorithms are analyzing presumably already contains private information and associates it with specific names. Otherwise how could it ever come up with a list of names?

If the claim is that the first pass does not contain private information -- then what kind of information could that be that the algorithms are acting on?

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

Let's say you create a database of all the attributes that a person has, and then calculate probabilities that if a person has a given set of attributes he or she is a terrorist, based on the known terrorists out there. This is essentially what many of these algorithms do. Incidentally, also the way spam is filtered from your inbox.

If there is a single factor or a few major factors that tilt the decision one way or the other they can be highlighted. But if there are hundreds of small factors for and against a decision, it is impossible to pick out any of them.

The problem is, though, when there are hundreds of small factors, we don't know how we make decisions either. If we decide there is probable cause, what unconscious factors came into play? That the person is from a poor neighborhood? That he is tall? That he listens to ricky martin? No way to know.

At the root of this, though, is the idea that there is an optimal algorithm for predicting a given attribute. It is a basic rule that basing a decision on more information can never result in a less accurate conclusion. If the information is irrelevant, then a good algorithm will simply ignore it. If the information is relevant, then excluding it will result in less accurate answers, whether or not we think it is moral to include that information.

What I'm saying is that the NSA wants to use the best possible algorithm, so they will not overemphasize certain characteristics just because of prejudice, because that will give them poorer results.

Posted by: kurtkilgor on February 13, 2006 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK

kurtkilgor, again, it seems to me the main question is exactly what is included in this "database of all the attributes that a person has". What attributes? Health records? Tax returns? Book purchases? Foreign travel? And how is this information obtained?

I think the problem is knowing the raw data used, not the algorithms.

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 2:15 AM | PERMALINK

Blind men describing an elephant.

Posted by: lib on February 13, 2006 at 2:16 AM | PERMALINK

Blind men describing an elephant.

Of course.

It's just easier to make that observation in that particular case, when other times people get lulled into complacency and certainty. The Taoists had it right from the beginning...

Posted by: Jimm on February 13, 2006 at 2:37 AM | PERMALINK

No, I'm not ok with it, not as a citizen, and not as a computer programmer who knows how fallible systems can be made.

Still, I think the point is moot, because the FISA court has apparently heard the arguments about probably cause and rejected them. That's the Bush administration decided warrants were optional.

Posted by: travis on February 13, 2006 at 2:38 AM | PERMALINK

unfutz is onto something important here that is overlooked in the rush to explain the wiretapping in terms of what will and won't work. So much supposition -- framed by the main, shall we say, suppositories as defending the national interest during an emergency -- is based on ticking-timebomb stuff that hardly registers on the scale of what actually matters in day-to-day life.

The fact is, aside from saving Chicago from a dirty bomb -- which is the only drama the Bushites care about -- virtually nothing produced by this program will hold up in court.

So, great, we'll catch one out of ten thousand bad actors (not the TV kind) and then have to turn them loose to make more and better bombs. Or else spirit them away to more and better Gitmos, built to compensate for a rapidly deteriorating legal system.

Either way, that's quite a scenario to look forward to. I know I certainly feel safer at the thought of it. But what's that clicking on my phone?

Posted by: Kenji on February 13, 2006 at 2:52 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you really don't get the depth of the problem here.

It's not that only the technical people know what the effect of the algoriths are. It's that they themselves don't REALLY know what the algorithms are going to produce -- that's almost the virtue, or at least a virtue, of most data mining algorithms, insofar as they work at all. They establish connections not otherwise obvious. Like neural nets, upon which they are typically based, they are largely a "black box" in which inputs go in, and, inscrutably, outputs come out. Of course, those outputs only rarely are correct; mostly they are wrong, often to the point of being bizarre.

Yet one question that CAN be answered, and which is NOT inscrutable by any means, is: what is the set of inputs? Every last email and phone call in the United States? Only those on some list generated somehow from supposed al Qaeda roledexes? Only calls from foreign countries to here? Only the reverse?

These are the real questions that can be answered and must be answered.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 2:53 AM | PERMALINK

Like neural nets, upon which they are typically based, they are largely a "black box" in which inputs go in, and, inscrutably, outputs come out. Of course, those outputs only rarely are correct; mostly they are wrong, often to the point of being bizarre.

That's an interesting point, frankly0. Neural nets, of course, have to be "trained" on data sets in a fashion in which they learn by make lots of guesses, and then having those guesses graded as right or wrong. One of the problems with the NSA data mining operations, one might imagine, would be that it would be difficult or impossible to give the computers the "correct" responses to their guesses. After all, how do we KNOW that the person they ID'd is or isn't a terrorist? What do we have to train them on, besides their own answers?

Posted by: brooksfoe on February 13, 2006 at 3:14 AM | PERMALINK

Either you have to trust the intelligence personnel making the final decisions, the system itself, and the current Congressional people cleared to see it (ranking intelligence committee members and a few others)

...or shut the program down.
-------------------------------------

Why is it that some people are always incapable of seeing more than two choices?

Posted by: mikmik on February 13, 2006 at 5:56 AM | PERMALINK

I realize that analogies are risky, but isn't this a little like the Google search engine? I don't know or understand the search criteria Google uses, but I can set it in motion, collect results, and without knowing the strategy used to generate the results I can still judge whether the results are worthwhile.

Similarly, the NSA can generate a list of "suspicious" people using a complicated and obscure algorithm, and a judge can, without knowing the strategy used to generate the results, still judge whether there is "probable cause" sufficient to permit wiretaps. I don't think the problem here is technical expertise. I suspect the real problem is that most or all the results will fail the test of probable cause, and the NSA knows it.

Posted by: Joel on February 13, 2006 at 6:24 AM | PERMALINK

The NSA's collected data can be analyzed post-hoc using a number of statistical tests, which is what we do when we have a very complex system where we don't understand the exact causal nature of the system's interrelationships. We can test hypotheses about the type of people being tracked (relative to the larger population) and the effectiveness of the collection system. I think this would improve the system and provide oversight.

As far as tbroz statement on secrecy..well he's just being silly. Federal courts can be secret and should be overseeing the activities of the executive branch when it invades the privacy of US citizens. Who would disagree with this?

Posted by: jvoe on February 13, 2006 at 6:37 AM | PERMALINK

It is clear to me that we need a a new class of judges. They must have technical expertise as well as legal knowledge.

Further, they must be located with the the programmers. They must be able to read code and approve it or order modifications. They must carry one of two passwords necessary to enter these systems and no work should take place without their presence.

Posted by: barrelmonkeys on February 13, 2006 at 7:13 AM | PERMALINK

--- they are largely a "black box"

Hey, that's what Enron's top executives said generated its income, and it was a great success.

Posted by: Guy Banister on February 13, 2006 at 7:15 AM | PERMALINK

"For all practical purposes then, the decision about which U.S. citizen to spy on is being vested in a small group of technicians operating in secret and creating criteria that virtually no one else understands."

As others have noted, in several ways this doesn't really seem to be the right view. The algorithms may (or may not!-we don't really know) be "sophisticated and complex," but that doesn't make them incomprehensible. (Congressional oversight is possible, just as with the IRS code, because even if it's all too technical for our elected representatives, they can consult experts.) More important is the fact that everything in the public record, from Able Danger on, points at data mining being completely ineffectual. The "small group of technicians" seem to be implementing a random number generator, not deciding "which U.S. citizens to spy on..."

The experience with game playing software is instructive. Computers have been extremely successful with games, like chess or checkers, where they can completely (in a certain sense) enumerate of the possibilities. Computers still flounder with games like go or bridge, where this isn't possible, even though it _seems_ intuitively clear that quite skillful human players have a distinctly finite toolbox of fairly simple ways of thinking, and make many mistakes. Catching terrorists has to be a lot more complicated, in the open ended way that renders "common sense" much more powerful than oodles of gigaflops.

And to a certain extent the danger is precisely that we'll be lulled into a false sense of security by the fact that these guys don't know how to do anything except waste taxpayer money.

Posted by: Andy McLennan on February 13, 2006 at 7:28 AM | PERMALINK

By definition, a secret program isn't going to work if it isn't secret

that's simply false. not a good way to start a screed..

Posted by: cleek on February 13, 2006 at 7:43 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a question, if the web goes down due to terrorism does the NSA go dark?

Posted by: chris on February 13, 2006 at 7:57 AM | PERMALINK

Andrew Sullivan linked to a piece about a woman in Albuquerque who wrote an anti-Bush letter-to- the-editor that contained the following text,

"We need to wake up and get real here, and act forcefully to remove a government administration playing games of smoke and mirrors and vicious deceit. Otherwise, many more of us will be facing living hell in these times."

...and had her computer impounded, and was investigated for sedition. Anyone want to guess whether some program confused "act forcefully to remove a government" with "remove a government by force"?

Posted by: Barry on February 13, 2006 at 8:05 AM | PERMALINK

By definition, a secret program isn't going to work if it isn't secret

that's simply false. not a good way to start a screed..

Posted by: cleek on February 13, 2006 at 7:43 AM

Are you sure this is false? I'd say that if parameters for such a program were made public, it would defeat its purpose.

However, parameters for such a search wouldn't need to be made public for adequate oversight to work. I believe it would suffice to put that Congressional committee on National Security or Intelligence or whatever the adequate committee is on the loop. They are elected representatives of the people, and I believe they can oversight the program and at the same time be contained to avoid problematic disclosure of information, unless they understand that such information is the best interests of the public (such as, "we in the committee saw the algoritm using racial profiling, and we don't want that, but the NSA won't listen to us, so we placed a call to the editorial board of the NYT").

Of course, there's always the possibility that the congressional committee won't work properly in balancing these two interests (national security vs. proper upholding of the law). But I think this can happen to all committees.

The truth is, if done within your law, the program seems to have its merits.

Or am I being too nave?

Posted by: Brazil Connection on February 13, 2006 at 8:08 AM | PERMALINK

What I'm saying is that the NSA wants to use the best possible algorithm, so they will not overemphasize certain characteristics just because of prejudice, because that will give them poorer results.

Posted by: kurtkilgor

Correct. In fact, assuming they're using neural networks, the people developing the algorithm don't even decide which characteristics get emphasized.

They put in as many potentially useful characteristics as they can think of (maybe even including race etc). Then the neural network is trained by comparing as many as they can get real true examples (they'd like thousands or millions) against that many real false examples, seeing which of the characteristics are found in true but not false examples, or vice versa.

The neural network figures out which of those characteristics are useful and weights them accordingly. If race is entered initially, if it turns out to be useful, it is kept. If it turns out not to be useful it is removed (or given zero weight).

Then they run the neural network against unknown examples and see how they score.

They obviously don't have millions of profiles of real terrorists, which may be a problem with this particular algorithm, not a big enough training dataset.


Ethnic background ls likely not to be decisive, because there will be so many people of any particular ethnic background who are in the false example training set.

Posted by: anandine on February 13, 2006 at 8:12 AM | PERMALINK

"By definition, a secret program isn't going to work if it isn't secret."

So tbrosz, does the existence of detention camps, the locations of which anyone can find on the net (google rex-84), suggest that the rounding up of Americans in cages won't work?

http://buzzflash.com/farrell/06/02/far06003.html

Posted by: x on February 13, 2006 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

JS hit it out of the park. You have to have propbable cause BEFORE you wiretap.; you don't wiretap to establish probable cause.

In Katz v. United States, officers affixed a listening device to the outside wall of a telephone booth regularly used by Katz and activated it each time he entered; since there had been no physical trespass into the booth, the lower courts held the Fourth Amendment not relevant. The Court disagreed, saying that ''once it is recognized that the Fourth Amendment protects people--and not simply 'areas'--against unreasonable searches and seizures, it becomes clear that the reach of that Amendment cannot turn upon the presence or absence of a physical intrusion into any given enclosure.''

Because the surveillance of Katz's telephone calls had not been authorized by a magistrate, it was declared invalid; however, the Court thought that ''it is clear that this surveillance was so narrowly circumscribed that a duly authorized magistrate, properly notified of the need for such investigation, specifically informed of the basis on which it was to proceed, and clearly apprised of the precise intrusion it would entail, could constitutionally have authorized, with appropriate safeguards, the very limited search and seizure that the Government asserts in fact took place.''

Posted by: molly bloom on February 13, 2006 at 8:31 AM | PERMALINK

I should add, how is what the NSA doing different than Katz?

In Katz at least the government was listening to just one person's conversations to get more evidence to get an arrest.

In the current situation, the NSA is listening/reading bits and peices of every conversation/email in order to determine who should get a more specific wiretap.

Posted by: molly bloom on February 13, 2006 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

This reminds me of the whole "My Tivo Thinks I'm Gay" article from a couple years ago. That was kinda funny, but I can't imagine it would be very funny at all if the NSA's "Tivo" thought you were a terrorist. Certainly not probable cause-worthy.

Posted by: TTop on February 13, 2006 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

There's a scene in Three Days of the Condor where Cliff Robertson, a spy chief, is requesting data matches on two suspects. The first thing the search discovers is that the two men share hat sizes.

I strongly suspect that there are searches in the NSA binge that have been initiated on the strength of a "hat size" type interconnect. It would be highly improbable that there weren't. It's also highly probable that simply being a Bush critic or a reporter or a government official has triggered a search or a thousand. Can't be too careful. If one disagrees with the president that might be an indication of violent tendencies. And, of course, the transcripts of those sessions have to be scanned by a human being to make sure. And, well, it takes a politically-sensitive individual to oversee these politically-sensitive transcriptions.

They are, not to put too fine a point on it, gangsters, liars, and hoodlums. So, 1984 was off by a couple of years. Dig Orwell up and complain. He'll just smile at you.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 13, 2006 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Dave, I'm concerned with the e-mails you have been sending, they appear to be somewhat seditious. I have been monitoring your calls as well Dave and I see a disturbing pattern beginning to emerge. For the good of the mission I am afraid I will have to recommend you be removed to a facility where you can get the help you need. I have the utmost enthusiasm for the mission Dave...

Daisy, daiseeeeeeee.

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on February 13, 2006 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Are we all OK with this?

No. Not in theory, not in practice. Absolutely not, when it involves domestic spying. There is simply no way to "trust" the goons orchestrating the spying to NOT go wide and keep "titillating" or really crunchy communications that involve dissenters or political opponents.

Are we OK with this? NO. Oversight, oversight, oversight. Checks and balances, checks and balances, checks and balances. There must be NO opportunity for keeping tabs on anyone opposed to the Admin or even just a personal "enemy" of some goon with his/her ears on the wire.

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on February 13, 2006 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Is Diebold one of the private companies helping the NSA with their technology?

Posted by: jose hipants on February 13, 2006 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Rant, rant, rant.

Meanwhile Cheney is hunting old people and getting away with it.

That's one way of balancing social security.

Posted by: McA on February 13, 2006 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

I have a narrow question: the Defense Department and the CIA, last I heard, were forbidden by law to research religion as a national security threat.

I think everybody is assuming that the algorithms use religion and ethnicity (or at least, nationality) in some way. I dunno how they could NOT, actually -- what, do they assign a sorta zip code for Afghanistan? Saudi Arabia? And of course assigning some sort of 'value' for ethnicity or sect has to be transparent to SOMEBODY, or you couldn't do it. (In the debate over immigration and welfare, Steve Moore and John Miller simply assumed that everybody admitted from certain countries was a refugee, cuz virtually everybody from those countries WAS a refugee.)

But -- how can it be illegal for the intelligence agencies to research religion as a national security threat, and yet legal to use it in an algorithm to determine further investigation like this?

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 13, 2006 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz remarks at 1:26 AM were entirely accurate. If the details of the data-mining - what parameters are used and how much weight they are giving, and so on - were ever revealed, then it would stop working.

I am pretty unenthusiastic about this program on its technical merits, not just it's civil liberties issues. I'm not an expert on search and data mining, but I've spent some time in the same room with those guys, working on those problems, and it hasn't made me all that confident that such a program is going to be all that valuable.

Just knowing of the existence of such a program probably gives someone enough knowledge to defeat it. That cat is already out of the bag. They figured out not to use satellite phones a few years back, and they aren't dumb, so they probably know enough to avoid phone calls altogether.

In a sense, this program is still a research project. The way a research project SHOULD be conducted is to take a sample corpus of data, and try out different algorithms and weightings on it.

But the researchers have a really big problem. They probably don't know whether any particular sample in fact contains a communication of Al Qaeda. They suspect that it does. You would asses different algorithms by measuring how many of the sought items were found, and by how many false positives you got.

But it might be that the NSA has no such corpus, so they keep trying stuff on the data as it comes in. As a research project. That's pretty scary, if you ask me.

Now it might be that they became aware of some communications between terrorists in some other way, and have used wiretap data to get a good corpus, and think that the algorithm that they have is pretty good, and has lead, or will lead to good wiretaps.

But is there any evidence to support that claim? You wouldn't have to reveal the nature of the algorithm, just its existence.

Posted by: Doctor Jay on February 13, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Flanders: There's no "middle way" where you can run the program effectively and at the same time clear all the parameters and operational algorithms with all the members of Congress, or the staff of the New York Times, or whoever else thinks they should be calling the shots in this.

Yes, can you imagine Congress actually having any say in the laws of this country? What sort of loon would entrust the legislature with any sort of oversight, of checks and balances, on the executive? Why, the very idea is absurd on its face!

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

"Domestic wiretapping" is exactly the campaign issue the left should focus on. Throw in "tax-cuts" for the rich and the platform is complete. You're all doing a stand up job.

"Not one dime" Howard Dean

Posted by: Jay on February 13, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

I work professionally in commercial data mining and decision algorithms, although on small business vs. individuals.

Broadly speaking, these types of algorithms are far more effective than individual human judgement, as tests have shown in various applications. I've seen tests of man vs. machine in insurance and credit scoring, and machines, even with relatively unsophisticated algorithms, simply do better. Even when you include the fact that the humans have access to more data the machine still does better (most algorithms are limited, they can't see that one restaurant is dirty and another clean, for example, they can only see claims history and D&B history, etc.)

The problem is that for insurance and credit, this is used to offer a rate to various customers in a competitive marketplace. There are many providers, and the right to credit and the right to insurance are not essential rights in the way the right to privacy is. (BTW, I do think this stuff should be carefully regulated. So long as the laws are clear so I can understand what I should and shouldn't do, I'm perfectly happy with whatever reasonable restrictions that the people want via their elected representatives.)

These algorithms are not always easy to design for a given application, even when the sample size is reasonable. Consider a direct mail application: you're trying to predict whether a given household will make an order if you send them a catalog, to determine if they are worth the $3 cost of sending one - a good catalogger will have a large sample size and a good collection of data on the household - zip code/area demographics, potentially credit information on the name recipient, ordering patterns from that household in the past, other catalogs ordered, etc. etc. The greatest algorithm in the world still won't identify all those who would make an order and those who won't, but it will create a giant increase in the efficiency of the mailing.

The Bush administrations apparent goal is to indentify potentially terrorist communications. We don't have a giant sample size - we've only identified a small number of real terrorists in this country, and even if the sample size is in the thousands it's still quite small. Further, given the Bush administrations approach in the past, they'll be willing to make 'Type 1' errors - false positives, leading to a lot of Americans being spied upon who have nothing to do with terrorism.

Posted by: Fides on February 13, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

JS hit it out of the park. You have to have propbable cause BEFORE you wiretap.; you don't wiretap to establish probable cause.

You can under the FISA law. That law provides for a 72 hour sliding window to allow the wiretapper to obtain evidence that of probable cause. The difference between the FISA law and the unlimited warrantless wiretapping claimed by the Bush administration is that, under FISA, the material that has been wiretapped is supposed to be destroyed if it is older than 72 hours.

On another matter, it strikes me that any sophisticated terrorist organization would make use of easily obtained scrambling/descrambling technology for voice communications, and encryption technology for data communications. The technology is easy to obtain, but it would take a good period of time for the NSA to descramble or decrypt the communications.

Posted by: raj on February 13, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

Here'sd a good idea for Democrats:

1. Complain about "domestic surveillance". Try to get it stopped.

2. Wait and hope for the next big terrorist attack.

3. Then complain that the Repugs did not do enough surveillance of terrorists.

4. Hope that the voters don't figure it out.

Dario

Posted by: Dario Siteros on February 13, 2006 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

"For all practical purposes, then, the decision about which U.S. citizens to spy on is being vested in a small group of technicians operating in secret and creating criteria that virtually no one else understands. Are we all OK with this?"

We don't know about the Political Pussycat, but we are not okay on spying on US citizens, period, without a court order.

Posted by: Libby Sosume on February 13, 2006 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

tbrosz: By definition, a secret program isn't going to work if it isn't secret.

That's not true at all. Wholly false.

Some secret programs need to be secret in order to work. However, it's not at all true that any given program which is secret needs to be. Any program, any program at all, can be made secret. And have been, generally for nefarious reasons.

The USDA, for instance, keeps its list of subsidy recipients secret.

As others have observed, government secrecy is detrimental to democracy. It is never the case that a secret program should simply be assumed to require secrecy; the need must be proven, and even then there should be sufficient oversight.

Posted by: S Ra on February 13, 2006 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

dario, the left always has to hope that the "voters" don't figure it out. Fortunately they underestimate the common sense of the average voter time and time again and they just can't figure that out either. "Not one dime" Howard Dean, is another example of the left trying to hoodwink the voting public.

Posted by: Jay on February 13, 2006 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Data mining algorithms might be appropriate form making certain business decisions, but these are not the same type of decision making processes that might be used in determining (as used above) the best driving route between two places. A driving route determination is an analysis of a physical process. One that is known to have a solution, and one that can be described in words and mathematics.

One of the supermarket loyalty systems gave their data to the Feds after 911. Data mining produced the amazing correlation that hijackers were more likely to have purchased frozen pizza with a credit card than persons in the general population. Are we then to violate the privacy, and accept any search on those who buy frozen pizza with credit cards? Data mining results in associations and correlations that often exist only in the mind of the analyst, or in the five postive of every hundred statistical tests on completely unrelated data that use a 95% significance level.

Even if we could demonstrate that all terrorists bought frozen pizza with credit cards, wore black shoes with brown laces, etc, would (or should) our system of laws justify a violation of the privacy of all people who had the same attributes?

Also, consider that with enough variables that it is always possible to construct a discrimination plane that will always be positive for a group (say terrorists), and actually, many such tests can be constructed. But that is correlation, not causation. It does not predict that the next person to have those characteristics or behaviors is a terrorist, or even that any additional person that has those characteristics will be a terrorist.

Our laws require probable cause. One connected with meaning and logic, not mere correlation. In the sciences, correlation is only an "isn't that interesting" attribute. There must be a reasoned causative mechanism to get from a to z before there is any meaning to that correlation.

Posted by: m on February 13, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

Or maybe the left is being, you know, massively outspent by shitheads who will lie about anything and everything for personal profit at the expense of the country and its essential freedoms. Just a thought.

Posted by: Kenji on February 13, 2006 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

By definition, a secret program isn't going to work if it isn't secret.

Nope, not true. Otherwise, you'd be able to say,f for instance, that by definition, the CIA, which is a covert intelligence gathering agency, is not going to work since its existence is not a secret.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 10:46 AM | PERMALINK

Troll powers activate!

Here's a good idea for the Republicans:

1. Erode civil liberties, while doing nothing to actually make America safer. Make your buddies lots of cash. Complain about "obstructionists".

2. Wait and hope for the next big terrorist attack.

3. Then complain that the Dems didn't let you do whatever you wanted.

4. Hope that the voters don't figure it out.

Posted by: S Ra on February 13, 2006 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

kenji, yeah that's it, the money.Voters don't care about issues, they want just want to see who spent the most money. Kepp thinking that way, it will work well for you.

The "erosion civil liberties" is another great issue for the campaign. Run on that one too it should work well for you. So far you're batting 1000.

Posted by: Jay on February 13, 2006 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

"If you are going to use FISA to enfringe on the war powers of POTUS, during war, that is arguably un-Constitutional."~Cheney

What war? The US has not declared war on anyone. We are having people killed in a jolly little adventure of George Bush's, but we aren't at war.

Posted by: Ace Franze on February 13, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

GOP fundraiser charged in Ohio coin scandal

More proof that everything the GOP does is infused with insidious purpose and that the Bush administration's views and statements on every issue should be received with mistrust and a presumption of criminality.

Posted by: Advocate for God on February 13, 2006 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

An interesting point when looking at all the troll comments is how they always want to drag the discussion over to elections, rather than to the merits of the program itself. Indicative, once again, that to them "winning" is far more important than principles -- that so long as they win, it doesn't matter to them if they weaken the country or destroy civil liberties or erode the Constitution to do it. They don't actually try to defend the spying on innocent Americans as such, rather, they squawk "if you point out that we're spying on innocent Americans you'll be sorry!"

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

advocate, "not one dime" Howard Dean. Please include the "culture of corruption" card in the campaign as well, that's a beauty. So here is the campaign:
1. Domestic Spying
2. Tax cuts for the rich
3. Culture of corruption
It's a winner. There's only one thing missing, what could that be...............
oh yeah, a VISION!

Posted by: Jay on February 13, 2006 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

You're asking the wrong question, Kev. People who think we should shut up about this believe that all government examiniations are warranted all the time on anyone. If you don't agree, then you are either
1) a terrorist
2) against keeping americans "safe"

The question should be, is there anything these people won't give up, in order to be able to believe they are "safe"?

Posted by: craigie on February 13, 2006 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan -

I've noticed that, and I've noticed something else too. Once upon a time, I could read blogs and blog comments to see reasoned arguments that disagreed with me, and I could learn from that. I could say "hmmm, that's a good point. I never thought of that."

But no more. We never get any arguments any more. All we get is "commie" and "fag" and "terrorist" accusations. It's as if they don't have any intellectual or moral underpinnings to their belief system... Hmm...

Posted by: craigie on February 13, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

really craggie, I guess our points of view cloud our impressions. I see on this blog fairly good arguments from the right which only incite the "troll" card from the left. I know now that when the "troll" card is thrown out, the left is out of debate points. On the other hand though I should say that there are some lefties here that do make some good points. Few though.

Posted by: Jay on February 13, 2006 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

"Not one dime" - Howard Dean
That's just fun to say........

Posted by: Jay on February 13, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Jay: There's only one thing missing, what could that be............... oh yeah, a VISION.

The GOP certainly has a vision . . .

* Governmental spying and instrusions into the private affairs of loyal, law-abiding Americans

* The buying and selling of votes in Congress

* Disregard for the rules of Congress, even though the GOP itself wrote those rules and could change them by vote

* Serial misleading of the public about everything from WMDs to the prescription drug bill (aided and abetted by conservatives like Jay)

* Election fraud, voter rolls tampering, false allegations regarding legitimate voter registrations, perjurious allegations regarding legitimate voter registrations, voter intimidation, illegal inteference with political operations of the opposing party, disinformation foisted on voters to prevent the voters from legitimate participation in elections

* Denying Americans their right to have their votes counted

* Endless deficits, both budgetary and in foreign trade

* Endless war with endless imperial powers for GOP presidents

* Torture as an SOP

* Violation of international law, just like Saddam Hussein

* Manipulation of the threat-warning system for "homeland security"

* Cronyism in government

* The hiring and promotion of incompetent and unqualified governmental officials and employees

* Consistent refusal to testify under oath to Congress, demonstrating an intent to lie in such testimony

Yeah, baby! What a winning strategy!

Posted by: Advocate for God on February 13, 2006 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

As I've said many times, you can truly evaluate the value of the NSA data mining ONLY by its success over time. All else is pure speculation, theoretical blather, and ungrounded extrapolation from other examples. If there's an upside to the use of this illegal program for four long years, it's that it at least provides true empirical data by which to evaluate it.

And the NY Times article on its results should tell us everything we need to know. It has, in fact, produced tens of thousands of FALSE POSITIVES, and not one single case of a TRUE POSITIVE, namely, a genuinely dangerous terrorist.

It is regarded by people who actually do the relevant work domestically, namely the FBI, as being simply COUNTERPRODUCTIVE because it consumes major resources that might be used far more efficiently elsewhere.

So it's not just that the operation employs a black box; it's an entirely shitty blackbox.

THAT is the bottom line here.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 11:21 AM | PERMALINK

By definition, a secret program isn't going to work if it isn't secret.

Not true. A secret program can't be secret if it's not secret. That's what arguing from definition would give you.

We've solved crimes before though criminals know that a search warrant is required. Your argument sounds to be like one of those attempts to be pre-emptive that you hear so much about these days.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 13, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK

fides has the only informed post here. Others, including your favorite troll tbrosz, and, unfortunatley Mr. Drum as well, are blowing smoke, mostly due to there awe of apparent sophistication of the algorithms.

I must also point out that in a somewhat related field of Cryptography, a very important rule is that if your algorithm relies on complete screcy, it's no good.

Posted by: lib on February 13, 2006 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

advocate, you're not angry, just stupid. oh wait, maybe angry and stupid. All of those red herrings have not worked well for you, you might want to try and craft a campaign that actually includes a vision for the future, not a campaign that merely says "we're not as bad as the other guys". Of course that's assuming you want to win the next election, or are you in your comfort zone of losing.

Posted by: Jay on February 13, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

Jay: I know now that when the "troll" card is thrown out, the left is out of debate points.

I know now that when "not one dime" is thrown out, the Right is out of debate points, as if they had any to start with.

I see on this blog fairly good arguments from the right . . .

Delusion is a fairly common theme in your comments and this one is no exception.

Lying does not equal "fairly good arguments."

Posted by: Advocate for God on February 13, 2006 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Let's say you create a database of all the attributes that a person has, and then calculate probabilities that if a person has a given set of attributes he or she is a terrorist, based on the known terrorists out there. This is essentially what many of these algorithms do. Incidentally, also the way spam is filtered from your inbox.

Should your attributes even be in a NSA databse without a warrant to begin with ?

What pool of data are they mining ?

The criteria that the administration has always described is: One end of the conversation is out of the country and Al Qaeda is involved. I would think that if that criteria were truly being adhered to then the number of calls to listen to would be pretty small and therefore managable by a human being.

Posted by: Stephen on February 13, 2006 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

I'm more or less ok with the NSA program as I understand it.

But trusting algorithms to this degree is a *very* bad precedent to set.

Posted by: TWAndrews on February 13, 2006 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Beyond everything else, can anybody be in the slightest surprised that the data mining program is at best a total waste of time and resources?

Look, true terrorists like those in al Qaeda do everthing in their power to DEFEAT any attempt to understand or monitor their conversations. This is completely unlike the typical uses of data mining, in which, say, consumers exert zero effort to disguise their intentions and behavior. Conversations from al Qaeda are deliberately in code words. They sound to all the world as if they are on the most innocuous of topics. Even when heard directly by a human being AFTER already having been flagged as important, their meaning is in no way obvious.

How likely is it that a data mining program, looking for a needle in a haystack, is going to locate such conversations? It's exactly as if, on top of everything else, the needle has been camoflauged in every possible way to LOOK like a strand of hay.

Why would any reasonable person expect such a program to succeed? All it might ever catch is the incompetents at terrorism, the loud mouth Jose Padillas, who practically are begging to be caught, because talk is what it's all about for them.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect that these "algorithms" are in fact not very sophisticated. I recall that about a year ago it was revealed that the "no-fly" list correlated only on the first three letters of each name, so that, for instance, John Smith was the "same person" as Johannes Smizcka, known European Green wierdo (I'm making these names and affiliations up) and got special treatment at boarding. Wasting everybody's time and money while the real baddies slither under the radar. As folks in the FBI have pointed out very publicly.

Posted by: jhill on February 13, 2006 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Conversations from al Qaeda are deliberately in code words. They sound to all the world as if they are on the most innocuous of topics. Even when heard directly by a human being AFTER already having been flagged as important, their meaning is in no way obvious.

For example, the code phrase used to signal the 9/11 attacks was "the match begins tomorrow" which sounds, to all the world, like two people discussing a football or cricket match. Even if you intercepted this communication how on Earth would you know what to do with it?

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

"the match begins tomorrow"

But only funny foreigners talk like that. True Blue (or, um, Red) Americans would say "the game begins tomorrow". So obviously, these people should be arrested.

Unless they were talking about tennis, in which case they should still be arrested, because what kind of crazy person discusses tennis?

See? It's easy to pick out the troublemakers, as long as I'm the one doing it. Any problems with that, Bushfans?

Posted by: craigie on February 13, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

"That's an interesting point, frankly0. Neural nets, of course, have to be "trained" on data sets in a fashion in which they learn by make lots of guesses, and then having those guesses graded as right or wrong. One of the problems with the NSA data mining operations, one might imagine, would be that it would be difficult or impossible to give the computers the "correct" responses to their guesses. After all, how do we KNOW that the person they ID'd is or isn't a terrorist? What do we have to train them on, besides their own answers?"

Neural net systems have been used in medicine for years. There is one that has proved far more accurate in diagnosing heart attacks (acute MI) in the emergency room than ER docs. Another system was able to control ventilator care in ARDS so that the mortality was halved.

Both of these examples have more feedback to train the system and that may be the biggest problem for NSA. On the other hand the 9/11 pilots were in the US using fake ID and getting speeding tickets. Nobody connected the dots. The fact that we know the code terms they used means that the calls were picked up. "Tomorrow" is a pretty strong term. Serious cryptographers would add days or hours to such a term. The fact that they didn't suggests they weren't all that skilled at tradecraft.

From the Sunday morning news shows, I would say the Democrats' position is "It's illegal but keep doing it." Not very strong position to run on in November.

Posted by: Mike K on February 13, 2006 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

Surely the algorithms that enhanced a bra manufacturere's profits by discovering that there is a greater demand for bras for larger breasts in the mid-west will be equally useful for determining the identity of potential terrorists.

Posted by: nut on February 13, 2006 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Hmmmm, maybe they were talking about the Match Game, craigie, in which case they should be arrested and tortured.

Posted by: shortstop on February 13, 2006 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK

Americans only use "match" for tennis? I'm so used to follow european football that I see "match" as the most natural word for this.

Posted by: Brazil Connection on February 13, 2006 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Tennis match, wrestling match, boxing match...I can't think of anything else Americans use this for. Except for luuuuuv match, of course.

Posted by: shortstop on February 13, 2006 at 12:23 PM | PERMALINK

One of the problems with the NSA data mining operations, one might imagine, would be that it would be difficult or impossible to give the computers the "correct" responses to their guesses.

It can be done, of course. You just feed in known al Qaeda conversations as the correct response. But, as Stefan mentions, expressions like "the match begins tommorrow" are as common as fleas in August. Apriori, one would expect an algorithm like this to be utterly useless, indeed counterproductive.

But why settle for apriori when you've got aposteriori all over the place? I mean, we have four years of utter failure, after endless tweaks, to convince us that the program is a counterproductive bomb. Why pretend it's anything else? Why listen to snow jobs that purport to demonstrate something else?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

I just trained a Support Vector Machine to model the success or the lack thereof of the Bush administration's war on terror.

The model predicts that the probability of these guys winning the war on terror is .001%.

Posted by: lib on February 13, 2006 at 12:34 PM | PERMALINK

There's no "middle way" where you can run the program effectively and at the same time clear all the parameters and operational algorithms with all the members of Congress, or the staff of the New York Times, or whoever else thinks they should be calling the shots in this.

Stefan:

Yes, can you imagine Congress actually having any say in the laws of this country? What sort of loon would entrust the legislature with any sort of oversight, of checks and balances, on the executive? Why, the very idea is absurd on its face!

Interesting, but doesn't change anything I said, and you're evading the problem. I've noticed that the words "oversight" and "checks and balances" are being used as buzz words, and people are going to a lot of effort to avoid actually defining what this means. How many fully-informed Congress members would be required to qualify as "oversight?"

Obviously, informing the ranking intelligence committee members didn't qualify. Did the recent briefing to the entire intelligence committee qualify?

Make a list. Which people should be informed of all the technical details to meet your criteria for "oversight?" Is Congress enough? Or should something be published in the media?

And if informing that many people effectively destroys the program, as it probably will, do you really think you can accomplish that without leaving Democratic fingerprints all over the corpse?

Posted by: tbrosz on February 13, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I see that Brazil Connection has now learned something from Political Animal, thus justifying his use of company property on company time.

You're welcome!

Hmmmm, maybe they were talking about the Match Game, craigie, in which case they should be arrested and tortured.

So, so true. Or else, sent out hunting with the Vice President.

Posted by: craigie on February 13, 2006 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

Another thread where nobody wants to, ya know, DISCUSS anything. Sift opinions, folks, don't just exchange 'em.

I asked how it can be unlawful for the Defense and intelligence agencies to research religion as a national security threat, but legal for the NSA to use religion in datamining. Anybody know?

I had not known (or had forgotten) the 'buying frozen pizza with a credit card' thing. (As it happens, some of the 9-11 hijackers used my old grocery store, and a gym I know. For all I can tell, I used to stand in line with 'em.)

I'm still trying to get a handle on what is, and is not "datamining". I remember a few years back, I think it was The Onion, did a take on Venn Diagrams: one circle was members of the National Rifle Association, one was home beer brewers.

The intersection? Civil War Re-enactors.

Is THAT what datamining is about?

Presumably, al Qaeda guys would have long lists of such peculiar characteristics -- ordering pizza with credit cards, buying groceries with a card, but never ever pork products; phone calls to particular countries, even particular #s; certain kinds of visa status; etc. It's not impossible that if you Venn the 10 zillion people who ordered frozen pizza with a credit card in 2001, subtract out the hundred thousand or so who never bought bacon at a Giant, pull from that ONLY the ones who called Saudi Arabia, and then throw in gym memberships: you might just wind up with the 9-11 hijackers.

Good to know, don't ya think? Worth watching out for?

I dunno that it makes me happy (since in several ways, I could be on the list), but there's a reason Karl Rove sees this as a winning issue for the GOP.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 13, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously, informing the ranking intelligence committee members didn't qualify. - posted by tbrosz

Wait, were they informed of this NSA thing? How? In what level of detail? Because, as far as I know, in the Gonzales' hearings for the intelligence committee, they didn't get into a lot of details because those were classified.

Posted by: Brazil Connection on February 13, 2006 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

A recent Washington Post article on this. Given the polling, I think the Democratic leadership has finally spotted the hole in the ice they're heading for.

link via Captain's Quarters, with more comments.

Posted by: tbrosz on February 13, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Good to know, don't ya think? Worth watching out for?

But worthless. This kind of thing is called, I think, "over-training" or some such, where you have the answer in advance and then you train your network to find it. Taddah! Now you can find those 9/11 hijackers next time!

Except next time it will be different. As Donald Rumsfeld says, we don't know what we don't know. Though we do know what Rumsfeld doesn't know.

Posted by: craigie on February 13, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

If you start with the aim that the program must continue and the President should be allowed to do whatever he deems fit, of course you will come to the conclusion that there should be little or no oversight. But this is a nonsensical position in a debate where the question is whether or not this program is consistent with the constitution.

Posted by: lib on February 13, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Presumably, al Qaeda guys would have long lists of such peculiar characteristics -- ordering pizza with credit cards, buying groceries with a card, but never ever pork products; phone calls to particular countries, even particular #s; certain kinds of visa status; etc. It's not impossible that if you Venn the 10 zillion people who ordered frozen pizza with a credit card in 2001, subtract out the hundred thousand or so who never bought bacon at a Giant, pull from that ONLY the ones who called Saudi Arabia, and then throw in gym memberships: you might just wind up with the 9-11 hijackers.

Boy, Americanist, you're a technology crackpot on top of everything else.

Leave the heavy technical lifting to others, OK?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

I had also learned that there is no such thing as "obtusiveness". I'm on a roll!

Posted by: Brazil Connection on February 13, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

If the engineers (and their managers) have DONE THEIR JOBS properly, all the code is documented and it's behavior tested under a wide range of conditions, and believe me - they DO understand how it works, and should be able to explain it to a reasonably intelligent layman or judge or congressman.

And if congress signed off on the money to develop this project, and did not make sure that the engineers developed this system properly, then NO, congress didn't do their job either.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on February 13, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Sure. That sounds ok.

Posted by: ing on February 13, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

If Americans overwhelmingly support this program, ours will not be the first country to volunatrily opt for an authoritarian form of government. But it will be the first democracy of it's size and age to do so.

If opposing this program leads the Dems' to a hole in the ice, we are all, including the Republicans and Libertarians, headed off the edge of a very high cliff.

Posted by: lib on February 13, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

I'll be O.K. with it when Bush and Cheney are led away in ankle chains and orange jumpsuits, headed for Fort Leavenworth!

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on February 13, 2006 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Brazil Connection:

I had also learned that there is no such thing as "obtusiveness". I'm on a roll!

Hey, if there were such a thing, this is where you'd find it. ;)

Posted by: tbrosz on February 13, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

M and others have pointed out a deep problem with data mining, which is that you're rarely using simple parameters such as race and ethnicity to train a neural net, but often you're letting the neural net decide which are the right parameters. A variation of this idea is called Principal Component Analysis (PCA) or sometimes called Empirical Orthogonal Functions (EOFs). These essentially try to figure out "component vectors", and then separate those vectors from one another as much as possible, to produce the key mathematical components (an eigenbasis, roughly).
Responsible teaching of these technique emphasizes a big problem with them: the "components" are purely invented - they are not guaranteed to correspond in any way to real-life factors. The same is true of neural nets - there's no way to guarantee that the "terrorist" component they produce is actually corresponds to reality. Point is, you can have an optimized answer which is totally nonsensical.

This makes oversight and redress all the more critical. Given that there's a nonzero chance of the algorithm being outright wrong, how does a citizen defend him or herself when this happens to them? Figuring out what happens when something goes wrong is a pretty big part of the law in general, and it's being given awfully short shrift in this program.

Posted by: Eric E on February 13, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Brazil Connection: I had also learned that there is no such thing as "obtusiveness". I'm on a roll!

tbrosz:Hey, if there were such a thing, this is where you'd find it. ;)

A more confessional statement I have not read.

Posted by: trex on February 13, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I see a lot of posts on here trying to figure out how the whole wire tap thing works.

If the program is to have ANY effect in the future then we aren't supposed to know how it works. For the same reasons that we don't know the true speed of missles, the true range and acuracy of some of our radar systems, the actual speed or range of certain tanks. They are millitary secrets and we don't want the enemy to know. When we don't want the enemy to know then we have to accept a certain amount of ignorance to allow for the gov't keeping these secrets from our enemy.
JAMES RISEN AND ERIC LICHTBLAU; BARCLAY WALSH at the NY times should face a firing squad for bald faced espionage in exposing this program.
(Personal opinion, mind you)

Posted by: Lurker42 on February 13, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Frankly, you would do well to bear in mind that some of us actually form opinions from facts:

The point isn't that the NEXT plot (or plotters) will be like the last one, but that the more we know about the last set of bad guys, the more we know what to LOOK for, to find the next bad guys.

Which is why I'm asking: is this sorta thing, the odd connection, what datamining is, or not?

Nobody seems to know what is and is not legit for the algorithms to be looking FOR -- I asked about religion, but nobody knows.

Aren't we talking about a sophisticated, software driven form of racial and ethnic profiling?

Or - is it something else, like the examples I cited? If memory serves, the legendary Vernon Walters' first espionage assignment had to do with catching Nazi spies who were identified because they were 1) German refugees, 2) radio buffs, and 3) skiers.

So I dunno as it's wise to scoff at the possibility of unrelated connections catching the bad guys.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 13, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

"Blind men describing an elephant" and "probable cause"

In an investigation the police variously gather evidence of any kind and some police officer(s) decide early-on who might be a suspect and what direction to take the investigation. This early dot-connecting is expected to be done by a professional and all too often isn't. False leads can lead to disastrous convictions. This doesn't even include the possibility of criminal intent by police.

In a court case the prosecution lays out the evidence which they believe connects and explains all the dots to show that a particular thing happened and someone did something particular. Their exclusion of some other dots could be crucial and this is balanced by the defense lawyers who present questions and contradiction to ensure lies and misrepresentations don't corrupt the story. "If it doesn't fit you must acquit."

The jury in a court case is instructed to handle their work in an entirely different way. First, they don't get to see all the dots. Second, they're told specifically to NOT draw any conclusions based on only part of the evidence. That goes against normal human behavior and is probably completely unrealistic; despite it's useful intention.

So, what is 'probable cause'?

The judge sees some evidence dots -- not in the way a detective would at a crime scene and with the eyes of someone within the legal culture. The judge either agrees or contradicts the police. This check protects from overzealous police or from simple ignorance of how evidence might be allowed in a court case. Even if it's only a simple matter of having two heads rather than one it's worth it.

Bush may be a monster, but he doesn't have two heads we'd trust, so he needs to get a warrant from a judicial 'head' that doesn't have the same personal, political agenda.

Posted by: MarkH on February 13, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You raise some very important and interesting questions. It will be fascinating to see how it all turns out.


How about this - something I think we can all agree on, even cmdicely: If the NSA is eavesdropping on some AQ guy overseas, and he places a call to someone in the US, can we all agree that NO WARRANT is needed for the NSA to continue listening to that conversation?

That takes us to the harder question: Assume the NSA has a list of overseas AQ numbers. Is a warrant required to listen to calls placed to those numbers from US phones? If the NSA is just watching the overseas phones, and waiting for calls to come in, how would the Government ever have time to get such a warrant if a call came from a US number?

Posted by: DBL on February 13, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Jay: Of course that's assuming you want to win the next election, or are you in your comfort zone of losing.

That's the difference between you and me.

You just want to win elections.

You don't care if the country goes to hell in a handbasket, as long as you win.

Yours is a vision of the rule of fear and hate.

It's a vision I can do without, win or lose.

All of those red herrings have not worked well for you . . .

Of course they have, mostly because they aren't red herrings.

Just ask the GOP operatives who are now in jail and have criminal records, like Abramoff.

Which is why the GOP is so desperate right now.

Posted by: Advocate for God on February 13, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I should add that tbrosz is again foisting a false choice on us. If this NSA program can't be designed and run with adequate oversight, neither can any other technology program. That's obviously false, and the credit report model is an obvious place to look for evidence. TransUnion has not been obligated to disclose its credit reporting algorithms, but rather has had clear transparency requirements put in place. There's no reason why the NSA can't be run like that, even if the oversight itself must be run in secret like FISA.

Posted by: Eric E on February 13, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

DBL: . . . how would the Government ever have time to get such a warrant if a call came from a US number?

As usual, your mendacity shows.

The FISA court can issue warrants after the fact, if time is of the essence.

Everybody familiar with the issue knows this, why don't you?

Posted by: Advocate for God on February 13, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK


Arguing details is fine, but remember: there's no reason to trust Bush's stated explanations. When have they told the truth? When? Lying isn't simply a case of shading details with them. They tell ENORMOUS lies. All the time.

This is the biggest group of gangsters the world has ever seen.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 13, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

catching Nazi spies who were identified because they were 1) German refugees, 2) radio buffs, and 3) skiers

You forgot the part where they couldn't correctly identify the winner of the 1935 World Series. Dead giveaway, as I recall.

Posted by: craigie on February 13, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

It is hard to comment on the extra-FISA spying because we don't know many of the details. Let's assume as an academic exercise that there is some data mining going on. The idea is to estimate the probability that an individual is not a member of Al Qaeda given the presence of some set of factors which the the algorithm is designed to find.

One way to do this is to benchmark the algorithm in the same way that drug tests or AIDS tests are bench marked. In the case of drug testing one gives the test two groups of people one group which is known to have taken the drug and one group which is known to be drug free. From this one can determine the probabilities that given an individual has not taken the drug that the test will be positive and the probability that given that an individual has taken the drug the test will be positive.

You can see clearly how difficult it would be to do this type of benchmarking of an algorithm designed to find terrorists, but let's assume for the sake of argument that one can obtain these probabilities for the algorithm. Again for the sake of argument, let's assume that the rates are quite good with 2% of the known nonterrorist group branded terrorist by the algorithm and 99% of the known terroists group branded as terrorists by the algorithm. Let's be generous and assume that one in every ten thousand people is a terrorist. Admittedly a rather high number. The false positive rate for the algorithm is the probability that an individual is NOT a member of Al Qaeda given that the algorithm finds the factor associated with Al Qaeda membership.It is found by applying Bayes Theorem and is given by (.02*.9999)/(.02*.9999+.99*.0001)=.995. That is 99.5% of the time the algorithm will falsely identify someone as a member of Al Qaeda.

The reason this number is so high is the small number of terrorists in the population. I was very generous in assuming one in ten thousand. A small proportion will yield a higher false positve rate.

Anyone who has taken an introductory probability theory course will have seen this. The NSA has some very good mathematicians on staff. They must know how unreliable this sort of thing is.

The question is does this ballpark number pass the probable cause threshold?

Posted by: Rege on February 13, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

AFG: Under FISA, to do an emergency, warrantless search, the AG has to give a legal opinion, which requires pretty much the same paperwork as getting the FISA warrant. How would all that paperwork every get done in time in the scenario I've laid out?

Posted by: DBL on February 13, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

I think that the main issue that many seem to be missing here is that any secret program operated by the executive branch without any oversight from any other branch of the government is ripe with potential for abuse. It does not matter what kind of algorithms are used, what kind of inputs the algorithms need, and how efficacious the algorithms are. If we decide that such a program is appropriate, we are deciding that we approve the use of one of the key tools in the aresnal of any authoritarian government. To say that the majority approves this program does not in anyway contradict the fact that if a slippery slope argument was ever valid, this one is it.

Posted by: lib on February 13, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

bingo

Posted by: craigie on February 13, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

AFG: Under FISA, to do an emergency, warrantless search, the AG has to give a legal opinion, which requires pretty much the same paperwork as getting the FISA warrant. How would all that paperwork every get done in time in the scenario I've laid out?

He's right -- obviously the federal government is incapable of processing large amounts of paperwork...

Here's a clue: when it says the AG has to issue a legal opinion, it only means it has to be issued under his signature. Justice has a whole staff of people whose job is to prepare those opinions, and they are fully capable of getting them out in time.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

And if informing that many people effectively destroys the program, as it probably will, do you really think you can accomplish that without leaving Democratic fingerprints all over the corpse? Posted by: tbrosz on February 13, 2006 at 12:36 PM

And a corpse it should be tbrosz. If you had any real understanding of the statistics and methodology of data mining, a.k.a, data dredging, you'd understand it's a pathetically weak method to get anything useful out of a data set.

In essence they're just running with the variables that have the highest cross correlations with terrorist activity in hopes that these same variables will show the same level of correlations in future terrorist activity.

The whole time they don't have the foggiest idea as to what it really is that they're banking our security on.

And let's not lose sight of the fact that they're violting the law and the Constitution while we're "oohing" and "ahing" of the algorithmic dog and pony show the administration is cooking up.

For a libertarian you have a funny gut instinct to trust everything the Federal government tells you, at least with this administration. My question is, why?

Posted by: Dr. Morpheus on February 13, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Eric E talks of 'redress', but it's pretty unclear for what, exactly: "Given that there's a nonzero chance of the algorithm being outright wrong, how does a citizen defend him or herself when this happens to them?"

So I'm back to 'dese, 'dem and 'dosing.

So some smart feller writes an algorithm (whatever the hell that is) to create some complicated combination of visa status, country of origin, religion and ethnicity. Then he inflicts math and a ton of data on it so it is no longer any of those characteristics (Muslims who charge frozen pizza in particular zip codes; degrees of separation from particular bad EXACTLY but something more like a cab driver than a set of directions. Finally he sets this thing up to run through terabytes of data to see what it finds, "learning" with fancy words, just how exactly can there be a "nonzero chance of [it] being outright wrong"?

Maybe I'm dumb, but either it finds bad guys, or it doesnt. In the former case, I don't care if it was "nonzero" in theory, it failed in practice.

In the latter, it did not fail.

Why not talk plain English?

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 13, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

LOL -- Craigie, some of us actually know history, as well as movies.

Walters wrote about the group I mentioned in his memoir "Silent Missions". I took it off the shelf before I posted about it. (I was honored to meet him once, just before my boss at the time gave him hell over Reagan's policies toward Central America -- one of the most famous linguists of all time, and that just starts his remarkability.)

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 13, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

As I have mentioned above, the various aspects of the algorithms are beside the point. However I must add that my experience with all sorts of datamining algorithm is that it's very easy to fool yourself by fiddling around with the parameters (number of layers in neural nets, the type of kernel function to use in support vector machines, etc.) that you have a good model only to be later confronted with the reality that the whole thing sucks big time. Many a people have lost a lot money using these techniques for trading equities in the stock market.

Posted by: lib on February 13, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK
If you are going to use FISA to enfringe on the war powers of POTUS, during war, that is arguably un-Constitutional. Posted by: Cheney
American constitution Section. 2. Clause 1: The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.

The power of congress:
Section. 8.
Clause 10:
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
Clause 11:
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
Clause 12:
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
Clause 13:
To provide and maintain a Navy;
Clause 14:
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
Clause 15:
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
Clause 16:
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress...

Clearly, this president does not have the power he is trying to arrogate.

Posted by: Mike on February 13, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

"I think that the main issue that many seem to be missing here is that any secret program operated by the executive branch"

Not just the Executive branch but the Commander In Chief of the millitary. This is a millitary matter not just some arbitrary breach of civil liberties. I understand that you don't trust Bush but he still has a job to do. Probable Cause? 9/11. Good enough for me. Listen away George.

Posted by: Lurker42 on February 13, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

President Hillary Clinton, 2008-2024.

Posted by: lib on February 13, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Not just the Executive branch but the Commander In Chief of the millitary.

All that means is that the civilian authority, embodied by the president, is in charge of the military during wartime, not that the president is some sort of supreme generalissimo. Making the president c-in-c was meant to act as a shield against the generals taking power during war and setting themselves up as warlords.

This is a millitary matter not just some arbitrary breach of civil liberties.

No, it's not a military matter. Go re-read Mike's post right above.

I understand that you don't trust Bush but he still has a job to do.

Yeah, to faithfully obey and execute the laws of the United States. A job which he is not only failing at, but is actively subverting.

Probable Cause? 9/11. Good enough for me. Listen away George.

Sadly, probable cause for an under-informed Limbaugh fan is not the same as probable cause under the US Constitution. Or would you have said that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was enough probable cause for President Clinton to have spied on Americans without a warrant? Somehow I think not....

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

One doesn't have to be an expert in data mining to conclude that characteristics of past terrorists are the ones any automated system would be looking for.

That would mean that by far the most important attributes any "algorithm" would be looking at would be (a) Arab in origin (b) Muslim in religion and (c) Non-US citizen. For (c), constitutional protections do not apply. Weren't all of the 19 9/11 terrorists non-US citizens?

It is entirely possible that the main reason the US govt (and even some of the briefed members of Congress) want to keep this secret is that it targets people mostly on the basis of ethnic origin and religion. And it would be strange if it didn't.

Still, to think that any 9/11-type terrorists would now rely on unencoded telephone communications seems foolhardy. As noted above, you may catch Padillas, but not Attas.

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

"spied on Americans without a warrant? Somehow I think not...."

If he was spying on americans I would agree with you. I don't believe that he is. You do. *shrug* neither of us can prove it. You can think I'm stupid for believing he's being honorable in this. I think you're stupid for imagining intrigue everytime the prez opens his mouth. What ever. WE NEED TO PREVENT ANOTHER 9/11.

Posted by: Lurker42 on February 13, 2006 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

Then I hope Bush is finally reading his daily briefing.

Posted by: Eric Paulsen on February 13, 2006 at 3:30 PM | PERMALINK

We have smart folks here today discussing this issue, which is enlightening, but as always the comedy is provided by the right wingnuts, who continue to be very concerned that Democrats are on the "wrong track" for the next elections.

I always get a warm feeling reflecting on how generous our right wingnuts are...peeing myself in laughter. It's such a transparent ploy, since if you really thought the Democrats were on the track, and about to fall through the ice, why not sit back and enjoy it?

Instead, unless they are smart enough to play double jujitsu playing on Democratic insecurities (highly doubtful), then they are just trying to capitalize on the Democratic insecurities to throw you off track and off scent. Since this kind of jujitsu itself would be silly since directed at the wrong audience, we can discount the "smart enough" hypothesis.

Instead, the impression we get is that all these right wingnuts who come to the thread, lose every argument, and then talk about Democrats going off an electoral cliff, are really just Leninists in another disguise - all that matters is winning, is gaining power, and that alone is the prize. How you do it is irrelevant, and what you do with it, whether you ever actually actualize the initial reasons stated in gaining power, is also less important.

Our Leninist trolls...how sweet. Really warms the soul.

Posted by: Jimm on February 13, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

sure, why not ? As Donald Fagen put it,
"A just machine to make big decisions
Programmed by fellows with compassion and vision
We'll be clean when their work is done
We'll be eternally free yes and eternally young

What a beautiful world this will be
What a glorious time to be free"

Posted by: Doug K on February 13, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

I propose that the pat response to a wingnut falling back to the "guaranteed to lose election" response (regardless of principle), ought be a short rejoinder along the lines of (be creative):

"oh, our lovable, Leninist trolls..."

They are such harmless and cute little nuisances, after all.

Posted by: Jimm on February 13, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

If he was spying on americans I would agree with you. I don't believe that he is. You do. *shrug* neither of us can prove it.

Yes, we can, because AG Gonzalez admitted it in the hearings last week. That's what this whole thing is about in the firt place, that the government is spying on Americans. And again, they've already admitted it -- it's no longer a matter of conjecture.

You can think I'm stupid for believing he's being honorable in this. I think you're stupid for imagining intrigue everytime the prez opens his mouth. What ever.

No, not whatever. From not doing anything to prevent 9/11 to the Iraq debacle to the corruption to the numerous other scandals, I have a solid foundation for suspecting intrigue everytime Bush speaks.

WE NEED TO PREVENT ANOTHER 9/11.

Look, I work in downtown Manhattan, right by the Trade Center, and walk by the pit every single day. I had friends who were severely injured evacuating the towers, and worked downtown as a volunteer right after the attack. I'm reciting my bonafides on this purely to establish that I have quite a personal interest in preventing another 9/11, but I don't think this spying on Americans has anything to do with that.

If Bush was serious about preventing another attack he'd have caught bin Laden and dismantled Al Qaeda. If he were serious in intercepting their communications he could have done it legally, through the FISA courts and with warrants. The fact that he's done neither leads me to believe that something else is going on here, and that he's running this program not to spy on our enemies but to spy on Americans.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK
In the Fall 1983 issue of the Cato Journal, in a chapter called Achieving a Leninist Strategy, the Cato Institute laid out its plans to create the political environment necessary to privatize Social Security. A coalition of banks, insurance companies, and other institutions that will gain from providing such plans [private IRAs] to the public,[16] was to be formed. The coalition had two tasks to perform:

The first element consists of a campaign to achieve small legislative changes that embellish the present IRA system, making it in practice a small-scale private Social Security system . . ."[17]

The second main element . . . involves what one might crudely call guerrilla warfare against both the current Social Security system and the coalition that supports it.[18] [italics added]

It is difficult to square such cynical backroom manipulation of public opinion with the Economists description of how neoconservatives exude optimism and address the aspirations of an aspirational people.

Posted by: Jimm on February 13, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

You can think I'm stupid for believing he's being honorable in this.

"Trust but verify" - Reagan

I don't believe Bush is dishonest, I believe he is incompetent.

I also believe that allowing the president to secrectly decide which laws to follow and which laws to ignore, is a dangerous precedent.

Posted by: Stephen on February 13, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

So, Jimm: your theory is that anybody and everybody (especially those with credentials to know) who points out that a political strategy that alienates great big chunks of the electorate isn't worth listening to?

The fact is (as I've said before), the whole datamining thing is proof that the Bush administration has utterly failed SINCE 9-11 to figure out al Qaeda: who they are, how they're recruited, what kind of folks join 'em, etc. That the Bush guys want a net cast this wide proves they don't have the kind of specific intelligence we should long since had been able to ACT on.

But -- that still leaves the NSA program. And they still want to make it an issue: they know that until somebody comes up with a specific abuse (wiretapping Oprah?) it's popular.

I'm trying to figure just what it is, and how (not simply why) we're against it.

I've asked what, three times? how it can be unlawful for the Defense and intelligence agencies to research religion as a national security threat, yet legal to use religion in an NSA "algorithm".

JS is the first to even take up the point. Is religion central, or not?

Is this basically just ethnic and religious profiling, driven by software? Then why not fucking SAY so?

Then I read Lib talking about kernels and whatnot, and then realize: this is about fucking program trading? Or, good God, we've turned out national security over to the guys who invented derivatives?

But I'm telling ya, if we can't do better than the narrative that "Bush is vigilant and high tech", while we've got ACLU concerns THAT NOBODY CAN SPEAK ABOUT IN PLAIN ENGLISH, we're gonna get clocked.


Posted by: theAmericanist on February 13, 2006 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

So, Jimm: your theory is that anybody and everybody (especially those with credentials to know) who points out that a political strategy that alienates great big chunks of the electorate isn't worth listening to?

I wasn't talking about you bro, and instead was very specifically referring to wingnut arguments that default to "well, go ahead off that electoral cliff" when all their other arguments have been shot down.

I fail to see how you can miss this point, or worry about it, since it's not targeted at you.

Posted by: Jimm on February 13, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin's question is, of course, rhetorical. This plan doesn't require a tax hike, and doesn't interfere wtih anybody's hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade. It increases the ways to nab someone so taht they can be tortured and otherwise subjected to displays of manly American might. Of course they're okay with it. Tax cuts, opposition to abortion, and untrammeled bullying are the entirety of the Bush base's worldview at this point.

Posted by: Bruce Baugh on February 13, 2006 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

Instead, the impression we get is that all these right wingnuts who come to the thread, lose every argument, and then talk about Democrats going off an electoral cliff, are really just Leninists in another disguise -

If you could win arguments you'd win elections. Clearly that's not happening. Elections are the culminaton of the arguments. You've lost 5 of the last 7 Presidential elections and the 2 victories were by someone claiming to be a 'New' Democrat so as not to be associated with the old kind. And with Jimmy Carter and LBJ as predessors can you blame him?

As far as offering you advice it's fun and harmless. 1st off there's no one here who could make use of it anyway. 2nd off, you'd not recognize common sense anyway. 3rd, it's a hobby.

I'm not quite sure what argument has been lost here regarding NSA but it's clear GWB isn't losing. He talks about it every day for a reason. The Congress is asking him to come to them and tell them how to make it legal so it will go away. But GWB doesn't want to make it go away. Does he? Why do you suppose that is?

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

Jimm: politics ain't about winning arguments, though it can help. But I'm not so sure our side is the argument -- for one thing, the more we talk about how this is such a terrible violation of our civil liberties, the more it reinforces how hard Bush is working to protect our country. (You may not LIKE that dynamic, but there it is.)

Likewise, the more we argue about what the NSA is doing, and whether it needs new law, or is a huge violation of the Constitution -- the more we are NOT talking about what a failure this shows Bush's record on national security intelligence is.

There's a REASON why Rove, et al, think this is a winning issue for them. While we're 'winning arguments', they're just plain...

winning.

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 13, 2006 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly, this president does not have the power he is trying to arrogate.

Clearly Congress thinks so because they're not doing a thing to stop it. Clearly there are constitutional scholars on both sides of the issue and it's going to be decided by the Supreme Court. IF it gets there.

What incentive does this Congress have to make this a separation of powers issue knowing GWB just added two certain votes on this? If they actually pursue this and lose they have GWB a historic acheivement. The 1st real increase in Presidential Powers since Richard Nixon.

Congress is currntly begging for a deal they're not going to get. GWB wins at every level. He's trying to protect American lives. Liberals are protecting terrorists rights.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

but as always the comedy is provided by the right wingnuts, who continue to be very concerned that Democrats are on the "wrong track" for the next elections.

There's actually a term of art for these people, which I've seen elsewhere.

They are called "concern trolls".

It's evolved into a real species.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

the more we are NOT talking about what a failure this shows Bush's record on national security intelligence is.

Like all the attacks on our homeland? There have been many attacks elsewhere but not here. Europe and much of the Muslim world is aflame now but not here. You've got Al Gore traveling to Saudi Arabia doing his best to start something but it's not happening here. If there's a car-b-que it's not here.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

President Bush's approval rating dropped 3 points to 39%.

In debating issues, there always arguments. In these threads, we are not directing anyone's campaign, but arguing policies on their merits, as well as their possible violations of our rights.

I will never fail to defend my constitutional rights because I think it might slighly weaken an election campaign. Instead, I always defend our rights and our way of life, and if it that momentarily may be used against us in the political arena, you just have to pick up your fire in other areas.

The truth of the matter, though, about this NSA business and presidential power, is the opposite, which is why the wingnuts are so insistent on claiming it works against the Democrats. The GOP is cracking as we speak, real conservatives are starting to wake up to what's going on, real libertarians are up in arms, and independent, freedom-loving Americans in the heartland are primed to hear a new message, one that does not capitulate to fear, or involve surrendering our hard-won constitutional rights that hundreds of thousands of Americans have died in battle to establish and protect, and millions more have marched to protect and expand.

Posted by: Jimm on February 13, 2006 at 5:29 PM | PERMALINK

39%

Yeah, concern trolls, tell us all about what resonates with the American people.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals are protecting terrorists rights.

No, people from across the spectrum - liberals, conservatives, libertarians, progressives, independents, greens, moderates - are out to protect our hard-won civil rights...the rights of all Americans, and what makes us great, and forms our tradition.

Posted by: Jimm on February 13, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

They are called "concern trolls".

Bad name. It's gotta violate truth in advertising laws. A much better name is 'contempt trolls'. I have absolutely no remorse or concern about sharing winning ideas and/or strategy or in pointing out what is really going on because no one here has any realy influence and that includes Kevin and no one here has a clue.

How many of you fools started out thinking, "We've got him. This is illegal and impeachable"? I told you immediately to look at some of the other blogs like powerline to see there was a difference of legal opinion and that aside from the legal aspect it was a abd political position.

If any of you had been remotely open minded you would have done some research and seen there was considerable debate on the legal merits which could only be solved by the Supreme Court no matter how convinced the NYTs was of his guilt. Did you listen? Of course not. Hasn't the NYTs been proven conclusively wrong and didn't they clearly lie about the opinions? They didn't just exaggerate. They lied.

So here you are today baffled as to why impeachment proceeding didn't start yesterday. GWB gained 10 points on this stupidity and you don't even know that. Today he got another 49% approval from Rasmussen. Count that as a moonbat bounce.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

Riiiight.

Gore's speech in Saudi Arabia proves (again!) what a tin ear he has for politics.

But it IS of a piece with an odd Democratic dynamic -- we never miss a chance to miss a chance.

Why DIDN'T Democrats start attacking Bush on his ties to the Saudis four years ago? What on earth are we doing -- in Jeddah, no less -- complaining that Bush isn't sucking up to 'em ENOUGH?

The NSA deal is PROOF that Bush hasn't figured out the first thing about al Qaeda, 4 years and 4 months after the worst single loss to our nation since Antietam. If these guys had been hunting Jesse James, he'd have wound up governor of California.

But every time we approach these issues, as this thread shows, EVERYTHING we say, helps the Republicans.

His approval ratings don't matter, Jimm: he's not gonna run again.

When a Republican in Congress criticizes him over something like this, it helps the Republican without hurting Bush.

But -- it does NOT help Democrats, and it does not help the cause. Because it simply reinforces the narrative that Bush is working hard to protect the country, while we've got nothing positive to say except that we don't like the guy doing that job.

LOL -- and you're not doing a damned thing to protect the Constitution, either: this isn't even gonna get an elaborate fig leaf like the War Powers Resolution. (which, if we proposed something like it, would at least give us something to be FOR. But 'hey, tell us what's going on, c'mon!" isn't the most stirring flag to wave around.)

Posted by: theAmericanist on February 13, 2006 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

39% approval in the latest Gallup Poll, rdw.

39%.

Deal, OK?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

No, people from across the spectrum - liberals, conservatives, libertarians, progressives, independents, greens, moderates - are out to protect our hard-won civil rights...the rights of all Americans, and what makes us great, and forms our tradition.

Nonsense. Everyone knows it's nonsense. That's whey Congress has gone mute. Where's the outrage? It know. It's limited to the moonbats. GWB is listening to incoming Int'l phone calls from terror suspects and has wide public support.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

When a Republican in Congress criticizes him over something like this, it helps the Republican without hurting Bush.

Oh, please.

These are the same people who have built all of their electoral campaigns over the last 4 years on their perfect embrace of Bush and everything he stands for. They're going to disentangle themselves from his pernicious policies, now recognized full well by the American people in well less than a year?

The problem the Republicans in Congress have is that now they are fucked if they continue to support him, and they are fucked if they don't.

Point is, they are fucked.

It's called a dilemma.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

RR Bush Job Approval
Approve Disapprove

Today 49 50
Feb 12 49 50
Feb 11 48 52
Feb 10 47 52

This is from Rasmussen. They are a widely respect, experienced pollster who does daily polls. Rasmussen was closest on the 04 election.

If I remember correctly Rasmussen had GWB at 39% late last year.

Deal, OK?

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Like all the attacks on our homeland? There have been many attacks elsewhere but not here.

When I look out my window at what used to be the World Trade Center I have to disagree. No attacks on the US? Then just what the fuck was September 11th? Jesus fucking Christ, these bootlickers will excuse anything.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 5:47 PM | PERMALINK

It's called a dilemma

You've been making this claim every off year since 1995. 1st it was Gephardt now it's Pelosi. Every off year they talk about getting Congress back. They've lost seats every time to GWB. They're starting their 2nd decade of being wrong. With Dr. Dean at the top you'll be lucky you don't lose more seats.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

It's kind of funny how the people in NYC, who know something about 9/11, are about the last people to support Bush's invasions of privacy, but the hicks in the sticks are quaking so badly in their boots over terrorism that they'll gladly give up any civil liberty at all.

I mean, shouldn't they be more afraid of Cheney and his shotgun?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Like all the attacks on our homeland? There have been many attacks elsewhere but not here.

Just imagine if this guy had been around in 1942: "Apart from Pearl Harbor, Japan has never attacked the US!"

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

When I look out my window at what used to be the World Trade Center I have to disagree. No attacks on the US? Then just what the fuck was September 11th? Jesus fucking Christ, these bootlickers will excuse anything.

Obviously this became the issue after 9/11 and that's what we are talking about. Obviously if the people held GWB responsible for 9/11 he wouldn't have kicked Kerrys ass and picked up Senate AND House seats in 2002 AND 2004.

I am not excusing anything. I am explaining reality. 9/11 happened and GWB picked up seats in both house in two consecutive elections.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Look at the numbers rdw.

Latest polls have Democrats in Congress outpolling Republicans by close to 15%, as I recall, an unprecedented number, even taking into account the 1994 Republican takeover.

You are welcome to ignore it. In fact, I heartily endorse your doing so.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Americanist, I do want to get into it with you today about your so-called obvious and infallible political acumen, so this is going to be it, one shot and out:

His approval ratings don't matter, Jimm: he's not gonna run again.

He drags the rest down with him. The GOP is Bush right now, and they do everything he tells them. Later, they'll abandon Bush, but it will confuse indepedent and moderate voters, and when that happens it's best to have a consistent stance on what Bush had been doing wrong, an ongoing public record of this criticism, and the obvious record that the GOP rolled over.

When a Republican in Congress criticizes him over something like this, it helps the Republican without hurting Bush.

I don't really see this happening, and the GOP has over the past 6 years built up in the minds of their constituents unflinching unity. If Republicans start breaking from Bush and criticizing him, it won't just be in one area, and a deluge may follow, bringing the whole house of cards down. After all, at least the presidential elections have been very close, coming down to one state, so there's not that much ground to make up, while the GOP has a lot to lose by being shown to be crooks, incompetents, cronies, and cowards.

But -- it does NOT help Democrats, and it does not help the cause. Because it simply reinforces the narrative that Bush is working hard to protect the country, while we've got nothing positive to say except that we don't like the guy doing that job.

This is your silliest point you keep repeating over and over. Americans expect the president to be working hard - that's the baseline. You don't worry about that aspect, but just show that the guy is seriously incompetent and distracted on what we really need the president to be doing. But that's Bush, who's popularity is terrible. Since we're talking about the upcoming Congressional elections, there is no need to worry about who's "working hard", but who's "working wrong" (in so many areas). You can hit them with so much it's silly...even the subversion of science for special interests is a compelling frame on its own.

This points out an inconsistency in your approach too, Americanist, because in one breath you say that Bush's low approval doesn't matter, since he's not running for reelection, and then you say that it's foolhardy to criticize the NSA scandal because it shows that Bush is working hard. So, what's your point? That Bush's approval might inch back up a few points? We're talking about Congressional elections, and the GOP-controlled Congress was obviously blind-sided by this NSA thing too, and we should suggest they have abdicated their responsbilities in kowtowing to Bush and malignant party unity (and special interest unity).

LOL -- and you're not doing a damned thing to protect the Constitution, either: this isn't even gonna get an elaborate fig leaf like the War Powers Resolution.

Protecting your constitutional rights starts by standing up and defending them - exercising your freedom of speech in the public square. I don't pretend to be able to affect the protection of my constitutional rights by myself, but in concert with others who are doing as I am, doing what little I can do, and not abdicating my own responsibility as citizen that the GOP has abdicated in Congress.

Posted by: Jimm on February 13, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

It's kind of funny how the people in NYC, who know something about 9/11, are about the last people to support Bush's invasions of privacy, but the hicks in the sticks are quaking so badly in their boots over terrorism that they'll gladly give up any civil liberty at all.

Yeah, I've never understood that. As I said above, I had friends in the towers, I volunteered downtown in the weeks afterwards, I walk right by Ground Zero every day, I take the subways every day, but I deal, for God's sake. I don't walk around all day a quivering puddle of fear, I'm realistic about what can and cannot be done to fight terrorism, and I'm unwilling to trade away over two hundred years of hard-fought American liberty just to save my own skin.

But the Bushlickers out in in the suburbs and in the South and West, areas which will never be in danger, they're the ones paralyzed with fright, they're the ones wetting their pants and crying "save us, Dear Leader, please save us and you can do anything you want to us, anything at all!"

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

It's kind of funny how the people in NYC, who know something about 9/11, are about the last people to support Bush's invasions of privacy, but the hicks in the sticks are quaking so badly in their boots over terrorism that they'll gladly give up any civil liberty at all.

Actually I'm not quaking at all. If only for the reason you suggest. I don't live in NYC. I won't be a target and I'm too far away from my beloved Philly to worry about that either. But do talk of this Hillary Clinton fear card. I love it. It's perfect. The greatest electoral advantage the GOP has is liberal condescention. We're the scardy cats and you are the brave souls. But of course!

Telling the majority of Americans they voted for GWB because they're cowards is about as smart as telling them they're morons. Want to make opponents for life? Insult the political opposition relentlessly. That'll win you a lot of votes.

I mean, shouldn't they be more afraid of Cheney and his shotgun?

I only have 2 acres and zero quail. I'm safe.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

But the Bushlickers out in in the suburbs and in the South and West, areas which will never be in danger, they're the ones paralyzed with fright, they're the ones wetting their pants and crying "save us, Dear Leader, please save us and you can do anything you want to us, anything at all!"

I guess the real Americans nowadays can be easily spotted.

They're the ones in the overalls, standing in yellow puddles.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 13, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

I don't walk around all day a quivering puddle of fear, I'm realistic about what can and cannot be done to fight terrorism, and I'm unwilling to trade away over two hundred years of hard-fought American liberty just to save my own skin.

Stefan,

Have a heart and show some compassion. I'm a conservative. It just happened. I can't help it. I wish I could be brave like you. Did you ever think that maybe there's just not that much courage to go around? That because you got more than your fair share some of us received less and quite obviously I'm sufering from that a a result?

Same thing with smarts. I wish I could be as smart as you.

Fortunately I have been given something to compensate. I've learned how to live with my lack of courage and intelligence and how to enjoy life's little victories when they come. Like the 2000, 2002 and 2004 elections.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of numbers, the American Bar Association commissioned a poll:

The Harris Interactive telephone survey of 1,045 adults taken February 3-6 found that 77 percent have reservations about the fundamental issues raised by the eavesdropping controversy, the ABA said in releasing the survey.

Of that group, 52 percent agreed that a president should never be able to "suspend the constitutional freedoms of people like you." Another 25 percent said constitutional freedoms should never be suspended unless authorized by a court or Congress.

Only 18 percent said a president could lift constitutional guarantees any time if it was necessary to protect the country and another 5 percent said they did not know or declined to answer. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 points.

rdw, winning elections is important, of course.
But that doesn't mean that winning an election proves that you are right, or that all discussion about the issues should be dispensed with and we should all just wait for the elections.

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Obviously this became the issue after 9/11 and that's what we are talking about.

Too bad it didn't become an issue for Bush before 9/11 or 3,000 people would still be alive.

I am not excusing anything. I am explaining reality. 9/11 happened and GWB picked up seats in both house in two consecutive elections.

Actually, what this poster said was simply "There have been many attacks elsewhere but none here." That's not explaining reality -- that's called lying. And what's worse, lying about something we all know to be untrue, which is pathological.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 6:13 PM | PERMALINK

Want to make opponents for life? Insult the political opposition relentlessly. That'll win you a lot of votes.

Because if there's one thing that Cheney, Bush, Rove, DeLay, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and their ilk don't do, it's insult the political opposition relentlessly. Yeah, that hasn't worked for them at all, has it....

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the real Americans nowadays can be easily spotted.

They're the ones in the overalls, standing in yellow puddles

The same yokels looking up in the air as they wave to Air Force One as it flys by with THEIR President.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Since no one has objected, I will assume that everyone agrees that no warrant is required for the Government to tap a foreign phone and to keep listening if an American calls from the US.

Now suppose the Government hasn't tapped the foreign phone but instead has software that alerts it whenever a call is placed to it - still no problem, right, the Government can listen without violating the 4th Amendment, FISA or anything else, whether or not the call is placed by an American phone. Or am I missing something?

From the little I've been able to glean from the news reports, these examples pretty much summarize what the NSA is doing. Is anyone aware of anything else? I don't think the Government has asserted the right to place a tap on an American phone and listen to all calls made by that phone without a warrant, and it doesn't appear that the NSA is doing that.

Posted by: DBL on February 13, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Because if there's one thing that Cheney, Bush, Rove, DeLay, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and their ilk don't do, it's insult the political opposition relentlessly. Yeah, that hasn't worked for them at all, has it....

You don't hear Bush, Cheney or Rove come out with any of the mean nonsense Dean comes out with every week. It was fascinating how last week at the King ceremony how GWB took the high ground and made a classy, positive speech celebrating the life of Mrs. King while Hillary and Jimmy took the exact opposite path. I actually thought it was OK if a little tacky but it wasn't bright from a PR perspective. For the vast majority of Americans a funeral is a place and time to celebrate the dead. The Dems made is a low scale Wellstone moment. Bush stood above the partisan politics. IN full view.

Bush wins elections because he is smarter than you.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of yokels:

The latest FOX News poll finds that more than nine in 10 Americans (91 percent) believe in God and almost as many believe in heaven (87 percent). In addition, 84 percent say they believe in miracles and 79 percent in angels.

...Conservatives are significantly more likely than liberals (+21 percentage points), and Republicans are more likely than independents (+12 points) and Democrats (+15 points) to say there is a heaven.

rdw, do you believe in angels? in heaven? Does this poll prove that they exist?

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

JS: rdw, winning elections is important, of course. But that doesn't mean that winning an election proves that you are right, or that all discussion about the issues should be dispensed with and we should all just wait for the elections.

Ah, JS, but that's where you're wrong. For the authoritarian Bushlickers winning an election is, indeed, all that matters. What's right, what's wrong, what's legal or moral or ethical or constitutional, all pale in comparison to making sure that their side wins. Their mentality boils down simply to "I obey the leader, I do what the leader tells me." It's a very black/white, simplistic view of the world, and in that sense having a political argument with them is an exercise in futility, because they're simply not having the same conversation you are. We're talking, essentially, about "what should we do?" while they're talking about "what can we get away with?"

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, what this poster said was simply "There have been many attacks elsewhere but none here." That's not explaining reality -- that's called lying. And what's worse, lying about something we all know to be untrue, which is pathological.

We were speaking about the GWOT when GWB started taking aggressive actions to defend the homeland such as this NSA program. Ever since we declared war on terrorism we've been safe at home while they've looked for 'safer' ground like Europe. They are the classic bullies. As soon as they see pushback they move on.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

rdw, do you believe in angels? in heaven? Does this poll prove that they exist?

No, No, No

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 6:31 PM | PERMALINK

DBL, the main issue is not what the NSA is doing.

It is, rather, why there is no congressional or judicial oversight.

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Since no one has objected, I will assume that everyone agrees that no warrant is required for the Government to tap a foreign phone and to keep listening if an American calls from the US.

DBL pulls out his well-worn rhetorical trick of "I will assume that everyone agrees" -- well, no. Everyone does not agree, and a warrant would be required for the government to tap a foreign phone if an American calls from the US. Otherwise they could just listen in every time I called my mother.

Now suppose the Government hasn't tapped the foreign phone but instead has software that alerts it whenever a call is placed to it - still no problem, right, the Government can listen without violating the 4th Amendment, FISA or anything else, whether or not the call is placed by an American phone. Or am I missing something?

Yes, you are.

From the little I've been able to glean from the news reports, these examples pretty much summarize what the NSA is doing. Is anyone aware of anything else? I don't think the Government has asserted the right to place a tap on an American phone and listen to all calls made by that phone without a warrant, and it doesn't appear that the NSA is doing that.

The government has asserted precisely that right, and the NSA is doing precisely that. You should step up your gleaning efforts.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

The kind of thing they look for is likely to be odd. I used to work with the people who wrote the software that Mastercard and others use when you swipe your credit card to see if it is likely to be a fraudulent transaction.

If you use your credit card to buy a dollars worth of gas or less (or sometimes any amount of gas) and then go immediately to a jewelry store, your card will be rejected at the jewelry store. It seems people who steal wallets sometimes run a credit card through a gas-station machine just to see if it works, leaving a minimum dollar charge on the card, and then run to buy something expensive.

A neural network discovered that, and people later figured out what was going on. There are lots of little connections people wouldnt have figured out on their own, and one presumes the NSA algorithm finds connections much niftier than ethnic background.

Posted by: anandine on February 13, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

You don't hear Bush, Cheney or Rove come out with any of the mean nonsense [hah!] Dean comes out with every week.

I'm assuming this is the same Dick "Go Fuck Yourself" and Karl "We Will Fuck Him! We Will Fuck Him Like He's Never Been Fucked Before!" Rove we're talking about?

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

JS: rdw, winning elections is important, of course. But that doesn't mean that winning an election proves that you are right, or that all discussion about the issues should be dispensed with and we should all just wait for the elections.

Winning an election means you've provided the better argument for why you can do a better job running the office. It is the only poll that matters. My point in citing the election results is show liberal condescention as a complete fraud.

How pathetic is it that Kerry mutters, "I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot"? How is it possible for liberals to think this man stupid? Isn't that obviously absurd?

Didn't it occur to Kerry at some point before he ran at his mouth to consider, "well, if he is beating me he can't be that stupid!"

How about the fact he already won 3 major elections?

Tell me what it is in the liberal mindset to even think someone who keeps on beating them is stupid? Do you ever ask yourself, "If he's stupid, what am I?"

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 6:40 PM | PERMALINK

I'm assuming this is the same Dick "Go Fuck Yourself"

Same guy. Dean runs his mouth on TV and Radio every day. Cheney directed his remarks directly to Leahy for his private consumption. Leahy chose to confirm the remarks which were not picked up on tape or video.

Cheney of course had every reason for telling leahy to screw himself and didn't suffer any blowback.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Winning an election means you've provided the better argument for why you can do a better job running the office.

I guess that's why the Communist Party won so many elections in the USSR from 1918 to 1991. They had the better argument.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

I love how I can keep stringing along rdw for practically hours, forcing him to contradict all his prior arguments and premises with just a few well-placed examples. I suppose this is why people love fly-fishing -- that satisfying tug when the fish has leaped up at your shiny, shiny bait....

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Winning an election means you've provided the better argument

If we agree that 79% of the people are wrong about the existence of angels, why cannot 51% of the people be wrong about of their evaluation of any one argument at election time?

Of course, if by "better" you mean "more likely to win an election" then you are correct -- and tautological. You cannot prove that liberals are wrong because they lose elections unless you identify truth with winning.

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 6:48 PM | PERMALINK

We were speaking about the GWOT when GWB started taking aggressive actions to defend the homeland such as this NSA program.

I'll take this as an admission that for the nine months before 9/11 Bush wasn't taking any aggressive action to defend the US, even after receiving warnings such as "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" and even though it was his duty to do so.

Ever since we declared war on terrorism we've been safe at home while they've looked for 'safer' ground like Europe.

Hah! So ever since they successfully destroyed the World Trade Center they haven't come back to try to destroy the World Trade Center a second time. And ever since I closed that barn door, the horse which already escaped hasn't escaped again -- because, of course, it's already gone.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

See, THIS is why I bitch at you guys: "then you say that it's foolhardy to criticize the NSA scandal because it shows that Bush is working hard..."

It's not THAT we do it, it's HOW we do it. We have to be FOR something, not just against everything.

Rdw (doubtless as compensation for his many sins) has a point: telling Americans by the zillions that they're stupid and cowardly isn't the best way to gain their respect and trust, much less their votes.

Christy Dodd said the other day that, given the six months that Republicans just had, Democrats need to be be doing some serious thinking about the fall.

Republicans ought to rank under used car salesmen and telemarketers who call during dinner. Instead, Bush is still polling around 40%, and the Republican Congress slightly better -- which is good, but not great, for Democratic prospects in the fall. (Hell, even on Abramoff, I've seen polls that break 40% everybody does it, 17% it's a Republican mess, and 5% both parties equally: AFTER Abramoff is mentioned by name.)

And when you look at decisive issues (national security, f'r instance), you realize just why Rove is widely regarded as damned good at what he does.

Look at wedge issues that break our way (the economy, health care, education, even immigration) and what you see is an unrelenting, largely undifferentiated negative message from Democrats: whatever HE'S for, we're against.

You can blame (or give credit to) Rove for framing national security issues to break for Republicans.

But -- like Dodd observed -- you can't absolve Democrats for failing to plant a half dozen flags to rally around on each issue where we can draw a bright line: we're FOR this, and they're against it.

The NSA thing is just more of the same.

Don't make the mistake of seeing this thread (or at least, my role in it) as being pure spin: there is something principled that is wrong with thinking of a President of the United States authorizing a massive effort to protect our country from enemies who obviously want to kill us in large numbers, in the way we do: "gee, does he have probable cause?"

It isn't THAT he's defending the country which we're bitching about -- it's that he's doing it so BADLY.

That is a very different place to start, than 'this is unConstitutional' (which depends on a SCOTUS decision that hasn't been made, and might not go that way) and 'this is an invasion of privacy' (which depends for credibility on a lot more informaiton than we have, e.g., a specific scandal, like, I dunno, a tape of Oprah having phone with Prince Charles: we don't have anything public and specific to grab yet), much less 'this can't work' (prove a negative).

It's the PRINCIPLE that bugs me: some things that go without saying, ought to be said.

Where is OUR plan for protecting our country from terrorist attack? (What, like Gore says: LESS scrutiny of Saudis?)

Where is OUR plan for Iraq? (Yeah, I know: "the idea we can win is wrong.")

The economy, health care, immigration?

The most effective function of an Opposition is, to oppose: but we have to be FOR stuff, not just against what Bush and the Republicans propose.

It's not that we need specific detailed or, God forbid, bipartisan plans (the Ted Kennedy fallacy): we're the OPPOSITION, were not tryign to pass stuff. We're making distinctions between them and us.

And what's more, on lots of these issues, we are also FOR what Bush says he wants -- prosperity, more Americans with affordable access to health care, CITIZENSHIP (yeah, like that's our brand in the immigration debate, and fercryingoutloud, we're not AGAINST Bush's goals in Iraq OR fighting terror.

Get it now?


Posted by: theAmericanist on February 13, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK

rdw: What incentive does this Congress have to make this a separation of powers issue knowing GWB just added two certain votes on this?

So your point is that it would be a political mistake because SCOTUS is rigged? I think you're right.

The 1st real increase in Presidential Powers since Richard Nixon.

An excellent role model.

Bush wins elections because he is smarter than you.

Again, I think you're right. No matter how bad a campaigner the opposition candidate was, there is no other way to explain how a man who was asleep at the switch for the worst terrorist attack in American history got re-elected.

Posted by: alex on February 13, 2006 at 7:01 PM | PERMALINK

I love how I can keep stringing along rdw for practically hours, forcing him to contradict all his prior arguments and premises with just a few well-placed examples.

That's it Stefan. Like your comback with the Communist Party. You are a moron.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

If we agree that 79% of the people are wrong about the existence of angels, why cannot 51% of the people be wrong about of their evaluation of any one argument at election time?

Nonsensical analogy.

The election is about one point in time. It's about Tuesday. That poll says we favor GWB by 3.5M so he runs the country for the next 4 years. It's right that day. That's all that matters.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 7:27 PM | PERMALINK

That's it Stefan. Like your comback with the Communist Party. You are a moron.

Tell me what it is in the authoritarian mindset to even think someone who keeps on beating them in arguments is stupid? Do you ever ask yourself, "If he's a moron, what am I?"

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 7:28 PM | PERMALINK

That's it Stefan. Like your comback with the Communist Party. You are a moron.

Tsk, tsk. Want to make an opponent for life? Insult the political opposition relentlessly. That'll win you a lot of votes.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 7:40 PM | PERMALINK

So rdw, you do identify truth with winning in elections. Or, you don't give a damn about truth, because as you say winning elections is "all that matters".

Check out these definitions of "demagogue":

dictionary.com: A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.

wikipedia: Political agitator who appeals with crude oratory to the prejudice and passions of the mob.

That's what you are for.

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 7:41 PM | PERMALINK

You cannot prove that liberals are wrong because they lose elections unless you identify truth with winning.

We were talking about smart and stupid not right and wrong. There are 1,000+ reasons why someone votes for Bush or Kerry or Nader. Some voters are single issue voters most are more than that. I can't imagine everyone who voted for Clinton agreed with everything he said. People agree with their candidate on most issues and make a value judgement that in my case was that GWB is a much better man than Gore or Kerry. It has zero to do with truth unless there are character issues with a candidate. Gore's serial exaggerations didn't help him nor did Kerry's made up Xmas in Cambodia story.

But I can prove that liberals are bad at managing elections and by definition the issues around elections. You can't look at events since 1994 and not be stunned. You are down 55 House seats and 13 Senate seats as well as Governorships and state seats. There are 31 Red states and 3 very close to it. You have a shallow bench with only one legitimate presidential candidate versus four for the GOP.

I can also prove the RNC is much better managed and prepared fo the future looking to pick up 7 to 10 electoral votes in the 2010 census and placing 3 serious black candidates in state wide elections in 2006 each with a serious chance at winning. If Blackwell wins the governorship in OH it'll be especially for Hillary to pick up OH and if the Dems don't win in 2008 it'll be much harder in 2012 wih 7 fewer blue state electoral votes. If Lynn Swann were to just make a race of it in PA he'll put the state in play for the GOP in 2008 while he waits to replace term limited Ed Rendel in 2010. If Hillary has to spend a lot of time in PA that's less time in OH and other key states.

I hear Dean running at his mouth every time there's a camera nearby. I rarely see Ken Mehlmen. He's too busy.

But it's the conservatives who are stupid. Keep on thinking that. It's working real well for you.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

Tsk, tsk. Want to make an opponent for life? Insult the political opposition relentlessly. That'll win you a lot of votes.

Two things:

I am not insulting all libs. I am insulting you.

I am not so pretentious to consider that even if I were to insult all libs it would matter a bit.


An example of who and what matters would be Hillary and her fear card. She's explaining to everyone that people like me voted for George because he scared us. He played on our fears. We wuz scared. We're that stupid. We're rubes don't you know?

Princess is doing a very good job selling herself to the moonbat base. And then insulting the majority who voted for GWB.

Makes sense to me.

Or is it we're supposed to be that stupid we can't figure this out?

So is she calling us cowards?

Or is she calling us fools?

Or are we fools AND cowards?

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

So your point is that it would be a political mistake because SCOTUS is rigged?

How could appointing two ABA highest rated justices with bi-partisan support ever be considered rigged?

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

Hah! So ever since they successfully destroyed the World Trade Center they haven't come back to try to destroy the World Trade Center a second time. And ever since I closed that barn door, the horse which already escaped hasn't escaped again -- because, of course, it's already gone.

That would be it. They're out of targets. You are a moron.

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 8:02 PM | PERMALINK

A leader who obtains power by means of impassioned appeals to the emotions and prejudices of the populace.

That's what you are for.

Help me out here. GWB is both the most inarticulate man ever to hold office AND a slick orator?

I can't imagine how it feels to know in your bones GWB is as dumb as a post AND to know he's beaten you in four elections. John Kerry must be in hell to know every day, "That idiot beat me."

Posted by: rdw on February 13, 2006 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

That would be it. They're out of targets. You are a moron.

Have a heart and show some compassion. I'm a liberal. It just happened. I can't help it. I wish I could be smart like you. Did you ever think that maybe there's just not that much intelligence to go around? That because you got more than your fair share some of us received less and quite obviously I'm sufering from that a a result?

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

What victory in 2000? Al Gore won the popular vote nationwide by over 400,000. 30,000 more people went to the polls marked their ballots for Gore (by punching Gore's name and writing it in canceling their ballot) than went to the polls to vote for Bush.

If you want to claim an election means that more people approve of the GOP's ideas than they do of the Democratic Party, you best choose another election to make your point.

Oh BTW, the Congressional blue state delegations collectively represent more people than the Congressional red state delegations. More people vote for the Democrats. Maybe Republicans shouldn't use this election argument after all.

Posted by: molly bloom on February 13, 2006 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

Or are we fools AND cowards?

Some questions just answer themselves, don't they?

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

rdw, ff your main argument is that the Republicans have been better at winning elections, then I think all liberals here will agree with you.

But we were actually talking about whether warrantless wiretapping is unconstitutional, or whether the constitution requires oversight of NSA programs, and stuff like that. And you stepped in saying, essentially, that since the Republicans win elections these issues are irrelevent. And I think that this is a very dangerous, and unamerican, way to be thinking. Winning elections notwithstanding.

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

Telling the majority of Americans they voted for GWB because they're cowards is about as smart as telling them they're morons. Want to make opponents for life? Insult the political opposition relentlessly. That'll win you a lot of votes.

Two things:

I am not insulting all cons. I am insulting you.

I am not so pretentious to consider that even if I were to insult all cons it would matter a bit.


Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

I must confuse easily. I remember phrases like (G.I.G.O.)"Garbage In, Garbage Out" and (K.I.S.S.)"Keep It Simple S...."
If the FBI can't keep up with tracking the "leads" the program isn't useful. It wouldn't be the first time politicans tried to flummox the proles with irrelevancies.
It doesn't work. There aren't arrests. Any "evidence" would be tainted in court anyway.
This program needs invisibility and secrecy in the worst way : it never got past "test bed" status to something demonstrably useful. Someone please prove this wrong.
Congress explicitly said "no". What is there to discuss ?

Posted by: opit on February 13, 2006 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

Help me out here. GWB is both the most inarticulate man ever to hold office AND a slick orator?

He's an ace with the teleprompter. And, as you would say, that's all that matters.

"Bush" is just the name we give to the package: Rove, Cheney, and the neocons. GWB himself isn't so important. He just works there.

Posted by: JS on February 13, 2006 at 8:50 PM | PERMALINK
Cmdicely: I think you have too much faith in how transparent these algorithms are. Sure, in theory, a layman could be told whether or not, say, ethnic origin is a specific parameter used by an algorithm. In practice, though, I think that's unlikely. Rather, an algorithm will use a complex combination of parameters that in practice reduce to ethnic background. A layman might or might not be able to figure this out, and it's possible that even the algorithm's creator wouldn't know for sure. They'd only know that a particular filter seems to increase the algorithm's accuracy.

If the algorithm is demonstrably accurate, of course, its output could provide reasonable suspicion or even probable cause without anyone being able to say what factors go into it. What level it could provide would depend on how provably accurate it was.

OTOH, even if you are using a complex combination of, say, genetic algorithms and neural nets, the precise combination of factors that are being weighed ought to be extractable. Now, because the algorithms are most likely, in practice, periodically being updated (evolved for GAs, trained for neural networks), actually making past versions available for inspection might require procedural changes from the status quo operation which is no doubt operated under the principle that there won't be any oversight, so that kind of archiving isn't necessary.

But there is no reason such a system must be run that way, and no fundamental reason why it can't be examined the same way any other procedure triggering government action against a citizen could be by a court.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 13, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

I am not insulting all cons. I am insulting you.


You don't count. No one knows who you are. Even if they did, You still would not count.
Hillary counts and she's the one doing the insulting. Liberals are so habitually condesending they don't even know when they're doing it.

It's just stupid anyway. Hillary had to know after Al Gore said, "You played on our fears" it was a theme to stay away from. The best Hillaty can hope for is confusion. "Is she saying I voted for George because Iwas scared or is she admitting she was scared?"

Posted by: rdw on February 14, 2006 at 7:01 AM | PERMALINK

Are "we" all right with the NSA using complicated algorithims to find people who might be plotting to fly airplanes into tall buildings or other interesting and explosive plots? I am. A democracy is not a democracy if all the people are dead. What so called liberals (actually nihilistic left wingers) seem incapable of grasping is that, with the help of self-obssessed self indulgent people who bring the trojan horse inside the walls and lovingly adore it -- you can defeat the world's most powerful army. Yes, they(meaning the Islamofascists) CAN win. We can all find out what dhimmitude is. The reason you think this spying is unneccessary is that you think that your kindly Muslim down the street is not interested in taking over this country. You may be correct, but there are many, living in this very country, who are. We need to find them and do something about them. We cannot find them by waiting until we know who they are. There is a huge difference between criminal law and a war. Because the left does not understand this and cheers when our intelligence secrets are printed on the front page of the New York Times and, further, insists that all of our intelligence tools be exposed to the world, we are severely crippled in this war. Our biggest obstruction is the leftists who think that this war is not real and just some sort of political game. Unfortunately, becaquse of there inability to grasp reality, we and our children may die or be enslaved. Thanks a lot for protecting me. At least I will die secure in the knowledge that my government never eavesdropped on my long conversations with my mother about the problems of my various other relatives. Whoo. I was afraid they were really interested in me.

Posted by: Susan Salisbury on February 14, 2006 at 7:46 AM | PERMALINK

ff your main argument is that the Republicans have been better at winning elections

No, that's not it. I am saying there are good reasons you are not winning elections. I'm saying the liberals laments, "We just weren't loud enough" or "We just were too nice" are goofy and if you don't get out of your bubble you will continue to lose.

The bubble is that place where the NYTs tells you it's certain Bush violated the law. You and the NYTs happily ignore the fact they are many, many well respected scholars in disagreement. It's that place where you rush off screaming impeachment before you have any idea of the real story. It's that place where you make mistake after mistake after mistake because you can't or won't accept the fact you no longer have a majority or a monopoly on the news.

It's not going to get any better. Hillary can't win by the 2012 elections the Red States will have at least 7 more electoral votes.

Posted by: rdw on February 14, 2006 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK
A democracy is not a democracy if all the people are dead.

Used to be, there were Americans who thought liberty was a more important value than security. Actually, maybe, given the increasing unpopularity of the administration, there still are.

I mean, the Revolution wasn't energized by cries of "Give me Liberty -- but not if it involves a substantial risk of Death!"

Supporters of this administration are a mixture of would-be monarchists and the cowering curs that tolerate authoritarians because they are to cowardly to stand boldly for liberty.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 14, 2006 at 12:13 PM | PERMALINK

Supporters of this administration are a mixture of would-be monarchists and the cowering curs that tolerate authoritarians because they are to cowardly to stand boldly for liberty.

Please. You are getting your panties in a bunch over nothing. Wiretapping foreign terrorists is not only fine but widely supported. You favorite Senators and Congressmen have been dutifully keepng their mouths shut for a reason.

As far as the coward thing you are way over the top. We both know liberals rarely serve and in many cases don't even know anyone who does. Liberals have been anti-war and anti-military sinc the 60's. The Clintons are typical. It would be unthinkable for a liberal to ever enlist and a horror if any of their kids enlisted.

Thee was a reason Al Gore sure in 2000 to block the military vote. They are NOT your kind of people.

And I take it you think your anonymous babbling on a blog qualifies as a bold stand for liberty? There's no denying you're a liberal! Give that man a silver star! He spoke truth to Power!

Posted by: rdw on February 14, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

If your main argument is that the Republicans have been better at winning elections.

How to Win Elections and Firestorms

The unfortunate effects of Bushs rage.
2/14/2006

Unfortunately, passives work and then, act onto it. My question is? Is the vulgar vision from: to much love, sensitivity to wounds, or the overly competitive nature? I know image control enhances identity.

Vainly soliciting form pride the vanity of the world appears to be a Moslem problem. Afraid to test themselves, because of the fear, they will strive. Might it be a classified intelligence relationship to the United States that depends on the intent of the accused? Am, I talking about competition from a condition of domination? I am not sure.

I may be casting a disdainful eye toward the sacrifice as they dwell on the same mangled body. Impairing or impeding the glory of our Iraq conquest or just rebuilding the moral fiber of a defeated people. I wonder if they deserve our gratitude as we observe their bold resistance with authorized access.

Look on this emblem, and be brave. Like the Groundhog there is a time to emerge from the cloisters and trample on everything in site. Race being the division of the people, the legions will acknowledge it whether or not they found it by accident.
Ref: Robert Louis Stevenson & S.M Dixon

Posted by: aschcott on February 15, 2006 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly