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Tilting at Windmills

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December 17, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

THE SURVEILLANCE STATE....This story ran yesterday in the New York Times, but I didn't want to bury it on the blog on a Sunday. So in case you haven't seen it already, it's worth your while to read Eric Lichtblau, James Risen, and Scott Shane on the rise of the surveillance state. Here's a snippet:

A lawsuit was filed in federal court in New Jersey challenging [NSA's] wiretapping operations. It claims that in February 2001...N.S.A. met with AT&T officials to discuss replicating a network center in Bedminster, N.J., to give the agency access to all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through it.

The accusations rely in large part on the assertions of a former engineer on the project. The engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said in an interview that he participated in numerous discussions with N.S.A. officials about the proposal. The officials, he said, discussed ways to duplicate the Bedminster system in Maryland so the agency "could listen in" with unfettered access to communications that it believed had intelligence value and store them for later review. There was no discussion of limiting the monitoring to international communications, he said.

"At some point," he said, "I started feeling something isn't right."

As with many of the other programs described in the article, note the date: February 2001. That's before 9/11. Read the whole thing.

Kevin Drum 4:02 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (30)

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Comments

I still can't believe the NYT sat on this story in November 2004 at the behest of Karl Rove and the other lovers of an independent press and democracy in the White House.

Oh no, wait, I can.

Posted by: Old Hat on December 17, 2007 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

"That's before 9/11." That's just one month after the Bush Adminstration took office. They hardly wasted a minute trying to violate your civil rights. AREN"T YOU PISSED OFF?

Posted by: lamonte on December 17, 2007 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

As with many of the other programs described in the article, note the date: February 2001. That's before 9/11.

Yep which is good news. It disproves the liberal meme that President Bush wasn't doing enough to prevent a terrorist attack against America. To the contrary, Bush was working vigilantly to protect America from the terrorists, and the New York Times piece proves it.

Posted by: Al on December 17, 2007 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

What I see little noted is that Bush initiated all this surveillance almost from day one of his presidency. The public thinks it was done in response to 9/11. Supporters would say it shows Bush dealt with the threat of terrorism sooner than critics allege. Yet Bush famously ignored the August PDB raising alrms about a pending attack. His cabinet downplayed intelligence regarding foreignors taking inordinate amounts of pilot training with no apparent aspirations beyond the ability to take off and guide a jet. If terrorism wasn't the object of his surveillance what was? Well, he'd just survived a nasty election. He (and the entire Republican power structure) probably saw enemies at every turn. They needed to monitor dissent and challenges. Who gets surveilled when those are your objectives?

Posted by: steve duncan on December 17, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Could Kevin possibly be 'Al'? Has anyone ever seen them at the same place? Ah ha. Riling up your own blog, eh?

Posted by: GrinningGrouse on December 17, 2007 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

He (and the entire Republican power structure) probably saw enemies at every turn. They needed to monitor dissent and challenges.

Would explain why the Dems keep rolling over for GWB.

Posted by: Disputo on December 17, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Btw, Kev, you should have also mentioned that half of the Senate Dems just voted to have the Telecom Immunity Bill move to the floor for a vote.

Posted by: Disputo on December 17, 2007 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Btw, Kev, you should have also mentioned that half of the Senate Dems just voted to have the Telecom Immunity Bill move to the floor for a vote.

Indeed. Apparently, some industries are more equal than others.

No wonder Ron Paul is striking such a chord with people.

Posted by: Old Hat on December 17, 2007 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Please, Kevin. I beg you. Don't let the Paul-tards post here. I see creeping Paul-Tard chatter on several threads today and it alarms me.

Posted by: Pat on December 17, 2007 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Proof positive that the targets of surveillance have always been purely domestic. Everyone involved in this in any way must go to prison.

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on December 17, 2007 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Al,

Given that the Bush administration publicly rejected the Clinton administration's obsession with Islamic terrorism, which it viewed as an unnecessary distraction from the real problems of the world- China, North Korea, and Iraq- I'm going to go out on a limb and say that they weren't protecting us from Al Qaeda in 2001. (But it sounds like they were doing a damn good job of defending us from liberal nuns and priests, peace marchers, and Democratic politicos). And given that they had all of this infrastructure in place, why exactly was it that they not only didn't prevent 9/11, but in fact did not even send out alerts warning people of a heightened risk of an attack (like Clinton did a few times)?

Basically, you're saying that not only are you a supporter of a fascist state, but you're also a bigtime supporter of a really really incompetent fascist state.

Bully for you.

Posted by: Allison on December 17, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

I've been reading and posting on this blog for years and I'm not a Ron Paul supporter. But if you don't see the connection between the daily fiscal, military and civil outrages this president and Congress are perpetrating on this country and the support Ron Paul is getting from both the right and left wings, you're blind.

Posted by: Old Hat on December 17, 2007 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK

That's just one month after the Bush Adminstration took office. They hardly wasted a minute trying to violate your civil rights.
--lamonte

Yep which is good news. It disproves the liberal meme that President Bush wasn't doing enough to prevent a terrorist attack against America.
--Al

Actually I think you're both wrong. Some of the other articles I've read about this guy's revelations have dates back into the Clinton administration, and we know that even while the Cheneyists were dragging their feet on terrorism pre-9/11, Richard Clarke was trying to keep the pressure on about this stuff. What seems to best fit the facts is that this was in fact a holdover Clinton initiative, still being pursued.

It's worth remembering that Clinton was nobody's gift to civil liberties. They undertook a number of measures after the Murrah bombing, if you recall, that far exceeded the need and were condemned by civil libertarians as Executive power grabbing.

Posted by: DrBB on December 17, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

What seems to best fit the facts is that this was in fact a holdover Clinton initiative, still being pursued.

Programs like CARNIVORE and ESCHALON were a far cry from turning using the NSA against its own people.

Posted by: Old Hat on December 17, 2007 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

If only I had had such a surveillance system, I just KNOW I could have prevented the Reichstag fire!

Posted by: Adolf Hitler on December 17, 2007 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Our government was listening to our phone conversations to protect our liberties. Only those who have committed or are thinking of committing crimes need worry. The actions of the NSA were plusgood. All hail our doubleplusgood leaders.

Posted by: CT on December 17, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

A lot of preparation for a "surprise attack" considering, we were the victims of the surprise attack.

Posted by: Ray Waldren on December 17, 2007 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's proof that the Republicans began the usurpation of the Constitution from the get-go, and that 9/11 allowed them to speed up certain aspects of their goals for dismantling the freedoms that they so despise.
I never thought we would get there, but I now believe that the Handmaids Tale is close to becoming our reality.
G-d help us all, and spare us from the Dobson and Robertson christians.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on December 17, 2007 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Regardless of how the pontificating lawyers in Washington investigate governmental snooping, our government will continue to do just that. Snooping that is (everyone knows this administration loves a good pontificator!(sic)).

massive databases of folks all over the planet are being assembled as we chit chat on this blog.

No amount of outrage will turn this beast off. We tend to focus on threats that we can see, but the unseen cyber-cops are becoming more and more AL KNOWING. Yes I do mean AL.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on December 17, 2007 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

So if they where spying before 911 they either knew of 911 or they didn't, which means all this spying really doesn't work or it does and they let 911 happen.Which one is it.

Posted by: john john on December 17, 2007 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

CT, Think how well they could protect us if they took all of our guns away.That would save more lives then (10) 911's.

Posted by: john john on December 17, 2007 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Guns are ungood. Newspapers are ungood. Too much information. Too many big words. Government protects our liberties by putting them in a lockbox so our enemies can't get to them. Now we are safe. All hail our doubleplusgood government leaders!

Posted by: CT on December 17, 2007 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

A lawsuit was filed in federal court in New Jersey challenging [NSA's] wiretapping operations. It claims that in February 2001...N.S.A. met with AT&T officials to discuss replicating a network center in Bedminster, N.J., to give the agency access to all the global phone and e-mail traffic that ran through it.

This is ancient history as the NSA has multiple sites around the country like this. The only thing that will put an end to this would be a federal court order/Congressional mandate that all the equipment in these facilities be destroyed and the people responsible prosecuted.

As I've said before, monkeys, my butt, fly out of.

Posted by: JeffII on December 17, 2007 at 7:38 PM | PERMALINK

Some progressive radio shows were discussing this sort of stuff tonight, maybe still are.

Posted by: Neil B. on December 17, 2007 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Wonder if Richard Clarke knew about this...

Posted by: nepeta on December 17, 2007 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK

drbb is correct. i remember clinton's Digital Telephony and Communications Privacy Improvement Act of 1994 that made taxpayers pay to upgrade the telephone systems so law enforcement could listen in on anybody's phone with a click of the mouse... no need to physically tap anybody's phone in person any longer. sure, they were still supposed to get warrants, but you know how that goes.... still hate them repugs, but it's good to remember that clinton was no prize when it came to civil liberties...

C.Subagua

Posted by: commandante subagua on December 17, 2007 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Dear God, please can we impeach him now? Please? I don't think I can take another 12 months of slow death by moronic rule...

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on December 17, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

The bottom line is that we don't know what the Bush Administration is actually doing. WE DON'T KNOW IF ANY OF THE WIRETAPPING IS FOR TERRORISM or SOMETHING ELSE.

I mean since all the wiretapping pre-dates 9/11 and the 9/11 commission showed quite plainly that the Bush administration wouldn't even entertain talkS about terrorism, why than trust Bush that HIS wiretapping is only related to terrorism - SINCE it's already become related to drug exporting. What is Bush doing - and Dems haven't seen a bit of evidence on what Bush is actually doing, so Dems are approaching this all wronghead. I doubt Bush's wiretapping has anything to do with terrorism. Rove and Bush hated liberals so much that we don't know if the actually were doing a NIXON act of listening in on matters of anti-Bushism desent. Cheney thought it was totally okay that Nixon did this to Dems.

Posted by: me-again on December 17, 2007 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

This is ancient history as the NSA has multiple sites around the country like this. The only thing that will put an end to this would be a federal court order/Congressional mandate that all the equipment in these facilities be destroyed and the people responsible prosecuted.


Several of the buildings which house major telecom facilities are owned by the Carlyle Group...a wise "investment" strategy no doubt.

Posted by: Ex - Republican Yankee on December 17, 2007 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

What I see is the slippery slope writ large. Clinton initiated this monster during his terms. At the time, perhaps it really was used within the bounds of the Constitution (with minor deviations now and again). Bush/Cheney comes along and Cheney (in particular) being an old Nixon parasite, saw gold in this data mine. He got Bush on board and they immediately ramped up what Clinton started, but in their case NOT to deal with crime and terrorism under legal (mostly) guidlines, but for purely political purposes. Remember, they were set on creating a permanent Republican majority. What better way than to not only tap ALL communications of the Democraps in Congress, but all voters, protesters, activists too. With that haul of information, they could pre-empt any and all moves by opposing forces and virtually assure their permanent majority. But then 9/11 intervened and interrupted the plan.

The surveillance state crap was started by Clinton maybe with good intentions but the damn slippery slope is just so damn slippery that it was inevitable that it would morph into the current atrocity. Bush stood at the edge of that slippery slope and didn't gingerly try to slide down just a little, he (with encouragement from Cheney) actually gave a loud hoot and did a running dive down the side of that slope, quickly shooting to the bottom.

Bush and Cheney did this for purely political purposes but then got waylaid in their plans by 9/11.

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on December 18, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK
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