Tuesday, February 07, 2006

On tin-can-and-string surveillance

Okay, so there are a lot of things that bother me about Alberto Gonzales's statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the NSA domestic spying program. One is that the committee voted along party lines to not swear Gonzales in, even though he said he was willing to be sworn and even though (to my knowledge) lying to Congress is a crime anyway. Another is that if he himself admitted that the Authorization to Use Military Force was just that, and not a declaration of war, whence comes the implication that the president has free reign for domestic spying under his "inherent authority as commander in chief in a time of war"? And while we're at it, when they marched out the grieving sister of the 9/11 pilot, did that have any purpose whatsoever than to justify a unitary executive with the sacred name of September 11? And why do the al Qaida operatives bother speaking in code if it takes a newspaper article to remind them they're being surveilled?

Anyway.

In that bizarre way that random things stick in your mind, I can't get past the revelation that, among others, President Washington "authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale."

And I say good on him. Our country might not be here today if Washington hadn't put down the Cyber Rebellion of 1790 on the basis of one e-mail from a Joseph A. Goodchild: "OMG. this n00 c0un7ry is teh sux0rs!!1!!one!!eleven! NE1 want 2 bl0w up s0m3 sh1pz, m337 m3 at B0st0n H@rb0r 2nite."

Sidenote: Gonzales makes repeated reference to "Fourth Amendment analysis as to whether or not these are reasonable searches," satisfying "the requirements of the Fourth Amendment," blah blah "probable cause" blah blah "reasonable" blah. However, a recent report from knowledgeable sources says that of the 5,000 or so people who have been surveilled by this program, fewer than ten a year have generated the probable cause necessary for a warrant for domestic wiretapping. For the mathematically challenged, that's less than two tenths of a percent of leads that pan out, throwing a little bit of schmutz onto the idea of "reaonableness" and probable cause. Just a little something to ponder when the point is raised that "like, if you're not talking to al Qaida and stuff, you totally won't be eavesdropped on."

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