Domestic Spying: Talk About Missing the Point

Sunday, May 14, 2006 at 04:52 PM

I'm really tired of the apologists, rationalizers, and, apparently brain-impaired voices currently arguing in favor of the NSA domestic spying program(s) (isn't it sick that we don't even know if we're talking about 1 program, 2 programs, 12 programs...).

The issue is, as usual, not whether the program(s) may, theoretically, identify a terrorist.  If that theoretical possibility was enough to justify the NSA program(s), then, hey, why don't we grab every single person inside the US, fill them full of sodium pentathol, attach them to a lie detector, and grill the hell out of them about their beliefs and intentions?  Better yet, lets just torture each other until everyone has been tortured, and then we'll see who's who, huh?

No, the real issues, as they have been from the first reports of the the NSA program(s), are:

1.  Why the hell can't they conduct whatever program(s) is reasonably necessary with the appropriate oversight from a third party, preferably a court?  I heard one apologist on television yesterday talking about how "over the top" the reaction has been "by the left."  After all, the apologist said, all that the NSA is doing is collecting anonymous phone records, them when a person is identified as a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer, they run that person's phone number through the databank and see who he's been talking to.

Well, gee, Mr. Apologist, why can't they take the info that leads them to believe someone is a terrorist/terrorist sympathizer to a court and, if the court buys their conclusion, get a court order for the phone records of that person?  Too damn much trouble to keep from trampling basic protections?

2. What is to prevent someone--the president or some peon--from misusing the system that has been set up?  This is especially troubling because the administration absolutely refuses to describe the system in sufficient detail for any of us to get a feel for how susceptible it is to misuse.

Even if you buy Bush's claims that this great store of info is scrupulously guarded, is even he sure that this will always be the case?  Just imagine some pol using connections to someone at NSA to get access to the database, and searching it for all the phone, web, and e-mail activity of his political opponent.  Or all his political opponents.  Plus the law enforcement people who might oppose him some day.

Given the revelations of the last two years about the conduct of our public officials, you don't think that a comprehensive database could turn up good dirt on just about every one of these people?

The person who misuses that database is one step away from being a dictator, and that isn't paranoia.  Imagine the temptataion to misuse the data.  Imagine the number of different people who might compete to be the first one to get access to, and control of, the data.

You want to think about what this database can really mean, and the kinds of people that want this type of info?  Check out this excerpt from the cross examination of Hermann Goering on 3/18/46 at the Nuremberg trials:

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: You took over a special intelligence organization in 1933 which was devoted to monitoring the telephone conversations of public officials and others inside and outside of Germany, did you not?

GOERING: I have explained that I had erected a technical apparatus which, as you said, monitored the conversations of important reigners to and from foreign countries-telegrams and wireless communications which were transmitted not only from Germany to foreign countries, but also from one foreign country to the other through the ether, and which were intercepted. It also monitored telephone conversations within Germany of: (1) all important foreigners; (2) important firms, at times; and (3) persons who for any reason of a political or police nature were to be watched.

In order to prevent any abuse on the part of the police, this department had to obtain my personal permission when it was to listen to telephone conversations. Despite this there could, of course, be uncontrolled tapping of wires at the same time, just as that is technically possible everywhere today.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: You kept the results of those reports to yourself, did you not?

GOERING: No; this was the procedure: These reports in which the Foreign Office was interested were released to the Foreign Office. Those reports which were important to the Fuehrer went to the Fuehrer. Those which were important to the military authorities went to the Minister of War, or to the Air Ministry, or to the Ministry of Economy. I or my deputy decided whether a report was important for this or that office. There was a man there whose job and responsibility it was to see that these secret reports were submitted only to the chief.l I could, of course, order at any time that this or that report should be exclusively for my knowledge and not be handed on. That was always possible.

MR. JUSTICE JACKSON: You had a good deal of difficulty with other police authorities who wanted to get possession of  that organization, did you not?

GOERING: That is correct. The police did strive to get this instrument into their hands. But they did not get it from me, and  perhaps they kept a watch of their own here and there. But the decisive control which had to be directed through the Ministry of Posts could technically be ordered only by me.