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Friday, January 20, 2006

Chertoff Says It Better

I started the day with my take on the NSA flap, and this article discussing Chertoff's comments says it far better than I did:
While refusing to discuss how the highly classified program works, Chertoff made it pretty clear that it involves "data mining" -collecting vast amounts of international communications data, running it through computers to spot key words and honing in on potential terrorists.
"It's hard to talk about classified stuff," he said, "but suffice it to say that if you have a large volume of data, a large number of [phone] numbers you're intercepting, the typical model for any kind of warrant requires you to establish probable cause [that one party is a foreign agent] on an individual number."
Chertoff goes on to discuss the practical problem of dealing with all this, but I am stuck at "What's the point?" By definition, one doesn't have probable cause for this sort of program. A probable cause model is just not applicable. If you do have probable cause, you move into very different territory, and according to accounts, when probable cause was found for anything domestic then a warrant was sought for specific surveillance of that number. If we are not going to do this type of sifting, then what are we going to do? Because it's not as if other countries haven't been struck, and it's not as if we aren't a target.

If we're not going to try to find the bad guys, then we're going to end up either throwing a lot of innocent people out of the country, or going to massive, oppressive domestic surveillance programs. Almost all of the people in this country who would be targeted are here for the same reason my paternal grandparents came. They do not deserve to be targeted unnecessarily. But the few hundred who are here for other reasons are a serious, serious threat that cannot be ignored. Read the link and ask yourself if you don't think that NSA should be able to screen a call that this man made to a foreign number associated with terrorism. Let's get real here.

There's more in the article linked above about the 2002 FISA ruling, if you don't want to read the 40 page white paper linked below in this post along with other resources. I don't believe that the Supreme Court is going to say that this type of surveillance can't be done under the present circumstances, but I think it would be better for this case not to get to the Supreme Court. We don't need precedents that may be misused in the future.

I think the ACLU is off its rocker on this issue. This is like the complaints about the subway searches in NY. Now, due to the NY Times and a person who disclosed classified information, this program will be less effective. That's bad news for you and me, and much, much worse news for the Muslims in this country. I'm angry. As a computer programmer, I can think of very easy ways to communicate in today's environment that would be practically indetectable. We are in a race against time and a few stupid, stupid irresponsible people have set us back.

As for those idiotic Bush-IS-EVIL types who claim that Bush should have sought enabling legislation from Congress, they ignore the obvious. If Bush had, the program would not have been secret, thus defeating its purpose. In short, today's situation, which has not made this country more secure.

And that brings me to my final point on this topic. I take the liberties in the Constitution very seriously and I spent my time researching this issue. At this point, I don't believe that all of those who publicized this have innocent motives. I think there are a lot of leftists who do want to see the US badly hurt. I think there are many people in this country who drool at the prospect. I'm looking through the list of politicians who have run their gums on this one, and I'm marking them down as "treasonable lunatics", "the weakest links" and "sincere idiots", but I'm not putting many people in the "sincere idiot" category.

If the Democratic party can't pull up its britches and get serious by rejecting using stuff like this as a political party, then I'm absolutely done with it. This is it. A party that permits this sort of treason by irresponsibility within its ranks is not acceptable to me. I'll continue voting for GA Dems I like, but for me the Republican primaries in races for national office may well become THE election. That's bad, but there may be no other choice.

I read the Chertoff comments.

He's right, of course. There needs to be a concerted effort at data mining and whatever else it takes to get the job done and keep us secure. Period.

What needs to be done is re the NSA flap is clear- every single congresspersdon and senator need to go on record and answer the following question:

Do you believe that a call from an overseas suspect member of a terror organization, to an American citizen or resident, needs to be monitored, probable cause notwithstanding?

Yes Or No?

That ought to be an intersting exercise.

Fact, some bloggers out to do just that and post the results.
I agree with your idea!.

But pinning down the slithery Congress Critter is a tough job. Even if you were dangling a 100 dollar bill in your hand, I'd bet a lot of those shy woodland creatures couldn't summon up the moxie to edge up, answer the question and grab it from your hand. I'll email mine this weekend, but I doubt they'll reply.
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