They Are Out to Get You (2001)
The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed -- would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper -- the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.
--George Orwell, 1984
Just because you're paranoid...
And make that are out to get you...
From a story by Leslie Cauley in today's USA Today:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.
"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.
For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.
Our Prezdent, rather than playing gee-tar or chomping cake with adoration-of-Falwell McCain, and who snoozes through face-shootings by Number 2, actually spoke to the issue within hours. Again, from USA Today:
At the White House, President Bush said the administration acted within the law and "fiercely protected" Americans' privacy while doing everything possible to prevent terrorist attacks. "Al-Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans," he said. "We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans." He didn't address specifics of the program and walked away without responding to reporters' questions.
I'm sure we can believe him -- assuming there's no asterisk to his clipped remarks because of a signing statement exempting him from actually enforcing his own remarks.
By the way, just so you know, every statement he makes comes with that asterisk.
softsoap review the NSA story tonight shows the MM has no post-Colbert pattern recognition. The Situational Room's gist was that the public does not really care about Orwellian snooping because earlier reports on BushCo's "terrorist surveillance program" barely blipped the cable news radar. The Patriot Act is a-dor-a-able as long as we're safe safe safe. Move along. Meanwhile on the immigration front...
Will the new revelations about the NSA tip the balance? Perhaps. According to the story, the NSA is not actually listening in on the phone calls but monitoring the patterns ofcalls in a kind of giant Google search, with the hope that their algorithm will detect something untoward and worth investigating. But even if your call to Aunt Sally isn't being listened to by some NSA officer, the program sounds creepy enough that no shortage of senators jumped all over it. The Republican Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said he'd subpoena the heads of the three telecommunications companies involved — AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth — before hearings to find out what they knew. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, who had kind words about former NSA head Gen. Michael Hayden when he was nominated to be the new CIA boss on Monday, talked ominously about a "showdown" over the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unlawful search and seizure.
At the same time, conservative Judge Michael Luttig of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, whom many on the right wanted President Bush to name to the Supreme Court, abruptly resigned yesterday, reportedly in part because of civil liberties issues. The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Luttig was shocked back in November when the Bush Justice Department announced that the government would file charges against suspected terrorist Jose Padilla as if he were a regular citizen. Just two months earlier, Luttig had written a seminal opinion saying that the federal government could detain Padilla without a charge, reasoning that the government must have had an extraordinary case against Padilla to justify such an extraordinary imprisonment. When the Bush administration reversed position and in effect acknowledged that the regular old justice system was able to accommodate the case, Luttig was enraged, saying the reversal strained the Bush administration's "credibility before the courts." It was that frustration that helped lead to his resignation, the Journal reported.
If provoking the anger of a conservative's conservative like Luttig wasn't enough, another development out of the Justice Department was nearly as stunning. On Wednesday, the Justice Department's point man on government accountability, H. Marshall Jarrett, wrote to Congress saying that he was shutting down his review of the NSA spying probe because his staff was denied access to the agency's files and personnel [emphasis mine].
So to review the bidding: Bush's Justice Department is blocked from investigating its own controversial spy program; a leading conservative jurist resigns, reportedly in part over the government's handling of civil liberties; and a big NSA program of eavesdropping on Americans' phone-calling patterns is revealed. Will this be enough to turn public opinion against Bush on civil liberties and terrorism? Given the collapse in public support for the President on so many issues, it wouldn't be surprising.
Wait. Didn't Time name George W. Bush "
Man Person of the Year" in 2004 " for sharpening the debate until the choices bled, for reframing reality to match his design...." Oh yeah. I remember that now...
Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death.
--from Winston Smith's diary, George Orwell, 1984
[Image seen on about.com]
Hey, it's just another enhanced interrogation technique...