Connecting the Dots

We had all the information we needed to prevent the 9/11 attacks. We just didn’t connect the dots. We just didn’t see the big picture. We just didn’t perceive the pattern that in retrospect it is so clear. One reason is we were not looking.

As the 9/11 Commission Report in ”Counterterrorism Evolves states, "NSA had the technical capability to report on communications with suspected terrorist facilities in the Middle East, the NSA did not seek FISA Court warrants to collect communications between individuals in the United States and foreign countries, because it believed that this was an FBI role. It also did not want to be viewed as targeting persons in the United States and possibly violating laws that governed NSA's collection of foreign intelligence".

Isn't that the situation we wanted to change?

The answers to many questions are out there, but finding the needle in that information haystack is difficult. But it is not impossible. With modern sorting techniques, we can establish patterns among seemingly unrelated facts. IIf we use them.

Connecting the dots. That is what the surveillance program revealed by the NYT is doing. It is processing thousands of calls and other communications made internationally by people associated with terrorists. Most of these people are not themselves terrorists. Many of them have no idea that they are involved with terrorism. Think of people who may have rented apartments to Mohammed Atta, or sold him airplane tickets. They had no idea they were helping this murderer, and they would not have been the target of the inquiry, but it would have been very useful to connect those dots.

And it is even more crucial now than it was five years ago. Terrorist have learned too. They are more and more using the Internet for their command and control and their communications. Most Internet traffic still passes through the U.S. at some point. Do you really want to put that off limits to our surveillance?

The surveillance program focuses only on international communications where we believe that at least one party is a member or agent of al Qaeda or another terrorist group. It is unlikely that this will ever affect ordinary Americans and none of the "spying" was aimed at Americans.

Whether or not the President has right to engage in such surveillance is open to dispute. In most other democratic countries, there would be no argument, but the U.S. is especially concerned about privacy issues. The courts may ultimately decide this issue in the President's favor or maybe the Congress will clear up the ambiguity by specifically giving the President the authority he needs. Even the President's opponents want to do the right thing to protect our country. But until that time, I am glad that our President is using the best technologies available to connect the dots and reveal patterns that can help stop terrorists before they can even get started. And if an American is talking to one of bin Laden's buddies, I don’t much care if we hurt his feelings.

Posted by Jack at January 25, 2006 11:43 PM
Comments
Comment #116836

Jack
There is a phrase used in law enforcement that I have not heard use in the intel circles. That is “probable cause”. It seems to me that “probable cause” could be applied in the intel community where they are listening.
Give me your take on that.

Posted by: tomh at January 26, 2006 12:34 AM
Comment #116838

Tomh

When you are searching for patterns, you by definition don’t have probably cause. Most of the data you look at will be useless and unrelated. You don’t even know what pattern you are looking for.

If we decide to move on a case, then you could get probable cause. But if you stop the gathering, you never get that far. After all, taking flying lessons is not a reason to suspect anyone of anything, but if you have other information you might see a pattern.

Posted by: Jack at January 26, 2006 12:43 AM
Comment #116839

Jack:

the NSA did not seek FISA Court warrants to collect communications between individuals in the United States and foreign countries

Okay, so why didn’t they go the the FISA court now? Did they, and maybe had the warrants denied?

As crucial as this may be, there is still the issue that the FISA court exists, has turned down few requests for warrants, and there are other avenues that could have been taken to make this legal if it is, indeed, necessary.

It appears the NSA dropped the ball:

because it believed that this was an FBI role. It also did not want to be viewed as targeting persons in the United States and possibly violating laws that governed NSA’s collection of foreign intelligence”.

This does not mean that what they should have done is wrong, it just means they did not take advantage of the legal means available to them, and thought it was someone else’s job.

How does any of this justify warrantless wiretapping of US citizens?

Posted by: womanmarine at January 26, 2006 12:44 AM
Comment #116852

Notice something odd about all this data collection? When was the last time a ‘terrorist’ was caught in the US?

Oh.

The only terrorists seem to be in Pakistan, near the Afghan border. They come from the region, and don’t seem to be leaving it. There is JI in Indonesia, which was there before Al Qaida, and will probably be there long after Al Qaida disappears. There are uncoordinated, localized cells in places like England & Spain & Egypt. But the fact is, Al Qaida was much, much smaller than we thought. It hasn’t been an effective organization in years, not since the man who was the mastermind behind 9/11 was captured in 2003.

That’s right.

According to the 9/11 Commission, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

We just bombed some mud huts in a remote village in Pakistan, killing a few innocent civilians, you know, women and children.

We thought Al Qaida’s chemical weapons & explosives expert was in one of the buildings. Doesn’t it strike anyone as odd that Al Qaida’s expert in chemical weapons has never constructed a chemical weapon? This guy supposedly trained “hundreds” of terrorists in explosives. So… um… what happened to all those terrorists?

The border with Mexico is porous. Anyone could cross it without being detected. So where are the terrorists?

Oh.

Put aside your fear, fellow Americans. It’s time.

The NSA surveillance of US citizens is a crime. Period. It doesn’t even have the saving grace of having made anyone more secure. If American citizens have been surveilled without a warrant, and without probable cause, those people violating the law will have to be prosecuted.

“Whether or not the President has right to engage in such surveillance is open to dispute.”

No. It is not open to dispute. The 4th amendment is quite clear. The government needs “probable cause” to conduct searches of American citizens. The FISA laws are specific. They even permit warrants to be obtained after the search. But neither the Judicial nor the Legislative Branch has ever given the Executive Branch cart blanche to ignore the 4th amendment.

The Bush administration has announced it has no intention of obeying the laws. Not even congressional Republicans will go along with this. Even they will refuse to cede that much power to the Executive Branch.

Congress will have no choice but to impeach him. They’ll do it, too, unless Bush backs off.

Think, people, think. There are no terrorist attacks happening in this country, no terrorist arrests, no terrorist caught attempting to infiltrate. Not one. Zero. Zip. Nada. Zilch.

We’re seeing nothing more than a naked grab for power by a White House which has no apparent concern for the implications of its actions, or our country’s future.

Posted by: phx8 at January 26, 2006 2:17 AM
Comment #116895

“Notice something odd about all this data collection? When was the last time a ‘terrorist’ was caught in the US?” – UMM, YOU’RE RIGHT. WE SHOULD STOP LOOKING FOR TERRORISTS IN THE US, AND ANY WHO ASSOCIATE WITH ANYONE IN THE US. YOU ARE WISE.

“The only terrorists seem to be in Pakistan, near the Afghan border.” — UMM, EVER HEAR OF IRAQ?

“We just bombed some mud huts in a remote village in Pakistan, killing a few innocent civilians, you know, women and children.” — DEFINITELY ALL INNOCENT? ‘THEY’ SAY 3 TOP AL QAIDA WERE KILLED, BUT YOU APPARENTLY KNOW BETTER. AND IF SOMEONE WHO KNOWS HE MAY BE BOMBED STAYS AROUND HIS FAMILY, HOW GOOD A MAN/HUSBAND/FATHER/HUMAN BEING IS HE? GOOD POINT: DO NOT TRY TO KILL A HITLER, BECAUSE YOU MIGHT HURT AN EVA BRAUN.

“Doesn’t it strike anyone as odd that Al Qaida’s expert in chemical weapons has never constructed a chemical weapon?” — YOU KNOW FOR A FACT HE NEVER CONSTRUCTED ONE, OR JUST THAT HE DID NOT GET THE CHANCE TO USE ONE AGAINST US? REGARDLESS, DON’T WORRY ABOUT ANYONE UNTIL *AFTER* HE/SHE USES A CHEMICAL WEAPON AGAINST US, RIGHT?

“The border with Mexico is porous. Anyone could cross it without being detected. So where are the terrorists?” — RIGHT AGAIN!! NOT ONLY SHOULD WE NOT BE PROACTIVE, WE SHOULDN’T EVEN BE DEFENSIVE!

“The NSA surveillance of US citizens is a crime. Period. … No. It is not open to dispute. The 4th amendment is quite clear.” – EVEN IF SOMETHING IS NOT ALLOWED UNDER ONE PART OF THE LAW (e.g., 4th Amnt) IT MAY BE ALLOWED UNDER OTHER SECTIONS.

‘The Bush administration has announced it has no intention of obeying the laws.” - I MISSED THIS ANNOUNCEMENT. CAN SOMEONE RE-POST??

“Congress will have no choice but to impeach him. They’ll do it, too, unless Bush backs off.” — UMMM, NO.

“We’re seeing nothing more than a naked grab for power by a White House…” – A GRAB OF POWER BY ANYONE IN OUR GOV’T (Dem or Repub) AGAINST TERRORISTS (or any Anti-American) IS WELCOME BY ME. I DON’T SEE HOW THIS IS A GRAB AGAINST 99.9% OF CITIZENS (Nixon grabbed power against the citizenry, possibly Clinton w/ whitewater too, but I don’t see how this is).

Posted by: Brian at January 26, 2006 6:52 AM
Comment #116916

All

Does anyone know of of ONE case where a call made from INSIDE the United States to another person INSIDE the United States was intercepted without a warrant?

Please tell me.

Everything I have heard so far pertain to calls made from inside United states to people OUTSIDE the United States.

What am I missing here?

Posted by: sicilian eagle at January 26, 2006 7:41 AM
Comment #116946

So let me get this straight….

Bush has been torturing and spying on people for years now and has nothing to show for it - not even one important arrest. Why continue with methods that do not show results? I understand and agree these methods are cruel, against the law, and hurting our war effort by distorting worldwide perception of us, but from a strictly practical standpoint, why should we continue with something that does not produce results?

Of course its difficult to determine what exactly the results have been. Obviously, Bush is privy to information that I’m not, but I can’t help but believe that had he had a major success using one of these methods he would have leaked it. Or at least suggested there have been successes.

An independent investigation of the prisoners of Guantanamo found that over 90% of the prisoners were most-likely guilty of no crimes whatsover. What happened to better a guilty man goes free than to punish an innocent?

Finally, I am confused. Bush seems to understand privacy concerns. He won’t release documents regarding Katrina, 911, Supreme Court nominees, etc. He sure doesn’t want us to know what he’s been doing, and he’s doing a job for us! Stay out of our private, personal lives thanks.

Posted by: Max at January 26, 2006 9:19 AM
Comment #116947

Afganistan grows heroin and even the Clintons went in as soon as we secured the region to discuss heroin or opium crops.

Iraq has oil.

Indonesia and sudan have millions killed regularly and we do not do more than look over there. If we are in a war on terror why not enter these sites of genoside as we did in europe under clintons term in office?

Posted by: scott at January 26, 2006 9:25 AM
Comment #116961

Jack
I disagree with the govt listening in on Americans. I know, not a big surprise to anyone.
But I like how you basically said it is up to the courts to decide its legality and you concentrate on the possible benefits this program can provide.
The needle in a haystack scenario makes sense.
Is it better to use whatever technology possible so that you can find that needle BEFORE it harms you? Or is it better to disregard certain technology, that could help you, and HOPE you find the needle before it harms you?
Interesting.

phx8
“Put aside your fear, fellow Americans. It’s time”

After Columbine, the govt and special interests groups used “fear” as a means to put further restrictions on our 2nd Amendment rights.
Some Americans were willing to trade their rights for a better sense of security.
Certain events make people afraid and they want their govt to protect them. That is a fact.
It is also a fact that govt knows this and will take advantage of it whenever they can.

Posted by: kctim at January 26, 2006 10:17 AM
Comment #116966

Max,

“Bush has been torturing and spying on people for years now and has nothing to show for it.”

Not so fast.

“According to emails obtained by the San Jose Mercury News, the California National Guard has created a new unit designed to deal with terrorist threats. One of the first projects of the new guard unit was to spy on women’s peace groups that held a small Mother’s Day rally in Sacramento.”
We dodged a bullet thanks to G.W.

Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at January 26, 2006 10:26 AM
Comment #116972

Phx8

The 4th amendment deals with searches. Whether or not data collection is a search is what is open to dispute. In recent times, the courts have expanded the definition of what constitutes a search, sometimes to include even people’s garbage. Many people think the courts have gone too far and it looks like the courts might agree. We will see. This is a matter of interpretation and degrees. It is not settled law, especially in light of the Constitutional powers granted the President.

(BTW - most Federal regulation violates strict readings of the 10th Amendment. We hear few complaints about that from the left.)

In 1929 Henry Stimson, then Secrtary of State, shut down the State Department’s cryptanalytic office, saying, “Gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail.” Later he changed his mind. It is a nice thought that we live in such a world where we can extend courtesties and rights to all comers.

With all due respect to the codes of gentlemanly conduct, this is not our world. The Constitution does not need to be read so expansively to include protections for foreign calls or data that may pass through the U.S. Again, we all read the same words, but the interpretation is different.

In many ways, this debate closely parallels ordinary debates about crime. Conservatives bristle when a criminal gets off on a technicality. Liberals contend that these technicalities preserve the liberties of all. I generally prefer to have criminals convicted, but I can understand the liberal line in domestic cases. This is not the same in cases of international terrorism. If an ordinary criminal gets off on a technicality, he may or may not commit crimes again and even in worst cases, his reach is limited. Terrorists are in the business crime and conspiracy and the consequences are much more serious.

Posted by: Jack at January 26, 2006 10:34 AM
Comment #116982

kctim,

“Certain events make people afraid and they want their govt to protect them. That is a fact.
It is also a fact that govt knows this and will take advantage of it whenever they can”

It is one thing to understand what makes people afraid, and warn against the possibilities.
It is quite another to take those fears and turn the country against itself.

I find it curious that our government wants to “fight them over there, so we don’t have to fight them here”, but does nothing to make sure that they don’t get “over here”.

Terrorists don’t fight wars. Terrorists create terror by being random, by being unpredictable.

Jack,

Probable cause is only usefull if you intend to prosecute the offender in a court of law. A warrantless wiretap, regardless of how many dots are connected, could be thrown out by a judge that is a stickler for Constitutional rights. This goes back to that higher standard thing you wrote about in a previous thread.

Posted by: Rocky at January 26, 2006 11:01 AM
Comment #116992

What phx8 and Rocky said.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 26, 2006 11:30 AM
Comment #116996

Where in the Constitution does it grant American rights to non-American citizens? Terrorists are not American citizens, therefore they are not protected by the same rights. Article 12 of the International Declaration of Human Rights grants that “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.” I guess that if you believe that international law does somehow exist, then you may be able to use this as an argument against this act. However, US tradition, and US law supercedes this international agreement and it is up to the three different branches of government to decide whether this ‘spying’ is acceptable or not. If checking correspondence coming into the US from a terrorist will protect us from another 9/11, then so be it. It’s not the US citizens we’re spying on, it’s the terrorists. I guess you shouldn’t correspond with terrorists, simple as that. Why can’t we protect American citizens by intercepting and analyzing INCOMING communications from possible terrorists outside the US?

Posted by: e at January 26, 2006 11:41 AM
Comment #117000

e,

“It’s not the US citizens we’re spying on, it’s the terrorists. I guess you shouldn’t correspond with terrorists, simple as that.”

Sorry it isn’t that simple.

You can’t prove that it isn’t US citizens because there is no paper trail, and because there was no warrant.
It is as simple as that.

Posted by: Rocky at January 26, 2006 11:45 AM
Comment #117018

Rocky
“It is one thing to understand what makes people afraid, and warn against the possibilities”
It is quite another to take those fears and turn the country against itself”

I don’t disagree with you Rocky. It could be said that the govt did the exact same thing in both cases though.

“I find it curious that our government wants to “fight them over there, so we don’t have to fight them here”, but does nothing to make sure that they don’t get “over here”.”

Listening to their communications IS doing something to make sure they don’t get over here.

The legality of it all is for the courts to determine.
If we go by past cases involving our rights, such as the 2nd, the courts will probably rule in favor of the govt.
Just as with the 2nd, half the country will probably be pissed and the other half will be happy.
We lose more of our rights and the govt wins more control.

Posted by: kctim at January 26, 2006 12:12 PM
Comment #117044

Max,
“So let me get this straight…Bush has been torturing and spying on people for years now and has nothing to show for it - not even one important arrest.”

It’s not “people” he’s been spying on, it’s “Al Qaeda”, do you consider Al Qaeda people like you would regular people? Or, do you actually consider them the “Enemy”, like the rest of America does?! And, shouldn’t he know all about the enemy that he can without divulging it with the people? I mean, we are at war with this enemy, NSA shouldn’t be compromised b/c some want to play partisan politics and take down a President. That’s just baloney. What he did was legal and it will be proven so, just like the other “conspiracy theories” and “mudslinging” that’s been thrown at Bush.


I have a message to the Bush haters:

STOP PLAYING PARTISAN POLITICS AND START BACKING THIS PRESIDENT AND THIS COUNTRY TO DEFEAT THE “ENEMY”!!!! GOT THAT!!!!!!!!!


Later!

Posted by: rahdigly at January 26, 2006 12:51 PM
Comment #117047

Government failed miserably.
But, we voted for them didn’t we.
Aside from the terrorists themselves,
who is more culpable ?

Personally, I think government is.
Ofcourse people are angry at the terrorists,
but the people have every right to be angry at government too. What good are the trillions spent on National Defense if the government can’t even prevent the preventable.

We were warned and warned and warned to secure the doors on the pilot’s cabins, but greedy airlines and government ignored it. The government knew of such a plan and illegal aliens taking flying lessons, but still did nothing.

And, then the airlines parleyed it into a tax-payer handout, when the airlines and government were both extremely negligent.

Despite the vast (nightmarish) size of the federal government, $2 trillion in revenues, hundreds of billions going to the Pentagon, the government is still unable to connect the dots.

What good is it? We should get much better for $2 trillion per year. And look at what irresponsible incumbents are doing while our troops risk life and limb.

And, how about the hypocrisy of using national security to bend the laws, when the government ignores the nearly wide-open bordrs, and its consequences:
_______________________________________
[] On 13-Nov-2005, Brian Jackson, a Dallas policeman was shot and killed by an illegal alien, Juan Lizcano. Lizcano had become drunk and went to the home of his ex-girfriend to threaten her. As the police pursued Lizcano after he fled the woman’s home, he shot Officer Jackson, who died later in the hospital. Officer Jackson was remembered by his fellow police as someone who loved his job and always went the extra mile.
[] Then, there is Jorge Hernandez, aka Jorge Soto, who killed Min Soon Chang, an 18-year-old college freshman, in a terrible head-on wreck while Hernandez was driving drunk. He had been arrested 3 previous times for drunk driving in 3 other states, and he had been deported to Mexico 17 times! Don’t you wonder why illegal aliens aren’t deported instantly after being arrested for drunk driving?
[] Debbie Thomas, who was the mother of three, was killed in a head-on collision on Christmas Eve 2003 when her car was struck by a car being driven in the wrong direction by illegal alien, Narciso Garcia-Jimenez. He later escaped from his hospital bed and is still at large. The car he drove had no inspection sticker and was registered to another person. When Debbie’s mom learned that her daughter’s killer survived and escaped after being treated at the hospital, she said she felt “angry, bitter and sad, all at once.”
_______________________________________

If you want to see more, visit immigrationshumancost.org for more horrifying stories on drunken illegal alien drivers. This illegal alien crime spree spans the entire United States. Why are illegal aliens arrested for drunk driving deported ?

Since President Bush is a convicted DUI offender, he should understand that drunks kill people. Will Bush or his family be victims of a drunken driver? Not likely, not in his cu$hy stretch limousine. Will his immediate family suffer rapes and murder? Not likely since our tax-dollars pay for 24 hour body guards! However, thousands of American citizens are victims of drunken illegal alien drivers and sexual predators.

If none of this constant government incompetence makes you mad, then nothing will.

It’s time to vote out (or recall) all of these bought-and-paid-for, do-nothing, FOR SALE, corrupt incumbents repeatedly, until they get the message, that such irresponsibility isn’t going to be tolerated anymore.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 26, 2006 12:58 PM
Comment #117049

Andre
There is a world of difference between observing and spying. This doesn’t even fit a symantical debate.

Posted by: tomh at January 26, 2006 1:02 PM
Comment #117052

Here is an interesting senario. A terrorist acquires an IP phone with a 215 area code, connects it to the internet in Germany to dial another terrorist with a 610 area code IP phone who is connected to the internet in Syria to plot an attack. If the call is intercepted, is this domestic spying? How could the parties responsible know if they aren’t allowed to connect the dots? Of course this call would not likely route through America, so it would only be intercepted by someone monitoring the situation in a foriegn country.

If that isn’t enough reason to continue the monitoring of targeted communications between persons unknown and known terrorists, then think about this. All 19 hijackers were in this country when they prepared for and executed their attack. That means that the enemy has proven that they can and will attack from within. There are only two ways to collect the dots on who in this country might be an enemy. Spy on international communications or institute a massive domestic spying program in the hopes of randomly identifying targets of opportunity.

And last but not least, every member of the United Nations is excluded from the FISA restriction except the US government, that would mean every nation in the world can spy on any communications they can intercept. The Russians, Germans, French, Mexican and Canadian goverments can track every call they can intercept even if it is between cell phone users both located in the US. The Iranians, and Iraqis can do the same. In fact, everyone anywhere is permitted to do that under the FISA agreement, except the organizations responsible for our protection. So anyone making a long distance call out of the country should assume someone somewhere is monitoring it.

Maybe the solution for the President would be to subcontract this work. Tell the people we will not spy on terrorists in the country anymore when they call their fellow terrorists overseas. Then pay Poland to do it, or just buy the transcripts from Russia. Can you picture this: You honor, we would like a warrant to spy on so and so, who has been identified by the Russians as a terrorist supporter, the following transcripts of conversations between so and so and Al Qeada were provided by the KGB

Posted by: Wise-Skeptic at January 26, 2006 1:04 PM
Comment #117057

rahdigly,

“STOP PLAYING PARTISAN POLITICS AND START BACKING THIS PRESIDENT AND THIS COUNTRY TO DEFEAT THE “ENEMY”!!!! GOT THAT!!!!!!!!!”

Geez, you forgot to add the “or else’

Posted by: Rocky at January 26, 2006 1:14 PM
Comment #117077

rah:

“STOP PLAYING PARTISAN POLITICS AND START BACKING THIS PRESIDENT AND THIS COUNTRY TO DEFEAT THE �ENEMY�!!!! GOT THAT!!!!!!!!!”

Rocky:
“Geez, you forgot to add the “or else’”

Yeah really. All that’s missing there is: Ve haf veys of making you do our biddink!

Posted by: Adrienne at January 26, 2006 2:03 PM
Comment #117085

Jack: You are as correct about this spying business as you are about the U.S. economy and the new Iraqi government.
No one knows who has been spied on or listened to or read about because it is all SECRET.
The economy is in a shambles. The average U.S. worker is not even close to being further ahead than they were 5 years ago. There are more people living in povert now than there were 5 years ago.
The Iraq elections have provided a whole new set of problems of government than were there previously. It is a theocracy and the U.S. will never be able to understand how to operate under those conditions.
We have promoted a whole new terrorist regime and it has no name. The longer we “stay the course” the more Iraqis and U.S. service personnel will be killed with NOTHING gained for this country.
I voted for GWB the first time, but I did NOT vote for him the second.
I consider him to be deceitful and a dupe for Cheney/Rumsfeld.
Jack2

Posted by: Jack Purslow at January 26, 2006 2:17 PM
Comment #117112

Rocky

You make the point exactly.

Without probably cause, the cases would be thrown out of court. Precisely. They are not aimed at U.S. citizens and they are not even aimed a prosecution per se. That is why the civil liberty folks are off base. They are aimed at connecting the dots and stopping terrorism before it happens. Before 9/11, we could have deported the terrorists. We would have had trouble prosecuting them for crimes they had yet to commit.

Jack2

Since I am right about the economy and the Iraqi government, I don’t understand what seems to be a disageement about spying on terrorists and people they are talking with.

Posted by: Jack at January 26, 2006 3:07 PM
Comment #117181

The problem with ever giving government an inch (for so-called justified purposes), is that they then take a light-year.

Power corrupts. Government always abuses it.

Now, on the other hand, if we had a government that could be trusted, that might be different.

But the government we’ve had for the past 30 years can not be trusted.

Wait and see what we find out if (ever) we get a list of people being spied on. I can see it now. Lots of people calling their mother or father?

And, even if they hear something, it won’t do any good, because they are too stupid to connect the dots.

Besides, as I said later, if the government was really concerned about national security, they would stop letting Al-Qaeda and thousands of illegal aliens cross our borders daily, who are killing and injuring Americans every week.

That’s why I can’t believe anything they say any more. They are too simply too corrupt and irresponsible. Just think about some of that for a moment. Look at what they do while we have troops risking life and limb. Hell, the idiots in the Pentagon as so damned incompetent, they can’t even stop jets from flying into the Pentagon, for cryin’ out loud. That was completely preventable. We were warned about it.

I really don’t give a damn about the wire-tapping to be honest, because we’ve got much more serious issues. We have problems within that are far far worse than any problems from outside.

What the hell has happened to this country? Government is FOR SALE.
Bought-and-paid-for incumbents are running up astronomical debt ($8.2 trillion), and pork-barrel is all time highs, while we have troops that don’t have body armor.
The people have record levels of person debt ($32 trillion).
Congress is still plundering Social Security.
Medicare is a mess with trillion$ in short-falls.
The government hypes security, but won’t secure the borders.
The supreme court says it’s OK to seize people’s land for non-public use.
We incarcerate people for years with out charging them.
Our allies are being alienated. I doubt they’re all wrong.
Health Care is increasingly unaffordable and unreliable.
We’ve got no responsible energy planning.
The government can’t get by on an astounding $2.2 trillion per year, and the interest alone is over $1 billion per day !
Corporate greed is way out of control; CEOs make tens and hundreds of millions while simultaneously going bankrupt.
Manufacturing continues to move away as foreign competition steadily increases.
The quality of public education is falling in quality while becoming increasingly expensive.
We have fewer and fewer people pursuing educatinos in engineering, science, chemistry, and math.
We have an aging population of 77 million baby boomers that will soon start earning less, spending less, paying less tax, and wanting to draw benefits from already bankrupt Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid.
It now takes two workers per household to meet the same household income that it did 30 years ago.
Corporations and workers no longer have any loyalty to each other or the nation.
78 million of 200 million eligible voters don’t see good reason to vote.
Workers coming out of Ford and GM are wearing UAW shirts. Not the emblem of their company. And companies are making employees train their replacements before they get laid off. We’re training our own competition. It’s a race to the bottom.
Our tax system is ridiculous.
And Congress refuses to pass any common-sense, no-brainer, logical, responsible reforms of any kind that may force them to be responsible and accountable.
And election fraud is on the rise. It’s bad enough that the two main parties block access for third parties to the ballots and debates.
And, even if anyone in Congress ever gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar, they can probably get a presidential pardon. Who says political greed and crime doesn’t pay ?

Lastly, we need to get a BILL started to place all politicians on Social Security and Medicare like he rest of us are relegated to. Did you know Congress isn’t on the same plan?

Check it out:
________________________________
RETIREMENT PLAN for Congress persons:
COST TO Congress persosns: $0
________________________________
Did you know our Congress persons do not pay into or draw from Social Security?

You see, Social Security benefits were not suitable for these superior persons in Congress. They think they deserve superior benefits to the rest of us, and feel they should have a special plan for themselves. So, many years ago these greedy, arrogant Congress persons voted their own benefit plan into existence. And, it’s worth noting that no one has recently felt any need to change it. After all, it is a great plan.
For all practical purposes their plan works like this:
When the Congress person retires, they continue to draw the same pay until they die. Nice eh? And, there may also receive increases from time to time for cost of living adjustments. For example, Senator Byrd and Congressman White and their wives may expect to draw $7.8 Million, with their wives drawing $275K during the last years of their lives (based on an average life span).

Younger Congress persons who retire at an early age, will receive much more during the rest of their lives.

And guess what the cost to them personally is for this superior plan: $0.00

That’s right. Nothing to them. This cu$hy perk that incumbents voted for themselves is free to them. You and I (The People) pick up the tab for their special plan. The funds for this fine retirement plan come directly from the General Fund.
________________________________
SOCIAL SECURITY for tax payers:
COST TO Tax Payers: currently 12.65% of gross income.
From the Social Security Plan which you and I pay (or have paid) into, every payday until we retire, we can expect to get an average of $1,000 per month after retirement.
________________________________

If none of that makes you angry, nothing will.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 26, 2006 4:53 PM
Comment #117182

Wise-skeptic,
Here is an interesting scenario:

Some years down the road, for reasons unknown, you have been wiretapped. You are declared an “enemy combatant” by the White House and incarcerated indefinitely without charges. While imprisoned, you are tortured. Because you cannot access a lawyer, and because your case is ‘classified,’ and even though you don’t know why, you will be in prison for years, maybe forever.

Of course, no future president would ever use these precedents to abuse power. If history tells us anything, it is that we can be absolutely certain nothing bad will ever happen when we grant a president vast, unchecked powers.

Posted by: phx8 at January 26, 2006 4:56 PM
Comment #117186

We don’t just torture enemies.
We torture our own troops. Ask Spc. Sean Baker.
And no one has been held accountable yet.

Posted by: d.a.n at January 26, 2006 5:03 PM
Comment #117298

Brian,
Thank you for taking time to respond to my comment early in the thread. In the future, you might want to stay away from using all caps in your comments. It’s considered shouting, and usually viewed as rude. I’m sure that wasn’t your intent.

“WE SHOULD STOP LOOKING FOR TERRORISTS IN THE US…”

No. We should take appropriate, measured steps to provide security. The steps should be commensurate with the threat. Since the threat is low, it does not make sense for this to be our primary focus. We need to recognize the threat for what it is, be adults about it, put aside the fear, and move on to more important issues.

“The only terrorists seem to be in Pakistan, near the Afghan border.” — UMM, EVER HEAR OF IRAQ?”

You’re right, terrorists from other countries have entered Iraq. The majority come from Saudi Arabia, and more often than not these Sunni foreign jihadists target Iraqi Shias.

It is worth noting not one Iraqi terrorist has ever attacked a US citizen in the United States. Not one of the 9/11 perpetrators were Iraqi.

“‘THEY’ SAY 3 TOP AL QAIDA WERE KILLED, BUT YOU APPARENTLY KNOW BETTER.”

Yes, Brian, because I listen to the news. The Prime Minister of Pakistan states there were none, and has gone to the UN to protest. We’ll see if that goes anywhere.

““Doesn’t it strike anyone as odd that Al Qaida’s expert in chemical weapons has never constructed a chemical weapon?”

Saying ‘he could have’ means nothing. He didn’t. Open your eyes, Brian!

“A GRAB OF POWER BY ANYONE IN OUR GOV’T (Dem or Repub) AGAINST TERRORISTS (or any Anti-American) IS WELCOME BY ME.”

Well, we certainly won’t have to worry about them hating us for our freedom anymore.

Posted by: phx8 at January 26, 2006 10:31 PM
Comment #117538

What reason could President Bush have other than trying to prevent further terrorist attacks to listen in on private citizen’s phone calls?

Do Democrats really oppose monitoring Al Qaeda? If so, why?

So, while we can have a legitimate disagreement about the technicalities of warrants, there is no justification for vitriolic accusations against the President. In the worst case scenario, he is mistaken in the way he wants to protect the American people.

Posted by: Jack at January 27, 2006 11:18 AM
Comment #117551

Jack,
No one opposes surveilling Al Qaida. The laws and the FISA court make it very easy, should the surveillance involve a US citizen.

This is no mistake by the White House. It is an intentional run around the law. Given that absolutely no abuses happened- and that’s charitable- it nevertheless sets a terrible precedent.

As I said before, if this were a simple mistake, the President and the Attorney General should apologize and back off. They refuse. Congress will not tolerate this, neither Democrats nor Republicans. If the White House pursues the collision course- a totally unnecessary act- but if they pursue this, Congress will impeach Bush.

Posted by: phx8 at January 27, 2006 11:45 AM
Comment #117746

phx8:

You said, “…intentional run around the law.” That reminds of something I read about last week where the President essentially notes that he is not inclined to believe in the constitutionality of specific laws and, therefore, he chooses not to recognize those laws. If I remember correctly, he’s done this over 100 times during his administration and basically all other presidential administrations combined don’t add up to 100. That includes war presidents. I can’t remember what it’s called—executive privilege? It’s simply stunning to me that a president can just choose to ignore a law and move on without some type of judicial review. If the president doesn’t like a federal law, shouldn’t he either veto it on the way in or lobby his party brethren in the legislative branch to alter it or throw it out? While I appreciate he is a business man first and a politician second, he can’t simply choose to ignore the rule of law so he can achieve a goal, can he?

Posted by: JW at January 28, 2006 12:30 AM
Comment #117766

Unreasonable search. That’s what searching someones private space or communications without probable cause is. Yes, if the NSA were allowed to do anything it wanted to, it would increase the chances of catching terrorists. But of course, then the terrorists have won; they have destroyed our way of life, wherein privacy is a constitutionally guaranteed freedom.

Jack, your and your compatriots’ attempts to somehow justify this activity by tortured arguments indicates how bankrupt your moral sense has become. Tell me exactly what activities the constitution would prevent the president from undertaking in pursuit of the “terrorists”? How far would you allow him to go? If he has this power, doesn’t he have the power to snoop anywhere? Isn’t the constitutional protection then gone? A fair response is not “Well, he’s a good guy and won’t abuse his power.” This is essentially the rationale for monarchs: they are divinely inspired and will use their absolute power for good. We ditched that reactionary idea a long time ago, but that argument amounts to reviving it.

So, come on, Jack, let us know. Where does his ability to overthrow the constitution end?

Posted by: Mental Wimp at January 28, 2006 1:10 AM
Comment #117883

Mental

I have no trouble with monitoring communications where one of the parties is foreign and thought to be connected with terrorism. I have no trouble with gathering information statistically in order to connect the dots and prevent terror.

As others have pointed out, the information gathered in these wiretaps would probably be inadmissible in court. Our protections are intact.

And we have been doing this sort of thing throughout most of our history without doing serious harm to our civil liberties. It is only recently that we have become so hypersensitive. Even Henry Stinson, (see above) came to the conclusion that we sometimes have to read other gentlemen’s mail.

Many of the vitamins and minerals you need for good health will poison you if you get too much, but you will also die if you get too little. The difference between harm and help is in the dosage. This is an analogous situation. We can’t be absolutist on either side. This situation will be resolved through the political process and/or the courts. It is a routine problem, nothing to get crazy about.

Posted by: Jack at January 28, 2006 11:55 AM
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