Playing Pong with Wiretaps

I am glad that we can secretly monitor potential terrorists and dismayed that the Dems are compromising our ability to do so. Technologies have changed a lot since the 1970s when FISA was written. If you want to keep track of terrorists, it is a good idea to at least keep track with the technologies they use.

Telephone networks are no longer local. It is very likely that these words right here I have written have bounced all over the world, even if you guys reading it are sitting at a computer 100 meters from my front door. Distance is no longer an issue. The signals go on the most available and fastest lines. The same is true with telephone and data in other countries. Since the U.S. has the most extensive and well developed telephone and data network in the world, much of the traffic flows through the U.S. As the WSJ phrases it: "If an al Qaeda operative in Quetta calls a fellow jihadi in Peshawar, that call may well travel through a U.S. network. This ought to be a big U.S. advantage in our 'asymmetrical' conflict with terrorists. But it also means that, for the purposes of FISA, a foreign call that is routed through U.S. networks becomes a domestic call. So thanks to the obligation to abide by an outdated FISA statute, U.S. intelligence is now struggling even to tap the communications of foreign-based terrorists."

There is some legal disagreement about whether or not FISA should apply in this case. We have argued that out on these pages and there is no reason to do it again. But one thing we all must agree on - because it is a fact - is that FISA was drafted in 1978. In those days, most Americans homes still had one of those clunky phones leased from the local phone company. When you wanted to make a long distance call, you often went through an operator. An international call was a big deal. I do not recall ANYBODY in my family even receiving or making an international call at all. Wiretapping literally required someone to identify a specific phone and tap the wire. Today wireless is replacing fixed lines. Billions more calls are made and data transfers w/o regard to local, state or national boundaries. Nobody thinks twice about making a call across the country or across the world. You can as easily call Pakistan as Pittsburg. You may well call Pittsburg from Pakistan AND it may be that a "local" call within Pakistan will be routed through Pittsburg and become a U.S. domestic call, protected by Democrats.

FISA was written in 1978. The world was very different in 1978 and technologies were primitive. In 1978, people would still pay a quarter to play Pong (for you young guys, pong was a video game consisting of two white lines and a slow moving ball) and Space Invaders was the greatest thing since sliced bread.

If Democrats want to pretend they live in the technological world of 1978, it is their business. Terrorists, however, are using 2007 level communications. We cannot hope to keep up with them if we depend on our 1978 rules for technologies. The Democrats rules will be able to catch any terrorist who use Commadore 64 computers. The others might slip past them. Time to update. All the skill with space invaders won't be much use in the modern world of warcraft.

Posted by Jack at July 27, 2007 11:18 PM
Comments
Comment #227603

Jack, So considering the constitution is pre 1978 should we just throw that aside as technologically challenged?
Perhaps the issue should be considered by the Legislature instead of just the decider. Ignoring FISA and lying about it doesnt instill confidence in the American people.

Posted by: j2t2 at July 28, 2007 12:13 AM
Comment #227607

J2t2

We should adapt this particular law to the new technologies involved. The law was created for cold war conditions and slow paced technologies. I do not think anybody envisioned protecting conversations among foreigners that just passed through American cyberspace.

Dems can cooperate to fix this if they can get off the politics and fun of Bush bashing.

Posted by: Jack at July 28, 2007 12:19 AM
Comment #227609

Jack, Its not bashing when its the truth. This is an administration that denies Habeas Corpus is a right granted by the Constitution. FISA was established for a reason Jack, to protect the rights of all Americans. If there exists a reason to review the law to update it then it should go thru the process to do so. To do as the 109th did and ignore the problem is not good representation IMHO Jack. To skirtthe FISA court as this administation did is just plain wrong Jack no matter what name you give it.

Posted by: j2t2 at July 28, 2007 1:01 AM
Comment #227610
It is very likely that these words right here I have written have bounced all over the world


Not very likely, while it is possible, but if networks worked like how you are implying, they would have been in gridlock years ago. While some technologies have changed, for the most part they are still utilizing the ole telephone interchange. Unless you are talking about phone-to-phone connections via satellite, more than likely any connection you are talking about traverses through a telephone company. So to say that we have made a quantum jump in technology since 1978 is wrong. Packet routing was developed in the late 60’s early 70’s.

The example given, a call from Peshawar to Quetta as potentially going through a U.S. network is highly unlikely, unless of course the call is a satellite call and for some bizarre reason the call was directed through the United States. More than likely, what you really mean is that the satellite is the property of the U.S. or some U.S. company, but the call will never reach U.S. soil proper.

The WSJ article is just a bunch of smoke and mirrors; it evidently doesn’t understand how networks work or the state of technology. The article does state correctly that warrants are not required for communication between two individuals outside of the U.S. So for those technologies that would route communications through the U.S. no warrant would be necessary. It is only communications that has an endpoint in the United States that require a warrant.

Since FISA already allows for warrants to be issued after the fact. To state that this is a deficiency in FISA or the new technologies make FISA obsolete, is just plain wrong.

Posted by: Cube at July 28, 2007 1:03 AM
Comment #227613

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Probable cause.

Yes, technology has changed. And yes, law enforcement has powerful tools. If there were no restrictions, it could use these tools to do a lot of good things: stop terrorists, capture murderers, the list is endless.

And yet, we prefer our right, enumerated in the Fourth Amendment, as a paramount value. Our freedom and our liberty depend upon that right. They are more important than than allowing government unlimited uses of powerful technologies for search & seizure, because without such restrictions upon the government, we give away our freedom, and we lose our liberty. Our government cannot monitor communications, nor conduct unwarranted searches without probable cause.

Posted by: phx8 at July 28, 2007 1:26 AM
Comment #227626

Jack, technology has changed. Our Constitutional Bill of Rights hasn’t. We have our sons and daughters dying in foreign lands swearing to protect and defend those very rights.

Doesn’t fear of terrorists motivating the undermining of the Constitutional Rights of Individuals raise any red flags for you? I was terrorized as a kid every day after school by a bully who stole my lunch money. I even feigned being sick to try to avoid going to school. In the end, standing up to him and telling him he can’t have it, and if he hits me again, the police will be called turned out to be the right decision. He took my money, he made my nose bleed. My parents called the police. He never took my money or came near me again.

If America is to continue to be the home of the Brave, she cannot, must not, allow fear to dictate her actions and compromise the best in her. And our Bill of Rights is truly a part of what is the best of America.

Let’s stand proud of our Constitution, and defend it. Secure our borders. Check the shipping containers. Check all international baggage on planes. Make it difficult for terrorists to strike. And undermine their efforts overseas where practical and possible without making enemies of non-terrorists in the world.

And for humanity’s sake, let’s at least diminish our role as the largest arms dealer in the world. Too often we find ourselves fighting our own weapons or, weapons purchased with our foreign aid. We are at this very moment funding Pakistan with billions of dollars, and oversight on how where those dollars are going in Pakistan is negligible.

Democracy is a grown up’s government. Let’s get back to acting and responding like intelligent, educated grown ups, in defense of this now, oldest living democracy on the face of the earth. Let’s act our age, and take the intelligent steps necessary to hold our heads high and proud in the world again, instead of fighting amongst ourselves like children over who screwed up first.

Altering our Bill of Rights out of fear of a small number of thugs and crazies, is a major, major screw up, which will afford no pride for America or her people in the end. We are a nation of law, and that law emanates from our Constitution. Let’s prosecute those who would subvert it, both in our government and overseas. That is the grown up way to handle this with integrity and pride intact.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 28, 2007 7:36 AM
Comment #227629

Jack,

It looks like you are making a straw man argument re calls between foreigners that just happen to be routed through the US. (If that even happens…) I don’t think anyone would claim that person A on foreign soil calling person B on foreign soil is protected by the US Constitution. If you can find any prominent Democrats who claim that I will be very impressed.

Look, the real argument hear is whether the government can listen on Americans without any kind of oversight. It used to be that conservatives were against that kind of thing.

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 28, 2007 9:24 AM
Comment #227632

Well the core of the problem is not that they are listening to terrorist, but that they are listening to very day American’s, who by the Constitution have the right of privacy. One reason radio scanners can no longer pickup cellphone calls is Newt had some of his call taped and played back so all could hear. Maybe that law needs to be changed so that we (everyday person)can again listen to cell phone calls, so we can monitor what our leaders are doing and saying, and if top secret stuff is being talked about then shame on them if they get caught.
After all this technolgy stuff is monitored, next is you have to take your snail mail to a censor to make sure what’s in it.
How much freedoms are you will to give up before you have no freedoms left?

Posted by: KT at July 28, 2007 10:33 AM
Comment #227641

Jack

Your argument is that technology has made the constitution obsolete? And this is a “conservative” arguement?Where is Eisenhower and Goldwater when we need them?
PS Space Invaders IS the best thing since sliced bread.

Posted by: BillS at July 28, 2007 12:39 PM
Comment #227646

Jack,

You entirely avoided the main issue. FISA demands that before a warrantless wiretap be authorized, the attorney general affirm that it is improbable that the communications involve a U.S. person. If you don’t like the Fourth Amendment, I suggest you push to have it repealed.

FISA says nothing about the intricacies of phone networks; that’s a red herring. I suggest you read the law.

Posted by: Gerrold at July 28, 2007 1:13 PM
Comment #227653

All

The “right” to privacy is mostly a recent development. The Constitution guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures. Technologies and they way we use them today were not envisioned in 1787, nor in 1978 for that matter. Monitoring the communications of terrorists is not unreasonable. If someone in America is on the other side, I do not think it is unreasonable to check that out.

As far as I am aware, evidence gathered by terrorist surveillance has not been used as evidence against Americans citizens.

This surveillance seems to be proactive, designed to detect and prevent terror acts rather than investigate crimes already committed. I do believe this violates our constitutional l rights and as far as I am aware the Supreme Court has not decided either way.

I hope that president Bush confronts the congressional Democrats on this issue. He should never have made concessions at all. Let the courts decide if it comes to that and let the Americans people decide how highly they value of privacy for terrorists and people talking to them.

Posted by: Jack at July 28, 2007 1:35 PM
Comment #227654

The question isn’t how new technologies in communications have facilitated our potential enemies. The real question is how new computer technologies can be utilized by our government to monitor everybody’s actions.

Specifically data mining, where computers in search of keywords can indiscriminately monitor all our communications. Since no probable cause can be demonstrated prior to this indiscriminate monitoring, domestic monitoring should be considered illegal. Yet this administration has striven to protect its’ ability to utilize data mining, and continues to try to expand its use wherever and whenever possible.

Posted by: Cube at July 28, 2007 1:46 PM
Comment #227660

Jack,

The germane issue is the same now as it was in 1978 when FISA was crafted in response to a SCOTUS suggestion that Congress create such legislation. Because FISA allows retroactive warrants, nothing prevents wiretapping of U.S. persons reasonably suspected of terrorist activities. Indeed, the administration claims that it is now following the law and is NOT making the claim that doing so hinders information collection. Regardless, this administration has reserved the “right” to violate the law when it chooses.

On the face of it, the Bush administration has publically admitted to committing felonies. The courts have not ruled on this; a recent case was tossed out because the plaintiffs could not prove they were victims of domestic warrantless wiretapping. Because targets are secret, we have a classic Catch-22.

Congress, if it were responsible, would immediately move to impeachment — not to punish the criminal behavior of the Bush administration, but to make it clear to future presidents that we do not permit anyone, even a president or vice president, from placing himself above the law. This is important because we’ve seen how terrorism hysteria can lead to Constitutional abuses. Given that no one believes the War on Terror will be ended, ever, we have a formula to continue to chip away at Constitutional rights.

I do not understand how concern over these issues has anything to do with political affiliation. I don’t believe for a second that Hillary Clinton, if elected, would voluntarily cede whatever expanded powers she can grab. You are simply wrong on this issue, Jack, and I have no doubt that you will eventually come around.

Posted by: Gerrold at July 28, 2007 2:09 PM
Comment #227665

Jack,

I don’t think it’s much of a stretch for most Americans to equate illegal search and seizure, which we’re protected consititutionally from, and the government listening in our phone calls. But then, you guys equated Abu Ghraib with a frat party.

Monitoring international calls is already being done completely legally, and queueing up a wiretap simply requires a judge’s signature. Give me an example of when this illegal process of wiretapping American’s domestic calls led to important information. It’s had time to prove itself.

I’m sorry, but I can’t think of any reason to wiretap Americans phone calls other than to provoke civil libertarians into a defensive posture where they can be called “soft on terrorism”.

There are hundreds of completely legal tactics this administration could take to make us safer, but they blew it, hence the deserved Bush bashing. Sorry, what’s the argument? Oh yeah, I don’t believe in amnesty for criminals, so throw the bum in jail. If I wanted to make this country safer that would priority numero uno.

Posted by: Max at July 28, 2007 2:36 PM
Comment #227670


“The “right” to privacy is mostly a recent development. The Constitution guarantees against unreasonable searches and seizures. Technologies and they way we use them today were not envisioned in 1787, nor in 1978 for that matter.”

You’re right Jack. Now I suppose you are on the side of the people who consider the constitution a living document…..can we now reconsider the second amendment in light of new weapon technology?

What happened to the real conservatives?

Posted by: 037 at July 28, 2007 4:30 PM
Comment #227671

Max

Abu Ghraib was a crime for which people were punished. If you think it was like a frat party, I disagre and so do most people.

The surviellence was briefed to Dems in congress who had not objections until it became a political football. Nobody has been able to indicate any harm to any American. We just need to bring ourselves up to date on the technologies.

If we break up terror attacks before they take place nobody notices, but it is better to avoid than to react.

Posted by: Jack at July 28, 2007 4:31 PM
Comment #227682

Jack, the Constitution also stresses DUE PROCESS. FISA is the due process of our law required by law to be followed before invading the privacy of American citizens.

Just today the news is reporting that the Administration is collecting data to be kept for data mining for 15 years on passengers on inbound flights, many American. Guess what data they are collecting? Political affiliation, religion, sexual orientation. Yep, that’s the data this administration finds crucial to collect on Americans to fight terrorists.

Why oh why were those polyps benign and why did the doctors not see the cancer between his ears. This is wholesale shredding of our U.S. Constitution Jack. Even under attack, our founding fathers would never have stood for this kind of data collection. This is the kind of data you want on your political opponents. The administration says it is for checking and clearing those passengers. Then why is the data to be stored and mined for 15 years?

This is tyranny, pure and simple, and we all know what America should do about tyrants. The Postman knows.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 28, 2007 6:42 PM
Comment #227695

David

Is data mining denial of due process? How?

We need to bring our practice in line with the technologies. The courts have not spoken conclusively on these things and the congress has refused to address the problem. The result so far has been only confusion and recrimination. The price might go way up if this confusion lets a terror attack hit America.

I believe the President would be doing us all a favor if he provoked an incident re the new technologies and got the courts to come down clearly and/or the congress to remedy the situation. Unfortunatley, while I believe he would win the arguement, he certainly would lose the politics.

Posted by: Jack at July 28, 2007 11:16 PM
Comment #227696

Aww Jack, you’ve been absolutely clobbered here by the lefties and David Remer. That actually made me feel bad for you — for about ten seconds. ;^)
I’m wondering where are all your rightwing comrades who are willing to stand in full agreement with your stated argument?
Maybe they’re all too busy baiting everyone over in the blue column…

Posted by: Adrienne at July 28, 2007 11:16 PM
Comment #227716

Adrienne

My position here is unpopular and you are right that not many will come out to defend it. I do not believe the constitution dictates such a complete right to privacy. The courts have not spoken on this issue and the congress refuses to deal with it.

I am a moderate type person, not subject to wild passion swings. What I fear is that there will be another terror attack that could have been avoided if we had properly monitored terrorist communications. After that there will be lots of recriminations and soon after that the popular position will be much more than I am advocating. People are usually less reasonable than I am.

If you demand an absolute standard, you often end up with nothing.

Poland used to have a rule called the liberum veto. It was the golden freedom. Anybody in the parliament could veto anything. They defended their rights, right until the the time the country was carved up between the Russians, Prussians and Austrians and they lost all their rights as their counry disappeared entirely for 123 years.

If you look at a map of Europe around 1700, you will find that Poland is the biggest country besides Russia. It also was one of the most liberal (small l) It was one of the first countries with a written constitution and a type of rights bill. But it was gone in 1800. All gone.

Right now we are very powerful and can defend ourselves. But if we insist on silly things, we might lose the bigger ones. One good thing that would follow from a Dem victory in 2008 is that Dems would suddenly “discover” the need for FISA reforms, just like they discovered the problem with special prosecutors under Clinton. At that time most of the lefties will swing to this side of the debate. Probably not David, who has lots of integrity about these things, but most others.

Posted by: Jack at July 29, 2007 8:34 AM
Comment #227727

Jack,

Updating FISA is uncontroversial to me. I do wonder, though, what’s the point if the executive branch reserves the right to disregard the law on wiretapping.

You may believe that concern over domestic warrantless wiretapping is “silly.” I’d remind you of the long history of government violating the law to engage in warrantless wiretapping for political aims or for purposes any reasonable person would find absurd.

Given that FISA allows retroactive warrants and given that the FISA court permits virtually all government requests for wiretapping, I simply do not see how FISA creates an undue burden. It provides the barest minimum oversight. I honestly do not understand why this is even a controversy. I do not trust even good people all the time; when a particular mindset prevails, good people are capable of justifying all sorts of criminal behavior. I’m afraid you are simply more trusting than I am.

When the executive branch refuses to acknowledge that the law prevails, Congress is left with no choice if it wants to perserve the integrity of the government. It must use its impeachment power to make it clear that what the limits are.

I’m realistic enough to know that impeachment is extremely unlikely because, of course, Congressmen have their own agendas, and preserving the integrity of our government unfortunately is not the top priority. Perhaps if Hillary Clinton abuses her office, then we’ll see Congress step in. Plenty of people excuse members of their own party, and plenty of people here who are unconcerned about a Republican president behaving the way this one has will not tolerate it from a Democrat. And neither will I.

Posted by: Gerrold at July 29, 2007 12:32 PM
Comment #227729

Here’s a good question to ask at a Republican debate, “There is a good chance that Hillary Clinton will be the next President. Should she have the ability to listen to Americans’ phone calls without a warrant?”

The surviellence was briefed to Dems in congress who had not objections until it became a political football. Nobody has been able to indicate any harm to any American. We just need to bring ourselves up to date on the technologies.

First of all they did have objections, which they voiced in private. It was supposed to be a secret, right? Secondly, your reasoning is circular in any case. No matter when they spoke up, you guys would have complained that they were playing politics.

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 29, 2007 12:56 PM
Comment #227760

Jack said: “Nobody has been able to indicate any harm to any American. We just need to bring ourselves up to date on the technologies.”

Nobody was able to indicate any harm done to Jews by the SS during that period of data collection in which Jews names, addresses, assets, places of business, were merely collected into record books, as the Jews continued about their daily lives.

No, no harm then. The harm came after the database was assembled. And the efficiency of action which that database afforded prevented anyone from stopping what was to come, or how it ended.

When a government “needs” to know its own citizen’s sexual orientation, political affiliation, and religion, as a consequence of having boarded an international flight, abject fear should be the response of the people and a commensurate rising up to HALT that government dead in its tracks on that “need” to know.

Do we learn nothing from history? Is America really this ignorant and stupid that it will permit these SS strategies perpetrated upon them in full view of historical witness?

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 29, 2007 4:50 PM
Comment #227766

Jack-
First, we haven’t established that Datamining is all that’s going on. There’s good evidence, including a hell of a lot of information storage technology indicating that it goes deeper than that.

But even if it is just datamining, it’s a violation. Governments are run by human beings who can be wrong about the assumptions they make. But unlike most people, those in government can inflict much harm on people. Look at Richard Jewell. Look at Wen Ho Lee. American Government’s power is supposed to be moderated by the need to show good cause and authority for its actions.

The legal standard for reasonable search and seizure is a warrant issued for probable cause. Only then should an American’s records and private communications be open to examination.

America is America. Datamining through folk’s calls looking for people to wiretap is like somebody sweeping the streets with Cameras looking for people to spy on, or the cops searching through all the houses in a neighborhood in order to catch an escaped criminal.

There are three reasons to require warrants.

The first is that police actions can be very intrusive and destructive to people’s lives and reputation, and folks can misjudge who deserves that attention.

The Second is, that this misjudgment, once made, will often be denied, and the offense buried beneath official bluff and bluster. Misjudgments like that can become habitual, those who make them kept from account as their mistakes erode the confidence of the people policed, and enable corruption that eats away at the efficacy of actual police work.

The third and last reason is that the standard of probable cause keeps police focused on purposeful, useful police work, sharpens their skills at analyzing the situation, and seeking the right suspects.

What I heard about the Datamining is that it’s next to useless. Computers are terrible at judging context. There’s a difference between saying “I’m going to kill that person.” and actually harboring a desire to actually do so. This becomes especially unwieldy when the enemy uses codewords that have completely innocuous uses, like “big meal”, and “wedding”, because obviously people can use those words in communicating information about the real things.

At the end of the day, the broad stroke methods of the the Bush administration’s extra-legal efforts strike me as desperate attempts to stop all terror attacks, which will never happen.

We have better luck if we follow the facts, follow the evidence, do our best to make sure our info is good. It also makes it easier to use the information on the terrorists after everything is said and done, since it was gathered legally. There’s the way we want to do things right, and the way we actually do things right, and often the difference is in the hidden realities of the case we’re investigating.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 29, 2007 5:48 PM
Comment #227777

Stephen

We are talking about somewhat different things. I am talking about government using technologies to research connections and find patterns that might allow us to anticipate and break up terror plots.


You are worried about using evidence in criminal proceedings. In the case of a criminal investigation, you could easily still require a higher level of proof. So far, nobody has been prosecuted with the methods like date mining. Have you heard of anything beyond the hypothetical?

Re date mining, it works for lots of things in business and opinion research. It can establish patterns that can later be investigated. If the enemy uses code words consistently enough, the date mining will can find it. Many things that make no sense viewed in isolation gain a great deal more meaning when put into context and patterns.

I think you may have jumped a step. YES investigation with relliable information is essential. That is what we do AFTER the data has indicated a pattern. Probably most patterns will turn out to be dead ends after properly investigated. Many more things COULD be true than are true. That is why we investigate, but we need some idea of where to look.

Posted by: Jack at July 29, 2007 7:41 PM
Comment #227789

Jack,

The administration claims that it is only accessing international banking records (through SWIFT). Maybe the administration is lying, maybe not. At any rate, it claims that it respects the privacy of Americans. Maybe that is true, maybe not. It’s not datamining itself that may raise Constitutional concerns; it’s how the data are acquired. If the administration is being truthful, then there is no problem. Given it’s penchant for secrecy and its past admissions about domestic warrantless wiretapping, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn the administration is lying.

I do not want my bank records accessed by the government without a warrant. And because I don’t trust the government, I still use cash for many transactions. (Smart terrorists, presumably, would be even more careful.) I also give false information on applications for those stupid grocery store cards because I don’t want Kroger tracking my purchases and sending me crap in the mail.

You can say that if I’m not a criminal I have nothing to fear, but I say how I use my money is my own business.

BTW, Jack, I’m sure you are aware that the courts have said that information obtained through FISA wiretaps can be used for criminal prosecution, as long as the primary reason for the wiretaps was to gain foreign intelligence. This is another reason to make certain wiretaps are legally sanctioned.

Posted by: Gerrold at July 29, 2007 8:23 PM
Comment #227802

Gerrold

If they want to prosecute, they need the FISA warrants as you say. General research and aggegation is not the same thing. Terrorists might be smart (although most of the rank and file are probably not) but they need to move money in ways you do not. If you see patterns in the flow, you can investigate. Your bank records would presumably be uninteresting, except maybe if the terrorists were using your accounts w/o your knowledge and then I expect you might want the authorities to find out.

Posted by: Jack at July 29, 2007 9:15 PM
Comment #227829

Jack,

I think it’s worth pointing that our government is not only doing secret, unsupervised surveillance, but they were caught operating secret prisons in Europe. Moreover, the Bush administration keeps coming close to saying that whatever the President does is legal. Why bother prosecuting anyone if you are a law unto yourself?

I can’t wait until Hillary gets elected. She’ll be able to spy on her enemies and put them in secret prisons. Woohoo! :)

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 30, 2007 1:48 AM
Comment #227877

Jack-
What is it that made this so controversial, that the Bush Administration felt it couldn’t be maintained without additional say-so from our buddy Ashcroft? If it was so innocent, Comey wouldn’t have balked, and Gonzales wouldn’t be showing up at a sedated Attorney General’s bedside trying to get him to overrule him.

Two problems crop up here: what data was used to justify surveillance, and whether justifying surveillance on such grounds as a dumb computer making some correlative connection is constitutional or even effective act. Is it any more justified than somebody pulling over a person because they’re black?

I’ll talk more on this later.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 30, 2007 6:01 PM
Comment #227880

Woody:
“I can’t wait until Hillary gets elected. She’ll be able to spy on her enemies and put them in secret prisons. Woohoo! :)”

I think that no matter which Dem wins, the members of the Bush Administration should all be labeled “enemy combatants” for aiding the spread and danger of terrorism. Give them a taste of what they’ve been peddling: Send ‘em off to Gitmo, without trials, indefinitely.

Posted by: Adrienne at July 30, 2007 6:09 PM
Comment #227905

Woody

How many people were in those secret “prisons”?

The answer, BTW, is fewer than 100.

If you caught a major terrorist, what would you do with him? Do you immediately announce it and tip off his friends to cover their tracks. And if you keep him and you keep it secret, what do you call the place you keep him?

The crime was that the media revealed these secrets and compromised our efforts against terror and our allies.

Adrienne

YOu would just let terror suspects run free? Or maybe you would hold them in the county jail. You may not like what was done, but it has kept you safe, whether you are grateful or not, you are welcome.

Woody and Adrienne

Seriously, when we caught Khalid Sheikh Mohammed what would you have done? Would you really have just read him Miranda rights and let him exercise the right to remain silent? Would you let him talk in private to the attorney of his choice? Would you free him on bail as you built a case?

Terrorism is not an ordinary crime. These guys are like organized crime, but worse. Is your goal just to try them and put them in prison or is your goal to prevent the next incident too?

Dems are often soft on crime. It causes individual problems when they let the ordinary bad guys out on technicalities. But in the case of terrorism, it is a little more serious.

Posted by: Jack at July 30, 2007 9:47 PM
Comment #227998

Jack,

How do you know how many of these prisoners there were/are? Do you have inside information, or are you just really trusting?

Obviously there is a need sometimes to keep secret that you nabbed an individual. But aren’t talking about secret prisoners, we’re talking about secret prisons. That kind of secrecy is the mark of a police state.

Even ordinary criminals can be held pending trial. As for Miranda, etc., I think we can find a happy medium between giving them the full array of rights and throwing them in a secret dungeon somewhere and waterboarding them until they confess.

Posted by: Woody Mena at July 31, 2007 9:03 PM
Comment #228051

Woody

These are not secret prision. The EU investigated and found that the situation is more as you say. There are secret prisoners. Not very many of them either. At the most a several dozen.

Posted by: Jack at August 1, 2007 8:02 AM
Comment #229597

Jack,

This sounds like the republican knee jerk response to those who oppose the Death penalty.

When such people are confronted with information concerning the number of those who are innocent who nonetheless get executed, they invariably respond by saying: “…Well they were probably guilty of something anyway” …as though the death penalty is excusable for petty crimes!

Sometimes they say: “Well, it can’t be that many…surely it is a small percentage or number that are wrongfully executed.” …as though that somehow justifies it.

These are the same people who supposedly believe in the sanctity of life!

The hypocrisy is mind-numbing.

I don’t care if it is ONE “secret prisoner” or “secret prison” …IT IS WRONG!!!

Posted by: RGF at August 16, 2007 3:05 AM
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