ComputerWorld on NSA spying

I like it when others agree with me. And I like not letting go of old peeves. So when I see someone talking about something I talk about, agreeing with me, and saying what they have to say months after everyone else forgets about it, I’m happy. In this case, I’m pleased with this ComputerWorld article on what’s wrong with the NSA spying authorized by Bush. I still maintain that this is illegal, that President Bush should be removed from office, and that the less than a dozen congress-critters who were informed of this and didn’t work to stop it should all be removed as well. Here’s some of what Ira Winkler had to say.

As a former NSA analyst, I’m dismayed by the continuing revelations of the National Security Agency’s warrantless — and therefore illegal — spying. The case involves fundamental issues related to NSA’s missions and long-standing rules of engagement. What’s even more dismaying is the lack of public reaction to this.

. . .

The FISA law allows NSA to request those warrants up to 72 hours after the fact — that is, after the data has been analyzed. And lest you think that the courts from which such warrants are requested are staffed by a bunch of liberal, activist, criminal-coddling judges, they have reportedly turned down only five warrants in the last 28 years. So when President Bush says, “If Osama bin Laden is calling someone in the United States, we want to know about it,” followed by his nervous laugh, he’s laughing at the American public, since “knowing about it” is a totally irrelevant issue. FISA blocks no legitimate acquisition of knowledge.

. . .

If Bush didn’t like the FISA laws, he could have asked Congress to amend them. After all, after 9/11 Congress passed a wide variety of laws (without, for the most part, reading them) that were supposed to prevent another attack. They could have easily slipped something modifying FISA into all of that legislation. They did not, though recent revelations about this administration’s use of signing statements may indicate that they simply didn’t want to raise the possibility of questions.

Ignoring FISA’s rules concerning warrants is illegal. It also weakens national security, since the process of obtaining the warrants has an effect on quality control. To date, FBI agents have been sent out to do thousands of investigations based on this warrantless wiretapping. None of those investigations turned up a legitimate lead. I have spoken to about a dozen agents, and they all roll their eyes and indicate disgust with the man-years of wasted effort being put into physically examining NSA “leads.”

. . .

We have snakes in our midst, yet we are chasing a mythical beast with completely unreliable evidence.

And now we discover that the NSA is searching through every possible phone call made in the U.S.. They claim that the NSA is not receiving any personally identifying information. Frankly, you have to be a complete moron to believe that. It is trivial to narrow down access to a phone number to just a few members of a household, if not in fact to exactly one person.

The government claims that it got the information legally since it was given the data or bought it from the telecom companies. Perhaps, but USA Today reports that at least one company (Qwest) received threats from the U.S. government for not cooperating. That’s extortion — another crime.

Congress is not exercising any backbone at all, and neither are its constituents — a.k.a., you.

. . .

The arguments I hear for it are that 1) I have nothing to worry about so I don’t care if they investigate me, 2) we need to do everything we can to protect ourselves, or 3) the NSA isn’t listening to the content of the calls, so there’s no harm.

Addressing the first point, people who did nothing wrong have been investigated and jailed in this country and others over the years.  Additionally, I believe that Saddam Hussein would cheerfully agree with the tired allegation that if you did nothing wrong, you shouldn’t mind the government looking at your calls.  I think Lenin, Stalin, Hitler and the Chinese government would also agree with that line of thought.  Is this the company we consent to keep in the name of safety?

. . .

At the same time, we have seen the Bush administration go after Joesph Wilson, the ambassador who spoke out against the Bush administration, by leaking potentially classified information about him.  They vigorously tried to undermine the credibility of Richard Clarke and others who spoke out against them.  Now consider that the NSA telephone call database is not classified; there’s no legal reason that they can’t use this database as vindictively as they did, even when the data was potentially classified, as in releasing the information that Valerie Plame, Wilson’s wife, worked for the CIA.

Please, go read the full article.  There’s a lot I’ve left out.  I will be very forward and admit that I think President Bush is a terrible President, that the current administration is bad for America, that our rights are slowly and quietly being stripped away and that I think we Americans were willfullly and maliciously lied to about Iraq to get approval for the war in Iraq that would not have been granted had the truth been provided.  I also think, though, that things would probably be worse, although in a different way, had Kerry won the last election, and the Al Gore likely would not have been a good or inspirational leader after 9/11 when America needed someone who was ready to lead the country through tough times.

All that said, my current anger about the illegal NSA spying transcends party lines – what was done is wrong no matter who decided to do it.  President Clinton lied about his affair with Monica Lewinski.  I didn’t care.  He then lied during a trial while under oath.  Then I started caring.  That was enough to justify removing him from office.  What President Bush has done is even worse, in my eyes, and it really concerns me that so few people in America care that the President has broken the law and doesn’t even care.

I will keep posting about this every time I see a well written article about it, because it matters enough that people need to be constantly reminded until those responsible for this are appropriately punished.

[tags]President Bush broke the law, NSA Spying, Bush hates America, Bush above the law?[/tags]

2 thoughts on “ComputerWorld on NSA spying”

  1. You state, “I think we Americans were willfullly and maliciously lied to about Iraq to get approval for the war in Iraq that would not have been granted had the truth been provided.”

    The facts show, including in the 9/11 report, that EVERYONE (members of our congress on both sides, other nations, et cetera) thought that the information provided to Bush prior to the war was all true. You are a smart guy, read the 9/11 report yourself. Stop playing into the hands of the media– or lieberals– on this one.

    Facts now show that much of it was in fact true. We even have one of Saddam Hussein’s top military/arms guy that admit that WMD were hidden in other cargo and taken to Iraq and Syria.

    For the record; I do not like the way the war is going today either.

  2. You say that as if you think my comments are based on the media idiocy going on around the mishandling of this affair. My belief is based on an early report from our government, put out prior to the official 9/11 report.

    The initial report which I read said that US intelligence told President Bush he could not go to the American public and state that we had intelligence indicating there were WMDs in Iraq, because our intelligence questioned the accuracy of that claim. Bush in the end said the British intelligence indicated possible WMDs in Iraq, which according to the report I read was something our intelligence agreed could be said, but some in the US intelligence community thought this was misleading if said without indicating the difference in what our intelligence believed.

    This report was then followed some months later by the results of the British investigation into their own intelligence during the lead-up to the war. Their report indicates a good probability that the British intelligence on possible WMDs was considered suspect by some on the British side, but still announced after some pressure by the Bush administration. I actually question this account, but that is in the British report that I saw on their own intelligence, so I have to factor that into my belief of how pre-war information was fed to the public vs. what was known in classified circles.

    And now you are telling me that the official report has details different than earlier reports. That bothers me a little, but I’ll accept that maybe more investigation showed the earlier report to be incorrect. If that’s true, then maybe my belief is wrong.

    Let me throw out a couple more things in the whole handling of Iraq that has bothered me. After Bush declared the end of major military actions in Iraq, he said in response to a question about not finding WMDs and not having yet found Saddam that the war was never about removing Saddam Hussein from power, but it was always about freeing the Iraqi people. That’s certainly not what I was told in the selling of war to the American public. Most Bush supporters I know just tell me he never said that, even though I heard it myself. So I just let them believe he didn’t change his story about why we went to war.

    In February before going to war, President Bush said there were no current plans for war with Iraq. About six weeks after the start of the war, I heard two separate interviews with the heads of the companies responsible for making rations for our military. Both said that they had been contacted by the current administration 6-8 months earlier and told to increase production of rations. Both said they were running at levels sufficient to support troops at war. If there were no plans in February, why ramp up ration output 4-6 months before then? Even if that’s a “just in case” preparation, how could there be no war plans in February and war in March/April? Either we went to war with no plan, or the President lied to the public.

    I could go on some more. I still believe we Americans were lied to in order to get approval for war with Iraq. I don’t expect others to believe what I believe, but I will continue to state my beliefs when I write about how much I think the current administration has done wrong. But I also will still say what I think the administration has done right – I don’t think the lies I believe occurred prior to the Iraqi war mean everything from the current administration is a lie. Unlike a lot of people who condemn the President, I can still see the good things he’s done and will say so when asked about them.

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