Friday, May 12, 2006

The Spy Who Loves Us

After USA Today reported that the NSA has a massive database of domestic telephone call records, President Bush took the podium to defend his administration against charges of violating the right to privacy. Here's part of what he had to say:
First, our international activities strictly target al Qaida and their known affiliates. Al Qaida is our enemy, and we want to know their plans. Second, the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. Third, the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat. Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities.
First, that's swell, but the question at hand is about the purpose of your domestic activities. This tells us nothing. Second, the government certainly does listen to calls in which one end of the conversation is domestic. He can squirm out of this one on a technicality because the new NSA scandal doesn't involve listening to calls, only keeping records of who called whom, when and for how long. Third, this is a highly debatable point. They're lawful to the extent that Bush can legitimately circumvent the law as an extention of his executive power. Fourth, absolute hogwash.
We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al-Qaida and their known affiliates. So far we've been very successful in preventing another attack on our soil.
The government is in fact mining and trolling through the personal lives of millions of Americans—in an effort to root out terrorism, perhaps, but they're doing it nonetheless. This last line is my favorite, though. Cloaked, as their activities are, under a veil of secrecy, we have no way of verifying if what Bush says is true. That information is classified. The only evidence is the absence of an attack, which might be due to the Bush administration's vigilence, and might not. At times like this, it's best to turn to the Simpsons for guidance.
Lisa: Dad, what if I were to tell you that this rock keeps away tigers.
Homer: Uh-huh, and how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work. It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: I see.
Lisa: But you don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I'd like to buy your rock.
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