A View From The Handbasket

Thursday, May 11, 2006
Now We're All Terrorists
Posted by neros_fiddle at 4:17 PM

The lead paragraph of the Washington Post story says it all:

President Bush, responding to a newspaper report on a previously undisclosed program to track the phone call patterns of millions of Americans, insisted today that U.S. intelligence activities he has authorized are lawful and aimed strictly at the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

If the Patriot Act was the camel's nose, and the warrantless wiretaps were the whole camel, then the revelation of enormous telephone call data mining by the NSA means the tent is now full of camel shit.

Bush knows this, and emerged into the popping flashbulbs today to make a damage-control statement, which strangely was entirely about the warrantless wiretapping scandal, not the new scandal being reported today. The two are very different, but Bush apparently wants us to think today's story is the same as last year's story. But in doing so, the things he says make no sense at all (or less than usual, depending on your level of cynicism).

To review, 200 million phone calls have been logged by the NSA, thanks to help from AT&T, Verizon and Bellsouth. In an interesting subplot, Qwest refused to participate. In the USA Today article which broke this story, we learn:

In addition, the agency suggested that Qwest's foot-dragging might affect its ability to get future classified work with the government. Like other big telecommunications companies, Qwest already had classified contracts and hoped to get more.

So while Qwest wouldn't budge without a court order, even in the face of direct threats, three other giant telcos obligingly handed over the records. And now the NSA is poring through the records of hundreds of millions of phone calls, looking for anything they might find interesting.

Or not. Bush insists:

We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans.

Just let the utter mendacity and naked disingenuousness of that remark wash over you like a numbing wave of arrogance. In order for Bush's statement to have any remote relationship with the truth (assuming the veracity of the USA Today story, which is not being denied), one of the following must be true:

- Phone activity is not considered "personal."
- They have expended enormous effort compiling this information and not doing anything with it.
- They do not assume anyone to be innocent.

Everyone who's been mindlessly bleating, "I don't care what they do to protect me, I've got nothing to hide," is now face-to-face with the increasingly surreal consequences of their dereliction: we are all targets of investigation. We are all terrorists until we can demonstrate otherwise.

More from Bush:

As a general matter, every time sensitive intelligence is leaked, it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy.

Discovering unAmerican activities by the government is, according to the government, unAmerican. We will violate your freedom to protect your freedom, and if you find out, you're endangering your freedom. Orwell weeps.

And, finally, the first three word's of Bush's statement:

After September 11

Every time the "I can do whatever I want because we got attacked" card gets played, the less effective it is. But Bush just keeps on doing it, because it's all that he has.

With former NSA head and warrantless wiretapping cheerleader Mike Hayden about to go before Congress to be confirmed as CIA chief, this is going to be a long hot summer in Washington.

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