Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Country Run by Liars

So, our favorite US security agency, the National Security Agency (the agency no one had ever heard of before last year) is at it again. And, wouldn't you know it? We were lied to about what they've been up to. Again. And it directly affects me and you and you and you. Except you, who buy your phone service from Qwest. You're fine, you lucky dog.

The news came this morning from USA Today, of call places. Not exactly the newspaper I look to for hard-hitting journalism. But they reported that the NSA has obtained the phone records of millions of people, covering millions of phone calls. AT&T, Verizon, and Bell South all ponied up their records. For big bucks and promises of future government contracts, natch.

The NSA's goal is to "create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders. What's the point? Data mining. Amassing information in hopes of determining patterns of behavior. Because, clearly, looking at the phone records of every person in South Dakota will elucidate the activities of Al-Queda.

Bush defended the practice saying, "The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans." Mr. President, I hope and pray that we are just not that stupid anymore. In an article from a few days ago discussing General Hayden and his relationship to the wiretapping of international phone calls without a warrant, Ralph G. Neas from the People for the American Way (always sounds like a conservative group to me!) said, "There's no question they got a lot of mileage in 2002 and 2004 out of scaring the bejeebers out of people, but this time the public is too aware about what Rove and the president are trying to do."

What are they trying to do? Strip us of our civil rights through manipulation and lies. Perhaps this wouldn't be news in a different country. Cold War USSR, perhaps. But it's news here. This isn't the way America is supposed to operate, last time I checked in on my civil rights. Usually, a court has to approve before the government can worm its way into my phone records. But the Bush administration isn't terribly excited about my civil rights--or yours.

The Bush administration, and President Bush particularly, also isn't terribly excited about telling the truth. Last year, Bush said he'd authorized the NSA to eavesdrop without warrants on phone calls. But he very specifically said that these were only to be international calls. Bush said, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States."

Guess not. Instead, Bush has authorized spying on the phone records of over 200 million American citizens. Citizens who have done nothing wrong other than not choosing Qwest as their phone carrier. Are they listening in? Not yet. But it's a pretty simple process to do so, once they have the records. Particularly as they've shown no desire to bother with FISA courts and warrants.

And what about Qwest? Why didn't Qwest give in to the NSA's coercion tactics and bribes? They were concerned about THE LAW. Federal law makes it a crime to turn over phone records without a warrant. Qwest asked NSA to go to the FISA court and get a warrant. They refused, saying that FISA might not agree with the plan.

This is what our government has devolved to: lying, avoiding the court system, and spying on innocent people. Let's hope this latest round of abhorrent government behavior results in, what? Further point drops in Bush's popularity polls? Not enough punishment, folks. When is impeachment going to get some traction? Clinton lied about having sex. Bush lied about national security. Hello?

And how can we punish those corporations who are benefiting from selling our privacy out? Complain to your phone carriers. Really. Push (0) on your landline or 611 on your cell and let your phone company know how you feel about them selling you out.



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