By Roger Wollenberg, Getty Images
In a country claiming to be safe, none of us are. We are not out of harm’s way; we are citizens of the United States of America, and therefore, in the world of Bush, that leaves us vulnerable. We are subject to the whims of our monarch King George W. Bush. He and his cronies, masquerading as The National Security Agency are monitoring some of our calls, most of our calls, or all of these. Every minute of every day, tens of millions of us were under surveillance.
Originally, we were told only foreign interests, those with ties to al Queda needed to worry. Their long distance correspondences were being monitored. Then we discovered this was not true, some domestic telephone calls were being scrutinized. Now, we learn what many of us assumed along, no one is above suspicion. Records are being kept and we are all suspects. According to the three largest phone companies, “tens of millions” of us are being watched. Could millions be billions? Might the number be in the trillions?
“USA Today” reported, AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth knowingly compiled information regularly for the National Security Agency. These corporations tracked telephone calls for the past four years. Fortunately, Qwest refused to comply with government demands.
Apparently, the telephone companies obediently, like lap dogs, are mining data in hopes of detecting patterns. The administration thinks these measures are necessary. Intelligence thinks these vital; they must identify the habits of ordinary people. No crime needs to be committed or in the planning stages. If you are breathing, this White House thinks there is reason to doubt your credibility. The telephone companies, by their actions, must agree.
The President and his players want us to believe that this trolling for information is not that. The records and recordings are harmless. Actually, officials say they are a safety net. We are told to trust the judgment and ethics of “leaders,” or to have faith in those that think themselves above the Constitutional directives. [Excuse me while I laugh, sadly, and then cry.]
Citizens, Congressmen, and Congresswoman were not accepting this. Even Republicans are speaking out. Senator Arlen Specter, Republican from Pennsylvania, and the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, said he plans to contact all the telephone groups involved. He is going to ask phone company representatives to speak at a hearing. Mr. Specter wants an explanation. He wants to know exactly what the NSA was requesting and what they were doing with all this information. Senator Specter has no illusions that the administration will be forthcoming; they have not been thus far.
Mr. Specter says this revelation will influence his decision to approve nominee General Michael V. Hayden. He thinks there is a direct correlation between that appointment and this issue. General Hayden, while working in the National Security Agency crafted this enormous spy plan. He directed the implementation. Later, while publicly speaking, he justified the program and stated it was legal. Now, to make him Director of the Central Intelligence Agency seems silly, even dangerous to Specter. The Pennsylvania Senator has his doubts. He has openly voiced that this appointment might not be wise.
A reaction such as this, particularly from a prominent Republican is distressing to the “powers-that be.” The White House realized damage must be controlled immediately. The Emperor, Wearing-No-Clothes, or his advisors decided to offer a press appearance. This differs from a press conference for in this there is no opportunity for discussion. This is an emergence, followed by a monologue, and then a quick exit.
It may be that a changing of the guards prompted this move. Mr. Bush has a new Press Secretary, Tony Snow and he may have stated a need for a swift explanation. The conference may have been a reaction to the Presidents polling numbers; they have fallen to an all time low. Nevertheless, tradition was broken. The Bush White House responded, the Baby spoke.
He babbled . . .
President Bush: After September 11th, I vowed to the American people that our government would do everything within the law to protect them against another terrorist attack. As part of this effort, I authorized the National Security Agency to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. In other words, if al Qaeda or their associates are making calls into the United States or out of the United States, we want to know what they’re saying.
Today there are new claims about other ways we are tracking down al Qaeda to prevent attacks on America. I want to make some important points about what the government is doing and what the government is not doing.
First, our intelligence activities strictly target al Qaeda and their known affiliates. Al Qaeda 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. We’re not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda and their known affiliates.
So far, we’ve been very successful in preventing another attack on our soil. As a general matter, every time sensitive intelligence is leaked, it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy. Our most important job is to protect the American people from another attack, and we will do so within the laws of our country.
Abruptly, Mr. Bush turned and left. No time was given for questions or answers. As the President prefers, discussions are unnecessary. All this had been stated before and I feel certain the Emperor had no desire to repeat him self. For King George II “It is just that simple.” There is a right way, a wrong way, and as he was often heard to state, “You are either with us or against us.” The famous Bush decision to unilaterally attack tell us all what happens if you are in opposition to this President.
Still there are questions. In Washington, pundits, people, and all but the President’s men and women are wondering, is this spying program truly legal. If it is not, why has nothing been done to stop it or censure the administration for engaging in it?
There is also the appointment of General Hayden to consider. Hayden was expected to sail right through the hearings. After all, he had done so before when approved for his position as Deputy Director of the National Security Agency. However, now with this revelation, much is in doubt.
Senator Diane Feinstein, who days ago was firmly in support of the nomination and actively praised the General now states, the disclosure, “is going to present a growing impediment to the confirmation of General Hayden.”
Former Presidential candidate, John Kerry, Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, chimes in, “”Enough is enough.” While speaking at American University in Washington, Kerry declared, “It is long overdue for this Congress to end the days of roll over and rubber stamp and finally assert its power of ??advise and consent’ before General Hayden becomes Director Hayden.”
The General himself declined to discuss the issue; though interestingly enough, earlier courtesy calls to members of Congress had been canceled. The prospective Director of Central Intelligence did offer, “All I would want to say is that everything the NSA does is lawfully and very carefully done.”
It seems it was, at least carefully concealed. All was executed so cautiously the public knew nothing of the practice until very recently. The plan must be right and correct for the righteous employed it. Is the covert action legal, as the administration states? It must be, they say it is and they make the law, or profess to have the authority to do so.
Months ago, while speaking at the National Press Club and serving as the lead defense of the “warrant-less surveillance” policy, Hayden proclaimed, “The purpose of this is not to collect reams of intelligence, but to detect and prevent attacks. This is targeted and focused. This is not about intercepting conversations between people in the United States.”
While yesterday’s discovery does not imply eavesdropping, it does contrast with what was formerly known of the shadowy program. Currently, we know the gathering of information is not tightly targeted; nor does it focus solely on terrorist suspects. All Americans might be the subjects of this sweep. Domestic and international calls are being tagged. This investigation is broad and burgeoning. It is, as much has been since September 11, 2001, questionable, not necessarily constitutional.
Since 911, so much of what our forebears gave us is lost. The Patriot Act now substitutes for the Bill of Rights. As Senator Leahy remarked, on the NewsHour, the news is now informing Congress.
“Unfortunately, the Congress has acted like a wholly-owned subsidiary of the White House and has rubber stamped everything that’s gone on. And then we usually find out through the press, whoops, they weren’t following the law.”
“”The president has said more times than all the presidents put together in history, through signing documents, that he will follow only parts of the law that he signs.”
Since the trauma of 9/11, the Senators and Congresspersons merely rubber-stamp the whims of the White House. Far too many people postulate, this is best. The numbers of voters in 2004 that affirmed as the President professes, Bush has kept America safe is odd to me. Many claim, as the Emperor himself does, “Terrorists have not attacked America again since 2001.” However, for me, the correlation is not clear.
What is evident is that people no longer think for themselves; they have Rush Limbaugh and the bunch to tell them what to think. [When Limbaugh used this tagline to advertise his radio program, I did not know whether I was more shocked or appalled by the idea that people would accept and appreciate this.]
They see government as a separate entity. The general public seems to forget, in America, government is of, by, and for the people. We, as individuals, groups, and communities united are the power.
Once upon a time, America prided itself on being a principled nation. We treasured what we believed needed to be essential rights. Our founders wrote of these. They proclaimed we have the right to freedom, justice, and privacy. They professed a belief in equality. Years ago, we were acting on this conviction.
In America, pre-nine-eleven, we thought our rights were not privileges for a few; we believed they were ubiquitous. Since September 11, 2001, we differ. We allow for transgressions. We willing let the President and his followers impose laws that violate our freedoms and our rights. For years, we have been willing to forego privacy. Even with the newer revelations, the knowledge that no citizen is safe from the “law,” we willingly give up what we once valued.
According to an ABC News, Washington Post poll,
Americans by nearly a 2-1 ratio call the surveillance of telephone records an acceptable way for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, expressing broad unconcern even if their own calling patterns are scrutinized.
This is so sad to me. We the people of the United States of America On NSA Spying: A Letter To Congressconsider ourselves intelligent; yet, we barely fund Education. Instead, we invest in Intelligence Agencies. These wield great authority in this country. They are a weighty group, fifteen strong. They have a budget of mega-billions; in dough, the National Security Agency and defense dominate.
Information gathering and implementing security measures are important in America. Thus, we take off our shoes, open our telephone records, and spend to stop the [perceived] threats. Yes, the USA has its priorities. Sadly, ethics are not among them.
[Interestingly, General Michael V. Hayden might be changing. The nominee is suggesting, possibly, judicial oversight might be wise. Can we trust this? Has Hayden ever had faith in the American people? Hummm. I am certain more and fascinating details will follow.]
Reference for your review . . .
• Bush defends NSA spying program CNN News. Sunday, January 1, 2006
• NSA Out To Track ‘Every Call Ever Made’; Bush Calls Move ‘Lawful’ By Gil Kaufman, MTV Networks
• Bush Denies Spying Infringes on Privacy, By Reuters. May 12, 2006
• Bush Is Pressed Over New Report on Surveillance By Eric LIichtblau and Scott Shane. New York Times. May 12, 2006
• NSA spy program broader than Bush admitted MSNBC and Reuters December 24, 2005
• NSA has massive database of Americans’ phone calls By Leslie Cauley, USA Today May 11, 2006
• President Bush’s Statement, Transcript New York Times. May 11, 2006
• Questions for Tony Snow By Dan Froomkin. Washington Post. Friday, May 12, 2006
• Quotes About the NSA Collecting Data By The Associated Press May 11, 2006
• NSA phone-records story excites Washington By Frank James. The Swamp, Chicago Tribune. May 11, 2006
• UPDATE: Questions Raised for Phone Giants in Spy Data Furor, New York Times. May 13, 2006
• NSA Spying Myths By David Cole. The Nation. February 2, 2006
• Controversy shadows Hayden confirmation By Bill Nichols and John Diamond, USA Today May 11, 2006
• Newsmaker Patrick Leahy. Is the NSA program legal? Online NewsHour.
• With Access Denied, Justice Department Drops Spying Investigation, By Scott Shane
New York Times. May 11, 2006
• DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
• NSA Program Revealed Online NewsHour May 11, 2006
• Limbaugh falsehood: “Leahy opposes NSA intercepts of the enemy” Media Matters. Friday, February 10, 2006
• On NSA Spying: A Letter To Congress Beth Nolan, Curtis Bradley, David Cole, Geoffrey Stone, Harold Hongju Koh, Kathleen M. Sullivan, Laurence H. Tribe, Martin Lederman, Philip B. Heymann, Richard Epstein, Ronald Dworkin, Walter Dellinger, William S. Sessions, William Van Alstyne. New York Review of Books. February 9, 2006
• United States Intelligence Community
• Americans Get Shaft Over Data Mining By Roy Mark. Internetnews.com May 12, 2006
• Phone-Records Surveillance Is Broadly Acceptable to Public By Gary Langer and Dalia SussmanABC News
• Domestic Security: The Homefront and War on Terrorism Online NewsHour May 12, 2006
• Hayden may favor spying law changes By David Morgan and Andy SullivanReuters Wednesday, May 10, 2006