Suspicious of the NSA

The New York Times, after careful consideration for a year or so, broke a story just after the Iraq election and also at just the time the PATRIOT act was being fillibustered and McCain’s ‘Al-Quaida bill of rights’ accepted that implies illegal invasion of privacy by the administration. Captain Ed discusses this in NSA Snoops And PATRIOT Acts = 4 Years Of No Attacks?

the core of the issue is this: the NSA and the administration defined international communications as including those where one end — and one end only — occurs in the US. Anything else still requires a warrant, as the Times acknowledges. Moreover, this effort did not take place in darkness. The FISA court did get informed of the issue, and the leaders of the oversight committees in both houses of Congress from both parties took part in the decision. It does not appear that the Bush administration sought to hide this from the other two branches of government, but sought to include them in the oversight of the new process as much as possible within the secrecy needed to conduct the program during wartime.

He thinks that this is a good time to have a debate because a bit of time has elapsed since 9/11 to calm things down and yet the issue is pressing and important.

let’s be clear about the stakes involved in this debate: does the Constitution allow the United States to take the necessary actions to defend itself against asymmetrical warfare without unduly curtailing individual liberties? Does the Constitution require us to sacrifice thousands, perhaps millions, of our citizens to murderers and infiltrators simply because we might not like the idea of international communications being subject to random monitoring?

Captain Ed also suggests additional reading:

Please see postings at various blogs such as Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin, the threads on The Corner, and numerous links and excellent original commentary at Instapundit as well.

There are many corners to this one. It is a ‘big brother’ allegation FUD mongering about the government invasion into our ‘private’ lives. There is suspicion that the story is politically driven both by the NYT and by inside bureaucrats who despise the current administration. One should also not forget the “it takes a village” ethos which derives community from shared intimate knowledge. This is also linked to the Able Danger project as a ‘data mining’ effort to cull out suspicious activity. A creative person could also tie in the secret prisons scandal and other leaks of privileged information about war on terror conduct.

What often gets left out of the dialog about privacy is the protections in the system and the distinction between having information and using information (remember all the talk about connecting the dots after 9/11?). The fundamental protection of a US citizen is that information not properly obtained cannot be used in a trial. In addition to this are the civil remedies for distribution of private information. And, on top of that, are those reasons that are being circulated as to why the report of the last independent investigator is being suppressed by Democrats, which again seems linked to the Able Danger project.

The problem with the idea for debate, though, is that all sides need to enter such a debate with intellectual integrity. The response of Reid to Bush’s presumption of innocence – in line with American tradition and law – or the response of Pelosi to a House resolution about victory in Iraq tend to cast doubt on whether or not the debate could indeed be engaged honestly.

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