This is an archive of the old Stones Cry Out site. For the current site, click here.

« We Have the Technology, But... | Main | Comments Working Again »

May 12, 2006

Criminalizing Dot Collecting

The revelation yesterday that the NSA has the same phone records that they pull weekly on "Law & Order" has Washington in a tizzy. However, it's not causing much concern outside of there.

A majority of Americans initially support a controversial National Security Agency program to collect information on telephone calls made in the United States in an effort to identify and investigate potential terrorist threats, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The new survey found that 63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, including 44 percent who strongly endorsed the effort. Another 35 percent said the program was unacceptable, which included 24 percent who strongly objected to it.

A slightly larger majority--66 percent--said they would not be bothered if NSA collected records of personal calls they had made, the poll found.

I'm not a big fan of polls in general, especially when they ask Americans about information outside their expertise. (Would a poll on how far away people think the moon is really mean anything? Should it affect policy on anything? The Patriot Post has a great article today on what it calls "Pollaganda" that's well worth reading.) But what this poll does show is that what some folks are calling "controversial" is only a controversy in their own mind. Is it illegal? Is it good or bad policy? This poll answers none of this, and as such doesn't really give us much information. What it does do is expose the bias of anyone suggesting that this program is currently controversial, unless their bar of controversy is somewhere north of 3/4ths agreement, which is rather silly and self-serving.

As to those who have an extremely low secrecy threshold, Scott Ott nails it.

Concerned that the National Security Agency (NSA) may have violated the civil liberties of Americans by analyzing records of millions of phone calls to detect patterns that might indicate terrorist activity, a bipartisan coalition in Congress today will unveil legislation to scrap the NSA and replace it with a more 'transparent' spy agency.

According to language in the measure, the new intelligence unit, dubbed Open-Source Intelligence (OSI), will "harness the power of the internet to protect the right of the American people to know how their spy dollar is spent."

"There's nothing like sunshine to ensure accountability," said an unnamed Congressional aide who spoke in exchange for a lobster dinner, a fine chianti and a $12 Macanudo cigar. "Just because the enemy is among us, using our telecommunications infrastructure to plot the next major attack, doesn't mean the government can sneak around doing secret stuff simply to save a few thousand, or million, lives. We have rights."

Many of the same people who blamed Bush for not "connecting the dots" prior to 9/11 are probably in that 35 percent that now want to make collecting those dots illegal.

Posted by Doug at May 12, 2006 01:06 PM

Trackback Pings


Great points Doug! First, it IS incredibly annoying that people are polled concerning things about which they know nothing. If I were asked a question I couldn't possibly answer, I would be forced to abstain. I wish other people would do the same.

Second, you are exactly right, not only do they pull phone records weekly on Law & Order, but they do it on CSI, Numbers and Without a Trace :) Plus, in those cases, names are associated with the records, which isn't happening at the NSA.
But, more importantly, the police also do this in REAL LIFE! I would even say that every day somewhere in the country local police engage in "warrantless phone record pulling."

Shocking, I know. Especially since they then use it to solve crimes. Poor criminals, getting in trouble for talking on the phone.

And while I have the greatest respect for local law enforcement, I would say the amount of corruption at the local police level is greater than the amount of corruption at the NSA. And yet, no one gets made about what the police are doing - and rightly so because it's no big deal. Unless you have committed a crime, in which case it becomes a little more important.

Anyway, of all the things there are to worry about in the world, getting stressed over NSA computers knowing how many times I call to order pizza is not ever going to be one of them.

Posted by: Abigail Brayden at May 12, 2006 04:24 PM

I wonder if you would feel the same were the administration one run by Democrats. By Socialists? By Communists? By Islamists?

Posted by: Steiner at May 31, 2006 10:05 AM