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Monday, May 15, 2006

Quote du jour

Billmon questions whether Friday's WaPo poll showing 63% of Americans supporting the NSA spying on us is accurate. More importantly, he points out that it CAN'T matter in a supposedly free society:
I get a little crazy in the head when I hear people (usually on the authoritarian right) citing the latest poll numbers as a political justification for their own position.

The whole point of having civil liberties is that they are not supposed to be subject to a majority veto. Hobbes may not have believed in natural rights, but our founders did. And their opponents, the anti-Federalists, were even more zealous about restraining the powers of the federal superstate, which is why they forced the Federalists to write the Bill of Rights directly into the Constitution.

It defeats the purpose of having a 4th Amendment if its validiity is entirely dependent on breaking 50% in the latest poll.
The WSWS explains some of the dangers in this program, for those 63% who apparently have never heard of "1984" or "The Gulag Archipelago:"
By these accounts, the computer programs being used by the NSA to analyze the phone call databases it purchased from the big telecommunications companies are a more advanced form of the "social-network analysis" software used by commercial and political marketing firms to profile potential advertising targets. Phone trees are traced to identify nodes and determine common interests and activities among those targeted.

In the case of commercial marketing, the purpose is to identify the best targets to receive a sales pitch. For the intelligence agencies, the purpose is to select targets for more intensive electronic surveillance, or arrest and (perhaps indefinite) detention.

The potential value of this information for purposes of political intimidation is enormous. Every person who has ever telephoned a 900 number, for instance, now has that fact permanently recorded in a government database, making him or her vulnerable to blackmail by federal agents. Likewise those whose phone records suggest problems with gambling, narcotics abuse, or even extramarital affairs.

The FBI regularly used such information for nefarious purposes during the notorious 50-year reign of J. Edgar Hoover, who kept special files on the sexual and other peccadilloes of congressmen and government officials. Now such information will be available on every American citizen.
Now some of the 63% are going to say (and a few even truthfully)--I don't do any of that stuff, so I've got nothing to worry about. Yeah? Got any friends or relatives with these problems, anyone you've called or who has called you. Got any friends or relatives who are politically active or protest in the streets or write blogs?

Remember, we are talking about an administration that clearly told numerous lies to start a war, that has locked up hundreds, including some US citizens, for years without legal protection. They keep a "no-fly" list, but won't tell us who is on it or why. They claim repeatedly to be above the law. Maybe you're thinking, well, if it's that bad, I'll just leave the country. Well, those soldiers they're talking about putting on the borders will be able to control the flow both ways. If these fascist criminals decide to make your life miserable, they can and will. All this data they're collecting just makes it easier. In most cases, they'll just use it as petty harrassment--"Stop calling your Congressman about Iraq or we'll tell everybody at your workplace about your little 'hobby'" or something. "I wouldn't vote today if I were you, if I didn't want my wife to know about that weekend in Atlanta." And so on. Even if the government as a whole weren't engaging in blackmail, the chances that someone with access to the data would be. They shouldn't have this stuff, period.