The Editorials of E. Desiderius

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

On NSA Domestic Spying, The War on Terrorism

Mr. Bush is once against not being forthright. He has once again not been forthright through the entire unfolding of the disaster that has been the NSA warrantless wiretapping scandal. And with the revelation of a massive database of every call placed by an American citizen, he is once again not being forthright.

The issue at stake here is not the privacy of Americans; so much as it is the power of government in a time of fear and uncertainty. Yes, terrorism is a serious threat facing our nation. Yes, we should all be concerned about Islamic fundamentalists who seek to destroy our plural open society because of both the values we defend, and our policies towards their region.

But our nation has faced such tests before. The War for Independence was barely won by a rag-tag army against British Regulars, the War of 1812 humiliated us, with the British marching across Washington and burning the White House, the Civil War was an extraordinary conflict in scope that tore the Union apart, and both World Wars came during a time of global political upheaval, domestic instability, and financial collapse. The Cold War represented the most dangerous situation America, and the world, ever faced: the specter of nuclear holocaust and the end of life as we know it, in America and beyond.

All these conflicts required sacrifice on the part of Americans. Almost all these crises in American history involved suspension of some civil rights and liberties, most of which were egregious wrongheaded in retrospect (as in the case of the internment of the Japanese, or the Sedition Act of 1918), and most of which were simply questionable responses (such as Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus).

The War on Terror will not be won, at least by any standard that we can recognize. Mr. Bush has said it himself during the 2004 Presidential Campaign. It will not be won on the battlefields in old Mesopotamia, nor will it be won in the hearts and minds of the Arab and Islamic populations around the World.

Government power cannot be lifted to such heights, even in a time of uncertainty and danger, especially considering the nature of the War on Terror. Disastrous things happen when populations are in the grip of fear: the elect chancellors that commit Holocausts, and they trade away their rights piecemeal for a sense of protection, even at the expense of Democracy.

Warrantless wiretapping is not a terrorist surveillance program. It is a massive data mining program, conducted under the shroud of secrecy, and under the guise of eavesdropping on Al Queda operatives. And though the NSA still claims that it is not listening in on purely domestic calls, the fact of the matter is that they don’t need to. The UKUSA intelligence community which including the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, means that the NSA can get another country’s intelligence agency to do it for them. It allows Canada’s CSE or New Zealand’s GCSB to gather the information, which it will then turn over to the NSA or the CIA, allowing the NSA to bypass domestic law.

Perhaps the era of an expectation to telecommunications privacy is long over: The ECHELON system already has the capacity to monitor almost every electronic communication across the globe. At the same time, must those of us who believe in limited government, in civil rights and the founding principles of this nation simply fold our cards and walk away? The President and the Vice President, as well as a compliant Congress, who is just beginning to find their voice of opposition on this issue, are responsible for a full-frontal assault on the privacy of the American people in a conflict that may last several generations, which cannot be allowed to stand.

-E. Desiderius

Washington Post Op-Ed – The Right Call on Phone Records
NY Times – Cheney Pushed US to Widen Eavesdrop
Yahoo!/AP – Bush Defends Scope of Domestic Privacy

Posted by George Gordon | Saturday, May 13, 2006 | E-mail this post

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