As the Shoes Drop

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Bush Administration

We return to our ongoing social science demonstration titled “How Good Democracies Go Bad.” Today we hear that the federal government is tracking phone calls from major news media — ABC News, the Washington Post, the New York Times — to discover which government employees might be talking to them. Brian Ross and Richard Esposito report for ABC News:

A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources.

“It’s time for you to get some new cell phones, quick,” the source told us in an in-person conversation.

ABC News does not know how the government determined who we are calling, or whether our phone records were provided to the government as part of the recently-disclosed NSA collection of domestic phone calls.

Other sources have told us that phone calls and contacts by reporters for ABC News, along with the New York Times and the Washington Post, are being examined as part of a widespread CIA leak investigation. …

Under Bush Administration guidelines, it is not considered illegal for the government to keep track of numbers dialed by phone customers. [Emphasis added.]

Josh Marshall asks, “Isn’t this the other shoe dropping?” But in fact, we’ve had a whole warehouse full of shoes drop already. Some people aren’t going to be concerned until the whole bleeping warehouse lands on their thick little heads.

Let’s recall some of those shoes. CNN reported on January 1:

During his re-election race in April 2004 in Buffalo, New York, Bush spoke to reporters about the USA Patriot Act and attempted to assure them the measure did not encroach on Americans’ civil liberties.

“There are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order.

“Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.

“It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.”

But then we learned that maybe the President might have given the wrong impression.

President Bush on Sunday defended his administration’s use of wiretaps on U.S. citizens without a court order, saying comments he made in 2004 that “nothing has changed” in the use of wiretaps were not misleading….

…Asked what he would tell Americans worried that the practice violates their privacy rights, Bush said, “If somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we’d like to know why.

“In the meantime, this program is conscious of people’s civil liberties, as am I. This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America — and I repeat: limited.”

Bush said the calls monitored are limited to those between known al Qaeda members or their affiliates outside the United States and people inside the United States.

Up until last week the Administration insisted they were not monitoring domestic calls without warrants. Dan Eggen reports for the Washington Post:

When he was asked about the National Security Agency’s controversial domestic surveillance program last Monday, U.S. intelligence chief John D. Negroponte objected to the question and said the government was “absolutely not” monitoring domestic calls without warrants.

“I wouldn’t call it domestic spying,” he told reporters. “This is about international terrorism and telephone calls between people thought to be working for international terrorism and people here in the United States.”

Three days later, USA Today divulged details of the NSA’s effort to log a majority of the telephone calls made within the United States since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — amassing the domestic call records of tens of millions of U.S. households and businesses in an attempt to sift them for clues about terrorist threats.

Did Negroponte lie? Well, it depends on what you mean by monitoring. They’re not listening to the phone calls, see; just looking for phone calling patterns. However,

… as illustrated by Negroponte’s remarks last week, administration officials have been punctilious in discussing the NSA program over the past five months, choosing their words with care and limiting their comments to the portion of the program that had been confirmed by the president in December.

In doing so, the administration only rarely offered any hint that a much broader operation, involving millions of domestic calls, was under way. Even Sunday, after days of congressional furor and extensive media reports, administration officials declined to confirm or deny the existence of the telephone-call program, in part because of court challenges that the government is attempting to derail.

After last week’s data mining revelation, righties were quick to assure us that there was no chance we ordinary citizens are being monitored. As long as we aren’t affiliated with al Qaeda, we have nothing to worry about. According to Heather Mac Donald at The Weekly Standard, “As a practical matter, no one’s privacy is violated by such analysis. Memo to privacy nuts: The computer does not have a clue that you exist; it does not know what it is churning through; your phone number is meaningless to it.”

Now another shoe drops. Um, of course, we were only talking about the NSA program. This is a different program.

Thud, thud, thud. We’re in a pile of shoes up to our necks. Apologists for the Regime smile and tell us not to worry. As long as we’re not terrorists or potential whistleblowers or journalists (or Democrats, or anyone who has pissed off top administration officials, or … ?), we have nothing to worry about.

So when the jack boot comes down on Kool Aider‘s necks, what will they say then? “Shine, mister?”

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. terry  •  May 15, 2006 @6:44 pm

    People just do not have a clue. The William O. Douglas quote about twilight is appropriate. None of the righty morons–who should be the most vehement about the Bill of Rights and government incursions-will just sit there until darkness has fallen never to rise again. It does not matter that Dumbya and his cronies are bad people–if Jesus Christ himself was tracking my phone calls I would be outraged. If the government were taking away their guns they would be upset, why when the government is taking away their right to be free from warrantless searches do they say it is okay? This should be a conservative, not a liberal issue and yet it falls to liberal commentators to point out the dangers. We are well and truly down the rabbit hole.

  2. maha  •  May 15, 2006 @7:19 pm

    This should be a conservative, not a liberal issue

    Au contraire; it is precisely a liberal issue. Historically liberalism stood for liberty and conservatism stood for authority. It has been in only relatively recent times — the past 20 or 30 years or so — that conservatives affected concern for rights and civil liberties and called themselves “libertarian.” Finally they are starting to wear their true colors once again.

  3. Donna  •  May 15, 2006 @7:54 pm

    Historically…. ‘conservatism stood for authority’……what kind of authority, Maha?…. not constitutional authority?

  4. maha  •  May 16, 2006 @8:03 am

    what kind of authority, Maha?

    authoritarian authority.

  5. Donna  •  May 16, 2006 @8:57 am

    Thanks, that was what I thought, too. ‘Deciders’ who tell everyone else all they need to know. ‘Deciders’ who never need to listen…..since they alone have the answers. ‘Deciders’ who need obey no laws..

  6. Donna  •  May 16, 2006 @9:19 am

    Off topic, I suppose….but I am so fed up with the orwellian spin [about anything Bush does]….. his die-hards just keep twisting and twisting every newly uncovered outrage, assure themselves of his great ‘decidership’.

    Today the total of our dead soldiers in Iraq reached 2,446. When that total passes 3,000….I suppose the Bush diehards will exclaim, “Aha, we knew all along that Bush is more powerful than Bin Laden….here’s our latest proof: Bush has now killed more Americans than Bin Laden, and that doesn’t even count New Orleans.” [my bad?]

  7. terry  •  May 16, 2006 @10:27 am

    Maha, I grant you that there has always been an authoritarian streak to conservatives–ie the law and order side. When the Evil Empire still existed however, the conservatives always pointed to the secret police in communist countries as the danger to be guarded against. I have all kinds of conservative friends who before the current debacle were always talking about how much they feared government intruding on their lives–taking away their guns, taxing their incomes or wealth, regulating how they conducted business, telling them what they could or could not do with their real property etc. Suddenly because Dumya is doing it, they are perfectly content to have the government snooping around without warrants to see who they are calling and who is calling them.I honestly do not know if there is anything Dumbya could do which would wake these people up or whether they are such cowards that they would sacrifice all liberty for a false sense of security.

  8. maha  •  May 16, 2006 @11:40 am

    Maha, I grant you that there has always been an authoritarian streak to conservatives–ie the law and order side. When the Evil Empire still existed however, the conservatives always pointed to the secret police in communist countries as the danger to be guarded against.

    But if they’re old enough, some of these same people supported Joe McCarthy and thought the House Un-American Activities Committee was just grand. I remember the early Cold War era well enough to remember that the people who most often talked about the evils of totalitarian Communism were exactly the same people who were fully prepared to trash the Constitution to root out the “communists” (or anyone else whose political convictions were not properly conservative) and punish them for bad thoughts. These same people supported J. Edgar Hoover’s intrusiveness in the name of “lawnorder” and thought Martin Luther King was a dangerous subversive who should be locked up.

    Somehow they can’t make the connection between secret police in other countries and government witch hunts in this country.

    I have all kinds of conservative friends who before the current debacle were always talking about how much they feared government intruding on their lives–taking away their guns, taxing their incomes or wealth, regulating how they conducted business, telling them what they could or could not do with their real property etc.

    Right, because these intrusions affected them personally. They don’t want the Gubmint messin’ with THEIR stuff. However, they are just fine with the Gubmint messing with OTHER peoples’ lives. Through U.S. history conservatives were all in favor of banning books (that offended them), stripping rights from persons accused of crimes (they were arrested so they must be guilty), and sending the morality police into people’s bedrooms to be sure they weren’t using birth control.

    Notice a pattern here? We might call it “liberty for me, but none for thee.”

    One thing conservatives did change is the way they argue in favor of what they want. Liberalism was successful enough that righties adopted liberal-sounding arguments; e.g., they have a RIGHT to prosyltize in public schools; they have a RIGHT to only employ white people.
    .
    Suddenly because Dumya is doing it, they are perfectly content to have the government snooping around without warrants to see who they are calling and who is calling them.

    Like I said, they are reverting to their true colors. This is not sudden at all.

    I honestly do not know if there is anything Dumbya could do which would wake these people up or whether they are such cowards that they would sacrifice all liberty for a false sense of security.

    They’ve always been this way. I doubt they’ll change.

  9. Bill  •  May 16, 2006 @11:40 am

    I’m emailing my Congress”person” from home tonight, requesting he send me a line-listing of all phone numbers he has dialed from his residence during the past year.

    If the gummint has a right to this information, then why don’t I?

    BB

  10. uncledad  •  May 16, 2006 @12:48 pm

    Conservatives love everything Bush does because Faux News tells them to. They sit in front of the tube and listen to and believe everything Faux news tells them. Most of them don’t read the paper (reading is for losers), they watch Faux news, American Idol, and listen to Rush, Sean, And Laura on their way to and from work. The righties have succeeded in dumbing down a good portion of this country with phrases like “liberal media”, “media elites”, “left wing professors”, etc. Whenever bush talks about higher education it is always “community college”. Education and intelligence have become bad words. The religious Right has convinced “middle America” that liberalism is a concept adopted for the gay-Hollywood-gun grabbers. Basically conservatives believe everything Bush and Faux tells them because they are afraid. They are afraid of Muslims, afraid of gays, afraid of learning, afraid of truth, they are afraid of freedom.

  11. Swami  •  May 16, 2006 @1:17 pm

    ” I used to be a liberal “…. :)

  12. uncledad  •  May 16, 2006 @1:20 pm

    SWAMI, WHAT HAPPENED?

  13. Swami  •  May 16, 2006 @2:28 pm

    I think that trying understand the differences between liberals and conservatives could be better understood if the issue where approached as a mental health issue, as opposed to a political issue. I have this gnawing feeling inside me that says the answer lies with foundational issues of securtiy.
    I was raised in an insecure environment and learned very early on in my life which things could numb the pain of insecurity. Many of conservatisms attributes offered me a fix, and in retrospect i can clearly see a connection to conservative thinking and attitudes to insecurity.

  14. Michael  •  May 16, 2006 @6:16 pm

    Does it occur to nobody that if you make a wrong-number call to a known Qaeda operative, you will be investigated?

    How stupid are these people? (Well, judging by the comments on that ABC story, they’re pretty damned stupid.)

  15. Tom Friedman  •  May 16, 2006 @10:09 pm

    When are we going to see or hear anyone in the MSM reporting on this? When I first heard about the ABC story on TPM, I had the feeling my stomach was turning over. The internet must put pressure on the MSM and I am going to call lots of House and Senate offices.

    Tom Friedman East Hampton,NY

  16. uncledad  •  May 17, 2006 @1:02 am

    Swami,

    Yes Mental Health, I understand, well not really. But relating feelings of youthful insecurity to present day oppression is the same cop out that many righties use. I say don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid yourself, Don’t be afraid of the Law, Don’t be afraid of Uncledad, Don’t be afraid of fear.

  17. Dan S.  •  May 17, 2006 @8:37 am

    The Kool Aider – well, Macsmind – links back, saying:
    “UPDATE: What is it with the Left and Goose Stepping?. Man its all about fear of domination and whips and leather.
    Hitler fetish perhaps?”

    They just don’t get it. (I suspect it would be much easier to them to comprehend if it was a Gore or Kerry administration taking such measures, or a President Hilliary making use of all these nifty new powers . . .)



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