Saturday, August 26, 2006

Al Quaida's No KGB

The Wall Street Journal published a mean and derisive op-ed piece recently ("President Taylor", 8/21/06) bemoaning "polarized politics" in the case of Judge Diggs Taylor, who ruled against unbridled spying by the National Security Agency (NSA). She is also scolded in later WSJ issues for her undisclosed support of civil liberties groups (tsk, tsk...not a judge?). The article defends the NSA's warrantless wiretaps of U.S. residents, but it misses the real issue--the administration's policy, which is unconstitutional.

The Journal mistakenly conflates Britain's recently foiled terrorist plot against U.S.-bound airlines with the the NSA's wiretapping project. Says the Journal, "In this environment, monitoring the communications of our enemies is neither a luxury nor some sinister plot to chill domestic dissent." No, but the disconnect is in the identification of "our enemies". U.S. citizens have not proven themselves to be the enemy. Note, I am uneasy with the terminology "enemy" in the terrorist scenario; they are more correctly "criminals".

We must not be snookered in by the witch hunt mentality which is so easy for Americans in a "State of Calamity" (to borrow from the recent SOS sent out by a besotted Phillipines after an oil tanker ran aground; how ironic that they are soiled by oil, too) to fall prey to. That is why we require warrants, and that is why the NSA can gain expedited ones dispensed by special FISA courts. Because we must be reasonably sure there is probable cause for such intrusion, and if there is, the appropriate agencies must be accorded speedy access to execute their work.

The NSA is simply a footsoldier performing as ordered by the lawful chain of command. How embarrassing to call this the NSA spying program, when in actuality it is the administration's unlawful spying program.

Several salient points are ignored in this article. First, there is a proscription against domestic intelligence gathering in the "homeland". Listening to domestic calls without warrants should target the real threat, which is foreign terrorists, not U.S. citizens. Intelligence gathered from this quaint program must then be evaluated and disseminated to complete the intelligence cycle.

Everybody focuses on the collection cycle. But the question is, what is done with the material gleaned from these fishing expeditions? Show the taxpayer the terrorists so apprehended and convicted as a result of this program.

If the government would do so, then a legitimacy of sorts could be claimed for the program, but it just ain't so. If this intelligence is not used in courts of law, then why is it being collected? That is the $64,000 question.

The piece lauds the fact that, "...no one is being denied his liberty and no evidence is being brought in criminal proceedings based on what the NSA might learn through listening to Al Quaeda communications."

Au contraire re. the denial of liberty. The liberty afforded by truly free speech is abrogated when the citzenry operates under the knowledge that they are being/may be monitored. Further, if the evidence is not being used in criminal procedings, then why do it? Is it not being used to apprehend criminals (=terrorists)?

The cost effectiveness of this program is highly problematic. The NSA is a Cold War spy agency aimed at foreign power, and as such, has a secret budget. But as the British, French and Canadians have all proven, Al Quaida is not the KGB, and expenditure of untold billions of dollars to counter this threat is not justified.

Contrary to the concluding accusation in the article, nobody will die as a result of Judge Taylor's decision. But good people are dying daily as a result of failed administration policy.


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