Feckless Arlen Specter is joining the Dems in another round of Beltway braying over NSA’s counterterrorism programs:
Lawmakers demanded answers from the Bush administration Thursday about a spy agency secretly collecting records of millions of ordinary Americans’ phone calls to build a database of all calls within the country…
…The top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee said he was shocked by the reported activities.
“It’s not one party’s government. It’s America’s government. Those entrusted with great power have a duty to answer to Americans what they are doing,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont.
AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and BellSouth Corp. telephone companies began turning over records of tens of millions of their customers’ phone calls to the NSA program shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, said USA Today, citing anonymous sources it said had direct knowledge of the arrangement.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said he would call the phone companies to appear before the panel in pursuit of what had transpired.
“We’re really flying blind on the subject and that’s not a good way to approach the Fourth Amendment and the constitutional issues involving privacy,” Specter said of domestic surveillance in general.
The companies said Thursday they were protecting customers’ privacy but also had an obligation to assist law enforcement and government agencies in ensuring the nation’s security.
“We prize the trust our customers place in us. If and when AT&T is asked to help, we do so strictly within the law and under the most stringent conditions,” the company said in a statement, echoed by the others.
Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., said NSA was using the data to analyze calling patterns in order to detect and track suspected terrorist activity, according to information provided to him by the White House. “Telephone customers’ names, addresses and other personal information have not be handed over to NSA as part of this program,” he said.
Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s telecommunications and internet panel, had a different view: “The NSA stands for Now Spying on Americans.”
Blah, blah, blah. The windbag factor is off the charts.
(From the White House’s perspective, of course, this is a welcome distraction from its abominable immigration enforcement lapses. But come Monday, both parties will be united in a bipartisan effort to sell out our security.
Is not life the most important of civil liberties? These intelligence programs are trashed without any curiosity as to whether they’ve prevented any attacks and saved any lives. The hostile responses are largely knee-jerk and lack any kind of context. The arguments are abstract and descend into fear-mongering. While I’m all for philosophical debates, how about a little more reality when it comes to fighting and winning this war—a real war against a horrific enemy.
John McIntyre at Real Clear Politics:
Many of the people decrying these violations of civil liberties are the same ones who ripped the government for its inability to “connect-the-dots” prior to 9/11.
But the paranoia on the left, and in particular, the hatred for the Bush administration has become so intense there is an automatic assumption that the NSA has to be engaging in nefarious activity, spying on you and your neighbor. The idea that the agency is thinking creatively and proactively about how they can legally monitor the bad guys instead of just going about business as usual is, apparently, out of the question for some. The sad truth is it is probably going to take another devastating attack to convince many in this country that we are actually at war against Islamic jihadists.
That is something true civil libertarians should think long and hard about. The more vigilant we are today in preventing attacks, the more it will pay off in spades in terms of protecting our civil liberties in the future. Because if this country gets hit with a small nuke and 30,000 or 100, 000 Americans die, all of the debating will be over. The ensuing crackdown will be massive, and the loss of REAL civil liberties will become very, very possible.
Dafydd at Big Lizards calls at USA Today for excavating the bones of an old scandal (the man has a way with words):
The first point to make is that this is not a new story. The New York Times first published a story about this back in December, 2005, just a week after the NSA al-Qaeda intercept program was blown. It is thus quite clear that the USA Today story is recycled old scandal-mongering from last year… and the only NSA-related story recently that could have sparked this renewed interest is (quite obviously) the nomination of Gen. Hayden. From the December NYT story:
Since the disclosure last week of the N.S.A.’s domestic surveillance program, President Bush and his senior aides have stressed that his executive order allowing eavesdropping without warrants was limited to the monitoring of international phone and e-mail communications involving people with known links to Al Qaeda.
What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.
Sounds strangely familiar, yes? This is clearly the exact, same story as the one USA Today “broke” yesterday. Nowhere does yesterday’s USA Today article divulge that the Times scooped them by four and a half months, and neither AP nor Reuters seems to be able to remember back that far.
Today’s Times story credits USA Today with the story in paragraph two; but it does not mention that this is old stuff, long ago reported by the Times itself, until the twelfth paragraph. Even then, it mentions its own earlier story in such an oblique, laconic fashion — followed by a lurid charge supported only by Mr. Anonymous — that readers could easily be excused for missing the point that this is old, dessicated outrage.
More theater from the ACLU.