Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Real Surveillance Outrage

The constitutional scholars on the right are outraged about today's New York Times editorial criticizing Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) for blocking the passage of a bill that would screen all military veterans for suicidal ideation -- because he fears this might make it harder for suicidal veterans to purchase guns. I'm happy to report that, for once, the usual suspects are focusing their outrage on the substantive heart of this issue: the Times editorialist's "incompetence" in identifying the phrase "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" as a "constitutional right" when the phrase actually appears in the Declaration of Independence.

I know that I can depend on the neocon bloggers to fight the good fight on behalf of former soldiers suffering from depression, to ensure that their Second Amendment rights are not violated by intrusive government authorities trying to prevent them from buying guns, just because there is reason to believe they might use it to take their own lives.

Indeed, it frees me to write about other examples of government surveillance -- albeit they might be far less alarming than government regulation of gun purchases:

Yesterday, Wired ran an important piece on the depth and breadth of the FBI's surveillance operations.
The FBI has quietly built a sophisticated, point-and-click surveillance system that performs instant wiretaps on almost any communications device, according to nearly a thousand pages of restricted documents newly released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The surveillance system, called DCSNet, for Digital Collection System Network, connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by traditional land-line operators, internet-telephony providers and cellular companies. It is far more intricately woven into the nation's telecom infrastructure than observers suspected.

Today, Sean-Paul at the Agonist posted a whistleblower's email which has immediate bearing on the above, and opens up further questions not only about the scale and scope of government surveillance inside the U.S. but also questions the truthfulness of administration officials on the subject.
... You should be aware that various Bush officials are lying or misdirecting the public when they say that none of their domestic suveillance programs includes widespread data-mining.

CIA director Stephen Hadley has said "it is not a driftnet" and John Negroponte has said the NSA was "absolutely not" monitoring domestic calls (link). Both are lying.

Domestic surveillance isn't just about call logs and although the calls themselves aren't sifted, recordings of those calls are. Despite the claims of NSA Director McConnell, the programs run by the NSA are neither surgical (link) nor "limited to 100 wiretaps" (link). Certain aspects of the NSA programs may be as they describe them, but they aren't describing the whole thing.

Read the rest.

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