Sunday, May 14, 2006

Lies, Damned Lies,...

A key tool of tyranny is to consistently make the majority feel that they are in the minority, Bush's "real Americans know what I mean" strategy, Nixon's "silent majority."

From a new ABC News poll,
"Phone-Records Surveillance Is Broadly Acceptable to Public" — "Americans by nearly a 2-1 ratio call the surveillance of telephone records an acceptable way for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, expressing broad unconcern even if their own calling patterns are scrutinized."

Does this mean we're doomed because we're surrounded by idiots? Maybe not, look at how they loaded the questions (full questionnaire HERE):

-"What do you think is more important right now - (for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy); or (for the federal government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats)?

-"It’s been reported that the National Security Agency has been collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. It then analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations. Would you consider this an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?

The first question may as well read: "Would you shoot that dog if it kept Momma from being thrown out the window?" And the NSA "analyzes calling patterns in an effort to identify possible terrorism suspects, without listening to or recording the conversations"?? Why not just print the whole White House press release?

Notice the questions never mention whether the intrusion on "personal privacy" is the legal kind, or the illegal kind.

There have always been legal ways to intrude on personal privacy in the investigation of wrongdoing. It's called a WARRANT.

If they are collecting records then trolling through them, that is a SEARCH, and that is what the FISA court was created to oversee.

Not that the FISA court is itself a bastion of civil liberties. The fact is, we don't know. The court's proceedings, although recorded, are secret. From its inception in 1978 through the end of 2004, 18,761 warrants were granted, while only five were rejected. It should give pause that such a friendly court wasn't friendly enough for the Bush administration, and they felt they had to go around it. Leave for another day the question of whether secret courts are consistent with democracy in the first place.

It doesn't take much to see where the kind of unchecked power the Bush administration seeks might come in handy: in its relentless drive to find out who government whistleblowers are. The administration would apparantly like to keep a monopoly on the ability to leak classified information to the press, as in the case of Valerie Plame. On the other hand, it has made clear that it fully intends to prosecute officials who reveal embarrassments like the torture of prisoners at Guantanamo, or evidence that many such prisoners may be guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I wonder how the poll would have turned out if they had asked this question: "Is it always necessary for the government to trample Fourth Amendment constitutional rights in order to conduct effective terror investigations?"

Or how about: "when conducting terror investigations, should the government stay within the law?"

Or: "Do you think the power to conduct warrantless intrusions on personal privacy could ever be abused by the government?"

Or my favorite: "If it turns out that the president clearly violated established law in his conduct of alleged terror investigations, should he be impeached?" Mark me down for "yes."

Also read BREAKING NEWS: "The Spies Who Shagged Us" by Greg Palast (On Choicepoint Inc.)


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