Monday, February 06, 2006

Domestic surveillance

Hey Everyone, GTL's Back... **Everyone Cheers**
Now, on with the show.

We respectfully ask that you read the entire post before commenting the first time, but for your convenience we have put a jump to the comments section right here, so that you can easily find them.

Domestic surveillance / wiretapping of U.S. Citizens: A necessity for self-preservation, or an unnecessary, blatant violation of our civil liberties?

Anybody who knows me knows I am a huge talk radio fanatic. Talk radio stimulates the mind, helps get the Citizen involved in politics; both on a community and national basis depending upon the program. As my regular readers know, I served in the "sandbox" (location not given for security purposes) recently. When I was over there, one of the many things missing from my life was talk radio and political news in general. While I did have Internet access, it was very limited to say the least. The only talk radio hosts allowed behind the restrictive firewall were the far right ones; Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, and folks like that.

Of course, all of these talk radio personalities required a subscription fee for them to be heard over the Internet, so on my very limited budget, and in a moment of temporary insanity, I subscribed to Rush Limbaugh just so I could hear what was going on back home in the political arena even if it was going to be coming at me from a biased, far right point of view. I could have subscribed to any of the guys' podcasts, but I chose Rush for two reasons and two reasons only:

1. Michael Savage (by far the best of conservative radio hosts - not just a Republican Party "yes man" like the others ones are) does not offer a podcast or online subscription to my knowledge.

2. Rush Limbaugh is at least entertaining to me even when I disagree with him, which is quite often obviously.

Whenever I had a few free moments to download Rush's latest podcast during my busy work schedule, I would do so, and then download it to my MP3 player so I could listen to it after work and before going to sleep. I was unable to do this more than just a handful of times because of the work schedule (12 hour plus days, up to 7 days per week), but I was able to catch a few broadcasts.

One day I was listening to Rush as he demonized the liberals for their stance against domestic wiretapping when a caller called in. He introduced himself as a troop who had just come back home from the sandbox and he went on to tell Rush how it dismayed him that he served his country to preserve freedom, democracy, and personal liberty just to come back home and hear Rush demonizing the liberal Americans who were trying to do the same thing on the home front. As Rush went off on this Soldier, I kept listening to hear if Rush, a vocal "supporter" of the troops was going to be thanking this Soldier for his service.


That is when it really hit me that the guys like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh only support the troops who blindly support the Republican Party. I guess I always knew that, but it wasn't until that moment that I realized Rush Limbaugh actually despises those who disagree with him politically, even those troops who are Democrats, or open-minded, left leaning, libertarianish independent thinker such as myself. But back to the topic at hand.

I, much like the Soldier who called in to Rush Limbaugh, signed on the dotted line to preserve and spread freedom, liberty, and democracy. No other reasons; just those. When I heard about the domestic wiretapping of U.S. Citizens over there, I was quite disappointed and heartbroken. Yes, heartbroken.

How could this happen in my America? The Government suspects a Citizen is sleeping with the enemy, the Government takes the information to the judge to gain lawful permission to monitor that U.S. Citizen, the judge says "no"; case closed. But no, the case isn't closed; not under this Administration. Under this Administration, the judge is completely ignored and the snooping goes on anyway.

Now don't get me wrong; I am not one of those on the loony, far left who is going to tell you that "Bush is evil", or "Bush is trying to destroy America". I truly believe President Bush is trying to do his very best to protect America, just like I am, and just like the other more liberal folks are trying to do. We simply disagree on the way the President is going about it, that's all.

But that also doesn't mean I'm going to sit here and say "Well, since the President has the best of intentions, we'll just wait until '08 and the People will vote in people with better ideas who won't resort to the revocation of our civil liberties" either. In fact, I'm going to say the exact opposite.

Wait a minute, allow me to back up for a second. Let's take just a brief moment to give President Bush some credit for his anti-terrorism record so far since 9/11. If we're going to hold him accountable for everything that's gone wrong, let's give the man a few "kudos" for the fact that we haven't been attacked on U.S. soil again since the day those (mostly) Saudi bastards bombed the hell out of the Twin Towers. The man's record speaks for itself.

On the other hand, I will not simply buy into the notion that this is due to the fact that the Government simply snoops around in the private emails, private phone calls, and even the private homes of American Citizens whenever it feels like going on a fishing expedition. I have a very hard time believing that any judge in the United States is going to review the Government's proof that any American Citizen is talking to al-Qaida on the phone, and then say "Nope. You may not monitor those phone calls." If this is what's going on, then I, as an American Citizen, demand that judge be removed immediately from the bench. But I have more faith in our judicial system than that. This is exactly why our Founding Fathers divided the Government and the Judiciary into two separate branches; so this sort of thing would not go on. But it is going on. And that is also heartbreaking to me.

Listen; I hate frigging losing. If you can prove to me that the only reason our Democracy is still intact is because of the suspension, or revocation of our civil liberties and our guarantees against unreasonable search and seizure, I'm going to have to admit that we've lost this War on Terror. I'm not going to be doing that yet. I do not believe for one moment that we've lost this war. I truly believe we can defeat terror without having to give up all that makes America what she is; our freedom and liberty.

Here is where I think the President and his Administration are coming from: it would literally tear them apart to see another terrorist act on our soil; to see Americans be killed by Muslim extremists needlessly. They, like myself, and like all of the other Liberals and Conservatives, are patriots who are trying to do what is best for America. I'll grant them that much. I can totally relate, but let me ask you this:

Would you grant the Government the right to snoop around in your home, your private transactions, your private phone calls, your private emails, your health records, or any personal items you may own if these actions would guarantee our nation would never, ever have another terrorist attack on our soil?

Not ME, bub.

Allow me to use an analogy. Some of us live in safe neighborhoods, some of us live in dangerous neighborhoods and some of us live in semi-safe neighborhoods. Let's say you live in one of the dangerous neighborhoods where somebody gets shot, or at least maimed every other day. Let's say the police have a new program where they can guarantee they will root out all of the "bad guys" in your neighborhood and clean it up and make it safe again if you'll only just allow them to spy on you at will, until they have eliminated you from their "bad guys" list. After all, if you aren't doing anything illegal, you don't have anything to worry about, right?

And this is where the fundamental ideological differences between the left and the right become revealed. Many on the right generally agree that this would be a reasonable trade; "Civil liberties for a guarantee of safety? what a bargain!" Whereas; most of us who lean a bit more to the left are more likely to say "Hell no, you can't come into my house and root around and spy on me! I'll watch my back and take my chances, thank you very much."

To complete my analogy, let's look at the United States as if it were also a neighborhood. It's not that much of a stretch because it is our "neighborhood". It was once thought to be a completely safe neighborhood, but some people in a house down the block just got thoughtlessly, senselessly murdered by a bunch of gang members. The attackers were killed, but other members of this same gang in other areas of town are promising they will kill again in your neighborhood. They say they have members of their gang hiding out in your neighborhood, poised to help the outside gang members destroy your neighborhood; it's only a matter of time. You're stuck with your mortgage and you've put a lot of work into making your neighborhood safe and prosperous, so you feel that moving to another neighborhood is not an option.

Your options are:

A) Work with your other neighbors to create a "neighborhood watch program". You and all of your neighbors agree in solidarity to look out for each other and you take your chances.

B) Take a neighborhood vote and select a small number of "upstanding" and wealthy fellow neighbors to do anything they feel they need to do your homes and businesses of the neighborhood as long as they try to catch the bad guys. You all grant them permission come and go as they please from now on.

Sorry, but I chose "A". How about you?

Carl of The Gun Toting Liberal

In August of 2004 I developed severe breathing problems. The problems grew so bad that I was forced to stop work. For the rest of 2004, and well in to 2005, I was completely disabled, forced to stay home, sometimes unable to leave the house. During this time of enforced confinement, talk radio and the blogosphere became my links to the world. Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Medved, Sean Hannity, and Hugh Hewitt became a regular part of my day. Lest someone say, "Aha! That explains it! He's been brainwashed by the "right-wing!" let me also add that I would listen to Air America until they went belly up hear in Chicago. And, as my blog partner Matt can attest, I spend at least as much time on left wing blog sites as I do conservative ones. I work very hard not to just have my own views confirmed by those I agree with.

But conservative talk radio has remained a constant for me, even as my health has improved. That's why GTL's characterizations of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity offended me so much. Because I have heard Rush go out of his way to thank military personel for their service, regardless of their political leanings. In fact, Rush has a program going to make subscriptions to his website available free of charge to military personel. And its not based on anything other than being a confirmed member of the military. GTL, you didn't have to pay for your subscription. You still don't. And, yes, I do indeed thank you for your service to this country, and to the blogosphere.

Now, GTL has presented the fears over the NSA surveillance program that was illegally leaked to the Mainstream Media. He,in effect, echoed Senators Durbin, Leahy, Feingold, Feinstein et al at the Senate Judiciary Hearing on 2/7/06. And, like them, he shows an ignorance of the facts, and the law. Now, GTL is no lawyer, so he has an excuse. Most of the Democrat Senators are lawyers, and so have none.

There is no excuse for exaggerating the program revealed, not with today's internet access. Here are the facts, taken primarily from analysis by lawyers. Rather than go through these arguments again, I'm going to point toward the references that should be read by all:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez layed out the case in a debate at Georgetown Law School on 1/23/06. The attorneys at Powerline have done an excellent job of summarizing General Gonzalez's speech.

On 2/7/06, General Gonzalez testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. After a preliminary bid by Democrats to put Gonzalez under oath for the cameras failed, the Attorney General gave his opening remarks. Again, he layed out why the program leaked to the New York Times is both necessary and legal. One of the key myths being perpetuated today is that FISA allows 72 hours to get a warrant. Here are the facts behind this myth, from General Gonzalez's opening statement:

In this debate, however, I have been concerned that some who've asked, "Why not FISA?" do not understand how that statute really works.

GONZALES: To be sure, FISA allows the government to begin electronic surveillance without a court order for up to 72 hours in emergency situations or circumstances.

But before that emergency provision can be used, the attorney general must make a determination that all of the requirements of the FISA statute are met in advance.

This requirement can be cumbersome and burdensome.

Intelligence officials at NSA first have to assess that they have identified a legitimate target. After that, lawyers at NSA have to review the request to make sure it meets all the requirements of the statute. And then lawyers at the Justice Department must also review the request and reach the same judgment or insist on additional information before processing the emergency application.

Finally I, as attorney general, must review the request and make the determination that all of the requirements of FISA are met.

But even this is not the end of the story.

Each emergency authorization must be followed by a detailed formal application to the FISA courts within three days. The government must prepare legal documents laying out all of the relevant facts and law and obtain the approval of a Cabinet-level officer as well as a certification from a senior official with mass security responsibility, such as the director of the FBI.

Finally, a judge must review, consider and approve the application.

All of these steps take time. Al Qaida, however, does not wait.

While FISA is appropriate for general foreign intelligence collection, the president made the determination that FISA is not always sufficient for providing the sort of nimble early-warning system we need against Al Qaida.

Just as we can't demand that our soldiers bring lawyers onto the battlefield, let alone get the permission of the attorney general or a court before taking action, we can't afford to impose layers of lawyers on top of career intelligence officers who are striving valiantly to provide a first line of defense by tracking secretive Al Qaida operatives in real time.

Now, one more myth of the media. What exactly did President Bush authorize? From Strata-Sphere on 2/5/06:

As I posted earlier, it was divulged in the 1970's, during the Church Committee investigations, that NSA routinely intercepts calls to people in the US when monitoring overseas enemies - it is unavoidable. What the NSA did if and when this happened was to bury the information regarding the US side of the communication.

This is probably how 9-11 murderers Midhar and Hazmi were missed when they were making all their calls overseas to what had to be targets of the CIA and German intelligence. The NSA would see the call, but due to short sighted and lazy policies that avoided arguing why these people should be monitored, their information would never be transmitted to the FBI.

What Bush did was direct the NSA to send their leads in the US to the FBI for investigation. That's it. Even if the NSA did expand it surveillance into new methods, without opening the gate between the NSA and FBI the leads would still be hidden from domestic law enforcement.
Remember "connecting the dots?" Remember the 9/11 Commission's Report about the Wall between law enforcement agencies? A Wall placed there by none other than Jamie Gorelick, a 9/11 commissioner? If the hysteria of the Left wins, that Wall will be put back, stronger than ever. One of the provisions of The Patriot Act currently twisting in the wind due to Democrat intransigence is the removal of that Wall.

GTL gave an analogy of a neighborhood, and stated that we could either form a neighborhood watch program, or elect representatives to look out for us. If I'm worried about a burglar stealing my computer, a neighborhood watch program makes sense. If I'm worried about who is going to patrol the streets at night, I'll elect a mayor, a city council, and form a police department also to help keep me and my family safe.

But if I've already lost 3000 friends and neighbors, and seen the destruction of the Twin Towers, I'll do more. And, if the murdering bastards that did the killing are calling my neighbor down the street FROM OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY to plot more deaths, and I have the ability to listen to the conversation and stop it, you bet I'll do that.

The program illegally leaked to journalists with a poltical agenda is necessary.

It is also legal.

Mark of Liberty Just In Case

I tire of this entire argument, but here goes anyway.

Amendment IV.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I guess the key word here is Unreasonable... Is it UNREASONABLE to listen in on telephonic contact outside of the United States to areas known to have enemy agents in abundance? Is it UNREASONABLE to use every means available to expediently attempt to prevent certain attack on the United States? Is it UNREASONABLE to act within the FISA regulations when possible, but to act outside of them when it is neither prudent, necessary, nor effective?

These programs of foreign surveillance are exactly that FOREIGN SURVEILLANCE. They are not listening in to your pizza order, or your private chat to Gramma, unless of course Gramma lives next to an Al Qaeda cell in Yemen.

What irritates me more than people trying to get political mileage out of this situation (knowing full well that it is fully and perfectly legal both by actual law and legal president) is that we even know of it at all. This program WAS / is still CLASSIFIED, and as with all of these situations lately I think the real issue is being overlooked, and / or swept under the carpet. SOMEONE HAS committed a crime here, and it is once again NOT the president of the United States. SOMEONE LEAKED highly classified information and once again cut the intelligence community off at the knees, for simple political gain.

Our Homeland Security, Military and Intelligence communities need to be STRENGTHENED, if we ever want to live as a free and peaceful nation once again, not weakened and obstructed. Political gain is temporary, our nations future should not be. But if we don’t soon end the back biting and political backstabbing "AT ANY COST", it very well may be.

We need to focus on the goal, and stop muddying the waters. America is great and we need to keep it that way. We are at war; we need to act like it.

Matthew of Liberty Just In Case

Added Late... Sorry, Z.

I found myself giggling *ALOT* when I read GTL's opening statement. I remember well listening to my father's radio all through the night, as he would be drifting in and out of sleep to the voices on Talk Radio. Many times, did we cross the western landscapes between New Mexico and Nevada to the voices of people like Rush Limbaugh.

On the topic of the wiretapping, my issue has never been with preserving the safety of American Citizens from possible terrorist or terrorist attacks. My issue is with the way that the lines between what is "legal" and what is not "legal" became far too obscure and blurred as has been evidenced in the hearings with Mr. Gonzales this week. It appears, to the average American Citizen, that the lines have been intentionally blurred and obscured to support something (that by the definition of freedom of speech and the laws regarding privacy of Americans) would not have elsewise been allowable.

In the aftermath of September 11, Americans for a time became terrified. We were angry, confused and afraid of what would come at us next--a situation that had not happened on American land since Dec. 7, 1941. Much like the occasion of Pearl Harbor, American's pulled out the patriotism and the heroism that was needed to pull our nation through a colossus of tragedy and we survived. No.. we THRIVED! However, how long will we live in fear (either real or contrived by others)? What for our worrying will we add or delete to from the plan that is above us and around us? The answer is simple: not a thing. Yes, we need to be cautious. Yes, we need to be wily and crafty to outwit those that would do intentional harm to our country or our citizens, but will that be at the expense of the Freedoms that this country was founded on? I for one would answer that question as a resounding, clanging NO! NO! NO!

I would rather live one day of freedom in my homeland and face the possibility of tragedy on the dawn of the next--then to live in constant fear, never fully experiencing the beauty of my land, my life and my liberty because I am too afraid of what the dawn may bring!

My heart's wish is that this country would remember that we have a back bone and it is not dictated by Washington, its policies or its politicans. All that American's will ever truly need, lives in the heart of every free, liberty loving American. The honor that is upheld in New Hampshire's state motto is one that all American's should look to as the standard of what the true American value on Freedom is:

"Live FREE or Die."

Nariel of Ancient Eyes for Current Times
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