When personal privacy is lost — nay, thefted by the very government sworn to protect us — under the mask of personal protection from terrorism, those small intimacies are forever forsaken but not in freedom of the Greater Good but rather in slavery to the Broader Bad as our tiniest thoughts are dissected to determine guilt beyond the shadowy frame of reasonable checks and balances.
Today’s newspapers read like a spy novel instead of ordinary news reportage.
Today’s Wall Street Journal:
Without knowing the precise nature of what the NSA is
doing, some legal experts say the administration appears to be
operating in a fuzzy area about what legal permission is required for
sifting through data, especially if the data don’t include personal
information or the actual content of phone calls or emails.
Former AT&T engineers and law-enforcement officials involved in
electronic surveillance say the NSA is likely to be monitoring what is
known in the intelligence community as signals traffic — the data that
accompany every phone call or email.
Among other things, signals traffic reveals who is contacting whom and
what circuit they are communicating over. Every time a phone call is
placed or attempted or an email is sent, a record is generated. There
is an international protocol for this information, called Signaling
System 7, which makes it easier to track.
AT&T, for example, collects this kind of detail in two massive
databases, and manages it with a system it calls Daytona. One database,
dubbed “Hawkeye,” contains records of nearly every telephone call made
over AT&T’s domestic network in the last five years, while another
called “Aurora” performs a similar function for email traffic.
Today’s Washington Post:
After the New York Times disclosed the eavesdropping in
December, the White House dubbed it a “terrorist surveillance program”
and said it involved only international communications by people with
“known links” to al-Qaeda and its allies. The Washington Post reported
in February that about 5,000 Americans had been subject to
eavesdropping under the program and that nearly all of them had been
cleared of suspicion…
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has sued AT&T over that
and other alleged violations of privacy law, said the call database
spans 312 terabytes, a quantity that would fill more than 400,000
computer compact discs…
One government lawyer who has participated in negotiations with
telecommunications providers said the Bush administration has argued
that a company can turn over its entire database of customer records —
and even the stored content of calls and e-mails — because customers
“have consented to that” when they establish accounts…
Today’s New York Times:
“The concept of the N.S.A. having near-real-time access to
information about every call made in the country is chilling,” said Mr.
Bass, former counsel for intelligence policy at the Justice Department.
He said the phone records program resembled Total Information
Awareness, a Pentagon data-mining program shut down by Congress in 2003
after a public outcry.
Today’s Wall Street Journal
reveals a newer chill on the president’s approval rating in a
shattering no-confidence vote. It finally appears the majority of
Americans have had enough of the spying and the pecking and the
tracking of our personal private lives:
President Bush’s job-approval rating has fallen to its
lowest mark of his presidency, according to a new Harris Interactive
Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush
is doing an “excellent or pretty good” job as president, down from 35%
in April and significantly lower than 43% in January. It compares with
71% of Americans who said Mr. Bush is doing an “only fair or poor” job,
up from 63% in April.
At 29% and falling there are few straws left for grasping except a
final, last gasp, attempt to once-and-for-all curry all information
about us everywhere for as long as possible until congress or the
courts wake up and put a stop to the bad behavior in our shared better
For this administration there is nothing left to win and everything
else is left to lose until everything about us is pushed into a
government-controlled database for analysis in a last-ditch attempt to
identify the traitors and terrorists among us to validate their spying
effort. The problem with that push is — as of today — the idea is
dead in the ditch.
Once the lock on private information has been scored open, a loss of
faith in the public trust begins a crumbling of blinded belief in a
cause that can never again be reconstituted.
The lesson in this mess is to be wary of the web you weave because the
prey you catch may just be your own foot as it slowly climbs into your
mouth while your secretive subversive intent is made public.