14 May 2006

Mother's Day, Wiretapping, and a State of War

Mother's Day. I already mentioned my mother in yesterday's posting. The planned-not-executed mother of my children was also mentioned briefly. I left out my Mother-in-Law. Well, she must have done something right to have produced someone as amazing as her daughter. And she's pretty cool. I'll admit to having been really nervous before meeting my in-laws for the first time, but it was not nearly as bad as I expected. :)

Wiretapping. Everyone else has written about it.

I'm going to take a more relaxed approach to things. Privacy is a 20th century illusion. With increased capabilities on the part of everyone, governmental or otherwise, for all sorts of data collection, we are just going to have to get used to a more transparent lifestyle.

Having said that, the Bush administration is tripping all over their own peckers on this subject. First, they are forgetting that secrecy is like privacy. It's an obsolete notion. This administration can't piss in a pot without it being on the front page of the New York Times. If it isn't some damn liberal nitwit trying to sabotage the War, it's some mouthbreathing administration nitwit leaking deliberately for political gain. Second, when caught doing something that can be summarized in a hostile one-sentence headline, they need to just come clean entirely. Playing the stupid games they are playing now just burns their credibility when they don't have much to burn.

Whether the program is providing any useful intelligence or not, I am not qualified to judge. Neither are any of the pundits pontificating on the subject on the internet or in the media, near as I can tell.

Whether it is legal, I havn't yet seen a cogent argument that it is. The AUMF gives the President near-wartime authority. I'll buy THAT for a dollar. I'll buy that it gives him warrantless wiretap information against enemy combatants who have infiltrated the United States, on a far lower standard of proof than I would require for a law enforcement operation. I do not believe that al-Qaeda and other Islamic NGOs can be defeated going by a law enforcement standard. They are operating as paramilitary terrorist organizations, not mere alliances of criminals.

Collecting that same information against American citizens who are not suspected of any affiliation with an enemy organization? Nor of any crime? That doesn't seem to be legal to me. But I'm not a lawyer. Of course, a lawyer is like a prostitute--just because he or she says something, doesn't make it true. They are paid to spin a fantasy which makes you happy. Believing a lawyer is like believing a hooker who says your sexual technique is amazing. It could be true. But don't bet the farm.

There should be a way to do a couple things. First, leakers. Leakers need to be prosecuted far more stringently. I mean like firing-squad level. And if that's the Chief of Staff of the White House, so freakin' be it.

Second, there should be a way to get Congress in a closed, unrecorded session to discuss matters of national defense. There should be a way for the Administration to be able to present the case for a program, what benefits they expect to get from it, and get Congressional approval or disapproval in a timely and discreet manner. Unfortunately, since this is utterly impossible, the Administration seems to have adopted the scheme of starting a program, and planning to ask forgiveness rather than permission. There should be a way to ask permission without having the proposal discussed in the editorial pages of the New York Times.

Can we declare a moratorium on quoting Ben Franklin? You all know the quote I'm talking about.

"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. "

It's one guy's opinion. It ain't Holy Writ. And I'm suspicious of folks who think in aphorisms anyway.

It's also patently, provably, untrue. Every society has a contraction of liberty in time of war. Even the freest of nations has practiced forcible enslavement during significant portions of the 20th century. It makes my brain boggle when certain sectors of society demand conscription in one breath, and denounce the government for wiretapping in the next! As if it is a greater infringement of rights to listen to my conversation with my wife than to demand that a person involuntarily run the risk of death! What in God's name is that supposed to mean?

Lincoln suspended Habeus Corpus. Wilson had folks imprisoned for years for sedition. And FDR's relocation of the Japanese population did scoop up a number of spies and saboteurs along with a lot of folks who happened to have the wrong ancestry at the wrong time. Even McCarthy dug up a lot of genuine Communists.

Man, in a state of pure liberty (aka the State of Nature) is, by that very nature at war with every other man and has only the rights and liberties that he can take by main force. (Hobbes, Leviathan. Rosseau was a damned fool) The idea that man has natural rights and liberties is an artificial construct of society, an agreement among us all as to what those are. And no right will long survive the collapse of that society. None but the right to keep what you can defend, and to take what your neighbor cannot.

The first duty of any government or any society is to defend the flock. To defend the flock may require measures the flock does not understand nor enjoy. Accept that reality, and maybe you will be able to deal with the world as it is, rather than as you wish it were.

And we are at war, make no mistake of that. Furthermore, we are at war in a situation that the Founders were incapable of comprehending. Modern totalitarianism is not something Ben had any experience with. Not could he conceive of less than two dozen operatives killing several thousand civillians in the space of a few minutes. The Founding Fathers had experience of war in the 18th century between two civilized powers. Granted, the English would have hung them all, but their wives and children would not have been enslaved, and the fundamentals of Colonial culture would have largely been unchanged.

But while the sheep bleat in circles, there is one thing I will keep true to.

Hold your head up high-for there is no greater love
Think of the faces of the people you defend
And promise me, they will never see the tears within our eyes
Although we are men, with mortal sins, angels never cry
--Winterborn

6 Comments:

Blogger Zero Ponsdorf said...

I opted for a more mundane approach to the issue of privacy, but came to much the same general conclusions.

The first duty of any government or any society is to defend the flock. To defend the flock may require measures the flock does not understand nor enjoy. Accept that reality, and maybe you will be able to deal with the world as it is, rather than as you wish it were.

I wonder if that might have been better said with more specifics? Defend the flock against what? I do enjoy the Wolf, Sheep, and Sheepdog model, but the way you've stated it seems a bit broad.

Just picking nits, really.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous YuriPup said...

Illegal. Damned illegal. Certainly the companies should not have complied without a court order.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pen_register

In order for law enforcement agencies to get a pen register approved for surveillance, they must get a court order from a judge. However, they need only certify to the judge that the information likely to be obtained is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation, at which point the judge 'shall' issue the order.

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Leon Jester said...

The nit I'm picking with the first debacle ("NSA is doing illegal taps, it's the end of the world") is that the Administration didn't comply with FISA and get warrants in a timely manner.

If, as I've heard alleged, there is too much paper pushing involved to do so within the spec'd timeframe, they should have gone to Congress and told them so.

Ergo, our fearless leader and staff have stepped on their ... swords.

Now, the current one: "The Administration is obtaining wiretaps without a warrant." Horseshit. First, they're not taps. Second, it's not like the info is secret -- howinell do these idiots think Bell South and Verizon bill folks?

Granted, a warrant or court order would have made it legal without a doubt. However, the companies complied with a request based on national security, allowing use of their records which may be kosher if it's in their small print. Dunno. Don't really care. If NSA and the FBI want to ransack my phone records, go for it. I don't have any calls that will embarrass me, my son doesn't seem to have a problem saying "I love you Dad, bye for now" in a barracks full of Marines. So that one's out too.

What these damn leakers have done is to make the world, including a bunch of folks that don't care for us at all, aware of info gathering methods and that info is in the hands of investigators.

Whilst not treason, as defined by the Constitution, it's damn sure aiding and abetting enemies of the state, should be good for sedition in any event, possibly espionage.

Find them, stack them up against a wall, shoot them. Or put them in pink union suits and toss them in the Federal pen with some of the old-time Mafia guys.

Be well, John, watch your six, eh?

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Ryan Gill said...

My problem with the Wiretaps/intercepts is that there are methods of doing them legally in the framework of the law and with a reasonable amount/process. The 4th Amendment doesn't say there is no prohibition against search. Rather it states that searches must be reasonable and must be performed in a manner involving probable cause.

My biggest complaint against the Patriot Act and the legislation afterwards is that there is some concept that fishing is allowable now. There should be clear rules as to what and how it's legal and there should be clear procedures on what kind of information is allowed to be captured and how it may be used. The power to wiretap and to store the data on everyone in a very 1984 sense is immensely over-broad and far to subject to abuse by multiple segments of the federal government.

In the capacity of the War on Terror, it would seem that law enforcement could use some expanded powers, but those powers should have limits and should have penalties. I've seen too many examples of the Federal Or State Government going off half cocked because politicians at upper levels of that agency are after another feather and don't care if they're running down the wrong track (Ruby Ridge is a perfect example, the Gun confiscations in New Orleans are another).
Clear allowances must be present for finding and prosecuting terrorist, but those powers must be finite and if they come across a violation of federal or state law not related to terrorism (and just expanding other crimes to be terrorism doesn't count) then that info must be discarded.

That oath to defend and protect the constitution should be adhered too.

7:47 PM  
Anonymous Dee said...

Can we declare a moratorium on quoting Ben Franklin? You all know the quote I'm talking about.
"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both. "
...
It's also patently, provably, untrue. Every society has a contraction of liberty in time of war.

John, I suspect you know better than this. "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Now tell me the actual quote is patently, provably untrue.

BTW, I have missed you and your commentary.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Just A Decurion said...

Define essential. :)

6:47 PM  

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