Saturday, December 24, 2005

nsa data mining -- where does it end?

The power of unregulated data mining in private hands is troubling enough without the federal government asserting the right to use it to sniff out bad guys without specific authorization. Apparently, the NSA's unwarranted domestic surveillance has gone beyond wiretaps to include such data mining.

Trust me, I'm as anxious that acts of terror be prevented as anybody. Counterterrorism is a legitimate federal responsibility (too bad the Bushies ignored warnings of outgoing Clintonistas' and their own professionals' that terrorism would have to be their top priority until about 9:30 AM EST on September 11, 2001). But I do not agree with the "ends justify the means" attitude the de facto Bush administration has taken on this. (Let alone the specious link between 9/11 and Iraq, but that's another topic.)

It's ironic that it is the REPUBLICANS -- that party of alleged "strict constructionists" who have for years blamed "activist judges" (liberals, every last one of them) for finding rights not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution are now the ones stretching and distorting the Constitution to the breaking point to find unlimited rights of unsupervised domestic surveillance in the "commander in chief" role for the President.

Where do such assertions end? The "War on Terror" will not, as the de facto President himself has said, end neatly with a peace treaty signed on a battleship. The "war" will last as long as the White House deems necessary, because after all, the absence of a major attack now or in the last four years does not mean people aren't plotting or that one couldn't happen tomorrow, somewhere in the world, against American interests. And this Administration has made explicit (and probably fraudulent) links between terrorism and other forms of crime, for example alleging links to drug smuggling in TV commercials aired on the Super Bowl. Bush officials have tied terrorism to other crimes such as credit card fraud, too. So based on this, the Bushies can use data mining and domestic surveillance on individuals suspected of being involved in drug smuggling or identity theft as part of the "War on Terror?"

Remember -- terrorism conducted by private (as opposed to state) organizations and individuals IS essentially just one more form of violent crime, albeit more heinous than most and conducted for political, social, or religious reasons. You don't have to be a hard-core Ron Paul-style "keep the government off my back and out of my life" libertarian to be concerned about an Administration that asserts the right to secret surveillance without judicial approval, in direct contravention to laws passed by Congress.

If Clinton or Gore or Kerry had done this, the GOP Congress would have impeached him in no time flat. And he would have deserved it.

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