Friday, June 21, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #113 - Part 10

More on NSA spying: significance of leaks can be measured by ferocity of the response

So Edward Snowden was responsible for the information about the massive phone surveillance, the sweeping up of data about millions of phone calls a day and will everyone please stop with the crap that they only know what number called what number, not the name on the account? Don't be an idiot: In almost every case, if you know the number, you know the name.

Haven't you heard of reverse look-up phone books? I tried it last night: I put my phone number into a search engine and it came up with my name and address. I tried it with my ex-wife, it worked for her. I tried with my brother and his kids and it worked with them, too. They know who you are.

But getting back to the leak directly, this is indeed one of the most significant leaks, especially when combined with the revelations about PRISM and other programs of massive government surveillance. How do we know how significant it was? By the ferocity of the reaction.

Rep. Peter King said not only Snowden and whoever leaked the info about PRISM should be prosecuted, but the reporters should be as well.

Attorney General Eric Holder says national security has been damaged.

Sen. Lindsey Graham said “I hope we follow Mr. Snowden to the ends of the earth to bring him to justice,” verbally connecting him to the way we used to talk about Osama bin Laden.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the disclosures risk “long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify the threats facing our nation.”

Other were, let's just say, more blunt.

House Speaker John Boehner called Edward Snowden a "traitor." Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson called the leak "an act of treason," as did, in the same words, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Remember, these are all people who knew about this and could have done something about it but didn't do a damn thing.

But at the same time as these rantings, we have some among the punditry yawning loudly and dismissing the whole thing as yesterday's news. Time's Joe Klein argued that "we pretty much knew everything that has 'broken' in the past week." Walter Pincus took the same tack in the Washington Post, citing a couple of articles from 2006 to 2012 which covered the same general ground as the current revelations.

Which is true enough, although those articles, significantly, lacked the documentation the current round has. Pincus could even have gone back a bit further, to 2004.

But then what does that mean? Is all this ho-hum, BFD material? Or is it gross treason, a threat to our very existence as a nation? It's neither. Those are just two different ways of dodging the issue of the government asserting the right to poke, pry, and prod into every part of our lives.

Another way to know how significant this is, is how the number of "terrorist plots" from which we have supposedly been saved keeps growing. First was two, but when news media started throwing cold water on those cases, the number grew to "dozens." It's now more than 50 plots in 20 different countries, that have been supposedly foiled, the total getting the Joe McCarthy "I have in my hand" treatment.

But Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, who have tried repeatedly to raise the alarm on this, declared in a joint statement that “We have not yet seen any evidence showing that the NSA’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records has produced any uniquely valuable intelligence. All of the plots that were mentioned appear to have been identified using other collection methods.”

In other words, all of them, up to and including President Hopey-Changey himself, who declare that this sweeping surveillance is "a critical tool in protecting the nation" are lying through their teeth. And don't you forget it, not for one second.


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