Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dog: A Continued Biting Threat To Man

by Tom Bozzo

Many of you will have seen this elsewhere, but it's important enough to bear repeating here.

The Bush administration's illegal NSA domestic spying program wasted federal agents' time checking out thousands of innocent Americans.

Retractions will be accepted from commenters who repeated Administration spin that the program was limited to individuals with links to Al Qaida.
Oh, dude, it's on...

Is this gang up on your only conservative reader day?

You need to make a correction. I never said that the program was limited to individuals with links to Al Qaida, I said it was limited to people who made "international calls to people with links to Al Qaida.." There is a big difference. Just because you call a criminal that doesn't mean you have a link to crime (if you have no idea of that person's connection to crime), however, it may raise suspicions. In this type of screening, there are bound to be many false positives that have to be weeded out by the FBI. Since your NYT article relies on anonymous sources who are divulging classified information, it's hard to gauge exactly how many leads were fruitful and how many were not (but this is kind of moot given the arguments I will make below).

If the NSA spying turns out to be legal, it completely destroys your attack on me. Given that the program has been deemed "legal" by many lawyers and current and former NSA and Justice Department officials, I don't think it is possible to conclude that the spying was illegal at this point. However, if it turns out that the program was illegal and that Pres. Bush broke the law, as with any president, I would unequivocally support whatever punishments are deemed appropriate.

I could make several more arguments in my favor, but they do not seem necessary to refute your call for a retraction. It seems to me that your attack post, like the NSA domestic spying program, is "un-warranted."
From the article: "Officials who were briefed on the N.S.A. program said the agency collected much of the data passed on to the F.B.I. as tips by tracing phone numbers in the United States called by suspects overseas, and then by following the domestic numbers to other numbers called."

Am I reading this right? They targeted numbers called by al-Qaeda within this country -- which does seem relatively logical to me -- and then targeted numbers called by those domestic contact points. One assumes, since the FBI was involved, that they are referring to domestic numbers called by the contact points.

Maybe that's logical, too. But it disproves your argument, either way, Bryan. It's not who you called that triggers the investigation: it's who called you. If your phone number was dialed mistakenly by an al-Qaeda contact (or an al-Qaeda contact's mother, sister, nephew, etc.) trying to order a pizza, then some FBI agent somewhere wasted some time investigating you.

All of this is predicated on the NYTimes engaging in some accurate reporting, for a change, of course.
You're right, I should have said 'made or received an international phone call from someone with links to Al Qaeda.'

Again, if the program is legal, all this is moot. If the program is illegal, it doesn't seem to me that it matters whether 10 people's rights were violated or 10,000, it's still a crime.
PS: Thanks.

Bryan: The tenor of the Bush spin (and I think the implication of your previous comments) is that the program was acting on reasonable suspicion outside the FISA system.

If the reporting in the Times is accurate, then the "reasonable suspicion" part turns out to be non-operative.

However, I do think you've staked out a defensible position in the most recent comment. I would just feel better if the new members of the panel that will determine the legality weren't being selected by the executive whose actions will be judged seemingly for deference to executive authority.
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