I’m having a very difficult time this morning maintaining my composure. Well, let me put it this way – a harder time than normal. The reason is this latest kerfluffle over pointing scientific instruments at the homes and businesses of Muslim Americans in order to see if someone may be harboring nuclear material that could or could not be a nuclear weapon. The joint task force made up of FBI and Department of Energy “NEST” teams conducted the monitoring without first getting a warrant:
In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts.
Federal officials familiar with the program maintain that warrants are unneeded for the kind of radiation sampling the operation entails, but some legal scholars disagree.
I will take a back seat to no one in my support for the Bill of Rights – ALL TEN OF THEM. Liberals usually like to stop at about #8. After all, the 9th and 10th Amendments limit the power of the federal government vis a vis the states and the people which is a total anathema to your average lefty. Come to think of it, liberals aren’t very supportive of the 2nd amendment and even several parts of the 1st – like freedom OF religion. In fact, looking at a liberal’s translation of the Constitution, it would probably appear very similar to one of those documents requested of the CIA under the FOIA; so much of it would be blacked out that about all you’d be able to read is the page number.
That said, what has me breathing fire this morning is the idea that, in order to prevent the greatest of catastrophes – a nuclear weapon being exploded on American soil – people actually want the government to get a warrant to aim a Geiger counter at someone’s house. This is nuts. This is lunacy. This is as close to suicidal as one can get without actually putting the gun to your head.
I guess we’re really in trouble now. The Constitutional absolutists (I’m beginning to include some of the more pompous libertarians out there who are starting to annoy me more and more every day) are acting as if this is some kind of gigantic abstract game we’re playing. I can assure you that al Qaeda is not playing games. And the people who are currently responsible for seeing that the last thing you see isn’t a bright flash in the sky followed by the sighting of a mushroom shaped cloud are, thank the Lord, not playing games either.
What is not serious is this spate of revelations regarding what the government is doing to prevent the destruction of the United States. What is not serious is this internet-wide hand wringing over what appears more and more as a sensible, rational, response to a threat posed by an enemy that has sworn to destroy us – or perhaps many of you have forgotten that salient fact.
And the next person that quotes Ben Franklin’s warning about security and liberty is going to get a pie in the face – or my boot up their ass. Ben Franklin didn’t have to worry about a goddamn nuclear weapon going off in Philadelphia while he was romping between the sheets with some harlot. He could afford to be smug. We can’t.
It is legitimate to question the legality of programs that actually snoop on people – physically read their email or listen to their phone conversations. But if your telephone number is caught up in some kind of digital dragnet being carried out by the NSA only to be sloughed off and forgotten within minutes after it becomes clear that you’re not a terrorist, what’s the big deal? Jesus Christ! Telephone solicitors keep your number longer than the NSA for God’s sake!
We still don’t know many details of the NSA intercept program. Apparently, they had the cooperation of Telecom companies who allowed the technospooks access to these “switches” where national and international calls can be intercepted:
Officials in the government and the telecommunications industry who have knowledge of parts of the program say the N.S.A. has sought to analyze communications patterns to glean clues from details like who is calling whom, how long a phone call lasts and what time of day it is made, and the origins and destinations of phone calls and e-mail messages. Calls to and from Afghanistan, for instance, are known to have been of particular interest to the N.S.A. since the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said.
This so-called “pattern analysis” on calls within the United States would, in many circumstances, require a court warrant if the government wanted to trace who calls whom.
With pattern analysis, there is no reason to physically listen in on or read your email unless there are some pretty good indications that you’re buddy-buddy with a terrorist. How can this be considered unreasonable? Only a muddle headed absolutist would insist on getting a warrant to analyze traffic patterns or have your telephone number briefly in some gigantic computer or aim radiation detection equipment at a home.
Can we afford the Constitutional absolutist position on these things?
Maybe it comes down to something much simpler – whether you really believe we are at war or not. If we are not at war or even if the threat to the US has been overblown for political purposes (either case being demonstrably untrue if you take the time to read what our enemies are saying) then by all means, impeach Bush. In quieter times – even during the cold war – I would have had a difficult time stomaching much of what has been revealed about our domestic spying over the past week.
But these are not quiet times. And if the government is forced to abandon these vital monitoring programs or more likely, thanks to their being revealed, al Qaeda counters them, and if we are hit with a massive attack, those who are currently clucking their tongues like a bunch of old women at a quilting bee better not open their yaps criticizing the efforts government made to prevent the catastrophe. Your high falutin sense of the Constitution will be meaningless in the face of tens of thousands of dead and the country in shambles.
It’s time to grow up and get real. After all…there’s a war on, remember?