Friday, May 12, 2006

WE'RE ALL TERRORISTS NOW!

I've been following the NSA Warrantless Wiretapping story since the beginning as I find Government encroachement of Civil Liberties something of an issue. I didn't like the explanation at the beginning of this story when it first appeared, and I like it even less now that we find out that 3 major phone companies (who want to have the right to make you pay for what you see on the internet) are giving out phone records wily-nily because the NSA asked nice. What we now find is that not only does the Administration believe it has the right to break the law (warrantless wiretaps), it also has the right to do it to anyone it wishes for whatever reason.

Bear with me for a moment as obviously that is not what the USAToday article said. What it stated was that the NSA was given phone records of 10s of Millions of US citizens by 3 major phone companies without obtaining a warrant for this information to distinguish "suspious" patterns. It also stated that QWest found the request problematic.

Now, That doesn't look like they listened in on conversations, does it? Except, of course, how do you define a suspious pattern? How do you finally know that a pattern is suspious? Ah...I think you might have to listen in.

There are only two scenarios in which having all this data works: 1) a terrorist attack occurs and you can backtrack, perhaps catching other terrorists. This does no good in detering the inital attack, or 2) you listen in on conversations.

Let's start with the simple stuff: almost everyone who makes phone calls has patterns of calls. I know I do. There are places and people I call regularly. That's a pattern. There are new people and places I have to call regularly. That's a pattern. So if I change my pattern to a new pattern suddenly for whatever reason, I'm now under suspicion. Even if my change of pattern is perfectly reasonable (new friend, different client, new home, search for a new job). So how does the NSA determine that my pattern is not suspious? Guess what; they have to listen in on my phone calls! And possibly log what internet sites I visit. And soon they will be reading our mail, because, you know, We're All Terrorists Now.

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