Wednesday, October 24, 2007

No Debate About a Topic Only a Select Few Know

There seems to be little debate or consensus about the NSA eavesdropping programs, the legality of them, or whether we wish to even continue them. Partly this is due to the secrecy surrounding the programs, and likely partly due to people having more important things on their minds like just making it through the day. However, this is a democracy and this blog for better or worse is equivalent to a church door at the time of Martin Luther. There is likely no legal or technical reason for the Bush Administration to have ignored the FISC and the FISA law it oversees. The administration did not fully brief all members of the FISC or of the oversight committees responsible for overseeing The American Intelligence Community and its activities. Bruce Schneier has excellent blog posts about the Bush Administration's actions and about the NSA's data mining problems. The New York Times has an opinion piece entitled The NSA's Math Problem that Dr. Schneier references.

The NSA is likely drowning in data. It's like trying to count individual water droplets as they spill over Niagara Falls, and finding the droplets containing trace toxins from illegal dumping the week before. Secrecy is abhorrent to a democracy. There should be a way for the government to tell us what it is doing and how effective it is without compromising the specifics of the programs. If the programs aren't effective in intercepting terrorist communications, they should be terminated. We need an impartial group of observers to review the programs and report to Congress what they find. The Bush Administration and the NSA won't necessarily be impartial. The former has much to lose politically if it is discovered that people's rights were abused for little gain and the latter will lose money budgeted for those programs, and no agency wants to see its budget shrink.


Alas, JB we live in an imperfect world. In a world where competition is fierce (as we have seen in the space race) truth must be wrapped in a tissue of lies. This being the case- and man being what he is, a few 'good men' whether in the Capitol Hill or in Westminster decide what is sensitive and what is not. It is a catch-all for protecting the wrong doings of the government.

Despite being unsure of a response to the actual point of your post, I feel compelled to point out that the United States is actually a republic.

It's kind of interesting that states and communities sometimes do both. We elect our aldermen and councilpeople and whathaveyou, so they act as republics, as well; at the same time, the individuals are occasionally called upon to approve or reject specific matters of policy.
I know it's a republic. When I said, democracy, I had in mind representational democracy ( as opposed to direct democracy (

Haven't you noticed that Congress has been asleep at the wheel? Pray tell what will wake them from their slumber? There have been a few representatives who have questioned the eavesdropping, but only a few. People seem to be remarkably quiet. They say we are at war, but you can only be at war with other nations. This is a war against a group of people that isn't a nation or even an ethnic group necessarily. As Gergen said, it's a twilight war and the question is, "Do we want the President to have these war powers for 20-30 years?" One doesn't have major surgery for an abscessed tooth, yet if left untreated, such a tooth can kill you. Is the treatment worse than the illness? And yes, the body politic is a rather old, worn and archaic analogy, but I'll use it to get the imagery across.
It amazes me that this bright little Hancock program is seemingly laid aside when it could be a very effective tool to get the desired results.

Representational democracy, fair enough. So many people genuinely believe the US is a direct democracy...

It's a sticky spot as a politician. Going against the eavesdropping could result in being accused of being un-american, pro-terrorist, or some other thing. Think McCarthy, if you're not with us, you're against us, kinda thing.

Perhaps the real question is, why isn't it getting more time in the news? That seems to be the largest determining factor of what's important to the public. And what's important to the public quickly becomes important to the politicians. Is the simplest explanation merely that the coming elections make better news?

And yes, they could absolutely let us know numbers. Just strip all the specific data.
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