Thursday, May 11, 2006

New & improved Bush definition of an American citizen -- criminal until proven innocent

As a political gadfly of the lesbian, feminist and anti-war persuasion, I always figured the government might watch me sometime. Even though I have never entertained any thought that could remotely endanger anyone, I always figured that such a possibility goes with the territory of promoting unpopular political views.

Imagine my surprise, though, when I realized this morning – thanks to USA Today reporter Leslie Cauley – that the feds’ domestic spying operations have swept up everyone from my 79-year-old mother to my very Republican and George Bush supporting aunt. Heck, if my cat, Ernestine, could own a phone, the feds would be watching her, too.

Our crime? No crime.

No suspicion.

No evidence.

No warrant.

If we are guilty of anything it is only that we live in the United States and we own a phone – that is a Verizon, AT&T or BellSouth phone. All you folks who telephone through Qwest, count yourself as lucky. That company actually said no to the Bush Administration’s massive post-9/11 request for information.(Good for you, Qwest!)

Perhaps one of the most chilling part of USA Today’s story about the National Security Agency program is a question and answer sidebar that starts with this very simple entry.

Q: Does the NSA's domestic program mean that my calling records have been secretly collected?
A: In all likelihood, yes. The NSA collected the records of billions of domestic calls. Those include calls from home phones and wireless phones.

The information collected is known as “call-detail” records, apparently, on every phone call made since 9/11 within the United States. These records include the numbers being dialed and, I suspect, dates and times. Even though names, addresses and other personal information are not included that is easy enough to get. It’s easy for me to find, let alone the NSA.

We’re supposed to be OK with this because we are told the NSA is only looking for patterns and not actually listening to what anyone is saying. But since everything is secret, there is no way to know what is actually being done and how this information is being used.

In some ways, this doesn’t surprise me at all. In other ways, I have to admit that I am stunned at how little the Bush Administration believes in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

The American Prospect’s Tapped blog does a good job of linking this news to “the broader chain:

One thing the Bush administration says it can do with this meta-data is to start tapping your calls and listening in, without getting a warrant from anyone. Having listened in on your calls, the administration asserts that if it doesn't like what it hears, it has the authority to detain you indefinitely without trial or charges, torture you until you confess or implicate others…

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