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Visualize FISA

July 14, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

Who are we supposed to believe about the new FISA bill? Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) calls it “a marked improvement over last year’s Protect America Act” at the same time that blogger Glenn Greenwald insists that it “does not merely authorize most of the President’s so-called ‘Terrorist Surveillance Program’ that gave rise to this scandal in the first place, but is actually much broader in scope even than that lawless program.” Unless you’re a legal scholar, it’s pretty tough to conduct your own analysis of the complex and lengthy legislation. Wes Alwan of Ketchup and Kaviar, however, has put together a pair of flow charts that make it easier to understand how the bill changes the government’s wiretapping policy.

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  • Dem02020 07/14/2008 8:22pm

    The single overarching objective in these matters is the prevention of an attack like the one that occurred on September 11 2001. The concern that someone might inadvertently record you on the telephone, talking to your mistress or discussing the details of your sex life, is petty and ridiculous compared to the real objectives of conducting domestic surveillance.

    There are two points I would make here: one is the extraordinary importance that intelligence (spying) plays in the job of trying to protect lives against an attack like that of 9/11: the other is how dangerous it is for us to oppose the gathering of intelligence, simply because we don’t trust or are antagonized by or even hate, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

    As to the importance of intelligence gathering in this kind of work: I have a relative in the State Police (this is true what I relate to you here): he has been on a special and prolonged duty, to accompany in and out of a major U.S. port city, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tankers: the reason he and a sizable detail of the State Police do this, is because of the horrific and massive loss of life that would result, were anyone to attack and explode one of these LNG tankers, while in the harbor (and especially while in the river) of the city. When I asked him about this duty, he admitted that there was little they could know about exactly what to expect were someone plotting an attack against an LNG tanker: he and the other State cops are extraordinarily diligent, and would sacrifice their lives in their work: but as far as just who might attack an LNG tanker, and of how they might do it, and if such people (a very narrow subgroup in the world) are even in the country, let alone in the city he works in, are difficult things for the State Police and city cops to know.

    The point is that intelligence gathered about that narrow group of people in the world, who would do something like attack an LNG tanker, is so important it can’t be overestimated: it’s truly everything, in the prevention of such an attack. And as I said, it’s strange and backward that people would value more the intimate details of their phone conversations, inadvertently overheard by law enforcement officers conducting domestic surveillance, than they would the intelligence that might be gathered about the narrow group of people in this world who spend their waking hours thinking of how they can take as many American lives in a single attack as possible. And I assure you, that the relative of mine I just told you about, were he to inadvertently overhear you talking on the phone to your mistress, or about your sexual habits, he’d be amused at worst, but most likely bored, and wouldn’t care in the least to note or remember such stuff, if it had nothing to do with a possible attack against American lives.

    The other point I’d make, is the one about our understandable antagonism against all things Bush and Cheney: those two leering cackling hunched-over criminals, are not the true face of law enforcement in America: they are not out in the field, gathering intelligence or doing anything else that might prevent an attack or save American lives: those professionals are people like my relative on the State Police that I just described to you, and I doubt he likes Bush and Cheney any more than you do.

    To oppose law enforcement efforts, simply because you oppose Bush and Cheney, is terribly misguided.

    There is another last thing I would note. As much as we don’t like this truth, it’s a truth just the same: That there is some degree of trust and faith we must have in law enforcement authorities, when it comes to surveillance, due to the necessarily secretive and non-public and non-transparent nature of gathering intelligence.

    As much as we don’t trust Bush and Cheney, they’re not the ones doing the job: and the ones who are doing the job, are necessarily entrusted by us, whether we like it or not.

    Imagine Mr. Obama with these responsibilities I speak of (as he may have them in six short months): and if in imagining Mr. Obama as President, you are still opposed to the federal government’s power to conduct domestic surveillance in order to perhaps prevent an attack like that of 9/11, then I don’t know what to say…

    The identity of your mistress, or the boring details of you sex life, must be awfully important to you, if you would rather preserve the sanctity of those things, over the work of gathering intelligence about that narrow and murderous group of people in this world.

  • Anonymous 07/14/2008 8:43pm

    The field, the gatherers are what failed us in 9/11. We got to take care of Plame.

    ‘narrow and murderous group of people in this world.’ Obama?

  • Comm_reply
    Dem02020 07/14/2008 9:20pm

    Interesting comment.

    Now could you please step out of the vehicle sir, and put your feet together, and extend your arms out to the side, and lean back your head, and slowly touch your nose with the tip of your right index finger for me please…

  • Anonymous 07/15/2008 3:20am

    Dems want to trade for Clinton’s alcoholic arrests and DUIs? Obama is his own man, but I’m not sure why he’s suddenly for a bill that was Congress screwing up pulling immunity guaranteed by DoD and the courts. Maybe he wants to make sure dems understand who’s in charge. Congress will be trading ‘hostages’ again.

  • Anonymous 07/15/2008 7:44pm

    Everyone wants to know who was using the 9/11s. The billboard is popular.

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