Saturday, April 29, 2006

Welcome to the Machine

We've been making a transition to the national security state for quite some time now. If Bush wants, he can jail you, surveil you, nail you, and impale you. If you disagree, the national security apparatus takes a dim view of your protestations. After all, the President is the decider-in-chief of our national security. He decides what's best. In practice, this has made the executive into the judge, jury, and executioner. That's why people have been dying in our non-secret prisons and doubtless in our secret prisons. [That last article won the Pulitzer Prize this year, and for good reason.]

On the theory that there is more than one branch of American government, some enterprising people at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (an advocacy group for internet and telecommunications freedoms) decided to take it to the next level and sue AT&T for allowing the government to hook up listening machines with massive data mining capability to the telephone and internet systems. These machines listened indiscriminately to millions of people, looking for various keywords and patterns thought to be suspicious (again, according to the national security apparatus). AT&T also opened their customer database to the feds, comprising 300 million megabytes of private information.

This stuff is as illegal as aggravated rape is. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows for surveillance of American citizens on a showing of probable cause, or a lesser standard in the presence of a clearly-defined connection from the person to a foreign power. Not only was there no warrant for these searches, they listened to everyone. Since December, whistleblowers have been trying to get this very important story into public view. This EFF lawsuit would have done the same to the nth degree: operating surveillance outside the bounds of the law carries a fine of up to $10000 per occurrence. AT&T could have been liable for billions.

On the theory that what happens in the executive branch stays in the executive branch, the feds plan to invoke the State Secrets Privilege to stop the lawsuit. They say that learning about how AT&T screwed us all would damage national security.

Anyone who doesn't smell the coverup a mile away needs to get their nose checked.

Sorry if this posts twice on anyone's reader. Hit a bad key.

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