by margieburns
NSA surveillance, open borders, White House misdirection
Sun May 14, 2006 17:56

NSA surveillance, open borders, White House misdirection
by margieburns on Sun 14 May 2006 10:49 AM CDT

NSA surveillance, open borders, White House misdirection

Why do the news media keep playing along?

The news that VP Cheney had penned in notes about Valerie Plame on a newspaper article he wanted rebutted – before her name was leaked by his top aide -- seems to have been downplayed on this week’s Sunday morning television, perhaps partly in honor of Mother’s Day.

Two other highly contentious and serious issues, however, did get ample play: the dispute in Congress and elsewhere over our unsecured Mexican border; and the big story that the NSA has stockpiled a huge database of Americans’ phone calls.

The good news is that these matters are not being totally swept under the rug. The bad news is that large media outlets continue to present them in administration terms.

Where both stories started: on September 11, 2001, four American jumbo jets were hijacked simultaneously from three U.S. airports and were deliberately crashed into New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon, with the greatest loss of life ever from a terrorist attack on American soil.

I am well aware that this is restatement of what everyone knows. But I wish that every reader could look at that single statement, sit back, and think. Try to come up with ONE instance of administration policy that actually fits the rubric of “fighting back.” Clamping the lid down on press investigation of the hijackers? Concealing the real name of hijacker “Majed Moqued”? Going after Afghanistan (Pipeline-istan) instead of going after Osama bin Laden? Opposing victims’ and survivors’ efforts to use judicial discovery re the airlines? Opening up Afghanistan to revived heroin commerce? Targeting Iraq within hours of the events of 9/11? Pretending that the Iraqis would appreciate having their country invaded? Leaving enormous caches of weapons in Iraq unsecured, to be seized by insurgents? Promoting Condoleezza Rice to Secretary of State, Stephen Hadley to National Security Adviser, and numerous architect-of-war neocons to other responsible positions? Promoting virtually every official on whose watch 9/11 occurred?

Back to the two issues of unsecured borders and NSA surveillance of Americans’ phone records.

Numerous firsthand accounts are available, direct eyewitness observation of what is called “Arab Road” in Arizona, of Middle Easterners entering the U.S. via Latin America. They’re among what are called “OTMs,” “other than Mexicans.” Now, I love America as the nation of immigrants. The fact that my own ancestors got here a couple of hundred years ago does not change that. I do not want to add to the difficulties of poor, struggling people or to see refugees terrorized. But still it’s odd that what would seem to be a genuine security issue at our borders is never mentioned by the pump-up-the-uglies crowd in the GOP.

Instead, they present every border matter as a conflict between “immigration” and “security,” a Hegelian clash of categorical imperatives with no right answer. And the mass media go along, every time. When was the last time you saw George Stephanopoulos, Tim Russert, Chris Matthews or any of the Sunday heads bring up OTMs or mention “Arab Road”? The point here, of course, is that if widespread attention were drawn to the genuine absence of border security, then the whole rotten edifice of “homeland security” would be exposed as a sham. (It will be mildly interesting to see whether GWBush mentions OTMs in his televised address on Monday night.)

Which brings us to that little NSA database of Americans’ phone records. Stephen Hadley, now our National Security Adviser, defends the “terrorist surveillance program” by suggesting that no names, addresses, or taped records of conversations are databased. Only records, logs, of the calls are being kept, for the purpose of gleaning “patterns.” Assuming for argument’s sake that this suggestion is accurate, which is not a given, what does it tell you? Well, for starters, any smart “terrorist” would use someone else’s phone, or would use a pay phone, or would arrange for the call to come to someone else and would stand there in the kitchen, first on one foot, then the other, waiting for the callee to hand him the phone . . .

Give me a break. Again, this issue is presented as a Hegelian clash, between the need for privacy and the need for domestic security. Americans want their privacy, but they also want to fight terrorists, etc. (Hadley, getting double use out of that word that both he and the First Lady apply to the president, says the president wants to “protect privacy” and that he wants to “protect Americans.”) Bob Schieffer opened Face the Nation this morning with two questions about the NSA program: is it legal? And does it help in fighting terrorism?

The real question is the big one, the elephant in the room. The real question is, was this program even intended to fight terrorism? Is it, or was it, even connected to fighting terrorism?

Wasn’t it inherently far more likely to be used against investigators, than against terrorists?

The list of significant items in the “war on terror” covered up or suppressed by the White House is long and growing, and a topic for another blog.

16 Words: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein
recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."
-- From Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address

NSA Report Puts New Pressure on CIA Nominee
Yesterday’s news that the NSA has amassed—with the help of major U.S. phone companies—a database tracking tens of millions of purely domestic American calls put the Bush White House back on the defensive, and raised new questions about the administration’s pick to head the CIA. Though Gen. Michael Hayden is still expected to be eventually confirmed, that process may now become a public forum on the legality of the domestic spying program, which Hayden oversaw in his time at the NSA's helm. Meanwhile, the White House’s legal argument has emerged, and seems to hinge on the notion that Americans consent to have their calls tracked by the government simply by establishing a telephone account.

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