Respectfully Disagreeing with Just About Everyone On the Right (Part 1)

It isn’t too often I find myself in such complete disagreement with Mark Steyn. He’s one of those guys that if I do disagree with him, I read him again because I must have missed something the first time. But on the NSA collecting data on MY phone calls, he’s just wrong.

Likewise, Richard Falkenrath is also wrong and dangerously ignorant in his Op/Ed which ran in the Washington Post.

On Thursday, USA Today reported that three U.S. telecommunications companies have been voluntarily providing the National Security Agency with anonymized domestic telephone records — that is, records stripped of individually identifiable data, such as names and place of residence. If true, the architect of this program deserves our thanks and probably a medal. That architect was presumably Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and President Bush’s nominee to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The potential value of such anonymized domestic telephone records is best understood through a hypothetical example. …

Let’s dispel a myth right here and now. There is no such thing as anonymized data. Period. If you don’t believe me, type your phone number into google and see what you get. (and be sure to follow the link where you can even see your house on satellite imagery) Bouncing your phone number off another database to learn who you are is trivial. You just did it with google.

That Richard Falkenrath used the term 6 times in his Op/Ed insults thinking people everywhere. If the data truly was “anonymized” what would be the point collecting it? You can’t (without torturing logic outside the bounds of the Geneva convention) say the data is both “anonymized” and also invaluable in tracking terrorists.

“But there are safeguards in place… blah blah blah… The data can’t be… blah blah blah”

Anyone on the right who thinks this is a good idea should be disabused of that notion by 3 simple words. “President Hillary Clinton.” Ask yourself… Do you really trust the Clinton’s with this data. — That’s the problem with bad policy. Even if you trust George Bush and his administration today and you really believe it is only being used to catch terrorists, bad policy has a way of sticking with government forever. And only getting worse with time.

Since Richard Falkenrath wants to use hypothetical examples, here’s mine.

Some idiot staffer in the Hillary Whitehouse gets pissed at Wizbang. He has a pal pull Kevin’s phone records and the IRS comes knocking on every Wizbanger’s door 30 days later.

Don’t think it can happen? If you don’t, then you are both hopelessly naive and ignorant of history.

In creating policy, the decision must be made if the potential good outweighs the potential bad. To paraphrase Paul “Bear” Bryant (or was it Vince Lombardi?), Destroying basic civil liberties is more bad then stopping terrorists is good.*

No, the simple act of putting this information into another database is not inherently bad. But the potential for misuse is astounding. History has taught us that this much information in the hands of government will be misused. It is the natural order of things. I thought we on the right understood that. Perhaps we’re so used to protecting this administration and our beliefs from idiotic charges from the left that when there is something we should disagree with we lose sight. I can’t reconcile how anyone who claims to be a supporter of smaller goverment supports this program.

The goals of this program are laudable. As are most roads to Hell. But this program is not a solution to the terrorism problem, it is only the creation of many future problems and it should be eliminated.

* In part 2, I’ll discuss more of the upside and downside potentials of this program and my take will be so unpopular I’ll probably get death threats. (I might not be kidding) Don’t miss it.

AND Note: I agree with the recording of *suspects* in this country (the first NSA phone scandal) but I don’t agree with monitoring of everyday citizens. Call me stuck on the 4th amendment.

You Know You Live In New Orleans When...
Lorie Byrd is Leaving Polipundit


  1. Synova May 16, 2006
  2. Synova May 16, 2006
  3. Lee May 16, 2006
  4. tim May 16, 2006
  5. ed May 16, 2006
  6. DOUG BOOK May 16, 2006
  7. mak44 May 16, 2006
  8. Geoffrey MG May 16, 2006
  9. toby928 May 16, 2006
  10. wizard61 May 16, 2006
  11. mantis May 17, 2006
  12. Synova May 17, 2006
  13. Martin A. Knight May 17, 2006
  14. From The Guardian (UK) – February 6, 1999
  15. The Herald (UK)

    • US Government – Bin Laden and Iraq Agreed to Cooperate on Weapons Development – New York Times (November 1998)
    • Iraq Has Network of Outside Help on Arms, Experts Say – New York Times (November 1998)
    • U.S. Says Iraq Aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan – New York Times (August 1998)
    • Iraq Suspected of Secret Germ War Effort – New York Times (February 2000)
    • Signs of Iraqi Arms Buildup Bedevil U.S. Administration – New York Times (February 2000)
    • Flight Tests Show Iraq Has Resumed a Missile Program – New York Times (July 2000)
    • Iraqi Work Toward A-Bomb Reported – Washington Post (September 1998)

    Note the dates. President Bush was not elected until November 2nd 2000 (not counting the recount episode) and he did not take the oath of office until January 21st 2001. So the Admnistration officials quoted in these pieces (both on or off the record) all happen to be officials of the Administration of one William Jefferson Clinton. All the American intelligence officials cited happened to be serving the Administration of William Jefferson Clinton.

    Anyone with an ounce of honesty must therefore wonder; how come it is only the Bush Administration that is accused of “misleading” the American people on the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to the United States when we have the Clinton Administration’s CENTCOM Commander, General Anthony Zinni saying that “Iraq remains the most significant near-term threat to U.S. interests in the Arabian Gulf region … Iraq probably is continuing clandestine nuclear research [and] retains stocks of chemical and biological munitions … Even if Baghdad reversed its course and surrendered all WMD capabilities, it retains scientific, technical, and industrial infrastructure to replace agents and munitions within weeks or months.” before a Congressional Committee in 2000? How come it is only the Bush Administration that is being accused of “misleading” the American people when it was the Clinton Administration’s Justice Department that filed the indictment against Osama bin Laden that stated “… al Qaeda reached an understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq …” in 1998?

    The answer is simple. By meticulously embargoing any mention of anything ever said about, Iraq, Saddam Hussein, terrorism and WMDs prior to the start of the War in Iraq, and then purposefully ignoring anything afterward that would undermine the new narrative that Saddam Hussein was never considered a threat by anyone before President Bush came to office and “manipulated intelligence” to make it so. This would include any new articles, news programs, speeches and other public statements and documents.

    Here’s an example.

      … it is incontestable that on the day I left office, there were unaccounted for stocks of biological and chemical weapons. – Bill Clinton [Larry King Live (CNN) – July 22, 2003]

    The similarities between what was asserted by the Clinton and Bush administrations are so striking as to make it impossible to successfully accuse the Bush Administration of lying without implicating the Clinton Administration … but I’m sure mak44 is going to try.

  • Jeff Blogworthy May 17, 2006