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Hullabaloo


Thursday, December 29, 2005

 
Mistakes

by digby


The National Security Agency's internet site has been placing files on visitors' computers that can track their web-surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.

These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.



They say they are strictly listening to conversations between terrorists and their American friends who are plotting to blow up weddings. They don't need anyone looking over the shoulders, not even a rubber stamp secret Star Chamber. They are professionals who aren't interested in tracking people for any reason but terrorism. No oversight necessary, nosirree.


Yet we are supposed to believe they don't know they have a fucking cookie allowing them to track every visitor to their web site and we are also supposed to believe that they aren't making any other "mistakes" in their data mining of American citizens' communications. The alternative, of course, would be to believe that they knew very well they had a cookie on their site and were, in fact, tracking the surfing habits of those who vistited it, in which case we know for a fact that they aren't just monitoring communications with al Qaeda. Either way, I think this little episode proves that the NSA could use a little oversight, don't you?

Maybe not. In a debate at the WaPo yesterday on the subject, a fine Republican wrote:

An al Qaeda operative can walk into any Radio Shack, buy X number of cell phones, activate them with an American company (thereby acquiring a US phone number), then take them to another country to use.

The Fourth Amendment offers protection to Americans against UNREASONABLE searches. Is it unreasonable, after 9/11, to monitor the phone calls of foreign al Qaeda operatives to those using cell phones with American numbers when we know in hindsight that Atta -- while in this country preparing for the attack -- communicated with al Qaeda's leadership abroad? Is it unreasonable for the government to do whatever it can to intercept such conversations, knowing that Able Danger had identified Atta as an al Qaeda operative before the attack? What about the civil rights and liberties of those slaughtered on 9/11 by al Qaeda?

IF these phone calls really were domestic spying, I, too, would object. But, they're not. They are international calls with one end outside the country. The remedy is simple and involves personal responsibility: If an American citizen does not want his calls monitored, then he shouldn't be chatting with foreign al Qaeda operatives on the phone. And to me, it is that simple.


Simple.

But just in case the NSA is making more "mistakes," (or fibbing just a little bit) the best thing to do to be perfectly sure the government isn't spying on you is to not make any phone calls. Or surf the internet. Or leave the house. But the very best thing to do is vote Republican and support the war and you won't have any trouble at all. (Shhhh. Don't tell the terrorists.)


Update

To be clear:

All I'm saying is that if the nation's premiere surveillance agnecy can make "mistakes" about something as simple as a cookie, they can certainly make mistakes about much more complicated and serious matters.


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