Friday, May 12, 2006


NSA Data Mining, Day Two

This story grows. I first wrote on this latest flap yesterday.

The National Security Agency (NSA), arguably the most “on-the-point” of all Federal Agencies in response to the threat of terror attacks in the US, faces intense media and political criticism for its multi-administration and decade old call detail record (CDR) data mining program. Howls about the “most lawless administration in history,” “abuse of power,” illegal and unconstitutional search” abound.

There are no bounds, legal or statutory, across which leakers will not violate their sworn oaths to preserve information classified as critical to national security. Every one of these reports about NSA have revealed classified information about classified projects. Defenders allege these leaks are essential to preserve and defend vital freedoms and citizens’ rights in alerting the public about Executive overreach (and illegal behavior).

Defenders scream back, we’re at war, and critics can’t honestly acknowledge that on the one hand, then pretend any reasonable provision taken to confront that threat as overreach. Global Terrorism in its current incarnation should be a bi-partisan fight, yet both sides continue to step away from that common fight to fight each other for partisan advantage.

These same critics pounded the Bush Administration, while at the same time, giving a pass to the Clinton Administration, for “not putting the pieces together” before 9/11. President Bush rightfully directed, in legitimate fashion, with appropriate Presidential wartime powers and Patriot Act provisions, NSA to undertake all legal means necessary to try to gather intelligence and thwart terrorists plotting more terrorism in the US.

Political observers point to several reasons for the sudden disclosure of a program that’s been quietly at work for years, possibly even as early as sometime in the Clinton Administration. Look no further than today’s New York Times report, quoting Senator Spector (rumored to be a Republican in the Senate):

Some members of Congress also reacted angrily to the news that the ethics office at the Justice Department had been refused the security clearances necessary to conduct a planned investigation of department lawyers who approved N.S.A.'s eavesdropping.

Mr. Specter called the denial of clearances to the department's own investigators "incomprehensible" and said he and other senators would ask that the clearances be granted to employees of the department's Office of Professional Responsibility.

Others point to the leaks as efforts to scuttle the nomination of General Michael V. Hayden to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). No doubt, political knives are being sharpened, and these days, there are few knives sharper than the leak of classified information for political gain.

How does the American public feel about the NSA Program? (To whatever extent they even know about NSA or understand what functions it serves?)

The preliminary results are in, echoing results from earlier dust-ups over NSA intercepts of Al Qaeda communications with possible co-conspirators in the US. The Washington Post and ABC News report initial polls showing a 2-1 majority of Americans support these NSA activities. (If these could be fully explained without hype, with much classified process and privacy protections explained, the support would likely by over 80%.)

That hasn’t yet stopped the program’s detractors and the usual suspects of Bush haters and Democratic activists. Adding to the criticism, we’re told, are both Republican and Democrats in Congress. That’s how the wind was blowing when the perfect storm was seeded, anyway. (Please, you think these leaks aren’t coordinated and timed? Just when General Hayden is about to be interrogated by members of Congress for the head of the CIA?) It remains to be seen how many of these foul weather carpers linger on when the overnight and weekend poll numbers come in.

My guess? Watch for all the about-faces (that would be face two for two-faced politicos) over the weekend.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds notes the ABC News report on initial polling on the NSA story.

UPDATE #2: Thanks, Glenn, for the Instalanche!

Links: Mudville Gazette

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]