Thursday, May 11, 2006

Spies Like Us

So I took yesterday off, what, I'm not entitled? As Will Ferrell said to Garth Brooks "Oh give me a break, this is freaking hard!" Those of you who know what I'm talking about surely enjoyed that.

I'm a conflicted Monarchist today, faithful reader, because I've been thinking about spying. No, not on you! I've been thinking about the terrorist-surveillance program the NSA has, and today's USA Today story on the NSA's reportedly massive database on US telephone calls (see:

Now, my unease admittedly was lessened after reading more than just the tidbits that the MSM wants you to read (motto: "We're not biased, you are!"). It appears that the NSA (motto: "If you've got nothing to hide, then why so defensive?") has assembled the world's largest database - in the tens of millions - consisting of calls within the United States, with the assistance of SBC, AT&T, and any other "bell" you can think of, with the exception of Qwest, which is based in Colorado.

Now, they aren't tracking names, or the content of calls, but it appears to be... phone call patterns. Which struck me as a little odd, until I thought about traffic patterns. Now, I'd need to find a DOT expert to check me on this, but I'd guess that the folks who monitor traffic have a pretty good idea of when and where things get dicey, any given time, any day of the week. Heck, as a driver in the greater Chicagoland area, I could tell you when not to drive on what major thoroughfare.

This is all just my musings, but I'd guess telephone "traffic" is the same. Pretty consistent patterns probably exist... except when there's a semi-meets-Yugo incident on the Eisenhower heading into the city during morning rush hour. We're all familiar with the term "chatter" and how this has taken on another specific meaning in the post-September 11th world. Sort of makes sense, logically then, to watch, well, chatter patterns (I really need a copyright lawyer on staff). The White House assures us that all such activity is strictly within the law, and frankly, I believe them.


There's a little nagging problem I have with it. Part of it is that libertarian streak in me - not big, but there nonetheless - that says the government has no right monitoring calls. The problem becomes more clear when one considers that the folks in the White House today aren't going to be there forever. A whole new group might be in there come 2008, and (shudders) they may be Democrats.

We could do a brief history of the most recent Democrat Presidents, but, well, it's raining out today and that might push us all from the category of "gloom" to "incurably depressed" and I'm doing my best to keep it light, people. That said, the last guy had no problem with breaking the law, repeatedly. The guy before him was ineffectual and believed, like most of the left did, that we would just have to get used to the Soviet Union being a major world power. We all know how that worked out.

There's something about the NSA programs that have a hint of "escaped genie" feel to them. We can only pray that we don't reap the grave unintended consequences that could come from such power in the wrong hands.

A. Hamilton, aka The Monarchist

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