The Watch

The Watch is concerned about the increasing pressure towards feudalism in the United States from corporations, social regressives, warmongers, and the media. We also are concerned with future history concerning our current times, as non-truths which are “widely reported” become the basis for completely false narratives.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

TGFQ

Thank God for Qwest!

Of the four largest telecommunications companies, only Qwest had the courage and conviction to stand up to the NSA and demand a court order for production of telephone data of all their customers. According to the USAToday, AT&T, Verizon, and BellSouth all rolled over and played nice with the NSA, providing massive amounts of data regarding who called whom when and for how long over the past four and a half years. The stated goal of this NSA project is to “compile a database of all calls in the United States”.

Q: Why is the Qwest refusal so important? A: Because it gives us a glimpse into the NSA’s illegal program. Here’s what we can infer from Qwest’s refusal:

1. By its own actions, even the NSA doesn’t believe that their data gathering is legal. After all, if the NSA thought that the program was legal and would be approved by the FISA court (or any other federal court), all they would have to do was ask for a court order or warrant and, if the program was legal, they would have gotten approval. It’s that simple. The FISA court grants almost every request for warrants -- they almost never deny a request. So, it’s clear that the NSA does not believe that their program is legal. When asked for legal back-up, the NSA backed down and left Qwest alone.

2. Even the NSA doesn’t believe that this program is very valuable from a terrorist-catching standpoint. After all, if the goal was to create a national database of ALL calls made in the US, allowing the fourth largest telecommunications company with 14 million customers to opt out of the program would clearly prevent accomplishment of the goal. Also, if the goal is to catch terrorists, what if the terrorists have Qwest as their telephone service provider? The NSA could miss apprehending the terrorists simply because of dumb luck. Not a very impressive way to run the world’s most secretive intelligence agency! The best explanation for NSA’s failure to pursue Qwest is that NSA is not solely interested in the data just to catch terrorists.

A number of conservative leaders and commentators have jumped to the defense of the program -- most of whom don’t know anything about the program other than what was reported in USAToday. I watched with disbelief and extreme disdain the Judiciary Committee debate regarding the recently revealed spying program… Republican Senator after Republican Senator expounded on the belief that the program is legal, that the NSA was “only” given telephone numbers and data, and that the NSA was not spying on average Americans… All of which were refuted in the USAToday article.

1. The program is illegal. It violates the 1934 Telecommunications Act, which made it illegal for phone companies to give out any information about their customers, including who they call, who calls them, how often they call, and how the calls are routed. It also violates a series of laws enacted in the late 1970s that were designed to strengthen privacy laws regarding telecommunications. So, the program is clearly illegal.

2. The fact that the telecommunications companies (except Qwest) gave “only” telephone numbers and data to the NSA means nothing. The government already has databases linking telephone numbers with names, addresses, and social security numbers. Remember your tax return from just a month or so ago? If you wrote the government a check to help cover the cost of the Iraq war, your check probably had your phone number on it, didn’t it? Even if the government didn’t get your phone number from your check, there are easy ways to find out the name of the person associated with a phone number… You can go to www.anywho.com and find out the name associated with a given phone company for free. For free. If anywho can do this for free for fun, you can bet your @ss that the US government can do that and much much more. So, your phone numbers ARE personal identification numbers that directly link your name with your calling habits -- all very private information that historically has required a court order.

3. One Republican Senator had the cajones to claim that the NSA was clearly only collecting phone data for a few people linked to Al Qaida. Let’s see… If more than 200 million Americans are members of Al Qaida, then I think we have lost the war. Apparently, the Senator failed to fully read the USAToday article before leaping to the defense of the program.

I am going to say this very clearly: Any Senator who defends this program or any other other illegal NSA warrantless spying programs is abdicating his or her sworn duty to uphold the Constitution as part of a system of checks and balances. The legislative branch’s duty is to be part of a system of checks and balances that prevents either the judicial or the executive branches from gaining too much power. Remember your social studies classes in middle school? Remember the SYSTEM OF CHECKS AND BALANCES???

President Bush is not my king and if he acts like a king, he needs to be impeached and removed from power. No person is above the law, yet Mr. Bush is clearly ignoring legal and Constitutional limits to his power. I don’t care if Bush is a Republican or a Democrat, my liberty is precious to me. Bush needs to be impeached. And any Senator who defends Bush’s illegal programs is a traitor.

As for the bastard phone companies, I, for one, look forward to joining in the class action lawsuit against them for violating my privacy and betraying my trust.

My prediction: in a few weeks or months, we will learn that the NSA has also coopted the four companies with the most concentrated and sensitive information imaginable -- Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover. By linking telephone numbers with names with calling patterns, with credit card purchases, with Internet usage, with phone conversations, the US government will have developed a massive blackmailing capability beyond the wildest wet dreams of even J. Edgar Hoover, Richard Nixon, or Senator Joseph McCarthy. And all in the name of stopping "Terror".

Long Live the Republic!

-John Locke

PS. Dear NSA, CIA, FBI, KGB, and Bush:
I am not a terrorist. I love the US. Please don't spy on me.

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