NSA Warrantless Spying? Ho-Hum
07.07.2006 05:48 | DISPATCHES
As causes go, NSA warrantless eavesdropping has been a non-starter with the American public. A May 2006 Washington Post article reported that "63 percent of Americans said they found the NSA program to be an acceptable way to investigate terrorism. . . . 66 percent. . . said they would not be bothered if NSA collected records of personal calls they had made."
How did wiretapping, dirty trick of choice to intelligence agencies and secret police around the world, get stripped of its power to inspire fear in the hearts of the public?
Oh, I don't know, is it because it's been trumped by the prospect of a terrorist strike? Inflated by the administration, the threat is unleashed on an unsuspecting public. As if in a 'roid rage, the fear of terror bullies us into coughing up civil liberties as if they were lunch money. In other words, according to the Post article, the public is informed by "the belief that the need to investigate terrorism outweighs privacy concerns."
To most of us, our republic's early struggles to pry the heel of tyranny off its neck is but a childhood history lesson long forgotten. In fact, those hard-won freedoms now seem quaint, a dusty vestige of a simpler time. Finally asked to sacrifice for the war on terror, we turn patriotism inside out and forfeit our civil liberties. Besides, if you're not guilty of a treasonous crime, what's there to worry about?
That's not the only reason why NSA spying fails to get a rise out of us. For example, in a time when our personal information is disseminated far and wide -- from credit reports to "your recommendations" on Amazon -- what's one more intrusion? Anyway, by the time the NSA digs out from under the avalanche of information it's collecting, it's likely those calls in which you and your bud chewed over Bush's crimes and misdemeanors will have melted away.
Yet we're in a state of red alert over privacy intrusion of another kind: identity theft (along with the monumental hassles recovery entails). A threat shorn of partisan politics, it's easier to focus on than warrantless wiretapping. But our paranoia about it is even more warranted than we can imagine. At least once a week for the past year, the personal data of tens of thousands citizens at a time is stolen from major corporations.
"We Cut Identity Theft to Pieces"
It must be true if it's blazoned across Iron Mountain's homepage. "As the global leader in information protection and storage services," a recent press release reads, ". . . Iron Mountain has earned the solid reputation with customers. . . for protecting valuable company information."
Yet, according to Wayne Madsen, perhaps America's hardest working reporter on the intelligence beat, Iron Mountain is one of 104 companies that have been victimized by data theft in the past year. Another, ChoicePoint, which maintains a dossier on virtually every American consumer, was tricked into selling the personal date of approximately 145,000 of us to identity thieves who posed as customers.
The question begs to be asked: If companies like these aren't safe from data theft -- through, aside from fraud, hacking or, more often, actual burglarization of hard drives -- what hope is there for the rest of us? But answering that question requires another and Madsen is the man to ask it: "What's behind all the personal data thefts?"
According to his intelligence sources ". . . many of the large scale thefts are part of a well-planned covert intelligence operation to obtain data on hundreds of millions of people [to populate] intelligence and surveillance databases with files on the financial, medical, employment, telecommunications, and other sensitive data of Americans and foreigners."
If Madsen's correct, data theft -- which sets the stage for identity theft -- becomes just another NSA spying tool along with phone surveillance. Is that enough to get a rise out of the American public? It might be if the mainstream media didn't look down on Wayne Madsen as a borderline conspiracy theorist (read: jealous of his sources) and, instead, disseminated his discoveries.
Of course, a hopeful note was struck when the Supreme Court ruled that Guantanamo tribunals violate US law in the Hamdan case. According to Judd at ThinkProgress.org, it rolls back Bush & Co.'s broad interpretation of the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. It was that very same AUMF which the administration also used to justify its warrantless wiretapping program. But while two birds may have been killed with one stone, no one will be surprised if the administration pulls yet another predator of a program out of its hat.