Friday, June 14, 2013

Of Course "It Works"

“This program provided information which prevented dozens of terrorist attacks on our homeland.” Does that line, spoken by the Obama administration in defense of the NSA surveillance programs, sound familiar? It should; it is precisely the same line that the Bush administration used in defense of torture.

Did it justify torture? Yes, unfortunately, in the eyes of some, it did.

Those were the people who a) would justify anything that George Bush did because they were blinded by loyalty to George Bush and/or the Republican Party and/or b) were so terrified of being hit by an asteroid from outer space killed by a terrorist, that they would permit any action taken by their government.

Today we have people who are so blinded by loyalty to Barack Obama and/or the Democratic Party that they will accept and justify anything done by the current administration, and we still have people who are terrified beyond reason of being killed by a terrorist, even though being hit by an asteroid from outer space is more likely.

Those in the latter group, terrified of being killed by a terrorist, point to the Boston bombing as justification for their fears and as justification for the NSA surveillance, even though the NSA surveillance was in place at the time and did not prevent the bombing.

Clapper, Alexander, Joe Biden and others are claiming that these surveillance programs prevented “dozens of terrorist attacks,” but they are not going to give us the details of those attacks because those details are “secrets” which are vital to “national defense.” That’s one explanation. Other explanations for not disclosing details might be that there were fewer than “dozens” of attacks, that attacks were prevented but not by these surveillance programs, or it might be that no such attacks ever existed.

The only attack which has been mentioned is the guy planning to bomb the New York subway with bombs made from hair care products. Turns out the original tip did not come from these surveillance programs at all, and that the use of this surveillance not only caught him in the net but also swept up three other people who were buying large quantities of hair care products. Those people turned out to be hairdressers rather than bombers, so the efficacy of these programs might be a bit questionable.

Who could have imagined that hairdressers might buy large quantities of hair care products? They don’t call them intelligence agents for nothing.

Not to mention that, having received the tip, they could easily have gotten a FISA warrant to record this one person’s phone calls. Wherein was this “total awareness” surveillance program required?

But whether or not they work is moot. The first question about a government program is not whether or not it works, but whether or not it lies within the boundaries set by our constitution. That question is not even being addressed by the administration in defense of these programs and, since its legality has been challenged, it is the first one which should be.

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