The decision by the Bush Administration to go after the New York Times for exposing a portion of their spying- the unauthorized NSA spying on calls to Afghanistan- sets up the central struggle for Americas soul. Truthfully, no one is much alarmed by monitoring connections with Afghanistan or scanning US mosques for radiation; both have a legitimate national security justification. But the FBI is spying on 30,000 people a year- according to the
The Total Information Awareness program (run by John Pointdexter) mined and linked all government and commercial databases: 20 billion records including bank records, motor-vehicle records, driver's licenses with digital photographs, credit histories, family, Social Security #, names of neighbors and landlords for interesting associations. It was supposedly shut down after a public outcry in 2003, but in reality it was just shifted to the Commerce Dept., and renamed the Matrix: the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange - built by Floridas Seisint Inc. after 9-11, and run by ex-drug smuggler Hank Asher, whose company performed the Felon Purge against mostly black Florida voters in the 2000 election (42% inaccurate, according to our research*). Seisint turned over the resulting 120,000 names- people the company claimed had a high terrorism quotient... - to federal and Florida law enforcement authorities.-- St. Petersburg Times. Seisint has since been sold to Lexis/Nexis after Asher was forced out. States participating in Matrix include Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Connecticut; and formerly Alabama, Georgia, Utah, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Oregon, and New York. Technically privately owned (though run by the FBI and HSA), the MATRIX has no oversight mechanism- inaccurate information cant be corrected or removed. The program was supposedly partially dismantled last April. Meanwhile, the NSAs and ex-British allies worldwide Eschelon monitoring system reportedly scans some 3 billion calls and messages a day.
Given that there were only 300 NSLs before 9-11, there's no way there are 30,000 legitimate terrorism suspects a year in America - there probably aren't even 3000. People cognizant of the depths of this administrations vindictiveness understand this is a Bush Enemies List, targeting those who dare to criticize the crimes of this arrogant imperious administration. Why else would he ignore the rubber stamp FISA court in the separate NSA cases, which has turned down only 1 request in 3500? We are now talking about maybe abusing the privacy of one hundred thousand innocent citizens, or more. It is unconstitutional, illegal, vicious, cowardly, and has the potential to destroy the America we thought we were; yet incredibly, the Patriot Act makes exposure of this spying a serious crime, meaning victims are left forever in the dark, basting in their suspicions. Congress is close to renewing these atrocious provisions permanently, which allow thousands to rip through anyone's life without any oversight or limits. Aware people realize the NSA has been scanning all foreign calls since the 70s- a 1978 law banning monitoring US Citizens was never really followed, but snooping intentionally directed at individuals is radically different.
Whether the press can resist this false dichotomy and avoid being intimidated by the persecution of the NYT, and pursue this story to the depths it leads, depends nothing less than the future of the American experiment. Even some liberal and anti-government Republicans are deadset against the unlimited snooping promoted by the President, realizing 95% is still below the surface. This is an administration that has viciously slandered any critics, practiced dishonesty on an industrial level, started an unnecessary disastrous war, transferred trillions of dollars from the poor, middle class, and unborn to the rich in tax cuts and corporate payoffs, and now has engaged in massive spying of its critics. The only possible purpose for this is intimidation and injury... and the potential for abuse is infinite.
The levels to which they would stoop were revealed by Ambassador Joe Wilson in a speech at Brown University.
Mandating absolute secrecy mandates uncontrolled abuses. No American should ever be spied on without valid reason and a judge's consent. Not only must these blanket Patriot Act spying provisions be reversed- the political victims of them should be informed and exonerated, and compensated for this treachery.
Otherwise, with widespread torture, secret prisons in Eastern Europe, more prisoners than any other country, uncontrolled political spying and bullying of critics: it is official: under Bush we have become the Soviets.
*In an examination of 14 Florida Counties, Deb Cupples discovered 42% inaccurate matches: men matched to women, blacks matched to whites, people of totally different names but same birthdate. Because Florida listed Party affiliation and race on voter forms, this gave election supervisors extraordinary ability to skew results, if they desired- though real felons were already vastly Democratic. They also matched felons from around the country with voters in Florida, although 2 judges ruled that illegal. I had the 42,000 names around 9-11, since admitted to be much more, but never pursued what was Palast's story. In 2001, Palm Beach Post said 19,398 had actually been removed, 4800 of which didn't match.
In a long Vanity Fair story, DBT creator Asher amazingly comes off as admirable, brave, and generous. He left DataBaseTech before they perpetrated the notorious felon purge: "They wrote the program wrong. They forgot to only link people with felonies. They had misdemeanors too, so if some poor guy 20 years ago shoplifted, drove away from a gas station without paying for the gas or whatever, they tagged him as an illegal voter Its idiotic!" Ironically, authorities only discovered his smuggling past when Asher came to them to help rid his Bahamian island of Columbian dealers and told them, so even his life is being screwed up by 23 year old context-less allegations.
Michael Hammerschlag's commentary and articles(HAMMERNEWS.com) have appeared in the Seattle Times, Providence Journal, Columbia Journalism Review, Hawaii Advertiser, Capital Times, MediaChannel; and Moscow News, Tribune, Times, and Guardian. He broke the first comprehensive story on media mistakes in the 2000 election. firstname.lastname@example.org