Tuesday, December 20, 2005

"It's a cookbook!" 

There is a Twilight Zone episode called "To Serve Man" based on a science fiction short story by, I think, Larry Niven. It was one of those stories with a twist ending. The aliens arrive on Earth and they're all very nice and friendly and they invite everyone to visit their planet. Well, our hero is suspicious, but the aliens win him over. Then his girlfriend finds an alien book titled "To Serve Man" and sets to work translating it. At the end of the episode, just as the hero is getting onto the spaceship to travel to the alien planet, the girl comes running into the spaceport and screams up at him "It's a cookbook!"
This is what I am starting to feel like with this NSA story -- that its not a question anymore about which individual people are being targetted and whose enemies they are. Rather, the question is whether there is anyone, anywhere, whose phone calls and email are NOT under surveillance?
Kevin Drum and Josh Marshall have assembled indications that NSA is spider-botting whole groups of people at once. Marshall says
. . . Perhaps they're doing searches for certain patterns of words or numbers, perhaps something as simple as a phone number. But unlike 'traditional' wiretapping, in which you're catching the conversations of a relatively small and defined group of people, this may involve listening in on a big slice of the email or phone communications in the country looking for a particular phone number or code or perhaps a reference to a particular name . . . you can see how this would just be a non-starter for getting a warrant. It is the definition of a fishing expedition.
And its also more than a little reminiscent of the "Big Brother is Watching", where everyone is guilty until proven innocent.
And suddenly we are back at the Supreme Court nominations, too. Everyone thought the questions about how Roberts and Alito would rule on Right to Privacy issues were related to birth control and abortion rights -- but that's pretty small potatoes, really, compared to the question of whether people all over the world have a right NOT to have their communications monitored without cause or warrant.

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