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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Let's force our media to ask the right questions

There are times when the mainstream media has no choice but to address what's really going on. To wit:
An independent panel’s call for major changes to the nation’s surveillance programs ups the pressure on President Barack Obama to back serious reforms.

But the big changes the committee is calling for may be less vexing for Obama than one painful, half-buried conclusion: Vacuuming up all that data the National Security Agency collects in its call-tracking database, the panel says, hasn’t actually done much to protect the country from terrorism.
So far, so good. The truth is finally being told: A surveillance state supposedly erected to catch terrorists does not, in fact, catch terrorists.

But look at what comes next. Note how the pundits subtly shift away from the topic we ought to be discussing...
And so the panel’s report raises a pointed question: If collecting huge volumes of metadata on telephone calls from, to and within the United States doesn’t bring much benefit, just how much political capital is Obama willing to spend to keep the program going?
No. That's not the "pointed question" we should ask. Journalists instinctively look for the partisan horserace angle, but right now we have deeper concerns.

The primary question we must ask is this: If the surveillance state was not created to catch terrorists, then what is the true purpose? Secondary question: Why does our media refuse to ask the primary question?

Check out this headline on Marcy Wheeler's site this morning:
President’s Review Group Suggests NSA Currently Acts as a Domestic Security Service
Domestic. That word gives us some clue regarding our primary question.

The President's Review Board is obviously being bamboozled. If ever a real inquiry takes place, I think we'll discover that the truth resembles the following scenario:

1. The NSA collects the content of our domestic communication, not just the metadata. All of it.

2. Although the headers may be stripped for legal reasons, it's a fairly simple matter to re-connect each message with identifying data, in order to determine who said what.

3. Upon request from the FBI and other agencies, the NSA's computers scour this massive take for key words and names.

4. The origin of incriminating data is then laundered in order to build legal cases in which the letters "NSA" do not appear in any court document.

5. Since nearly everyone has something to hide, this system may be used for political control and the harassment of dissidents.

Item 5 is, I suspect, the answer to our primary question.
That is so maddening. Political capital, bah---who cares? It's not Obama's story, it's ours!
Points 1 through 4: Yup. Absolutely.

Point 5: Meh. Maybe. Maybe not.

Yes, they have exploited 9/11 and terrorism as justifications. But I suspect they really did think it would be a useful tool to fight the WOT. Probably still do.

And, in the dark recesses of their fascist minds, they also thought it could be useful to fight domestic crime - if they could get it built before anybody was the wiser about the Constitutional questions.

And, in the deepest, darkest, skankiest recesses of SOME of their feverish minds it occurred to them it could be useful as a political tool. Even if that didn't occur to them at first, it inevitably would come to them down the road.

But to say that was the goal from the start? I wouldn't go that far.
Michael, let's just say the potential for political control is there. And that's bad enough.
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