Wiretapping: This was no time for a compromise

Wiretapping: This was no time for a compromise

Summary: Democrats in Congress have arrived at a compromise on legislation that will allow warrantless wiretaps on U.S.


Democrats in Congress have arrived at a compromise on legislation that will allow warrantless wiretaps on U.S. citizens' telephone lines. In March, I covered the threats to privacy from this bill, which was pushed hard by the White House as essential to national security. Today, the Democrats caved in big time, handing the White House a victory at precisely the time when a lame-duck president, especially one this unpopular, should be having his hat handed to him as he leaves office.

“It is the result of compromise, and like any compromise is not perfect, but I believe it strikes a sound balance,” Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer told The New York Times.

Unfortunately, there is never a good time for a compromise on civil rights. We continue to buy the argument that terrorists are a threat so imminent that we must sacrifice basic privacy, when there is no evidence in the almost seven years since 9/11 that telephone taps have prevented attacks on U.S. soil.

The Democrats' position, that compromise was necessary, is unfounded. This bill opens the door wider to government intrusion into Americans' lives. It was an unnecessary and inappropriate compromise at a time when the country should be recovering its wits, instead of caving in to fearmongering arguments by an Administration that has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to lie to the public to achieve political goals.

Everyone involved in this "compromise" should be ashamed.

Topics: Mobility, Security, Telcos

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  • This was not a compromise...

    it was a SELL-OUT.
    Mr. Roboto
    • ....

      And yet only a handful of people seem to care. THAT'S what is so disturbing and sad about this.

      Said it before and I will say it again... the Republic is being destroyed from within, one law at a time, one right at a time. And the sheep in this nation, out of fear and a false sense of security allow it to happen. How ironic, the terrorists don't have to do anything ever again. Just the idea is enough to rally the cowards of this nation into action and cause the demise of the Republic.

      The damage done from 11 Sept 2001 far exceeds 3,000+ people dying and several buildings being destroyed. No, the loss of freedom the slow but sure demise of the Republic as it once stood... that is the damage and they have achieved a far greater victory than they ever imagined.

      And the cowards in this nation, all for the illusion of safety have allowed it to happen. What would the founding fathers have to say about the cowardice expressed by the people in this nation? I know one thing that wouldn't have happened... we wouldn't have been sold out! ]:)

      [url=http://www.transcend.org/galt.htm]History is a great[/url] teacher for any willing to learn.

      [url=http://www.populistamerica.com/on_the_fall_of_empires]A good read...[/url] and hopefully a wake up call to those willing to wake up...

      [url=http://killeenroos.com/1/Romefall.htm]Draw your own conclusions[/url]
      Linux User 147560
      • oh puhleeze....

        This union stopped being a "Republic" under Abraham Lincoln who virtually eliminated anything you would even remotely define as civil rights, including the jailing of so-called journalists like this one. You disagreed, you got jail -- for the duration. In conditions not 1/1000th as nice as the spa that jihadists are enjoying down in Gitmo. You really need to read your own history.


        All suspended REAL civil rights in order to prosecute a war. We haven't begun to fight this war properly, and it won't be if milk-toast cry-babies like you get all wet in your panties every time some 19 year old al-Quaida wannabe who isn't even an American citizen gets rounded up and tucked away so that he can't blow himself up amidst a shopping mall filled with you, your friends, and your family.

        A republic? Gimme a break. We haven't been one of those in about 70 years. It's a democratic republic and we get two choices. Bad and Worse. McCain is bad. Obama is worse. Pick your poison. But if you think that the minor inconveniences you suffer from now have any relationship to what was done in the past, when this glorious Republic was even still in her infancy, you are clueless indeed.
        • Clueless?

          The question isn't whether we are a republic, but whether
          the Constitution still applies. It does.

          When, exactly, has that 19-year-old myth you wave around
          actually shown up with a bomb? You're not even talking
          about the world we live in, yet you wet your diapers over
          Americans concerned about their rights. Every one of those
          suspensions of civil rights was beaten back by concerned
          citizens?along with many "informally suspended"
          Constitutional guarantees that were recovered only when
          the people put up a fight.

          And you might brush up on your spelling before brushing
          off the rights of journalists or bloggers to exercise the free
          Mitch Ratcliffe
          • Thread woes

            FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, PEOPLE, CAN'T ANYONE FIGURE OUT HOW TO RESPOND DIRECTLY TO THE POST? There are bits and dribbles of various "conversations" scattered all through this TalkBack space.

            Mitch, you're as big an offender as the rest. This is your blog - take the time to understand how your response engine works.
          • Get a clearance


            Look, clearly you feel strongly about this, but get real. Neither you, nor I, nor anyone outside our intelligence agencies with anything less than a top secret clearance could tell you how many 19 year olds with bombs they've stopped.

            It is naive in the extreme to think that number is zero. Thankfully, no one's questioned any journalists ability to exercise their free press rights. But when you make a conclusion based on a naive premise, don't be surprised to get called on it.

            Al-Quaida (or al-Qaeda if you prefer another spelling) didn't just go to sleep these last seven years. Hell, there're three major plots I know of just from the news that are public record of instances where we foiled an attempt.

            So just because we don't possess the clearance and credentials to know what wiretap stopped what, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. First rule of intelligence is don't burn your source. Given the previous instances that are public, and given the patience and persistence of the threat (eight years between WTC 1 and WTC 2 on 9/11), anything less than using every resource at our disposal would be the truly criminal act on the part of our government.

            That you're presuming nothing has happened because you aren't aware of it is about the most dangerous head-in-the-sand approach to fighting this war that I think I've heard of so far.

            Oh that's right -- this isn't a war. Just an assault on our liberties because some guy at DHS wants to know ...what?
          • Naive in the extreme to believe without evidence

            Sorry, but I have covered the intelligence community as a
            reporter, and they do talk about their successes. Moreover,
            this president talks about anything that makes his policies
            look good. There would be lots of information available
            about anyone caught in the United States with a bomb, let
            alone a broken conspiracy.

            It's also simple-minded to fall into the "we don't know
            what we can't know" trap, since that is how government
            becomes unaccountable in the first place. When the "war"
            constantly justifies loses of civil liberties at home, we're
            letting the terrorists win, since they have succeeded in
            disrupting everyday life. Maybe if we actually killed bin
            Laden there'd be some progress and we might start to roll
            back the price--in fear and lost liberties--that we're

            The problem remains one of what a government can do,
            not what it may do, because we can only speculate about
            the latter. However, if we've granted a government the
            ability to eavesdrop on our communications, they can and,
            based on historical evidence, will, do so. In Cincinnati
            during the 1980s, for example, the police were bugging
            their own homes to monitor their wives' activity, because
            they had been granted access to the switch. Governments
            need to be held in check.

            I am not presuming that nothing has happened, because it
            is clear that lots has happened overseas. But in the
            absence of any evidence that wiretapping of U.S. phones
            beyond what is already possible within the law, there is no
            foundation for supporting the "compromise" forged in
            Congress this week.

            Saying anything is justified by "national security" is a head-
            in view, as well, but your head isn't in the sand.
            Mitch Ratcliffe
        • And your point is...?

          If you're right, then the the US government has been completely illegitimate for the past 147 years and should be overthrown, not granted broad powers of surveillance. Certainly, the granting of such powers takes the US *away* from the vision of the founding fathers, not toward it.

          Just out of curiousity, are there any governments in this world that you would currently consider "republican"? If so, would you care to name them?
          John L. Ries
  • RE: Wiretapping: This was no time for a compromise

    Hardly a compromise. And hardly adequate. You admit it yourself -- seven years with no attack, and just because the White House didn't invite you personally to show you all of the classified intelligence on which wiretaps stopped what, you claim that there were none. This is why people hate journalists. You think yourselves the appointed watchdogs of what YOU define as civil rights, and yet it is clear to any thinking person that this is all about politics and the embarrassment of a sitting unpopular president. There's blood in the water and the media elites want to feast.

    Well boo hoo to you too. My company lost over 150 employees on 9/11, and I know people who died. The Democrats failed to kill Bin Laden when they had him, and failed utterly to secure our airspace. Eight years of Clinton and the most memorable military action was the bombing of the Chinese Embassy -- by mistake. I guess he was too busy getting his rocks off with an intern under his desk to really care about terrorism.

    The sad fact here is you don't know what you don't know. And it will be decades from now before we fully understand what steps were taken to make sure we had seven years with no acts of terrorism. 9/11 has faded in your mind, and you seem to be happy about it -- we can now "think clearly" about these things. WRONG. We will revert back to the muddle-minded liberal political correctness that wants to treat Islamo-fascism with a law enforcement exercise and that caused 9/11 in the first place.

    Civil rights? Bug my phone -- please. Unlike the author of this tripe-ish article, I've nothing to hide.
    • Just a small reminder.....

      9-11 happened on Bush's watch, not Clintons. Oh yea, Bush failed to kill Bin Laden as well.

      "Civil rights? Bug my phone -- please. Unlike the author of this tripe-ish article, I've nothing to hide. "....

      These are not the words of a patriot. But these are

      Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
      - Ben F

      But hey if it makes you feel better keep blaming Clinton, I'm sure that'll get you somewhere.
      • Again...gimme a break

        I'm well familiar with Franklin's words, and I'm pretty sure they got tossed sometime around the implementation of the first speed limits -- on horses no less.

        We give up essential liberties every day in the name of safety, so your argument is essentially a purely libertarian one. In other words, an Ayn Rand fictitious utopian talking point. The question is which essential liberties are we sacrificing, and what degree of safety are we getting in return.

        I would argue that wiretapping calls that originate in a foreign country, happen to pass through a U.S. router, and terminate in another foreign country in the name of preventing another 9/11 or worse, is such a minor sacrifice of liberty (to say nothing of "essential" liberty) given the potential return in terms of potential lives saved as to be a no brainer. Which is why most liberals are opposed to them.

        By extension, your argument means we should abolish all those nasty speed limits, helmet laws, drug laws, gun regulations and most of the left's nanny-state cradle to grave intrusions into my life that have grown exponentially like some sort of Moore's Law for politics.

        We all sacrifice liberty for safety. It's a fact of life. And the fact that we as a society decide to make those sacrifices hardly makes anyone less of a patriot. But quoting Franklin on a blog that to do just that sure does makes us look like we're taking the high road. Even if it is pretty much 18th century fantasy.
        • ....

          You really are clueless about what is being allowed to happen aren't you? Either that or you are part of the system, attempting to sway people into your line of thinking.

          Sorry, but a true patriot does not hide in fear. But you wouldn't know what it means to be a true patriot. You are probably one of those people that has "Support the Troops" ribbons on your gas guzzling SUV and is willing to give up the Constitutional freedoms just so you can feel ([B]operative word is FEEL[/B]) safe.

          Sorry but life is dangerous and freedom comes with a price tag. If you are not willing to pay it then please leave so the rest of us can enjoy it. Your rants are that of a coward. It's that simple. I will post a more detailed counter to your statements a bit later... ]:)
          Linux User 147560
          • Let me count the ways....

            Coward? Let's do a check.

            I'm a retired Army Lt.Col. I'm also a Ranger (and always will be), and wore both my Airborne wings and Air Assault wings proudly. Oh, and I've been shot twice. Gotta two nice little holes in my shins from some kid in his twenties in Salah ad Din who was getting his rocks off with a weapon Democrats hadn't figured out how to take yet. He is now with Allah, because I get kinda pissed when you shoot at me.

            I won't list my service medals, because you won't know what they mean anyway.

            I've bled, and I've watched friends die. And what I've seen in terms of death you can't begin to imagine in your delusional little paranoid world where the bad Mr. Bush is out to get you.

            My father was an Army General. My brother just made Lt. Col. And every generation of my family has fought in every war this country's ever fought. During the Civil War, they fought on both sides. And all told, of the ones who served during those wars, about 1/3 of them died in combat. And most of the rest got wounded, though not all.

            All to defend your right to be paranoid. Because clearly, as Democrats took away just about every other conceivable civil liberty our grandfathers enjoyed, your right to talk on the phone or send an email to a terrorist really is the last straw, the line in the sand where we say this much and no further.

            So please, I'd be VERY interested in your little lecture about what freedom costs, and what it means to be a true patriot, and how, to paraphrase Jefferson, you have personally refreshed the "tree of Liberty" with your blood.

            I'm also very interested in the "Linux User" experience regarding how "life can be dangerous". I think I'd find that fascinating. What's the most danger you've experienced? Trying to merge your Prius on the interstate?

            For the record, I drive a 5 year old VW. With a 101st Airborne sticker on the back. My support for the troops goes way deeper than a yellow magnet. My guess is your support is about as shallow as rain puddle on a San Jose sidewalk, but hey, I could be wrong.

            So from the confines of your safe little cubical, you had the audacity to call a combat vet a coward. God, I love the Internet!

            But I bet you feel better about yourself now, right?
        • Essential Liberties.....

          what do we give up everyday? Warrentless wiretapping completely ignores the constitution. But I am sure once the war on Emmanuel Goldstein.... I mean terrorism, is won.

          "By extension, your argument means we should abolish all those nasty speed limits, helmet laws, drug laws, gun regulations"
          I am for that...

          Your right to safety ends where my rights afforded to me by my constitution begin. But hey, speed limits are really close to illegal search and seizure, so its almost like we never had that right anyway.

          Always remember nothing on earth is more important than freedom.
    • not going to succumb to fear-mongering

      I, too, am disappointed that Congress did not take a stronger stand on warrantless wiretapping. [b]Those of us who lived through the Watergate era understand the danger in allowing unrestricted and undocumented access to our private conversations.[/b] It's not a question of having nothing to hide, it's that the information has so often been misused for private gain or to put pressure on people who are vocally opposed to some government activity.

      On a larger scale, [b]the whole notion that we must redefine our national condition post-9/11 is a more serious problem.[/b] We let a president, vice-president, and attorney general sell us on the notion that we were a nation at war and that wartime suspension of liberties must apply. If you want to call it war, it is a war without end - no single obvious enemy, no clearly-defined goals for success (or failure), no concrete plan for prosecuting it. In the process we have made new enemies around the world and have become more distant with countries we thought of as friends.
    • And of course...

      ...every person employed by US intelligence agencies is absolutely trustworthy as is the President who supervises them, all future presidents, and all of their staffers. There is *no* chance that surreptitiously obtained personal data will *ever* be misused.
      John L. Ries
  • RE: Wiretapping: This was no time for a compromise

    Clearly, we disagree about the trade-offs between privacy
    and security we have made as a people. But you make it
    personal, attacking me as an author with something to
    hide. Unfortunately, you are making the same arguments
    the Soviets and East Germans did when they justified their
    heavy-handed monitoring of personal communication and
    thought. I don't think an American should put up with that
    level of surveillance, nor do I think an American should be
    attacked for simply objecting to government intrusion into
    our persons and papers (and, by extension, our electronic
    communication), since that was one of the pillars of the
    American Revolution.

    You seem to be comfortable with creeping totalitarianism,
    and you've mastered the excuses of previously submissive
    peoples. Good luck with that.
    Mitch Ratcliffe
    • Missed the whole point

      "Creeping totalitarianism"?! Comparing the MILD inconveniences that NON-U.S. citizens have to endure to the "heavy-handed" tactics of Nazi's and Communists????

      Ahhh...there it is. The good-old "Nazi" accusation. Really makes the argument bulletproof -- disagree with you and the liberal media, and I'm a Nazi.

      Sir, "creeping totalitarianism" in America started "creeping" the day the Anti-Federalists lost to the Federalists, and when Lincoln forced a union of sovereign states to be a Nation with a strong central government. His suspension of habeas corpus, Wilson's anti-sedition laws which jailed hundreds of journalists, FDR's internment of tens of thousands of Americans with Japanese heritage.

      We routinely sacrifice far more explicit liberties as a country during wartime than have even remotely been considered since 9/11, which is to the credit of this administration, especially -- ESPECIALLY -- since this is a different kind of enemy that hides among civilians and uses technology of the information age to plan its next move.

      War brings out the need for security, and we are at war, something the Left does not want to come to grips with or admit. They recoil in horror when it's pointed out that their actions, if not their motives, are decidedly helpful to our enemies. It is not your disagreement that's unpatriotic -- nor even your motive. You have that right and I'd die to defend it. It is the actions themselves, however, which clearly will inure to the benefit of terrorists and which will so little inconvenience none but a tiny handful of Americans. To what end? To show who among your peers can publish more anti-Bush comments before he leaves office?

      The whole point to my remarks was precisely to point out that during many times in our history we have sacrificed ALL of our civil liberties in order to successfully prosecute a war. And UNLIKE the Nazi's or the Soviet Union, we have a Constitution that we return to when the war is over.

      So the "totalitarian" horrors perpetrated by Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt (among others) eventually gave way to even greater freedoms.

      In other words, if I thought that yours was a sincere concern about this Administration's tiny albeit effective restraints against some civil actions that few Americans need to worry about, I'd only point to our country's past to say it's a concern that is quite misplaced.

      But since this is an ongoing endless campaign by the Left to admonish Mr. Bush for so much as waking up in the morning, and given the Left's unending proclivity to usurp just about every other freedom I might have -- from speech codes on campus, to eminent domain claims against my property to satisfy wealthy developers, to ensuring the First Amendment to the Constitution is made to read "freedom FROM religion" rather than "freedom OF religion, to nagging little safety regulations governing everything from how fast I might drive to whether my child MUST wear a bicycle helmet, an unending cycle of laws and regulations to prevent people from being stupid -- I find the arguments against the administration to be disingenuous at best.

      Relax. This too shall pass. And really, the whole Nazi thing is getting pretty trite.
      • ....

        "[B]Relax. This too shall pass. And really, the whole Nazi thing is getting pretty trite.[/B]"

        Ask the Jews or the Gypsies or the Homosexuals about that... sorry but I don't agree with your assessment of just go along with it. The safety gained is an illusion. But you are so afraid you can't see that... you are what we call a coward. ]:)
        Linux User 147560
        • Did you even bother to read the post?

          First sir, that you have to resort to ad hominem attacks by calling this veteran of both Iraq wars and an Army Ranger a coward is laughable. I've served. I doubt you've served up anything more dangerous than Girl Scout cookies. But that's fine. Not everyone needs to be there, and I hardly expect, nor moreover need, validation from the likes of tech blog or a Linux expert.

          But yeah, I've been there, done that. So don't think of lecturing me on the subject of bravery. Every generation of my family back to the Revolution served, and my brother's still serving. It's what we do. "Support the troops" is what you guys usually chant, isn't it? Funny, I never seem to see it though.

          I'm the guy who actually has to do the dying and bleeding to protect your Constitution so pardon me when I feel you're being rather picky about which rights you want to see defended, when your ilk has done most of the shredding these last 200 years.

          Yes, the Jews, and other groups, had every reason to fear the Nazi's -- Hitler published all his rants in an instruction manual on what he would do, very similar to what al-Quaida (or al-Qaeda as the oh-so-cute author of this blog posting prefers, having erroneously pointed out a spelling option as a misspell) has done. What did they do first? Took all the guns. What does the Left most want to do besides bash Bush? Take all the guns. Hitler's party, the German National SOCIALIST Party, was a left wing movement, and in keeping with left-wing tradition, IN THE NAME OF SAFETY, they want to shred the 2nd Amendment.

          But since picking and choosing safety over constitutionally protected rights makes one a "coward", I'm assuming we can expect your NRA membership to arrive in the mail any day now, right?

          What the Nazi's wrought was so devastating, so incomprehensibly evil, that Jews are rightfully insulted every time someone like you or the author tries to equate what Bush is doing to what they suffered. And had you actually read the post, you would have understood it's the wild slinging of that political club to anyone who disagrees with you and the MoveOn.org crowd that has become trite. So yeah, go ahead and ask a Jew about those charges. See what they come back with. Ask them if what George Bush is doing to legally surveil phone calls between terrorists is JUST like when Hitler rounded up all the guns, and then rounded up all the Jews and killed them.

          Go on...