The WaPo has something, and I don't know how I missed it, wait... Yeah, I don't subscribe to the WaPo and the righty blogs are ignoring this wholesale. I guess I should read the WaPo earlier in the day and more often. But this story, if true, is just, wow:
A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal.I'm increasingly having a hard time believing we need mass legalization of speedy surveillance unencumbered by warrants. I'm sure there are times when it's needed, after all, I sure wouldn't let some pesky law get in the way of what I knew was vital to saving thousands of lives. But it's a gray area when that factual knowledge becomes a somewhat more subjective sense of probability. That's for the lawmakers to hash out. The issue here is the alleged unethical use of massive government contracts as persuasion to aid in what is most likely, an illegal program. Here's a tip to the next spy-prone administration, when you want help for a constitutionally questionable program, don't make it worse with what approaches outright bribery.
Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to court documents unsealed in Denver this week.
And as you may have noticed, this allegedly took place before 9/11, which then brings up another issue:
Nacchio's account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 attacks have been cited by the government as the main impetus for its warrantless surveillance efforts.Double wow. We have the Bush Administration invoking 9/11 as one damn good reason to have warantless surveillance, which the WaPo may have just blown out of the water. Some might recall a similar melee:
In the May 11 article that revealed the database, USA TODAY reported that its sources said AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon had agreed to provide the NSA with call records.That was from last summer. If the Bush Administration had all of the above on board since February of 2001, I'd like to say 9/11 isn't much of a reason to justify warrantless surveillance. But I could be very wrong.
To be fair, it's not like they're listening in on calls, they're just collecting call data as in time, place, and number. Such info is useless for a random person, but useful for suspects. And should a suspect's call data link to or parallel another suspect's call data, you have a lead. Leads turn into arrests which provide information. And if lucky, an attack was prevented.
I'm not an absolutist on this issue, as I see the merits of both sides, but I'd say the President's credibility surprised everybody by finding and hitting a new low, which does no favor to the argument for warantless surveillance or for restricting FISA oversight.