Thursday, May 11, 2006

The problem when you lack credibility

NSA has massive database of America's phone calls. Perhaps I shouldn't single out this one issue, but it is topical so I'll comment.

First of all, how is a database of every single phone call that Americans make useful for tracking terrorists? The major failure of 9/11 was summed up as a failure to connect the dots. Instead of focusing on dot connecting the NSA has responded by creating programs to collect trillions more dots.

Almost by definition having trillions of extra (nearly all extraneous) dots will make it harder to identify and connect the useful information. Its like making the haystack 1000 times bigger before you start looking for the needle. Now if needles appearing in haystacks were completely random occurrences (i.e assume no such thing as intelligence), there is a certain logic to searching 1000 haystacks rather than just one, and by extension searching every haystack in existence.

The obvious problem is that the cost and time involved in such a search is extraordinary. And it raises lots of questions, what happens if you find a nail in a haystack? or a sharp rock? or a lump of iron ore? are we only looking for needles? (if yes shouldn't we look in tailor shops or the hardware aisle of the supermarket first?) or does it have to be specifically a needle in a haystack? would such a concerted effort to find needles lead to mischief, like bored kids hiding needles in haystacks, or an angry neighbor planting needles in other's haystacks for personal gain? What happens if you don't find any needles? Can you conclude that none exist? or do you have to recheck the haystacks with a new "improved" search procedure?

Without intelligence almost all of these questions present insurmountable obstacles. Whatsmore assuming no intelligence is a bad assumption, because intelligence exists (it does, doesn't it?). Perhaps the NSA knows so little about terrorists that assuming no knowledge is the best operating principle? If that is the case we would do better to get rid of the NSA and start again.

Unfortunately as a result of virtually everything that has happened in the past 5 years, the administration lacks credibility. This administration is obsessively secretive, dangerously combative, myopically spend-thrift, unapologetically unconstrainable, fearfully incompetent, and pathologically disconnected from reality. They will not cooperate with congressional investigations, claim every privilege in the name of national security and viciously attack any dissent as unpatriotic. How then can we trust or believe that they are acting in accord with the laws of our nation? The very laws that they have denounced even as they are enacted, (the president's signing statement in the case of McCain's ban on torture).
I cannot. Of course many will defend them and say they are protecting us, and civil liberties are no use to a dead person. Indeed in many countries I've heard people say that in America there is too much freedom...clearly those already committed to Bush's agenda must agree. There are none so blind as s/he that will not see. Furthermore, I see the administration that uses force and threat of force instead of diplomacy to pursue ideology over our own interests abroad. This can only lead to a backlash (and already has) that ensures a less secure future for ourselves and our diminished nation.


At 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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