What's All This Then?

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Speaking of polls - as I was last Friday - it seems that the initial poll on the NSA creating a data base of all our telephone calls was a little premature. A later poll almost reversed the results of the first with two thirds of those responding being unhappy about the whole affair. Perhaps it had something to do with the way the questions were worded. Perhaps it needed time for the idea to sink in. Perhaps people are asking questions. I know I didn’t have that strong an opinion one way or another when I first heard about it, assuming that it was legal under some statute or other - even if it’s scent was distinctly malodorous.

I know that in times of war, even the most free of democracies can and do enact strict controls and keep close tabs on their own citizens. For example, I was in England for part of world war two and thought nothing of having to carry a national identification card. The government thought it was needed and there was little resistance because the citizens trusted the government that was in power.

But why would this government need to have a data base of every phone call made by everyone making calls from the USA domestically and internationally? Surely there are ways of keeping track of calls between a telephone in this country and suspicious numbers in countries where terrorists are known to operate

This "let’s check everybody" approach reminds me of a felony investigation that took place some time ago. For the life of me I can’t remember where it was or the nature of the crime. Maybe rape. Maybe murder. What I do remember is that they were pretty sure that the suspect was a black male and someone had the bright idea to ask all the black men in town to submit to a DNA test. The idea died the swift death it deserved - but there is a chilling similarity between it and the NSA’s approach to looking for bad guys who might be planning to do us harm. Let’s check the phone calls of every last person in the USA who uses a telephone! You have to run the thought through your mind a few times to let the enormity of that proposal sink in.

It’s particularly galling when you recall that this was the administration that came into power with a know- it- all attitude and didn’t want to listen to any Clinton leftovers. And so it became the administration that ignored warnings it was given of an impending AlQaeda attack. This was the administration with an incoming national security adviser who demoted the terrorist expert who had worked for four Presidents and who, for eight years, had had direct access to the outgoing President. In the Bush White House however, he would have to work through her if he wanted to hang onto his job. He told her what was coming. She ignored it - and it came. Of course in all kinds of later testimony she absolutely denied that she or anyone else in the Bush administration ignored anything. They were on top of their game. Richard Clarke was out of the loop. What did he know about how prepared they were?

And yet this is the administration that continues to get high marks for "national security." It amazes me.

This has been the most astonishing five years in memory - since the attack of 9/11/01. We went to war against a country that hadn’t attacked us. We turned a financial surplus into the largest deficit in history - still growing in leaps and bounds. We have a President who reminds us that "we’re at war" every time he has a drop in the polls. (Now of course, nothing he says can help his poll numbers.) And he continues to do something that no President in history has had the gall to do - enact tax breaks for the richest Americans while we remain - as he keeps telling us - "at war."

And to top all that, he has overseen the growth of many of the ingredients that are needed to establish a police state. A neutral observer, knowing nothing of our history, could easily conclude that that indeed was his objective!!

I guess we should be grateful that the two term limit for presidents was enacted following the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who’s rein was virtually that of "president for life." Had he lived, he most likely would won a fifth term. With the end of Bush’s second term there will be an opportunity to change the direction that we have been traveling under his alleged leadership and I have no doubt that it will be changed no matter who wins in 2008 - Democrat or Republican. The only question is - can we hang on until then?