Saturday, February 11, 2006

On Church and wiretappping

If you don't do anything wrong you have nothing to worry about.

Oh really.

Jeff, talking to his cousin, Bill, on the phone Saturday morning: Remember that piece of land behind my house I told you I wanted to buy?
Bill: Yes. Quite a nice lot, what's up?
Jeff: I just saw a For Sale sign on it. I'm going to give the agent an offer on Monday.
Bill: Wow, good for you. Are you going to try to get a deal?
Jeff: No I really want the piece, I think it's a steal at their selling price so I'm just going to take it.

On Monday, Jeff calls the agent to give them his offer and finds that someone else already signed a contract with the seller on Sunday. The agent mentions that the purchaser just might be willing to sell, at a higher price, of course.

I think the Bush Administration may finally have gone too far with the wiretapping. My argument is not "moral" in the sense that wiretapping is believed to be (or not as the case may be) inherently "wrong." Rather, given the nature of our economy, wiretapping is one of the few unpardonable sins not from the perspective of the political left, but from the right. Predator capitalism, inter alia, becomes very difficult in an environment where anyone can be wiretapped.

Was it just 30 years ago that this report on Domestic Spying was front page news. Here's a few excerpts:

The number of Americans and domestic groups caught in the domestic intelligence net is further illustrated by the following statistics:

-- Nearly a quarter of a million first class letters were opened and photographed in the United States by the CIA between 1953-1973, producing a CIA computerized index of nearly one and one-half million names. 13

-- At least 130,000 first class letters were opened and photographed by the FBI between 1940-1966 in eight U.S. cities. 14

-- Some 300,000 individuals were indexed in a CIA computer system and separate files were created on approximately 7,200 Americans and over 100 domestic groups during the course of CIA's Operation CHAOS (1967-1973). 15

-- Millions of private telegrams sent from, to, or through the United States were obtained by the National Security Agency from 1947 to 1975 under a secret arrangement with three United States telegraph companies. 16

-- An estimated 100,000 Americans were the subjects of United States Army intelligence files created between the mid 1960's and 1971. 17

-- Intelligence files on more than 11,000 individuals and groups were created by the Internal Revenue Service between 1969 and 1973 and tax investigations were started on the basis of political rather than tax criteria. 18

-- At least 26,000 individuals were at one point catalogued on an FBI list of persons to be rounded up in the event of a "national emergency". 19



Intelligence techniques which previously had been concentrated upon foreign threats and domestic groups said to be under Communist influence were applied with increasing intensity to a wide range of domestic activity by American citizens. These techniques were utilized against peaceful civil rights and antiwar protest activity, and thereafter in reaction to civil unrest, often without regard for the consequences to American liberties. The intelligence agencies of the United States -- sometimes abetted by public opinion and often in response to pressure from administration officials or the Congress -- frequently disregarded the law in their conduct of massive surveillance and aggressive counterintelligence operations against American citizens. In the past few years, some of these activities were curtailed, partly in response to the moderation of the domestic crisis; but all too often improper programs were terminated only in response to exposure, the threat of exposure, or a change in the climate of public opinion, such as that triggered by the Watergate affair.