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Saturday, May 13, 2006

On That NSA Privacy Matter

Memo to the Roanoke Times:

It would help if you have a good working understanding about that which you write.

I would have bet money we'd be seeing this editorial:
An intrusive NSA looms as 'big brother'
The Constitution protects privacy even if many Americans appear willing to surrender it in the name of security.

The Founding Fathers crafted the Fourth Amendment to protect Americans' private lives from unwarranted government monitoring. The Bush administration's combing through tens of millions of phone records in the name of security disregards that bedrock protection. (
Now let's understand what's at issue here. The NSA has been gathering phone records from AT&T, Bell South, and Verizon. It then puts those records (essentially they are nothing more than your phone bill less your name, address, billing information, etc.) into its database and stores them for future reference should they become useful when a known al Qaeda member calls one of the numbers. A warrant would then be sought and all related phone numbers could potentially be investigated.

Then there's the Fourth Amendment:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. (link)
The legal scholars at the Times suggest that the NSA record-gathering program violates the Fourth Amendment.

Unfortunately for them, the United States Supreme Court disagrees. Shucks.

U.S. Supreme Court

SMITH v. MARYLAND, 442 U.S. 735 (1979)
442 U.S. 735

No. 78-5374.
Argued March 28, 1979.
Decided June 20, 1979.

The telephone company, at police request, installed at its central offices a pen register to record the numbers dialed from the telephone at petitioner's home. Prior to his robbery trial, petitioner moved to suppress "all fruits derived from" the pen register. The Maryland trial court denied this motion, holding that the warrantless installation of the pen register did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Petitioner was convicted, and the Maryland Court of Appeals affirmed.


The installation and use of the pen register was not a "search" within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment, and hence no warrant was required. Pp. 739-746.
(a) Application of the Fourth Amendment depends on whether the person invoking its protection can claim a "legitimate expectation of privacy" that has been invaded by government action. This inquiry normally embraces two questions: first, whether the individual has exhibited an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy; and second, whether his expectation is one that society is prepared to recognize as "reasonable." Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 . Pp. 739-741.

(b) Petitioner in all probability entertained no actual expectation of privacy in the phone numbers he dialed, and even if he did, his expectation was not "legitimate." First, it is doubtful that telephone users in general have any expectation of privacy regarding the numbers they dial, since they typically know that they must convey phone numbers to the telephone company and that the company has facilities for recording this information and does in fact record it for various legitimate business purposes. And petitioner did not demonstrate an expectation of privacy merely by using his home phone rather than some other phone, since his conduct, although perhaps calculated to keep the contents of his conversation private, was not calculated to preserve the privacy of the number he dialed. Second, even if petitioner did harbor some subjective expectation of privacy, this expectation was not one that society is prepared to recognize as "reasonable." When petitioner voluntarily conveyed numerical information to the phone company and "exposed" that information to its equipment in the normal course of business, he assumed the risk that the company would reveal the information [442 U.S. 735, 736] to the police, cf. United States v. Miller, 425 U.S. 435 . Pp. 741-746. (link)
Look, I know the outrage is more important than any supporting facts but this does seem to put a different spin on the Bush Is Destroying The Constitution argument. Wouldn't you say?

Look No Further

Like there's any doubt:
U.N. Finds New Uranium Traces in Iran
By William J. Broad, The New York Times

Atomic inspectors have found traces of highly enriched uranium on equipment linked to an Iranian military base, raising new questions about whether Iran harbors a clandestine program to make nuclear bombs, diplomats said yesterday. (
That's funny.

Anyone listening to Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmaladawiniwhackjob, knows Iran is developing nuclear weapons and plans on using them to destroy both Israel and the USA. The crazy man is shouting it from the rooftops.

What does Mahmoud have to do, hand the "atomic inspectors" a bomb?

Finally He Gets The Message

It shouldn't have taken this long:
Bush to Unveil Plan to Tighten Border Controls
By Jim Rutenberg, The New York Times

WASHINGTON, May 12 — The White House said Friday that President Bush would open the next phase of the debate over illegal immigration next week with a strong emphasis on border security, including the possible use of more National Guard troops.

White House officials said Mr. Bush had always understood the need to protect the border as a former governor of a border state, Texas. But they acknowledged they had perhaps erred in not emphasizing that understanding as they pushed provisions granting illegal immigrants working here legal status, angering Republicans.

"I think members of the House will like what they hear on border security," a senior administration official told reporters during a briefing at the White House. Entry to the briefing was conditioned on anonymity.

White House officials said Mr. Bush was considering proposals to increase the number of law enforcement and military personnel patrolling the border; to accelerate the use of high-tech surveillance tools and to step up enforcement against illegal workers and their employers. (
Most of us understand the reality of there being 11 to 12 million illegals in this country and the impracticability of putting all of them on buses and sending them south. An accommodation will have to be made. Again.

But we also know that the flow of illegal immigration across our southern border has to stop - or we'll be talking about amnesty for another 12 million lawbreakers in twenty years.

So. We're heading in the right direction. Seal the border. Provide amnesty. Maybe then our laws won't be viewed as being such a joke.

I'm Not Sure This Is Helpful

Are we going to war with Mexico or are we trying to find a fix for a serious domestic problem?

Headlines like this - in the New York Post - don't help clarify things:
Remember The Alamo!
Good grief.