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It's the Constitution, Stupid - Part II

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With today's New York Times revelation, it's almost certain that the President has willfully violated the Constitution. As I pointed out in an earlier posting, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is unambiguous:

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.

-- United States Constitution, Amendment IV
What the New York Times article confirmed today (and was speculated in yesterday's Boston Globe) is that the President's spy program is a data mining operation of massive scale. From the Boston Globe:
"The whole idea of the NSA is intercepting huge streams of communications, taking in 2 million pieces of communications an hour," said James Bamford, the author of two books on the NSA, who was the first to reveal the inner workings of the secret agency.

"They have a capacity to listen to every overseas phone call," said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, which has obtained documents about the NSA using Freedom of Information Act requests.

The NSA's system of monitoring e-mails and phone calls to check for search terms has been used for decades overseas, where the Constitution's prohibition on unreasonable searches does not apply, declassified records have shown.
Except now the New York Times has confirmed that it's not just international, it's also domestic (hint hint - that means you):
As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.
For a lot of people this story isn't shocking - you THINK that you already knew this was happening. If you think this, you are fundamentally clueless. This is spying of a scale that would make a wiretap the equivalent of putting your ear up to a door to hear a conversation on the other side of the door. This program is the electronic equivalent of the Government posting someone at every single door in the nation and then recording every single conversation behind every door. (Now they'll tell you they only listened when you called or emailed your Uncle in Paris, but if you believe that you probably believe that 140,000 troops are in Iraq to look for Osama bin Laden.)

Senator Rockefeller's letter raised these very concerns when it referenced the Poindexter TIA program. (TIA, or Total Information Awareness, was described by some as a vacuum cleaner of electronic data, sucking up every phone call, email, and financial transaction to accomplish much the same style of data mining operation eluded to here.) Again from the Times article:
The use of similar data-mining operations by the Bush administration in other contexts has raised strong objections, most notably in connection with the Total Information Awareness system, developed by the Pentagon for tracking terror suspects, and the Department of Homeland Security's Capps program for screening airline passengers. Both programs were ultimately scrapped after public outcries over possible threats to privacy and civil liberties.
Bush ignored those concerns and, as far as we know short of the financial networks, made it a reality. From the Times:
Phil Karn, a computer engineer and technology expert at a major West Coast telecommunications company, said access to such switches would be significant. "If the government is gaining access to the switches like this, what you're really talking about is the capability of an enormous vacuum operation to sweep up data," he said.
If you've made a phone call overseas, if you've sent an email overseas since 9/11 it's been opened, read, and recorded by the U.S. Government. Now, you, personally, may be willing to let the Government do this in the name of protecting you. I am not. And while we could have a reasonable debate about whether this type of data mining should be allowed, it's crystal clear that the United States Constitution does not allow it. Period. Oh that pesky Constitution. As John said below, you're either with the Constitution, or you're against it.

George Bush has stolen not just the very principles on which this country was built, but the faith of billions of people around the world that the United States Constitution means anything. Impeachment isn't enough to pay for that crime.

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