Sunday, December 25, 2005

NYT: Lichtblau, Bamford and Sengupta

Congressional officials said Saturday that they wanted to investigate the disclosure that the National Security Agency had gained access to some of the country's main telephone arteries to glean data on possible terrorists.
[. . .]
Members of the Judiciary Committee have already indicated that they intend to conduct oversight hearings into the president's legal authority to order domestic eavesdropping on terrorist suspects without a warrant.
But Congressional officials said Saturday that they would probably seek to expand the review to include the disclosure that the security agency, using its access to giant phone "switches," had also traced and analyzed phone and Internet traffic in much larger volumes than what the Bush administration had acknowledged.

The above is from Eric Lichtblau's "Officials Want to Expand Review of Domestic Spying" in this morning's New York Times. Lot of quotes (two good ones) but seems like this is the sort of reporting addressed in today's Third Estate Sunday Review editorial. (Which we wrote before I saw this article.)

Rob e-mails to note James Bamford's "The Agency That Could Be Big Brother:"

But the agency is still struggling to adjust to the war on terror, in which its job is not to monitor states, but individuals or small cells hidden all over the world. To accomplish this, the N.S.A. has developed ever more sophisticated technology that mines vast amounts of data. But this technology may be of limited use abroad. And at home, it increases pressure on the agency to bypass civil liberties and skirt formal legal channels of criminal investigation. Originally created to spy on foreign adversaries, the N.S.A. was never supposed to be turned inward. Thirty years ago, Senator Frank Church, the Idaho Democrat who was then chairman of the select committee on intelligence, investigated the agency and came away stunned.
"That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people," he said in 1975, "and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."
He added that if a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A. "could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back."
At the time, the agency had the ability to listen to only what people said over the telephone or wrote in an occasional telegram; they had no access to private letters. But today, with people expressing their innermost thoughts in e-mail messages, exposing their medical and financial records to the Internet, and chatting constantly on cellphones, the agency virtually has the ability to get inside a person's mind.

Bamford was, of course, a guest on Democracy Now! last Monday for the segment "An Impeachable Offense? Bush Admits Authorizing NSA to Eavesdrop on Americans Without Court Approval:"

JAMES BAMFORD: Well, before I get into that, just one other comment on what we just have been talking about. When the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was created in 1978, one of the things that the Attorney General at the time, Griffin Bell, said -- he testified before the intelligence committee, and he said that the current bill recognizes no inherent power of the President to conduct electronic surveillance. He said, 'This bill specifically states that the procedures in the bill are the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance may be conducted.' In other words, what the President is saying is that he has these inherent powers to conduct electronic surveillance, but the whole reason for creating this act, according to the Attorney General at the time, was to prevent the President from using any inherent powers and to use exclusively this act.

Also in the paper today, as P.J. notes, is the Times' own inhouse poet is back (with a co-writer):

came pouring in
from far and wide
for this island nation
by the tsunami a year ago.
on its fragile northern peninsula,
Udayarani Sebastian Pillai
on the cliff-edge

The tone poem is credited to Somini Sengupta and Seth Mydans, but "Tsunami's Legacy: Extraordinary Giving and Unending Strife" reads all Sengupta. P.J. says that the best he can determine, all Mydans has done is curb Sengupta's excess use of the comma.

Hmm. I'm reminded of "The Times and their book coverage" (The Third Estate Sunday Review):

2) Write something very generic with just a trace, just a tad, a dollop, if you will, of adventure.In fact, you should follow the previous sentence's structure when writing it. A reporter for the international scene does and those pieces always get published as news. Despite recalling the "writing" of Candice Bergen's character in Rich & Famous. In fact, let's provide that as the template (since the international reporter's already practiced it to much succes):
In Paris, in France, they had a guy who was, for the record, both homosexual and a Jew, who wrote a seven-volume book they continue to refer to as a masterpiece, who was such a nitroglycerine in the head he had to hide out in a cork lined room or he'da gone up in shrapnel.
Those commas, those clauses, those starts and stops, are very important to the paper. Write your novel utilizing them often enough and The Times might ask you to a be a foreign correspondent and put you on a plane to India because there's no rule that the paper can only have one in house poet. Regardless, they will note your novel because what others see as "flowery," the paper mistakes for strong writing.

Do you think Sengupta identified with Bergen's character in that film?

Back to The Third Estate Sunday Review. The latest edition is up and, in addition to the editorial and highlights, you'll also find a review of Wal*Mart: the high cost of low , a roundtable (Ruth is part of this roundtable), a parody and Ava and I take a look at the year in TV news.

And here? Isaiah's latest The World Today Just Nuts goes up after this is posted nd prublished (and republished and . . .). Later today (probably much later -- I've been cooking all night and when I crash after lunch, it will probably be for several hours), you'll find Kat's latest commentary here. I'm using the fact that Sundays belong to Isaiah to avoid the publishing and republishing (and . . .) that results from tagged posts to postpone putting Kat's latest up this morning; however, Sunday morning's really should belong to Isaiah. So enjoy his latest and later today there will be more posts. (Do not expect any roundups. If you've e-mailed on that or are planning to, feel free but they'll be used for something planned for tomorrow.)

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