Sunday, May 14, 2006

Connecting the Dots

Another Op-Ed by Mark Steyn.

So there are now two basic templates in terrorism media coverage:

Template A (note to editors: to be used after every terrorist atrocity): "Angry family members, experts and opposition politicians demand to know why complacent government didn't connect the dots."

Template B (note to editors: to be used in the run-up to the next terrorist atrocity): "Shocking new report leaked to New York Times for Pulitzer Prize Leak Of The Year Award nomination reveals that paranoid government officials are trying to connect the dots! See pages 3,4,6,7,8, 13-37."

I'm a strong believer in privacy rights. I don't see why Americans are obligated to give the government their bank account details and the holdings therein. Other revenue agencies in other free societies don't require that level of disclosure. But, given that the people of the United States are apparently entirely cool with that, it's hard to see why lists of phone numbers (i.e., your monthly statement) with no identifying information attached to them is of such a vastly different order of magnitude. By definition, "connecting the dots" involves getting to see the dots in the first place.
I'd personally feel more comfortable is the agencies doing the spying had more oversite. That oversite should be from a separate branch of the government than the one controlling it. That would be ideal and wouldn't require notifying all of the public as to the details of the secret programs.

I also understand that secrecy is necessary. Especially when you're attempting to use some very new technology to defeat very secretive enemies.

In addition, I am fully aware that politicians don't give a damn about the security of the country if they can use some secret program to gain points with their voters. There also is the fact that politicians won't consider that any power that they believe is there could possibly need oversite or review.

The funniest part of the whole phone numbers kerfuffle is the fact that you can purchase these same records online from the phone companies.

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