Monday, June 26, 2006

Is the media really to blame?

It’s probably not new to anyone that the New York Times, and other media outlets, recently disclosed a federal program to investigate the financial records of suspected terrorists using records subpoenaed from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or Swift.

Financial records have been a tried and true intelligence gathering system for many years. If you can track where a known (or suspected) terrorist is getting there money from, that can lead you to the leaders and backers of international terrorist groups, such as Al Qaeda. Instead of wasting all of your resources finding and identifying the “foot soldiers,” it helps you take out the leaders behind them, crippling their ability to send more “foot soldiers” at you.

For years the government has done this through various means. They subpoenaed SWIFT and SWIFT gave them access to a bunch of records. The U.S. government, and SWIFT, have both stated that the subpoenas were legal.

Apparently there are some dissenters from with our government, though. As the New York Times reported in an editorial:

"Most Americans seem to support extraordinary measures in defense against this extraordinary threat, but some officials who have been involved in these programs have spoken to The Times about their discomfort over the legality of the government's actions and over the adequacy of oversight," Mr. Keller said. "We believe The Times and others in the press have served the public interest by accurately reporting on these programs so that the public can have an informed view of them."

While the administration talks about the role of journalists in this endeavor, and rightly so, one other question comes to mind. Who leaked the story to the press in the first place, and why? Did they feel like there views weren’t being looked at seriously by the Bush administration? That’s one reason that people will leak sensitive secrets; to get their views heard.

While I can understand that frustration, simply disagreeing with a policy, and being frustrated that those in power aren’t doing what you think they should do, is not enough of a reason to put our ability to gather intelligence safely, and securely, at risk. By exposing the ways we gain intelligence data, it only compromises our ability to gain more data through the same sources. In some cases, where the sources are human, it puts their lives in danger.

Now, this is not “human intelligence.” It’s technology. How much of an impact it will have is yet to be seen. But if a terrorist cell knows that it will be tracked if it continues to use one method of money laundering (and let’s face it, that’s what this is), it will simply change tactics to less traceable, if more inconvenient, methods.

It seems to me that while the media deserves some of the blame, those who betrayed their oaths and leaked the story in the first place have much more to answer for.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

If any of you have talked to me about economics, you probably know that I’m really not happy about NAFTA. I blame it for being the “straw” that eventually “broke my career’s back” and drove me away from printing and visual media into my new career dealing with the internet. Yes, Virginia, I am one of the people who lost their jobs when the work went to Mexico after NAFTA was signed.

Don’t tell me it made things better for the people in Mexico, either. I don’t care. It hurt American manufacturing and helped drop the median wage. In other words, because of NAFTA the American owners of manufacturing companies got richer, by outsourcing their workforce, and the American middle class continues to disappear. Sorry Reganites, the “trickle” down theory has clogged pipes.

Guess what, though? It’s even worse than I thought. Check this quote from an article on the North Amercian Union:

The Bush Administration is pushing to create a North American Union out of the work on-going in the Department of Commerce under the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America in the NAFTA office headed by Geri Word. A key part of the plan is to expand the NAFTA tribunals into a North American Union court system that would have supremacy over all U.S. law, even over the U.S. Supreme Court, in any matter related to the trilateral political and economic integration of the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Now, if you’re a democrat, don’t get all high-and-mighty on me. Remember, it was President Clinton that signed NAFTA into law.

Right now, Chapter 11 of the NAFTA agreement allows a private NAFTA foreign investor to sue the U.S. government if the investor believes a state or federal law damages the investor’s NAFTA business. Under Chapter 11, NAFTA establishes a tribunal that conducts a behind closed-doors “trial” to decide the case according to the legal principals established by either the World Bank’s International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes or the UN’s Commission for International Trade Law. If the decision is adverse to the U.S., the NAFTA tribunal can impose its decision as final, trumping U.S. law, even as decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. U.S. laws can be effectively overturned and the NAFTA Chapter 11 tribunal can impose millions or billions of dollars in fines on the U.S. government, to be paid ultimately by the U.S. taxpayer.

In other words, NAFTA has the power to challenge U.S. sovereignty in its own lands. The government under Clinton’s administration agreed to it, and the government under Bush’s administration wants to expand on it.

Why is this not scaring you? It scares me to no end. This is government by international corporation, not by and for the people. In many fundamental ways it challenges the U.S. Constitution itself simply by the fact that it has supremacy over U.S. law and the Supreme Court. Are we so willing to sell our liberties to the highest bidder?

I used to roll my eyes at pundits who talked impeachment. Now I’m beginning to wonder if they’re right.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Free Speech for All, Unless You Work for the Government

I admit it’s been a couple of weeks since this news story broke, but this kind of disturbs me. Richard Ceballos, a supervising district attorney in Los Angeles, had sent a memo out raising some questions about whether or not a deputy sheriff had lied to obtain a search warrant in a case that has come before the Los Angeles court. Later on, he testified as much at a trial, bringing into question the validity of the warrant.

He got demoted for blowing the whistle. In this case I think it was less “whistle blowing” than “if we’re going to prosecute this guy, we better get our ducks in a row.” He files a federal lawsuit saying that he was demoted in retaliation for his memo.

Eventually the case went to the Supreme Court. It ended in a 5-4 split decision that basically said that Government employees don’t get free-speech protection when it comes to exposing misconduct at work.

Here’s what Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote about it, when speaking for the court: "When an employee speaks as a citizen addressing a matter of public concern, the First Amendment requires a delicate balancing of the competing interests surrounding the speech and its consequences . . . When, however, the employee is simply performing his or her job duties, there is no warrant for a similar degree of scrutiny."

Huh? So, if I try and let someone in the government agency I work for that something is amiss, I can get canned for doing my job, just because what I had to say was unpopular? This seems to support the idea that it’s okay to cover-ups illegal or dangerous activity, and we’ll fire you if you don’t go along. It certainly does nothing for the safety and welfare of the people that agency serves.

Here’s a quote from the dissenting side:

In a dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens called the majority opinion "misguided."

"The proper answer to the question 'whether the First Amendment protects a government employee from discipline based on speech made pursuant to the employee's official duties' is 'Sometimes,' not 'Never,' he writes.
"Of course a supervisor may take corrective action when such speech is inflammatory or misguided," Justice Stevens writes. "But what if it is just unwelcome speech because it reveals facts that the supervisor would rather not have anyone else discover?"
In a separate dissenting opinion, Justice Souter wrote:

"But I would hold that private and public interests in addressing official wrongdoing and threats to health and safety can outweigh the government's stake in the efficient implementation of policy."

Justices Stevens and Souter seemed to hit the problem on the head, if you ask me.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Twisted Truth = Lies

You know, just when you start to respect someone’s innovative and fun approaches to writing and illustration, they start getting “innovative” with the truth. One of the talented staffers over at BoingBoing has bypassed his brain and republished an opinion piece that rewrites the facts behind the War on Terror in order to push an anti-Bush agenda.

I know, I know. None of these kinds of tactics are new, and normally I just roll my eyes and keep reading. But for some reason, this one just pissed me off.

Here’s what they said:

As NBC News reported back in 2004, U.S. military planners drew up plans to take out Zarqawi three times in 2002 and 2003, but the Bush administration killed the plans each time. Why? Because, military officials told NBC, the Bush administration feared that destroying Zarqawi's terrorist camp in Iraq "could undercut its case for war against Saddam."

If you go and actually read the MSNBC story they reference, you find a very different story.

“People were more obsessed with developing the coalition to overthrow Saddam than to execute the president’s policy of preemption against terrorists,” according to terrorism expert and former National Security Council member Roger Cressey.

In other words, the Bush administration was so worried about the liberal pundits, and trying to avoid launching strikes against a sovereign nation while they sought U.N. approval for a larger invasion

Let's put it another way, the Bush administartion was cautious (maybe too cautious) and tried to play by the book. That’s more than Clinton did when he bombed Iraq in 1998.

It’s not that I don’t think Clinton should have bombed them at the time. I’m just sick of the far left liberal pundits twisting the truth to damn President Bush, all the while praising President Clinton.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

More on Same Sex Marriage

It’s interesting to note that the idea of a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman only was quashed today. Senator Kennedy went so far as to accuse people who are against same sex marriage as being “bigots – pure and simple.”

I think he’s full of crap.

I wonder, does that make me a bigot against rich and narcissistic white men who pontificate on how they are so much better than the rest of us in the name of appealing to their voting base?

Hmmm . . .

In any case, I think the idea of trying to protect same sex marriage is dangerous. It makes marriage irrelevant and has already forced one religious charity group to cease operations, even if they don’t take money from the government.  Just so you know, this was a privately funded adoption agency that refused to adopt kids out to same sex couples because of the agency’s ties to the Catholic Church. (My friend Mark Hansen first let me in on this, BTW.)

If you ignore some of the more blatent hyperbole, this article lays out the case of sex being used as a trump card in these situations.  One of the quotes I found particularly interesting:
By forcing court-ordered same-sex “marriage” on the rest of us, political activists pushing the homosexual agenda will compel the great majority of American citizens and religious groups to ignore their deepest spiritual convictions, and effectively embrace—at the point of a legal shotgun—a homosexual definition of matrimony.
And, in doing so, these same advocates will force open the door for polygamy and countless other redefinitions of the term. Marriage, having ceased to become what it is, will effectively become nothing at all.
If you look at the Catholic charity closing it’ doors, it seem that sex now trumps even the first amendment.