Friday, May 19, 2006

Those Who Would Give Up Liberty for a Little Security...

The girlfriend tells me I should stop reading the paper, or that, at the very least, my breakfast table letters-to-the-editor-reading privileges might be revoked. Maybe she's tired of me sputtering Cheerios everywhere at the latest in the long parade of mind-boggling letters from the right side of Tucson's citizenry.

Yesterday dawned hopefully, with a separate little section of letters about Qwest's refusal to cooperate in the NSA call data-mining operation. Then I actually started reading the letters and, well, the Cheerio deluge began.

Rick in Tucson writes:
I've written Qwest and demanded that my phone records be immediately turned over to the NSA and have also demanded that Qwest immediately begin assisting the NSA in any way possible.

I thought it was satire. I hoped it was satire. Maybe the hook at the end, the little emoticon wink letting us know it was satire, inadvertently got edited out. But then I moved on to another letter, from James, retired Air Force:
I'm a Qwest customer and am disgusted that my phone provider did not see fit to help our government compile data to ferret out those who would gladly kill us.

And finally, we have this from Rod:
Qwest once again has demonstrated its insensitivity to the communities that it serves by denying the National Security Agency the opportunity to collect data on telephone traffic over its system.

The decision is but another example of Qwest's historic contempt for their customers. This time it is their customers' safety.

Two pro-Qwest letters were interspersed with the above. Somebody demanded that Qwest turn over his phone records to the NSA? Holy Grail, anyone? Spank me first! No, me!!!

The multiple layers of blind trust are impressive, if disturbing. Rick and James and Rod are rock-solid in their conviction that (1) the data-mining system is an efficient means to identify a couple hundred? a thousand? how many? al Qaeda stooges both in the US and foreign countries by combing through billions of calls made; (2) being automatically covered in the net of suspicion by the mere virtue of subscribing to telephone service is a-okay, because (3) the NSA would never (a) make a mistaken connection between an innocent patriotic American and a terrorist cell due to a call for carryout baba ganoush or (b) start transcribing actual conversations rather than simple numbers called or (c) use the calling patterns to investigate activities other than terrorism.

This is the kind of shit we used to revile the Red Menace for, the kind of government-sponsored snooping that prompted so many people to try to climb the Berlin Wall. The general lack of outrage over the NSA program disgusted me enough. The subsequent desire by individuals to actively participate in the same leaves me speechless.

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