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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Do We Abandon Spying Then?

Andrew Sullivan, brilliant, insightful and courageous (while sometimes very wrong, as we all can be) offers this comment of George Bush's stewardship of the US during these imposing and dangerous times:

You can say this for the president. The powers he seized after 9/11 have indeed apparently helped neuter al Qaeda as we once knew it. That's a big deal and a big achievement. We haven't been attacked since: another big deal, in my book. But the flip-side of unchecked executive power is also the chance of self-reinforcing error (WMD intelligence) and abuse of power (authorizing torture against domestic and international law).

A "big deal"? I'd say. Andrew never advises us which is worse---the intrusion on our liberty by eavesdropping on suspected Al Qaeda subversives who are conversing with people in the Middle East versus the obvious benefit of trumping attempts at domestic terror. He never was a fence-straddler before.

Meanwhile, writer Jack O'Neill, author of "Echelon, Somebody's Listening", wrote last week in the Washington Times:

The New York Times concedes the story starts with the CIA capture of top al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. With Zubaydah's capture came a treasure trove of eavesdropping intelligence sources -- e-mail addresses, cell phone numbers, and personal phone directories. These are prime intelligence sources that may lead to the infamous "dots" often used in the phrase "Why didn't our intelligence agencies 'connect the dots?' "

Some of Zubaydah's telephone numbers and e-mail addresses are in the United States. How long do you think these domestic numbers would remain active after Zubaydah's arrest is made public? Hours? One day? Two?

I suppose the following comment is Sullivan's answer: "The founders divided government for a good reason. It may be time to tame the prince." What does Andrew suggest as a replacement intelligence resource?

Thankfully Bush is not a fence-straddler.

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