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Friday, February 10, 2006

Alberto Gonzales, the "People's" Attorney General, Just Confirmed Bush's Ascension to BIG BROTHER

Attorney General Gonzales “testified” before the Senate Judiciary Committee this past Monday, “…refusing to answer even the simplest questions about the government’s illegal spying on Americans,” reports the American Civil Liberties Union. Still maintaining, lamely, as Bush has done repeatedly over the last few months, that the president already had the power to spy.

Responding to questions re. why the administration did not seek approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), “The short answer is: We didn’t think we had to, quite simply,” Gonzales said.

If you want an excellent guide to this fiasco, go to Tom Curry’s February article, “What is the NSA spying furor all about?” on MSNBC. There are 18 questions with answers that probe the very depths of this issue.

In a Slate February article, “Tapped Out,” by Patrick Keefe, he comments on the Justice Department’s refusal to furnish the Senate Judiciary Committee documents re. the legality of Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping. He goes on to compare the confrontation with the 1975 Church committee investigating the same issue code-named Shamrock, where the NSA enlisted the cooperation of then telecommunications giants RCA Global, ITT World Communications and Western Union.

When Church asked the telecom CEO’s to come to the committee and discuss Shamrock, they refused. The committee countered with subpoenas and they complied. Keefe makes the statement that Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the investigating committee, should “invite” the CEO’s of AT&T and Verizon—why not all of them?—but thinks that probably won’t happen. Right now big business is very cozy with this administration’s position of cutting everyone out of the information loop but Bush loyalists.

Well, I think that Senator Specter had better consider talking to these companies, because they are the ones that control the mysterious “switches” that move telephone and e-mail traffic in and out of the U.S. Specter has even indicated his skepticism over Bush’s contention that he had the legal right to spy in another MSNBC article from the Associated Press in February, “GOP senator calls spying reasons ‘unrealistic”.

Exactly how much of our personal data is being filtered through these switches, and just how secure are they? Are there federal regulations that set minimum standards for protection? Are we sitting on another ChoicePoint/LexisNexis powder keg? Probably, and here’s why.

There are 113 mailing lists on the market under the general term “telecommunications.” They cover a broad range of lifestyles, some with your private information available, so I narrowed it to a few. They are all based on your land line telephone/cell phone number or your Internet address (ISP), and include all the major providers from AOL to Verizon. The personal data they collect varies from list to list, so reference to this will be general.

Among the lists I selected, they sell your age, ethnicity, phone number, income, occupation, education, how many long distance calls you made in and out of the U.S., medication taken and for what ailments, what you read and whether you gamble, where you travel, and more. This is, of course, only the data they sell, and does not include other private information you might have given up to get your telephones or Internet address. The point is, it’s all out there, winging through these secret switches, and grist for the ID thievery mill.

Common sense tells us that we have to make adjustments for immediate access to certain data by the government in national security cases involving individual privacy. My plan to pass federal legislation giving consumers control over their names and personal data makes this provision, but only with approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which Bush conveniently skirted.

A little Congressional oversight might also be appropriate, along with individual notification. In other words, if everybody is checking everybody else, we just might be able to keep everybody honest.

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