Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Do I Spy With My Little Eye... Treason?

Let's pretend it is 1942, yet somehow we magically have 2005 technology. We are at war with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Well, Italy too, but they don't quite count.

Suppose some Nazi in Germany called his secret agent spy contact here in the United States. Through the human miracle of technology, we are able to use speech recognition software, coupled with advanced neural network technology and some semantically intelligent processes. We detect the conversation and immediately, in real time, alert a U. S. Government intelligence agent-- the good guy, for you Democrats-- to the matter. The good guy listens for a bit to determine if the call is really about military matters or just someone's Christmas shopping list.

The call is about a planned attack, as far as our good guy can tell. The Nazi caller hangs up, and immediately his domestic spy places another call, this time to Japan.

Now, do we stop listening and start preparing a request for court ordered surveillance? Or do we act immediately against our country's enemies, this being a time of war? Should we have been monitoring the call in the first place?

Remember, this is not like the old movies, where some telephone worker had to tediously work racks of wires with a pair if alligator clips, listening for the mysterious caller. And you had to hope the call stayed active for five minutes or so while we "traced" the call.

No, with contemporary technology, we immediately know exactly what phone number is at each end of the call, and we probably know the physical location of the phones. Moreover, we may well know the identities of the phone callers, as well as something about them. We can react immediately-- far faster than a court order for wiretap surveillance can be prepared.

There are eyes and ears in the sky, and we are at war. We need to use whatever tools we have available to thwart our enemies. Personally, I don't think we should even need to discuss the matter, but there are members of Congress who just don't take this war seriously. They used this "controversy", leaked ignominiously by the New York Times last week, to invoke a filibuster against renewal of the Patriot Act.

There are those who are convinced this administration is using its powers under the Patriot Act to actively spy on domestic political opposition. Of course, if Hillary Clinton was president, this would be a legitimate concern. It may be the best reason not to elect Hillary, but that is another matter.

Then, there are those who simply see short term political opportunity. Republicans, who are such in name only. Media whores like Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska. It's odd how Hagel is often to the political left of the other Nebraskan Ben Nelson, who happens to be a Democrat.

It's really pretty simple: we are at war, we need to win. We need our political leaders to help, not hurt. And for the press to avoid overt acts of treason.

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