First Coffee for 12 May 2006: The NSA's (Still) Data Mining Phone Numbers? Certainly Hope So.

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First Coffee for 12 May 2006: The NSA's (Still) Data Mining Phone Numbers? Certainly Hope So.

By David Sims
The news as of the first coffee this morning, and the music is J. J. Cale’s “Magnolia:”

Oh bah-rother. This just in: Ignorant loudmouths still flustered that the National Security Agency is protecting aforesaid loudmouths’ own personal security by doing some simple, noninvasive, legal data mining to find out who frequently calls the phone numbers of known terrorists.

So we have to endure the usual tired apoplectic spluttering. “What? How dare they! Privacy! Privacy! Privacy,” they squawk, as if anybody in the NSA or anywhere else cares a whit about the vast majority of phone calls made in this country:

“Whaddya got on that one, Trent?”

“Cindy Jones called her son, named Kip, to remind him that he’s got oboe practice tonight since they’d switched it from Wednesday because it conflicted with church supper at the… lemme see… St. Mark’s Presbyterian over in… uh, East Wilsonburg.”

“Mm, better start a file. I’d put a man on that, shadow the kid, he’s up to something.”

Evidently USA Today’s News McNuggets department has just realized, months after the rest of us found out, that AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and BellSouth Corp. telephone companies have been turning over records of their customers’ phone calls to the NSA program shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. The newspaper said it had “anonymous sources” with “direct knowledge of the arrangement,” according to the AP reporter forced to regurgitate USA Today’s regurgitation of The New York Times.

“Anonymous sources?” As in “anybody who read The New York Times last December?” Dafydd at Big Lizards reprints this from the Times’ piece last December:

N.S.A. technicians… have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.

Five months ago, folks. Why is it being unearthed and foisted off on the gullible as “news” now? Read on. Hint: With moonbats, as with other comedy, timing is everything.

The phone companies say they are protecting customers’ privacy while assisting law enforcement and government agencies in ensuring the nation’s security, and they’re correct on both counts. 

“We prize the trust our customers place in us. If and when AT&T is asked to help, we do so strictly within the law and under the most stringent conditions,” the company said in a statement. Verizon and BellSouth, to their credit, are also cooperating.

The AP reported that Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colorado, said NSA was using the data to analyze calling patterns in order to detect and track suspected terrorist activity. “Telephone customers’ names, addresses and other personal information have not been handed over to NSA as part of this program,” he said.

Get that? No names, no addresses, no personal information. The NSA is tracing numbers to numbers to find who’s calling known terrorist numbers. It’s called “social network analysis,” it’s how you put together terrorists’ networks, and it’s effective, legal law enforcement. It’s simple data mining, anybody in CRM knows how it works, as John Hinderaker puts it the NSA’s being accused of protecting Americans from terrorism.

Qwest has refused to turn over their records, a fact which USA Today reported, helpfully pointing out the hole in the NSA’s database for anyone who doesn’t want the government knowing who they’re calling. Wonder who’s taking note of that fact.

So what’s with all the taxpayer-subsidized grandstanding and conniption fits in D.C. five months hence, especially since, as Senate Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas said, a select panel overseeing Bush’s surveillance program has been fully informed of NSA activities?

Because some people won’t be happy until al-Qaeda is fully informed in advance of every attempt by the government to track their activities. You know who they are, they’re the usual cast of irresponsible juveniles running around saying things like “the NSA stands for Now Spying on Americans,” and “it’s not one party’s government. It’s America’s government. Those entrusted with great power have a duty to answer to Americans what they are doing,” branding current oversight “woefully inadequate” and calling for Congressional hearings.

No doubt ol’ Joe “Motormouth” Biden’s right now looking for a statement from Neil Kinnock or another source to express his personal outrage.

First Coffee notes that today’s outraged are, by and large, the same unhinged nutjobs who found nothing wrong with Bill and Hillary Clinton having American citizens’ IRS and FBI files spread out over the White House living room floor.

But the timing of this journalistic archaeological excavation: Let’s see, flipping through the rest of the news, one sees that… President Bush’s nominee to head the CIA, Michael Hayden, is making the rounds to win support for his confirmation. And Hayden was previously…  wait for it... head of the National Security Agency.

Cops don’t like coincidences, and neither does First Coffee, especially “coincidences” on Capitol Hill, where people generally know what they’re doing, even if they have no clue why they’re doing it or what the long-term effects will be, ever since Daniel Patrick Moynihan retired there hasn’t been a member of the House of Senate whose definition of “long-term” stretches past the next election.

So this is just another tired attempt to mindlessly smear a Bush appointee by those politicians who America doesn’t trust to nominate CIA directors themselves. Their MSM lackeys are dutifully performing their assigned role in putting lipstick on this recycled garbage pig to fool some Americans into thinking there’s something nefarious going on.

But as with the Scooter Libby circus and the Washington Post’s 100% fraudulent story on American “secret prisons” in Eastern Europe, this “scandal” is as substantial as that Texas Air Guard letter Dan Rather still has framed on his bathroom wall.

So that’s why we’re being subjected to this meaningless stupidity (again), but what of the issue itself? Fellow TMC blogger Tom Keating puts it well: “I heard the phone companies aren’t associating people’s names with the phone records – just the dialed numbers and originating numbers. (i.e. 212-555-1212 made lots of calls to known terrorist phone numbers). If that’s true, then I don’t care. My privacy isn’t violated.”

If they simply “do some data-mining to find suspicious numbers and then subpoena the names of data-mined potential terrorists, then that’s fine with me,” Keating says. In other words, if the NSA’s doing their job finding terrorists within the bounds of the law, which appears to be the case, what’s the problem? He doesn’t see any, no sensible person does.

It’s perfectly fine with First Coffee too, who realizes that we’re in a war, and that in a war things operate a little differently than when nobody’s doing things like killing thousands of people in Manhattan by flying jets into office buildings.

Steps need to be taken to find people who’d like to do that kind of things again, and if First Coffee’s phone records need to be data-mined to accomplish that, have at it, boys. I‘d feel differently if I had anything to hide, or was in sympathy with terrorists, or so constipated with anti-Bush bile I couldn’t think straight, but fortunately I’m not.

The NSA has a huge database of millions of phone calls? First Coffee certainly hopes so. Privacy issues? My friend, First Coffee would like to apologize in advance to anyone stuck with the stupefyingly boring job of sifting his family’s phone calls. But they’re welcome to run his call lists through any social networking they wish, and he certainly hopes the database is large enough to foil more terrorist plots, as the government has done already, despite that big hole in its database.

Americans approve of the NSA using phone records and taps to prevent terrorist attacks post-9/11, much to the dismay of those political losers trying to score the cheapest of points with mock shock that the government would do such a thing, even as they grossly mischaracterize what it is the government’s actually doing while enjoying its benefits.

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