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DOMESTIC SPYING AND THE WAR ON MILITANT ISLAM

by Michael DiMercurio, [IMAGE]2006

ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED AT MILITARY.COM, August 22, 2006

[IMAGE] First off, apparently our current conflict is no longer called “the war on terrorism.” Calling a spade a spade, the Bush Administration last week rolled out the moniker “war on Islamic fascism.” Despite the nice ring the war’s new name has, “fascism” has previously referred to particularly egregious governmental authoritarianism, the likes of Hitler’s Third Reich or Mussolini’s 1930s Italy. The war is more properly a “war on militant Islam” as I pointed out a column or two ago, and this reporter loves being clairvoyant even more than being correct. Perhaps coming right out and saying that we’re intentionally shooting bullets at a specific religious group ~ or a faction within a single religious group ~ is horrendously and unpleasantly politically incorrect. It does, however, have the advantage of being the truth.

But what we call it doesn’t really matter so long as we win. Because the only outcomes are winning or a Nixonian “peace with honor,” which in this conflict is impossible. Having no alternative to fighting and somehow prevailing or at least more credibly declaring victory (more so than the ill-fated aircraft carrier “Mission Accomplished,” which became fodder for leftist bumper stickers), we wage this war-so-difficult-to-name with no option but to win. It is a costly conflict, which we’re paying for with the lives of our sons and daughters (those who were patriotic enough to volunteer for our the all-volunteer force) and with our government’s budget. The Republicans would probably rather bleed red ink with defense contracts than Head Start programs, with the unassailable logic that educated children are simply dead formerly educated children with building rubble on top of them if America backs down from fighting militant Islam.

But the issue today isn’t the name of the war, but the freedom to talk about it with friend and foe alike on a cell phone without Big Brother ~ the professional and dutiful soldiers of the National Security Agency ~ listening.

This week’s loss by the Bush Administration in the court’s ruling banning further illegal wiretaps is the problem. Since 9/11 and the enactment of the slickly named Patriot Act, the U.S. government has been listening in to cell phone conversations and admirably and productively using the intelligence harvest to catch terrorists. That sounds pragmatic, perhaps even obvious. After all, it is almost certain that eavesdropping led to the arrest of the two dozen British militant Islamic men who intended to bring down ten U.S. airliners inbound from London. When you read a gentleman’s mail, often you find out that he is not exactly a gentleman.

Seven years ago, cell phone makers rolled out cell phones with encryption systems so that their transmissions could not be decoded if intercepted. This technology came in the wake of the expos? on British Prince Charles’ lewd conversations with Camilla hit the tabloids, as did Lady Di’s sexy whisperings to one of her lovers. Immediately elements of the U.S. government sued (and applied other pressure) to stop the use of the technology, and they won. You have to wonder what is going on when your elected government makes a point of ensuring that your phone conversations are able to be monitored.

It’s not like there’s someone panting on the line listening in real time. And you may not be listened to at all. Your conversations get fed to a computer filter searching for keywords, like “bomb” or “attack” or perhaps Arabic phrases. Conversations that make the software take notice are then further screened and full-time monitoring begins. In addition, cell phones belonging to obvious targets, suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, are intercepted in full.

As a patriot who once raised a hand to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, I’m troubled by a government that listens to and records my phone calls. Something about due process of law and the Bill of Rights comes to mind. After all, in the global struggles we face in this century, what are we representing that should win? The ideology of liberty and justice for all? Or an authoritarian government that spies on its own people? Isn’t that an operational definition of fascism?

My fellow Americans, I submit to you that eavesdropping on your cell phone calls because of the beard you sport or the robes you wear to prayer by your elected officials and their vast minions is not what we as a people and as a philosophy represent.

Two centuries ago, religious fanatics fled Europe for the free New World. On the shores of America they flourished, despite conventional means to bring them back to conformity with recognized civilization ~ that effort at the hands of the British, who are still annoyed at our victory judging by how so many of them jokingly but emphatically still call us “colonists” ~ and that I can state for a fact from having worked for a British company, which delighted in calling Americans to meaningless London conferences on July 4th. Those kooks who came to the new continent formed a culture of freedom, freedom from the government invading our homes, from taxation without representation, from illegal search and seizure, from lack of due process.

And now, look what we have become. We have an elected president who has stated with a straight face that he’ll violate the Constitution to listen in on our private conversations in the effort to combat terrorism.

That’s not the America I swore an oath to defend.

And that’s not the America that will prevail in a war of philosophy. With a fascistic philosophy like Bush’s, how can we take the high ground against the Islamics? Our new philosophy just makes it easier for them to call us evil and recruit teenage suicide bombers.

The Islamics fight us, and in so doing, they call us the Great Satan.

Let’s not make their point for them.

And yet, eavesdropping and reading other gentlemen’s mail is a long, venerable tradition in America’s. From the battleship armament negotiations in the early 1900s that we eavesdropped on to our codebreaking in both world wars, our government has been adept at the moral equivalent of stealing final exams. Back then, the end justified the means. Fast forward to the Cold War, when our nuclear submarines sailed deep into Soviet territorial waters to plant bugs on submerged phone cables so we would know what the Russians were thinking, practically before they did. Arguably, having an intelligence bounty won that conflict and saved America from nuclear destruction at the hands of men who admitted that they would bury us.

But now? Suicide bombers and aircraft hijackers present a level of threat that 9/11 notwithstanding, is nothing compared to having a thousand of our cities incinerated in the first six minutes of a continental surprise attack.

So is my point that avoiding nuclear war makes illegal wiretaps morally acceptable but sailing jumbo jets into skyscrapers doesn’t? The answer to that depends on what value you place on the rule of law.

Let’s not take this discussion back to the Magna Carta, but let’s admit to ourselves that the most significant invention of mankind was NOT the wheel, it was written law, enforced by courts. The U.S. Constitution made incredible improvements to the concept ~ power sharing and checks and balances between three branches of government, two elected and one appointed by elected officials. At some point, laws apply to everyone, and lest anyone in the White House forget, more than one presidential aide did hard time in federal lockup for violating those laws, and a president himself was one pardon away from wearing a striped jumpsuit himself.

Laws have meaning, but even more meaningful is the design of the government that makes the laws, and that design is written in black and white in the Constitution. And the last time I checked, that Constitution lent us all rights that the government could not take away.

The Constitution can certainly be modified. Given enough popular support, it can be amended. At one point, females obtained the right to vote. The government obtained the right to tax income. And slaves were counted as three-fifths of a human being.

That last one is an example of how the moral fabric of the nation can stray, but the amendment was repealed, as amendments can be, restoring the country back to its example status.

If the war against militant Islam is so important that American safety cannot be secured without eavesdropping on conversations without a time-consuming warrant, then let’s see a Constitutional amendment ratified by the states that puts it in writing. I’ll still oppose it as un-American, but I won’t complain.

Until then, the CIA, NSA, DIA and all the other “black alphabet soup” government agencies should keep their paws off my cell phone conversations.

Having accomplished that between breakfast and lunch, the next worry is those bothersome Windows updates that install themselves in the dark of night if my computer is on, bringing in God-knows-what software unbidden into my machine that will eavesdrop on my internet usage.

“Honest, Agent Smith, I was just looking at that website for research purposes.”

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MORE! On VERTICAL DIVE

VERTICAL DIVE:
As hurricane Helen barrels in toward the Virginia coastline, the U.S. Navy’s Commander-in-Chief Atlantic Fleet orders all vessels to scramble to sea, including Burke Dillinger’s Hampton and Peter Vornado’s Texas.

But this is no mere storm evacuation.

There is something sinister going on in the eastern Atlantic. The Navy’s eyes are on the ballistic missile submarine force, the “boomer” submarines loaded to the gills with intercontinental nuclear warheads. And the French boomer submarine Le Vigilant has “gone bad,” hijacked by an Algerian terrorist with dreams of completing the circle of revenge and using French nuclear weapons on the French who killed his father.

As terrorist Issam Zauabri’s forces learn how to employ the nuclear missiles, Vornado’s Texas and Dillinger’s Hampton close in on the threat, but Issam knows how to use torpedoes as well as he does the missiles, and Le Vigilant is one of the quietest submarines ever built. Once the American subs are on the bottom, his attack can proceed on Paris, but since it was Americans who interfered, Issam will save one missile for New York…

“Compelling and visionary. DiMercurio’s characters run as deep as his submarines themselves!”

--Joe Buff, author of Straits Of Power, Tidal Rip, Crush Depth, Thunder in the Deep, And Deep Sound Channel.

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terminalrun.com
Michael DiMercurio
Princeton, New Jersey
E-mail:
readermail@terminalrun.com

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