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Alberto Gonzales, Data Mining, and Our Maniac-In-Chief

So one thing is clear: the Bush Administration's Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied about the scope and nature of the NSA warrantless domestic spying program that has generated so much consternation among civil libertarians, conservatives, and much of the general public. Well, big suprise I guess. Apparently now that shiteater Gonzales is "clarifying" his statements given on February 6th to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Anyways, what's been going on lately is that these neocons have had their hands stuck in the cookie jar yet again with domestic surveillance. Apparently the NSA, under direction of the Bush Administration, has been keeping an enormous database of records, within which has apparently been logged untold millions of domestic-to-domestic (as opposed to domestic-to-foreign) phone calls of American citizens. Needless to say, Gonzales nor any of the others mentioned this earlier when questioned about it, and fortunately, we got Gonzales under oath. Prepare for the hair-splitting and legalisms to come.

I should stop for a second here. We all remember the original issue of concern as regards the NSA spying issue. The original controversy was whether the President, without preapproval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (AKA the "FISA Court," a body set up specifically by statute for this purpose), could authorize eavesdropping on calls between domestic and foreign entities. We were reassured, of course, that this only concerned domestic-to-foreign calls.

The current issue which has apparently exploded in the headlines today is what has been called the "largest database ever assembled" of records of calls, INCLUDING domestic-to-domestic calls. Did I mention that the "Honorable" Alberto Gonzales lied under oath?

So what's the problem here, you say? So the NSA is just keeping a database of calls, and not actually listening in, so what's the problem? Moreover, if no eavesdropping is actually occurring, this really shouldn't require the involvement of the FISA Court, should it? So what's the harm if George Bush and his cronies log all your calls and comb through them? If you aren't doing anything wrong, you shouldn't have anything to worry about, right? Hmmmm... that sounds familiar.

Anyways, what the NSA has been doing here is using the statistical technique of data mining, which is a technique for taking otherwise-unmanageably-large troves of raw data and using statistical programs to look for particular patterns, essentially a method of more or less data reduction. When used correctly, data mining can be a powerful technique. On the other hand, due to the subjectivity involved in judging and responding to the output generated through the use of techniques, these tools can be easily abused.

So what do we care? Those people at the NSA know what they're doing, right? Yeah, well, let me remind you of who's calling the shots:


These people are so incompetent (as well as evil), that I shudder at the idea of letting them at a database like this. Perhaps I would feel better if Congress actually offered some meaningful oversight, but aside from a moderately entertaining exchange between Arlen Specter and that scumbag Gonzales during his original February testimony (remember the "you've been smoking Dutch cleanser, son" comment?), Congress has basically given up on pursuing this matter at all, despite the protestations of a number of leading Democrats, most notably Russ Feingold (I love Russ Feingold).

I thought I liked Arlen Specter, but he actually a big fucking pussy. All talk and no action.

It's so sad. People have been talking about impeaching this president for a while. Maybe we should start talking about impeaching the GOP congress first, so they might actually get off their collective asses and do something about this maniac Administration.


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