Thursday, August 23, 2007

Latest Administration Doublespeak on Surveillance

In an article from the Washington Post today, the director of National Intelligence was quoted today saying that less than 100 people in the United States were actually being targeted for secret- court-approved wiretaps aimed at disrupting terrorist networks. And that is exactly what they would like the citizens of the United States to believe.

The problem here is that it is not the ones that the Administration seeks warrants that are concerning – it is the many more citizens that are being monitored where warrants are not sought out. Also, the program is not focusing solely on one terrorist abroad speaking with another terrorist in the United States; the act is not limiting the monitoring to only those whom the government think are engaging in terrorist actions – it is a far wider spectrum than that. And finally, the new FISA amendment that President Bush has recently signed into law allows the government to intercept any and all calls or e-mail correspondence as long as the government has reason to believe that the party is overseas. What the government is doing here, and its disingenuous and misleading explanations, should worry every American citizen, and ought to be the subject of serious congressional oversight.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

FISA Changes.....

The amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which the Administration pressured Congress into passing over the weekend represents an outrageous expansion of government power to survey virtually every international telephone call or internet communication. The amendments go far beyond what the Administration indicated was necessary to listen into international communications involving suspected terrorists. This change vastly expended the authority of federal government to monitor international communication of American citizens, without any checks-and-balances from court supervision.

The Administration’s efforts were successful because it shamelessly mischaracterized the FISA law and exaggerated the so-called threat in order to play on the fears of members of Congress. The only saving grace is that the law is only valid for six months.

Newt Gingrich Speech at the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Meeting

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who used to represent a district in Georgia adjacent to mine, spoke Monday, August 6th, to the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce, in Marietta, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. Newt's speech was one of the more interesting and entertaining I've heard him deliver in quite some time. He touched on many topics, primarily of a domestic nature, including poverty in America, taxes and government in general. What was truly appealing to the people in the audience was his idea of “FedEx Versus Government Bureaucracy” which discussed the ideas of a world that works versus a world that doesn’t. In a world that works, FedEx has no problem tracking packages, but in a world that doesn’t work, the government cannot track illegal immigrants. It was suggested that we should start sending packages to all of the illegal immigrants and track them that way. It also discussed how ATM’s can give you money from anywhere in the world in a world that works, but in California a company fired 13 employees because they did not have proper legal documentation stating that they were citizens. This is now in the courts and California law is stating that this is not a fireable offense. They found that one of the social security numbers used had been used 41 times before. Now why is it that an ATM can identify a pin number overseas but our government cannot track social security numbers? This fully describes a world that doesn’t work.

A link to this speech can be accessed at

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Collapsed of the Bridge in Minneapolis

The collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis on August 1, 2007, was the definition of tragedy; a tragedy that could have been easily avoided. In June 2006 a state inspection was done on the bridge that gave the bridge an overall rating of 50 out of 120 points – about 42%. According to the scale, this did not mean the bridge was necessarily considered “unsafe.” After the bridge collapsed on August 1st, maybe now would be a good time to rethink the rating scale and perhaps a score of 50 can now be considered “unsafe.” There are bridges that are even lower on the rating scale and have not been replaced or repaired. Hopefully, this incident will open the eyes of the Army Corps of Engineers and perhaps they will change the ratings on the scale for the bridges.

Did we learn nothing from Hurricane Katrina? The state officials were told time and time again that the barrier wall was too low and was not strong enough to handle anything that could be of hurricane caliber. No one wanted to spend the money to revamp and repair the barrier wall. It has taken more than two years to rebuild that great city in Louisiana, and it isn’t even close to what it once was.

Perhaps these will be lessons that will wake up officials. Maybe now is the time to create new rating scales. Maybe now is the time to pay attention to what experts say about structures that are keeping citizens safe. Hopefully, tragedies like these can and will be avoided in the near future. America certainly has had its share of tragedy and heartbreak in the last 6 years.