And listen, all this malarkey about the Leader's omnivorous, omnipresent, secret, lawless, unregulated, unrestricted domestic spying on every single American citizen being some kind of clear and brazen violation of the Constitution - well, that's just the kind of legalistic, liberal, nit-picky hair-splitting that al Qaeda loves to see. The Leader has explained to us over and over, very patiently, that anything He decides to do is legal - because He decides to it! So there's no point in getting into a hissy fit over the so-called illegality of wholesale spying without warrants, indefinite detention without charges, torture and rendition, concentration camps, extrajudicial killing, wars of aggression or anything else the Great Decider decides to decide.
But in truth, Bush must find all the hoo-rah about gathering phone records hard to fathom. After all, the United States has been capturing and monitoring millions of "e-mail, fax, telex and phone messages sent over satellite-based communication systems as well as terrestrial-based data communications," as the New York Times reported - in 1999. And this is not just blind phone numbers (as the controversial new data-mining program is supposedly restricted to); this is the whole enchilada, the meat and drink of the message, every golden word savored, every sender and receiver personally identified. We have already had the privacy of our communications raped, 'buked and scorned for years - for decades, in fact.
Yes, we're talking about our old friend Echelon, as Kurt Nimmo usefully reminds us. A 1999 report by the European Parliament laid bare the lineaments of the program, which has been carried out on a global basis since the end of World War II by the English-speaking powers of the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Decade after decade, every new communication technology has been gathered into the Echelon net. (The program, a closely guarded secret for decades, was confirmed by Australia's Defence Signals Directorate chief in 1999.) The Anglophone spy guys not only use an interlocked, international system of satellite interception stations, they have even planted interception nodes on deep-sea communication cables, the Euro Parliament report found, adding that "The stations collectively monitor millions of voice and data messages each day. These messages are then scanned and checked" for any "key words" the spooks are told to look for: "bomb," "terrorist," "Rosebud," whatever. And since the program was completely covert, no one has any idea who the hell that Echelon is really looking at. Could be international calls and e-mails; could be completely domestic communications; could be any damn thing and any damn body they please.
So yes, it is indeed heinous that Bush has cooked up yet another illegal spy program and inflicted it upon the American people. Yes, it is a high crime for which he should be impeached and imprisoned (one of many). Yes, he is a tinpot dictator who is shredding what's left of the Constitution after many decades of bipartisan scissor-work on that noble document. But goodness gracious henny penny me (if we may borrow some of the prissy locutions favored by Don Rumsfeld), data-mining phone numbers is actually small beer compared to what the "security organs" have already been doing to our communications, for decades. And the uncovering of this Bushist addition to the corpus of "National Security State" crimes is undoubtedly just the tip of a massive iceberg. We ain't seen nothing yet - and if the security organs have their way, we never will. ***