Thursday, December 29, 2005

It's "detection," stupid - not "monitoring"

Condoleezza Rice was interviewed the other day by the Wolf man. Apparently we are all quite foolish. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is about "monitoring" and in view, "principally for a longer-term monitoring" of people acting on behalf of a foreign government. So FISA is about the old school-cold war type of spying. But what Bush needs, according to Condi, is agility, and an ability to "detect." What Bush is doing is "detecting" not "monitoring." Got that? Who's Clintonian now? Here's the key excerpt:
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Madam Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: A pleasure to be with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You were the national security advisor right after 9/11 when the president authorized this extraordinary decision to go ahead with surveillance eavesdropping on Americans and others, making international phone calls or faxes or e-mails, without getting court orders. How did that decision come about?

RICE: The president has -- first of all, let's talk about what he authorized. He authorized the National Security Agency to collect information on a limited number of people with ties to Al Qaeda in order to be able to close the gap, the seam, between the domestic territory of the United States and foreign territory.

One of the clear findings of the 9/11 Commission was that our intelligence agencies were looking outward. Our law enforcement agencies were looking inward. And a gap had developed. We didn't know the connection between what people with terrorist ties inside the United States were doing, to what people who were terrorists or might be planning terrorist operations outside the country were doing.

So the president made that decision. He did it on the basis of his constitutional authority under Article II and other statutory authorities. I think the attorney general spoke to those legal issues earlier. And he did it to protect the country. Because these days, after September 11th, we recognized and he recognized, as the one with real responsibility for protecting the country, that if you let people commit the crime, then thousands of people die. So you have to detect it before it happens.

BLITZER: But there was a mechanism, still is a mechanism that's been in place since 1978 -- the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the FISA Court to go ahead and get this authority with the court warrant. Why not use that?

RICE: First of all, the FISA Act, 1978, very different circumstances imagined at the time. FISA has been principally for a longer-term monitoring and it has been capable of helping us when we're principally concerned with the activities of people acting on behalf of a foreign government. You can imagine those are often longer-term matters.

But the kind of agility that is needed to detect rather than to monitor, as the president talked about today, it -- the president needed to draw on these other authorities, and he has.

BLITZER: But even within the FISA Act, there are extraordinary circumstances that would allow the wiretap, the surveillance to begin. Then within 72 hours you can still go and get the warrant.

RICE: Let's just say these people, these networks, these shadowy networks, which are not associated with countries -- they're stateless -- are not stable targets, are pretty agile themselves. And so, in order to give our intelligence agencies the agility they need -- in order to detect, Wolf -- and I want to say once again, the president has a constitutional responsibility to protect the country.

That means physically. It also means to protect the civil liberties of Americans under the Constitution. And he of course has both responsibilities and takes both very seriously.

That's why this was done with thorough levels of review. It has to be reauthorized every 45 days. It was briefed to Congress numerous times, or to relevant congressional officials numerous times. And so the president and his advisers thought this the best way to give him the ability as -- under his responsibilities as commander in chief to defend the country.
(emphasis added)
Call me crazy, but I still don't understand the difference between detection and monitoring. Detection, she seems to be suggesting, is not done on a long term basis. So presumably it's brief in nature and so the violation is less intrusive and that makes it acceptable? But she refuses to go into details so as to satisfy anyone that that is what detection means. So in the absence of further information, we are left wondering...if I listen in on your phone calls in order to detect a possible terrorist act, exactly how does that differ from my monitoring your phone calls?

Once again, we see the practitioners of Bushocracy re-defining the debate by deploying clever little words. "Detect" means to discover or investigate, to discern something. It's a word that means uncovering but does not convey any sense of the tactics that must be used in order to do the uncovering. It suggests a light hand. Looking forward to prevent something. And it doesn't convey in the slightest sense any notion of eavesdropping. Detection of an event, a fact, can occur through various methods other than eavesdropping or listening in on your phone calls. "Trust us, we're just trying to detect what's coming. We're not monitoring, for God's sake." For "monitoring," on the other hand, suggests a heavy-handed approach, one that clearly conveys the idea of listening in, observing, on a long term basis.

So let's watch and see how many times we see the use of the word "detect" in the coming weeks. More obfuscation and word games from the crowd who so vehemently denounced Clintonian parsing. Very clever, these Orwellian lords, and Rice is leading the pack.