Thursday, January 19, 2006

The war on terror..oops, dirty pictures

Google battles government over porn investigation
By Jon Swartz, USA TODAY
SAN FRANCISCO — The Bush administration, in a bid to resurrect a controversial online pornography law, has asked a federal judge to force online search giant Google to surrender details on what its users are viewing.
Google has refused to comply with a subpoena, issued last year, to turn over a sweeping amount of material from its databases, including 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.

Silicon Valley-based Google, the world's largest search engine, opposes releasing the information because it says that would violate the privacy rights of its users and reveal company trade secrets.

"Google is not a party to this lawsuit and their demand for information overreaches," Nicole Wong, an associate general counsel for Google, said. "We had lengthy discussions with them to try to resolve this, but were not able to and we intend to resist their motion vigorously."

The government asserts the data is necessary to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches as part of a push to revive the Child Online Protection Act of 1998. That act would have required adults to register to view objectionable material online, and punished violators with fines up to $50,000 or jail.


Wond'ring Aloud

Last night I did something I almost NEVER do: I watched the local 10 p.m. news. The lead story was the trumpeting of the deaths of up to 5 al Quaeda members, including a member of the so-called "inner circle." In this case, the featured player was the "master bomb-maker" Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar. Also believed killed was the son-in-law of al-Quaeda's #2 guy Ayman al-Zawahri. As you may know, this attack launched from Afghanistan was accomplished using bombs dropped from drone aircraft.

Omitted from the story were: 1) at least 14 civilians were killed, including 5 women and 5 children; 2) the U.S. has NOT accepted ANY responsibility for this (apparently somewhat successful) attack; 3) this attack probably constitutes a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.

It also calls into question the METHOD that we're using to take out suspected al-Quaeda members. It seems pretty obvious to me that the use of conventional bombs dropped from drone aircraft is a fairly imprecise way to do it as it involves the death of nameless peasants in the mountains of Pakistan, but it carries the advantage of risking no US personnel in the short term. However, it also results in formenting a great deal of unrest/ill will. Why not drop in a team of commandos and attempt to capture these so-called inner-circle guys? I'll give you one reason: Our little CIA rendition adventure in Italy....

So I guess that for now our policy of hunting down al-Quaeda is going to continue to be a combination of implausible deniability and collateral damage.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Uses for the NSA eavesdropping program

You'll never have to worry if you accidentally erase a message again:

"Umm, Mr. NSA person, I got a phone call last week from some woman, and I lost her message where she left me her number - can I get a copy of that call so I can get her number? She was pretty hot."

Pudgy McLiar on Abramoff

While on a break...

Q Any update on the Abramoff visits to the White House beyond the three parties that he attended?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I indicated yesterday that I think there were some -- a few staff-level meetings. But, no, I'm making sure that I have a thorough report back to you on that. And I'll get that to you, hopefully very soon.

STAFF LEVEL MEETINGS??? Details, Scotty!

And read in the same White House press briefing how he tries to stay on the talking points in this exchange with Helen Thomas:

Q Does the President think that 120 people dying in Iraq, after we're nearly three years into this war, is tolerable?

MR. McCLELLAN: The Iraqi people, Helen, have shown time and time again that they want to live in freedom. I think it's important to look at what took place in December. There are terrorists and Saddam loyalists --

Q Why are we there? Why are we killing people there?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- there are terrorists and Saddam loyalists -- because we're transforming the Middle East, and that will help us lay the foundations of peace for generations to come.

Q -- didn't ask you to do that, their country.

MR. McCLELLAN: We were attacked on September 11th and --

Q We were not attacked by Iraqis.

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't think we ever said we were. But what we learned on that day was that this is not a law enforcement war we're engaged in. This is a war about the safety and security of the American people. It's not a law enforcement matter. It's a war. We are a nation at war. And this is a comprehensive effort that we're taking. We're not ignoring threats. We are confronting threats before it's too late. And that's what this President will --

Q You had none from Iraq.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- that's what this President will continue to do because he knows his most important responsibility is protecting the American people. And spreading democracy in the broader Middle East is vital to our own nation's --

Q Don't do it by attacking an innocent country.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- vital to our own nation's security. And the Iraqi people have shown they are deeply appreciative of the efforts that we have undertaken to remove a regime that was a threat and a destabilizing force in a dangerous region of the world. And we are going to change a troubled region for the better, and it will help lay the foundations of peace for generations to come.

Five minutes to Wapner, five minutes to Wapner...

You know we've entered a weird place when

I'm on the same side of any issue as Grover Norquist.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 17 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Patriots to Restore Checks and Balances (PRCB) today called upon Congress to hold open, substantive oversight hearings examining the President's authorization of the National Security Agency (NSA) to violate domestic surveillance requirements outlined in the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Former U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, chairman of PRCB, was joined by fellow conservatives Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR); David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union; Paul Weyrich, chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation and Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation, in urging lawmakers to use NSA hearings to establish a solid foundation for restoring much needed constitutional checks and balances to intelligence law.