Tuesday, January 10

Left claims leaking the NSA monitoring story didn't do any damage

I've been seeing a lot of comments from the Left about the NSA phone-intercept story. The commenters claim the NYTimes' publication of the story couldn't have done any significant damage to our security because terrorists already knew the government might be monitoring their phones.

According to the Left, terrorists already avoided discussing sensitive information on the phone. Assuming, of course, that terrorists even exist.

This theory strikes me as absurdly naive. The availability of anonymous, pay-in-advance cell phones seemed to make it impossible for the conversation to be intentionally intercepted by the government. Without a physical address and a corresponding phone wire, how could anyone know which of tens of thousands of simultaneous conversations in a given city to monitor?

In other words, even though every terrorist with an IQ above room temperature knew that wired phones could be tapped, and of course everyone knows cell calls can be intercepted (since they're just radio), I would have thought using an "anonymous" cell phone would be about as secure as one could get. While the government (or a democratic staffer?) could obviously stumble on any given call by accident, it would be a million-to-one shot. And absent some sort of space-age technology, the odds of the government hitting my cell call more than once would be astronomical.

Before December 17th, almost no one knew that the NSA had brought together several pieces of technical wizardry to produce a computer program that could sift through thousands of phone conversations simultaneously, listening for specific words likely to be used by terrorists. And almost no one knew that if someone made a call from any cell phone in Iraq to a cell phone in the U.S., the NSA monitored that call.

You may have noticed that there hasn't been a successful attack on the U.S. since 9/11. How do liberals account for this fact? Have terrorists all decided jihad is overrated? Are they too busy assembling car bombs in Iraq? Have some of them tried to attack the U.S. but failed, and failed so quietly that it could all be hushed up?

While we probably won't know for 20 years or so, chances are good that one or two plots have been foiled, based on the NSA's overseas phone call intercept program.

Of course that was before two men at the NY Times--the paper's owner and its editor--took it on themselves to tell the world about the NSA's formerly secret program.

In a way it's kind of funny: during Congress's 9/11 investigation a key theme pushed by the Dems was how the Bush administration should have done more to deduce what was up before the hijackings. We needed better procedures, they said. Now that we've got better procedures in place, what does the left's favorite paper do? Tells the terrorists what those procedures were and how they worked.

Unbelievable.

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