Limited, bitches!

News & Politics
Sunday, January 1, 2006:
If there's anything this administration has taught us, it's that the more Bush and his minions say something, the less likely it is to be true. (See: WMDs; Plame leak didn't come from White House; the GOP is a big tent. That ought to get you started, and once your mind stops spinning, I can give you further suggestions for investigation, if you like.) So I really like Bush's most recent defense of his spy program:
President Bush on Sunday strongly defended his domestic spying program, saying it's a limited program that tracks only incoming calls to the United States...
"This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America and, I repeat, limited," he said.
Monday, January 16, 2006:
In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.
But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans.
F.B.I. officials repeatedly complained to the spy agency that the unfiltered information was swamping investigators. The spy agency was collecting much of the data by eavesdropping on some Americans' international communications and conducting computer searches of phone and Internet traffic. Some F.B.I. officials and prosecutors also thought the checks, which sometimes involved interviews by agents, were pointless intrusions on Americans' privacy.
Now, I recognize that the president and I define some words very differently. Freedom. Democracy. Equality. Legal. But I never suspected we'd find ourselves in contention about a word as basic a limited, the definition of which I've always considered to be rather straightforward.

In truth, I'm less concerned about the encroachment of civil rights (although that is, clearly, a concern) than the utter uselessness of usurping so many agents' time with twaddle. Hundreds of agents checking out dead-end tips the source of which were deliberately blurred so as to keep them ignorant of the illegality of their sourcing--what a time waster. What a perilous distraction from real threats to national security.

Those who rabidly defend the administration's right to engage in warrantless eavesdropping and data mining--because it's "necessary" to keep us "safe"--are fooling themselves. We're not safer. Indeed, we may be less safe, because such untargeted nonsense doesn't make finding the proverbial needle in the haystack any easier; it makes the haystack even bigger.

Ezra Klein connects the dots about our inability to connect the dots:

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