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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  May 21, 2006
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Topic category:  Other/General

The spooks amongst us.

Try as I might, I canít seem to get worked up over the latest brouhaha regarding the National Security Agency.That ís the one where the NSA is apparently assembling and maintaining some humongous data base on the phone calls made by all of us here in the United States.

The news of this made a big splash on all of the networks, set the talking heads to talking, and got the finger pointing well and truly started again in this Ė dare I say it Ė election year.

Some background regarding my feelings in this matter:

Do I trust our government (regardless of whoís currently in power) to always do the right thing?

Nope.

Do I think that our government, far too often, has to be brought - kicking, screaming, and holding its collective breath Ė face to face with "the right thing," sometimes over and over again, before it will do that right thing?

You bet.

Do I think that our government, many major corporations, and too many computer savvy people are way too interested in sticking their noses where they donít belong?

Yep.

Does all of the above bother me?

Daily.

But from the reports Iíve read, the NSA is gathering phone numbers, dates, and duration of calls. Such records contain nothing to identify individuals or their places of residence. With this data, they are trying to pick out patterns that look suspicious.

All of which, according to several court decisions is neither invasive nor illegal.

And all of which is fine by me.

One small reason for this is that, just the other day, the government released the security camera films of American Airlines Flight 77 slamming into the Pentagon.

I lost a friend on that airliner. His name was Charles "Chic" Burlingame. He was a poster boy for the term "great guy" and he was the captain of that plane.

That film should do two things. It should quiet, until they decide that the filmís been altered, the aluminum helmet crowd that thinks 9/11 was staged.

The other thing it should do is remind us all that weíre at war with a group of fanatics who want to destroy civilization as we know it and take us all back to the grand and glorious days of the Dark Ages.

Basically, Iím against that and, consequently, I want the people charged with protecting us to do their jobs to the absolute best of their abilities. I want them to use every tool at their disposal. In terms of legality, I want them to stay within the boundaries set forth in the Constitution, but I want them to bump hard against those boundaries. Real hard.

I want them to bump so hard that the other branches of government who are supposed to be overseeing them, hear those bumps.

What I donít want is a lot of what Iím seeing now.

I donít want politics being played with this nationís well being, security, or its citizensí lives. What I want is for politicians in both parties to remember is that their first allegiance is not to their party but to their nation and to behave accordingly.

As a minor aside, something to ask yourself is why hasnít there been another major attack on this country since 9/11?

My darker side wants to believe that certain members of our government may have spoken very frankly to certain members of other governments. They may have explained to them what their world might look like the day after some truly awful thing happens here.

My calmer side, though, thinks it might have something to do with the professionalism and hard work of those in the intelligence and law enforcement communities who view their jobs as being deadly serious and necessary.

Iíd like to think that such people have very quietly stopped any number of attempts at mayhem and murder. Iíd like to think that they feel free to use all of the tools they legally have at their disposal without worrying whether or not someone going to hang them out to dry to gain some political advantage.

And if building a data base of telephone calls is helpful and within bounds (even barely), I damn well want them to do it.

That way, we donít get to watch any more planes slamming into buildings or witness some other gawdawful thing that takes thousands more lives.

So, if this is what they need to "connect the dots" and if the watchdogs arenít snarling, Iím OK with it.

Because this is one war I'd rather not lose Ė especially on the altar of "playing politics."

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.


Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2006 by Larry Simoneaux
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