Saturday, December 17, 2005


No update on the Justice Department website on the PATRIOT Act, now that the Senate has momentarily filibustered against extension. Unfortunately for critics of rhetoric seeking more Internet ethos, Attorney General Gonzales changed his PATRIOT website from a blog format to a press release format several weeks ago, and he hasn't changed his "Quote of the Day" for a while. Nothing is sadder than an abandoned blog.

Yesterday's story in the New York Times, "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers without Courts," about domestic surveillance that was authorized by the President and conducted by the National Security Agency without judicial approval certainly didn't help the outlook for the bill's eventual passage.

Speaking of this highly secretive agency, I discovered that the NSA webpage has a truly hilarious kids' site, as you can see from one of the mascots I have included in this post. The main NSA webpage also has a dramatic Flash opening with an audio montage that reminds one of the unbelievably surreal National Reconnaissance Office rock video. To give the NSA site credit, if you drill down you can also find primary sources like archival Venona documents from the highly successful Cold War decryption project with actual incriminating messages about Julius Rosenberg and the Freedom of Information Act indexing of materials with possible UFO-related terms.

With advances in ubiquitous computing, traditional wiretaps may eventually become relics of the past. A story in the Los Angeles Times that appeared the same day, "FBI Questions Student about High School Doodle," reporting on a teenager who was also questioned by the FBI regarding images on his cell phone, shows how the civil liberties debate must adapt to new technologies. In the Elk Grove district case, an informant told law enforcement that the student had pictures of suicide bombers on his cell phone; the student insisted that the only picture he had on the phone was a picture of a mosque.



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