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back to article Iraq fiasco creeps into NSA surveillance controversy

The battle over domestic electronic surveillance returned to prominence last week with fresh hearings in Congress and the usual Cheney administration demagoguery. In a clear attempt to shape the debate, on Wednesday the President took to the bully pulpit at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade to demand that Congress stop pussy- …

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Land of the Free

<sarcasm>

Ah, I've never been so proud to be an American. I'll gladly show all of my laundry, for I have nothing to hide, so have no problem giving up all my freedoms as long as it will keep me safe from those nasty terrorists.

</sarcasm>

Seriously, though, this Iraqi guy is alleged to have embezzled $2.5 BILLION dollars. He's arrested, escapes, and now they think he's living IN THE UNITED STATES? I have to ask -- what the fuck is DHS doing (that would be "Department of Homeland Security" to the non-U.S. readers)? We've all heard and/or seen the "improved security" at airports and ports around the country. So how was this guy allowed to enter the country?

<1984>

We're at war with the terrorists. We have always been at war with the terrorists. We will always be at war with the terrorists.

We are freedomless. We have always been freedomless. We will always be freedomless.

</1984>

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Anonymous Coward

Failre mode analysis of this is frightening

The first thing that should be done is analyse what would happen if someone with less than benign intentions got their fingers on the controls (I'm assuming for convenience that 'traditional' use would be benign, or let's call it compliant with the intentions of the Constitution).

The Government effectively says "trust us" to the population, after providing plenty of evidence that that isn't the wisest thing to do - oversight is needed (I lost count how many laws Bush has exempted himself from - it's unprecedented).

So, an interesting question to ask is what the intention of all these shenanigans is? I have no idea, but it can't be good if one judges by the amount of effort expended to remove oversight..

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Scum.

What a bunch of scum. If you live in the US and you voted for Bush, I hope you're proud of yourself.

I'm taking a sociology class and we had a speaker come in, some local FBI agent of the JTTF, and the definition of 'terrorism' he gave more or less included anybody who broke the law with an apparent political motivation. It didn't even have to be violent. For instance, vandalizing SUVs is apparently an act of 'terrorism.'

Clearly, an FBI agent is going to use any means at his disposal to pursue his case and he gets access to many powerful means if his target is a 'terrorist.' So... well, I hope you're bright enough to see where that's going to lead.

I also noted that he claimed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor to be an act of 'terrorism' which I can't help but notice sort of makes the US a worse terrorist seeing as how many more civilians were killed when we invaded Iraq. Oh... don't forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On the bright side, he thought a national DNA database of innocent citizens was a terrible invasion of privacy. So, it looks like we've all got some work to do in our respective countries. Of course in mine, eventually that will makes me a terrorist as I imagine simply disagreeing with the government or not being an Evangelical Christian will be enough before long.

It seems pretty obvious to me that what they really want is more terrorists. It's not enough to just make them up in some press-release, they actually want more real terrorists. They're doing a bang-up job so far.

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If We Only Had More Data!

Dick and W want everything, and they want it yesterday. More data, more wiretaps, more detentions, more bombs. Do they expect everyone to forget that they could have prevented 9/11 if the FBI had enough translators, or if they had listened to their field operatives? No, no, no...it's never a problem in execution, we just didn't have enough information. What complete and utter CRAP!!

I can't wait for the war crime trials (like that would ever happen)!

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Anonymous Coward

Huh?

What on earth does FISA and "warrantless wiretapping" have to do with Blackwater?

And if the Telcos sold us out in 1994, how was this Bush's doing?

Oh, and since when is military intelligence collection of a foreign enemy subject to the fourth amendment? If Mullah Omar dials his cell phone, are we supposed to not listen if he dials +1?

What about when the call is between two non-U.S. endpoints, but the circuit (or packets, if VoIP) are switched within U.S. territory? Think of Skype, which can literally route foreign calls through the PC of someone in the U.S. unknowingly.

Do you think we never listened in on calls between people in the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War?

Does a sovereign country have the right to defend itself? Do enemies of a state have a civil right to communicate in secret and unimpeded? Do foreign enemies of the U.S. have the right to set up a VoIP softswitch in the U.S. and route their calls through it for the sole purpose as to prevent military surveillance of their communication?

There is a difference between criminal law within in the U.S. and its subjects and warfare with enemies, be they foreign states or non-state actors.

What others have to say on this subject:

"[a] strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means."

Thomas Jefferson

"Are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?"

Abraham Lincoln

"The choice is not between order and liberty. It is between liberty with order and anarchy without either. There is danger that, if the court does not temper its doctrinaire logic with a little practical wisdom, it will convert the constitutional Bill of Rights into a suicide pact."

Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson's dissent in Terminiello v. Chicago

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Hopefully

The congressional opponents to the FISA extension aren't discussing things over the phone system or by email.

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What a shame all you '68/noglobal brainwashed people are, really !

I read comments here with people telling that vandalizing a SUV shouldn't be considered a criminal act, that's not terrorism .. noo.. uh? It's not a terrorist act if someone gets you car, smashes it with an hammer or light some fire on it and that explodes, maybe with you and other people inside.. noo.. that's a cool thing to do, uh ?

You people all blaming the Right Wing for this and that. I blame them for being too soft with those like you and too many Left Wing supporters promoting vandalism and other criminal acts like the infamous noglobal stuff destroying cities downtown worldwide. If that's not terrorism then what is terrorism ?

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Anonymous Coward

@ earl kirkman

Earl, do you think preventing 9/11 would have served the interest of those elements, especially looking at the "wants" list you set up?

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@Huh !

Double Huh ?!

"To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself"

So basically what you're saying is that Bush is right to exempt himself from any and every law he wants ?

Do you realize that, if Bush were to have his way, you wouldn't be able to make that kind of remark anonymously, like you so courageously did ?

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@huh

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Benjamin Franklin.

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RE: Huh?

The problem here, Anonymous, is how you define "enemy". Is anyone who disagrees with the American government an enemy? What if I was to say that Dick Chaney is a Dick, should that be enough for the CIA to come and arrest me? In my own country?

What you forget is that there are other sovereign countries besides the US of A. We don't, and we shouldn't abide to your laws, despite the fact that you think we have to. So how come you can have laws that affect anyone, anywhere, but your soldiers and officials are never sent to international courts when needed (let alone be trialed in another country). What you basically want is an interational immunity and a licence to arrest anyone, just because you can. If you think that's OK, here's another quote for you: "No wonder everybody hates America".

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Fourth Amendment?

What is it, and what does it amend?

@Huh?

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety" B. Franklin

As already indicated, I'm not sure what the 4th amendment is, but I get the general gist of the article. If you want your phonecalls to be tapped at will, I hope you never have to fight a divorce case; complain about your local politicians; criticise your government or make a drunken joke over the phone.

On the other hand, I rather hope you do all these things and are subjected to the full force of an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

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Anonymous Coward

@Joerg

[quote]I read comments here with people telling that vandalizing a SUV shouldn't be considered a criminal act...[/quote]

No you don't. The comment was intending to convey the opinion that vandalising an SUV should not be considered a *terrorist* act. It remains criminal damage (or whatever terminology your local jurisdiction wishes to apply for the specific *crime*) but it's not terrorism unless your population are a particularly timid set of sheep.

[quote]You people all blaming the Right Wing for this and that. I blame them for being too soft with those like you and too many Left Wing supporters promoting vandalism and other criminal acts like the infamous noglobal stuff destroying cities downtown worldwide. If that's not terrorism then what is terrorism ?

[/quote]

"Terrorism" is two things:

* a term with so many definitiions as to be essentially useless except as an emotive hook. ( http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&defl=en&q=define:Terrorism&sa=X&oi=glossary_definition&ct=title )

* a term with so many different subjective perspectives as to be essentially useless except as an emotive hook: one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.

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On the other hand

Great excuse for a Bush Licking sub-headline. We hadn't seen one in a while :)

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I would hope...

The register, being a UK-based news source, is subject to government monitoring and has indeed been subject to monitoring for many years without any apparent complaint. I am not for a moment saying that such monitoring is ethical, but I would have hoped that the register could at least focus on fixing problems in its home country before turning its attention to others.

Confused? Let me explain then. Since the end of world war 2 this country has had in place systems that allowed the government to monitor all communications within the country. That's domestic phone calls. Calls are routinely monitored for keywords. A friend of mine once tested this by repeating a bunch of keywords to another friend of his during a phone call. The next day he received a rather lengthy visit from MI5.

We have been subject to this monitoring for the last 60 years. Many other european countries have even more invasive monitoring of domestic communications.

Now lets compare this to what Bush wants. FISA does not actively monitor domestic telephone calls. It does not check for keywords in telephone calls. It records international telephone numbers called by known suspected terrorists within the united states and consequently has a very limited scope. It's little more than an attempt to connect people to other people. It is not the invasive and aggressive monitoring that we have been subjected to since the 50s and to compare it as such is, frankly, ludicrous.

I would hope, as I said, that the register would be keen to focus on the invasive domestic monitoring that we have been subject to since before many of the register team were even born but I suspect that their haste to find any fault they can with the Bush administration has blinded them to the real problems that we face over here right now.

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RE: I would hope...

"A friend of mine once tested this by repeating a bunch of keywords to another friend of his during a phone call. The next day he received a rather lengthy visit from MI5.

"

I'm calling bullsh1t on that one.

Dave.

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RE: I would hope...

Who should I believe? You or my lyin eyes? *shrug*

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RE: I would hope...

I agree with Dave, I have repeated tested this theory by calling overseas friends in Europe and the US using every single keyword we could think of, no MIB's yet and thats since September 2001

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Re: I would hope

"...It records international telephone numbers called by known suspected terrorists..."

So which are they - known to be terrorists or suspected to be terrorists?

Or does suspicion = knowledge these days.

Or perhaps your reference is to known suspected terrorists i.e. we know that we suspect them of being terrorists as opposed to unknown suspected terrorists - we don't know if we suspect them of being terrorists

Other classifications are

Suspected known terrorists - we suspect that we know that they are terrorists

Suspected unknown terrorists - we would suspect them of being terrorists if we knew who they were

Known suspected unknown terrorists - we suspect them of being terrorists but don't know who they are

Unknown suspected unknown terrorists - we suspect them of being terrorists but don't know if they exist

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Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution

Since some people don't seem to know what it is

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

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Agree with Dave

I smell bull excrement in that post...

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Title

MI5 only have a supporting role to the police forces in addition to their "secret" stuff. They wouldn't vist your friend. If there was something he did he would've been visited and questioned by the police.

Chances are he was drunk and brought home some random guy from the street and couldn't explain what happend in the morning after, so he invented to put his mind at rest.

Yeah, I know, that last paragraph was stupid. I shouldn't have written it. But then, you shouldn't have been bu||sh!ttin.

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Re: "Huh?"

"Does a sovereign country have the right to defend itself? Do enemies of a state have a civil right to communicate in secret and unimpeded? Do foreign enemies of the U.S. have the right to set up a VoIP softswitch in the U.S. and route their calls through it for the sole purpose as to prevent military surveillance of their communication?

"There is a difference between criminal law within in the U.S. and its subjects and warfare with enemies, be they foreign states or non-state actors."

Since you are fond of quoting Thomas Jefferson, you should probably be aware, Mr. or Ms Anonymous, that he probably would have rolled his eyes and bitch-slapped your stupid head for those two paragraphs.

Since, to Jefferson, sovereignty lay not in the offices of government, but in the will of the people, the concept of a "sovereign country" would have been unthinkable. Rather than the "country" - the land and the structures (e.g., "The White House") - being the guarantors of liberty, it is the "Nation" - that is, the solemn consideration and will of its people - that is the TRUE sovereignty.

As such, he would have stated that the correct term would be "...the U.S. and its Citizens...", not "...the U.S. and its subjects...", since one cannot be both sovereign and subject.

(...and, sadly, I expect that you probably even PASSED your U.S. History/Social Stusies/Civics/whatever-they-called-it-at-your-high-school courses and STILL have no concept of the rudiments of our political heritage. I weep for the future of my nation.)

On the other hand, it seems clear to me that the current (mis)administration would PREFER that most Americans considered themselves to be "American subjects" rather than actual decision-making citizens, and that a true Jeffersonian rebel would be considered a terrorist by the current regime.

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@Burke Hansen

Did Bush come over and personally piss in your wheaties or something?

Lord what a rambling rant.

If the dangers from the wiretapping laws in this country were as real as you try to make the readers believe, you wouldn't be spewing this "hate Bush" diatribe. The black helicopters would have already snatched your free speechifying butt and packed it off to gitmo.

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Anonymous Coward

Wiretrapping...

"And if the Telcos sold us out in 1994, how was this Bush's doing?"

The original idea for the system came from the fbi and at that time it was used against the operators and users of a few bbs systems. The same network can be found in several east european countries. The only difference is that east europeans are used to being wiretrapped and since no law forbids it, every traffic is wiretrapped (even us traffic passing through). Real terrorists and criminals use encrypted and routed communication lines never open and direct connections. It's realtively easy and cheap to buy military level crypto kits. Surveilance systems like these are only usable against political enemies (so called pacifists) and extremly stupid criminals and would be terrorists.

ps: The only difference between the law in 1994 and now is that back then the fbi had to get an official search warrant before they could use it. Nowdays everything must be tapped for the data mining systems to work. They should be called automated social network mapping systems. By checking the connectivity graph of every person weighted by their (remote) connections to known terrorists/pacifists/criminals it's possible to get percent that show how dangerous is a certain person to the government. Since most people in the world can be reached by the six connections rule, everyone is a suspect, but the amount of suspicion is different. The only people who can get out from the sight of a system like this are either hackers, criminals or real terrorists.

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The issue is not really what Bush would or can do

The issue is what the various police and intelligence agencies can and will do.

The terrorism example given above is actually accurate - if the FBI want to wiretap someone, all they have to do is say they "think" the person is a terrorist - regardless of the whether they really believe that to be true, and voila - one wiretap.

This scum sucking law allows any government agency to legally wiretap any person within the country just on the vague definition of what a terrorist might be in their eyes.

So put it another way, if Hilary Clinton (also a proud supporter of some of our country's worst laws since 9/11) were to win the Presidency, would you be happy with her being in charge of such sweeping surveillance of the American people?

Would you not be concerned that some of this surveillance might be politically motivated? The fact remains that in the 1960s the Supreme Court clearly stated that telecommunications (which does include the internet) fall under the 4th Amendment.

All the 4th Amendment really says is you can't search someone's person or property without either having reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing, or permission from the courts to search that person or property in the form of a warrant. All a warrant is, is a promise to a judge that the person you're searching is a suspect - and that you need to look for specific types of evidence - ie. that they are a terrorist, and in return you get a permission slip to look for that evidence.

So if a police officer witnesses you running from a bank with a bulge in your pocket and a swag bag, he is reasonably allowed to assume you might have robbed the bank and you have a gun in your pocket. Thus he has reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing and can search you without a warrant.

If these warrantless wiretaps can be proven to be along those lines, no one has broken any law. I seriously doubt it though.

On the other hand the number of warrants turned down on hearsay evidence - i.e. we think this guy might be a terrorist - is just about zero. And given that you have days to get that warrant - that is days after you started wiretapping someone - the only possible reason you would object to needing it is if you were simply blanket wiretapping everyone that made overseas phone calls.

Which in turn calls the lie on the so-called targeting of individuals with known terrorist links (Bush's words).

The bottom line is, I don't care who it is that first ordered these kinds of searches - I just want it to stop. And if anyone says anything about terrorists might kill people or having nothing to hide - I say I couldn't give a fuck. I have more of a backbone than that. I would rather face the minuscule risk of being the victim of terrorism than give up one single right - rights that took centuries to put in place, and apparently two presidential terms to tear down.

When the President allows me to listen in on all his private phone calls, then I might give him the right to listen in on mine. Until then I want and expect my privacy as guaranteed in the Constitution.

My answer to those that are willing to throw them away to save their cowardly skins is why can't we take your guns too? You keep telling us the Constitution isn't as important as saving lives, why can't we start using these warrantless searches to keep a check on your gun collection. In fact why can't we save your skin by making it illegal for the general public to purchase any sort of firearm.

Al Qaeda don't need to smuggle weapons into the US - they just need to visit a gun fair.

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Silver badge

So...

I can accept that he might have exaggerated from plain old coppers to MI5 in order to sound scary or something but that doesn't change the fact that it happened.

@colin actually that was a typo. I meant "known or suspected". Satisfied?

Of course, in focusing on this one rather insignificant part of my post your'e all rather missing the point I tried to make and if I'd know that would happen I simply wouldn't have mentioned it. We,in the UK, live in a country that routinely monitors domestic communications with almost unlimited scope, without any sort of oversight and without any way to prevent it, in other words wiretapping. The operation in the US does not have any contact with domestic or even interstate communications. It is focused on a limited subset of international communications, where it creates a database of telephone numbers without actually monitoring what conversations go between them. It is not wiretapping. It is data farming and it can certainly be argued that this is not exactly a healthy policy, and I have never said otherwise, but wiretapping it is not. My point was that this limited scope compares very favourably with our own situation, meaning that it's a little hypocritical of us to criticise them without first criticising our own government for carrying on much wider reaching operations for a hell of a lot longer.

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Anonymous Coward

Decoding speech in real time too

Don't forget that they have also applied surveillance equipment to international (and by now possibly some domestic) telephone trunk circuits. So they are literally listening in to calls wholesale, without warrants, scanning for keywords of interest. This is not pen register (phone number) stuff, but the actual speech.

The same technology is demonstrated on http://www.everyzing.com/, a podcast search engine built by BBN Technologies, who designed the speech processing gear for the feds. It does speech-to-text decoding and searching. While everyzing does it for commercial purposes, Uncle uses it for bulk wiretapping. So if you said something they're looking for, they'll find it.

Imagine a room full of Stasi agents listening in to calls. History? Nowadays, with cheap CPUs, a "zinger" can listen in for chump change. AT&T happily complies. Big Ed Whitacre is a Friend of George, after all. And the Bushies have been very good to the big incumbent telcos, who now own most of the long distance business.

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FBI and the law

In all this discussion about whether or not this law is constitutional etc. or whether the founding fathers would have approved or disapproved, has anybody ever considered the fact that FBI regularly exceeds its mandates and does not even apologize ?

Does anybody here know about the recent news of FBI having asked for far more data than it was allowed by sheer force of intimidation from many businesses and financial institutions ? Those involved have not even been fired.

And finally, I heard somewhere that 'When XYZ is outlawed only outlaws will have XYZ'. So, while the real outlaws will roam freely, those 'suspected of' will suffer in Guantanamos all around the world without any rights to even question their accuser.

While we go quoting great thinkers, how about Plato in his 'The Republic' ? Most modern thinkers, including the founding fathers of the US are known to have read it, and definitely the framers of modern democratic constitutions.

"Judge the civilization of a society by how it treats its least priviledged" (Or most defenceless)

As far as survival of the US goes, the promise of the US is the guarantees that its constitution provides. The day those guarantees are rationed by the privileges, is the day that the nation as defined by the document(s) is no more.

And while we discuss the US alone, let us not forget that every nation that claims to call itself a free democratic nation has and will continue to have demagogues in leaders clothings that will try to go on a power trip by taking advantage of a foreign bogeyman. It is a worldwide phenomenon and this is just a recent round of it.

So, class, who here shall tell me who the author of the following quote is ? (Really, I don't know who it is, so, please help !)

"The true cost of freedom is vigilance"

And on that count, all the comments here give me hope.

(I probably got the wording wrong too)

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Re: "FBI and the law "

According to Bartlett's:

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.—John Philpot Curran: Speech upon the Right of Election, 1790"

The pithier "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty," is attributed to an 1852 speech by Wendell Phillips (1811–84), who admitted that the phrase was not his but could give no attribution. I presume that his inspiration was Curran's speech. As with many eloquently succinct aphorisms (e.g.: "I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."), one thinker may formulate the concept and a later one distill it to its memorable essence.

Details of the Phillips quote can be found here:

http://www.bartleby.com/73/1073.html

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@ Graham Dawsom

"My point was that this limited scope compares very favourably with our own situation, meaning that it's a little hypocritical of us to criticise them without first criticising our own government for carrying on much wider reaching operations for a hell of a lot longer."

Yes, but the fact that our country's 'security' services do it to *us* doesn't make it any less bad that other countries' do it to *their* citizens does it?

The fact that we both have a bunch of nutjobs in charge of our respective nations who quite happily do deeply unpleasant things doesn't make it a case of 'pot, kettle, black' for anyone who says they don't like a particular group doing it(having a bunch of nutjobs in charge doesn't really differentiate you from anyone in particular though).

Moreover, it seems you are somewhat disgruntled by said state apparatus here in Englishland, so why take issue with someone sympathising with others in a similar predicament?

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@ So

If this is all targeted simply at "known or suspected" then there is ample existing provision to wire those calls. The point about all of this is not the security services being allowed to do something they cannot currently do - but to avoid accountability for doing those things.

It is really quite worrying that there is such a level of ignorance amongst otherwise articulate people who think that calling for accountability is the same as opposition.

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