May 14, 2006

Caller ID


From Chicago Sun-Times: To connect the dots, you have to see the dots by Mark Steyn. (via InstaPundit)

I'm a strong believer in privacy rights. I don't see why Americans are obligated to give the government their bank account details and the holdings therein. Other revenue agencies in other free societies don't require that level of disclosure. But, given that the people of the United States are apparently entirely cool with that, it's hard to see why lists of phone numbers (i.e., your monthly statement) with no identifying information attached to them is of such a vastly different order of magnitude. By definition, "connecting the dots" involves getting to see the dots in the first place.

Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) feels differently. "Look at this headline," huffed the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. "The secret collection of phone call records of tens of millions of Americans. Now, are you telling me that tens of millions of Americans are involved with al-Qaida?"

No. But next time he's flying from D.C. to Burlington, Vt., on a Friday afternoon he might look at the security line: Tens of millions of Americans are having to take their coats and shoes off! Are you telling me that tens of millions of ordinary shoe-wearing Americans are involved with al-Qaida?

Of course not. Fifteen out of 19 of the 9/11 killers were citizens of Saudi Arabia. So let's scrap the tens of millions of law-abiding phone records, and say we only want to examine the long-distance phone bills of, say, young men of Saudi origin living in the United States. Can you imagine what Leahy and Lauer would say to that? Oh, no! Racial profiling! The government's snooping on people whose only crime is "dialing while Arab." In a country whose Transportation Security Administration personnel recently pulled Daniel Brown off the plane as a security threat because he had traces of gunpowder on his boots -- he was a uniformed U.S. Marine on his way home from Iraq -- in such a culture any security measure will involve "tens of millions of Americans": again by definition, if one can't profile on the basis of religion or national origin or any other identifying mark with identity-group grievance potential, every program will have to be at least nominally universal.

Posted by Forkum at May 14, 2006 05:11 PM