Friday, March 28, 2008

Toonces the cancerous cat

Well, the Heritage Foundation's fearmongering "countdown clock" is still ticking, now up to 40 days, 9 hours, 41 minutes and 32 wait, 46 seconds...marking the time that has passed since Congress first stood up to President Bush's demands that blanket immunity be granted to telecom companies as part of legislation over warrantless wiretapping - and the time that has passed since, the Heritage Foundation wants you to believe, we are now utterly unprotected from the grave, grave danger of terrorist attacks.

But there is something that is often lost in the argument against unchecked surveillance and the Bush Administration's desire to grant total amnesty to telecom company's all-too-willing eagerness (Excuse me, alleged eagerness.) to comply with its demands - the law and rights to privacy all beside the point.

Isn't there something, some way-cool technology perhaps, that would allow our government to ferret out terrorists without granting it complete unchecked access to its citizens' private thoughts and conversations?

Of course, while the Bush Administration and its Fox News minions would have you believe the only way to protect ourselves from terrorism is the complete abdication of our constitutional rights to privacy, here's a Seattle Times column that discusses the fact that maybe our government already has less random and more efficient ways at protecting our borders from terrorist attack.

In a meeting with Washington state residents recently, border agent Joe Giuliano described some of that technology.

According to Danny Westneat's column:
"Vehicle goes by at 70 miles per hour," Giuliano told the crowd. "Agent is in the median, a good 80 feet away from the traffic. Signal went off and identified an isotope [in the passing car]."

The agent raced after the car, pulling it over not far from the monitoring spot (near the Bow-Edison exit, 18 miles south of Bellingham). The agent questioned the driver, then did a cursory search of the car, Giuliano said.

Did he find a nuke?

"Turned out to be a cat with cancer that had undergone a radiological treatment three days earlier," Giuliano said.

Keith Olbermann also discusses the story in yesterday's segment of "Worst Person in the World," a dubious honor he awards to Michael Chertoff, for the secretary of Homeland Security's staunch support of unchecked snooping.

Interestingly, Giuliano, a federal agent for 35 years, is queasy about the technology's reach. He also said he opposes parts of the Patriot Act, namely the section that expands warrantless searches.

"I think we can do this without tossing out our checks and balances," he said.

Lauri in York

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