The Security Threat of Unchecked Presidential Power

This past Thursday, the New York Times exposed the most significant violation of federal surveillance law in the post-Watergate era. President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to engage in domestic spying, wiretapping thousands of Americans and bypassing the legal procedures regulating this activity.

This isn't about the spying, although that's a major issue in itself. This is about the Fourth Amendment protections against illegal search. This is about circumventing a teeny tiny check by the judicial branch, placed there by the legislative branch, placed there 27 years ago -- on the last occasion that the executive branch abused its power so broadly.

In defending this secret spying on Americans, Bush said that he relied on his constitutional powers (Article 2) and the joint resolution passed by Congress after 9/11 that led to the war in Iraq. This rationale was spelled out in a memo written by John Yoo, a White House attorney, less than two weeks after the attacks of 9/11. It's a dense read and a terrifying piece of legal contortionism, but it basically says that the president has unlimited powers to fight terrorism. He can spy on anyone, arrest anyone, and kidnap anyone and ship him to another country ... merely on the suspicion that he might be a terrorist. And according to the memo, this power lasts until there is no more terrorism in the world.

Yoo starts by arguing that the Constitution gives the president total power during wartime. He also notes that Congress has recently been quiescent when the president takes some military action on his own, citing President Clinton's 1998 strike against Sudan and Afghanistan.

Yoo then says: "The terrorist incidents of September 11, 2001, were surely far graver a threat to the national security of the United States than the 1998 attacks. ... The President's power to respond militarily to the later attacks must be correspondingly broader."

This is novel reasoning. It's as if the police would have greater powers when investigating a murder than a burglary.

More to the point, the congressional resolution of Sept. 14, 2001, specifically refused the White House's initial attempt to seek authority to preempt any future acts of terrorism, and narrowly gave Bush permission to go after those responsible for the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.

Yoo's memo ignored this. Written 11 days after Congress refused to grant the president wide-ranging powers, it admitted that "the Joint Resolution is somewhat narrower than the President's constitutional authority," but argued "the President's broad constitutional power to use military force ... would allow the President to ... [take] whatever actions he deems appropriate ... to pre-empt or respond to terrorist threats from new quarters."

Even if Congress specifically says no.

The result is that the president's wartime powers, with its armies, battles, victories, and congressional declarations, now extend to the rhetorical "War on Terror": a war with no fronts, no boundaries, no opposing army, and -- most ominously -- no knowable "victory." Investigations, arrests, and trials are not tools of war. But according to the Yoo memo, the president can define war however he chooses, and remain "at war" for as long as he chooses.

This is indefinite dictatorial power. And I don't use that term lightly; the very definition of a dictatorship is a system that puts a ruler above the law. In the weeks after 9/11, while America and the world were grieving, Bush built a legal rationale for a dictatorship. Then he immediately started using it to avoid the law.

This is, fundamentally, why this issue crossed political lines in Congress. If the president can ignore laws regulating surveillance and wiretapping, why is Congress bothering to debate reauthorizing certain provisions of the Patriot Act? Any debate over laws is predicated on the belief that the executive branch will follow the law.

This is not a partisan issue between Democrats and Republicans; it's a president unilaterally overriding the Fourth Amendment, Congress and the Supreme Court. Unchecked presidential power has nothing to do with how much you either love or hate George W. Bush. You have to imagine this power in the hands of the person you most don't want to see as president, whether it be Dick Cheney or Hillary Rodham Clinton, Michael Moore or Ann Coulter.

Laws are what give us security against the actions of the majority and the powerful. If we discard our constitutional protections against tyranny in an attempt to protect us from terrorism, we're all less safe as a result.

This essay was published today as an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Here's the opening paragraph of the Yoo memo. Remember, think of this power in the hands of your least favorite politician when you read it:

You have asked for our opinion as to the scope of the President's authority to take military action in response to the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. We conclude that the President has broad constitutional power to use military force. Congress has acknowledged this inherent executive power in both the War Powers Resolution, Pub. L. No. 93-148, 87 Stat. 555 (1973), codified at 50 U.S.C. § 1541-1548 (the "WPR"), and in the Joint Resolution passed by Congress on September 14, 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001). Further, the President has the constitutional power not only to retaliate against any person, organization, or State suspected of involvement in terrorist attacks on the United States, but also against foreign States suspected of harboring or supporting such organizations. Finally, the President may deploy military force preemptively against terrorist organizations or the States that harbor or support them, whether or not they can be linked to the specific terrorist incidents of September 11.

There's a similar reasoning in the Braybee memo, which was written in 2002 about torture:

In a series of opinions examining various legal questions arising after September 11, we have examined the scope of the President's Commander-in-Chief power. . . . Foremost among the objectives committed by the Constitution to [the President's] trust. As Hamilton explained in arguing for the Constitution's adoption, "because the circumstances which may affect the public safety are not reducible within certain limits, it must be admitted, as a necessary consequence, that there can be no limitation of that authority, which is to provide for the defense and safety of the community, in any manner essential to its efficacy." . . . [The Constitution's] sweeping grant vests in the President an unenumerated Executive power . . . The Commander in Chief power and the President's obligation to protect the Nation imply the ancillary powers necessary to their successful exercise.

NSA watcher James Bamford points out how this action was definitely considered illegal in 1978, which is why FISA was passed in the first place:

When the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was created in 1978, one of the things that the Attorney General at the time, Griffin Bell, said -- he testified before the intelligence committee, and he said that the current bill recognizes no inherent power of the President to conduct electronic surveillance. He said, "This bill specifically states that the procedures in the bill are the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance may be conducted." In other words, what the President is saying is that he has these inherent powers to conduct electronic surveillance, but the whole reason for creating this act, according to the Attorney General at the time, was to prevent the President from using any inherent powers and to use exclusively this act.

Also this from Salon, discussing a 1952 precedent:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales argues that the president's authority rests on two foundations: Congress's authorization to use military force against al-Qaida, and the Constitution's vesting of power in the president as commander-in-chief, which necessarily includes gathering "signals intelligence" on the enemy. But that argument cannot be squared with Supreme Court precedent. In 1952, the Supreme Court considered a remarkably similar argument during the Korean War. Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, widely considered the most important separation-of-powers case ever decided by the court, flatly rejected the president's assertion of unilateral domestic authority during wartime. President Truman had invoked the commander-in-chief clause to justify seizing most of the nation's steel mills. A nationwide strike threatened to undermine the war, Truman contended, because the mills were critical to manufacturing munitions.

The Supreme Court's rationale for rejecting Truman's claims applies with full force to Bush's policy. In what proved to be the most influential opinion in the case, Justice Robert Jackson identified three possible scenarios in which a president's actions may be challenged. Where the president acts with explicit or implicit authorization from Congress, his authority "is at its maximum," and will generally be upheld. Where Congress has been silent, the president acts in a "zone of twilight" in which legality "is likely to depend on the imperatives of events and contemporary imponderables rather than on abstract theories of law." But where the president acts in defiance of "the expressed or implied will of Congress," Justice Jackson maintained, his power is "at its lowest ebb," and his actions can be sustained only if Congress has no authority to regulate the subject at all.

In the steel seizure case, Congress had considered and rejected giving the president the authority to seize businesses in the face of threatened strikes, thereby placing President Truman's action in the third of Justice Jackson's categories. As to the war power, Justice Jackson noted, "The Constitution did not contemplate that the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy will constitute him also Commander in Chief of the country, its industries, and its inhabitants."

Like Truman, President Bush acted in the face of contrary congressional authority. In FISA, Congress expressly addressed the subject of warrantless wiretaps during wartime, and limited them to the first 15 days after war is declared. Congress then went further and made it a crime, punishable by up to five years in jail, to conduct a wiretap without statutory authorization.

The Attorney General said that the Administration didn't try to do this legally, because they didn't think they could get the law passed. But don't worry, an NSA shift supervisor is acting in the role of a FISC judge:

GENERAL HAYDEN: FISA involves the process -- FISA involves marshaling arguments; FISA involves looping paperwork around, even in the case of emergency authorizations from the Attorney General. And beyond that, it's a little -- it's difficult for me to get into further discussions as to why this is more optimized under this process without, frankly, revealing too much about what it is we do and why and how we do it.

Q If FISA didn't work, why didn't you seek a new statute that allowed something like this legally?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: That question was asked earlier. We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be -- that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program. And that -- and so a decision was made that because we felt that the authorities were there, that we should continue moving forward with this program.

Q And who determined that these targets were al Qaeda? Did you wiretap them?

GENERAL HAYDEN: The judgment is made by the operational work force at the National Security Agency using the information available to them at the time, and the standard that they apply -- and it's a two-person standard that must be signed off by a shift supervisor, and carefully recorded as to what created the operational imperative to cover any target, but particularly with regard to those inside the United States.

Q So a shift supervisor is now making decisions that a FISA judge would normally make? I just want to make sure I understand. Is that what you're saying?

Senators from both parties are demanding hearings:

Democratic and Republican calls mounted on Tuesday for U.S. congressional hearings into President George W. Bush's assertion that he can order warrantless spying on Americans with suspected terrorist ties.

Vice President Dick Cheney predicted a backlash against critics of the administration's anti-terrorism policies. He also dismissed charges that Bush overstepped his constitutional bounds when he implemented the recently disclosed eavesdropping shortly after the September 11 attacks.

Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine joined Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Dianne Feinstein of California and Ron Wyden of Oregon in calling for a joint investigation by the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees into whether the government eavesdropped "without appropriate legal authority."

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said he would prefer separate hearings by the Judiciary Committee, which has already promised one, and Intelligence Committee.

This New York Times paragraph is further evidence that we're talking about an Echelon-like surveillance program here:

Administration officials, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the information, suggested that the speed with which the operation identified "hot numbers" - the telephone numbers of suspects - and then hooked into their conversations lay behind the need to operate outside the old law.

And some more snippets.

There are about a zillion more URLs I could list here. I posted these already, but both Oren Kerr and
Daniel Solove have good discussions of the legal issues. And here are three legal posts by Marty Lederman. A summary of the Republican arguments. Four good blog posts. Spooks comment on the issue.

And this George W. Bush quote (video and transcript), from December 18, 2000, is just too surreal not to reprint: "If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

I guess 9/11 made it a heck of a lot easier.

Look, I don't think 100% of the blame belongs to President Bush. (This kind of thing was also debated under Clinton.) The Congress, Democrats included, have allowed the Executive to gather power at the expense of the other two branches. This is the fundamental security issue here, and it'll be an issue regardless of who wins the White House in 2008.

EDITED TO ADD (12/21): FISC Judge James Robertson resigned yesterday:

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.

....Robertson indicated privately to colleagues in recent conversations that he was concerned that information gained from warrantless NSA surveillance could have then been used to obtain FISA warrants. FISA court Presiding Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, who had been briefed on the spying program by the administration, raised the same concern in 2004 and insisted that the Justice Department certify in writing that it was not occurring.

"They just don't know if the product of wiretaps were used for FISA warrants -- to kind of cleanse the information," said one source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the FISA warrants. "What I've heard some of the judges say is they feel they've participated in a Potemkin court."

More generally, here's some of the relevant statutes and decisions:

"Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)" (1978).

"Authorization for Use of Military Force (2001)," the law authorizing Bush to use military force against the 9/11 terrorists.

"United States v. United States District Court," 407 U.S. 297 (1972), a national security surveillance case that turned on the Fourth Amendment.

"Hamdi v. Rumsfeld," 124 S. Ct. 981 (2004), the recent Supreme Court case examining the president's powers during wartime.

[The Government's position] cannot be mandated by any reasonable view of the separation of powers, as this view only serves to condense power into a single branch of government. We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens. Youngstown Steel and Tube, 343 U.S. at 587. Whatever power the United States Constitution envisions for the Executive in times of conflict with other Nations or enemy organizations, it most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake.

And here are a bunch of blog posts:

Daniel Solove: "Hypothetical: What If President Bush Were Correct About His Surveillance Powers?."

Seth Weinberger: "Declaring War and Executive Power."

Juliette Kayyem: "Wiretaps, AUMF and Bush's Comments Today."

Mark Schmitt: "Alito and the Wiretaps."

Eric Muller: "Lawless Like I Said."

Cass Sunstein: "Presidential Wiretap."

Spencer Overton: "Judge Damon J. Keith: No Warrantless Wiretaps of Citizens."

Will Baude: "Presidential Authority, A Lament."

And news articles:

Washington Post: "Clash Is Latest Chapter in Bush Effort to Widen Executive Power."

The clash over the secret domestic spying program is one slice of a broader struggle over the power of the presidency that has animated the Bush administration. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney came to office convinced that the authority of the presidency had eroded and have spent the past five years trying to reclaim it.

From shielding energy policy deliberations to setting up military tribunals without court involvement, Bush, with Cheney's encouragement, has taken what scholars call a more expansive view of his role than any commander in chief in decades. With few exceptions, Congress and the courts have largely stayed out of the way, deferential to the argument that a president needs free rein, especially in wartime.

New York Times: Spying Program Snared U.S. Calls."

A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.

Posted on December 21, 2005 at 6:50 AM • 289 Comments


ARLDecember 21, 2005 7:37 AM

"In 2002, that FISA review court upheld the president's warrantless search powers, referencing a 1980 Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision. That court held that "the president did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information. ... We take for granted that the president does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the president’s constitutional power," wrote the court."

Pork SodaDecember 21, 2005 8:00 AM

What about the security issue that's being glossed over? The Times article revealed to the enemy that their communications are being eavesdropped on by the government.

Also it's interesting to compare and contrast this presidential overreach to those of wartime Presidents Lincoln (with his suspension of habeas corpus) and FDR (with his ethnic relocation camps). War is hell.

egeltjeDecember 21, 2005 8:00 AM

Interesting read! _Everybody_ must be accountable to his/her country's law system.

"This is novel reasoning. It's as if the police would have greater powers when investigating a murder than a burglary."
Actually... yes they do (at least in Holland). In case of a murder, they can detain you without charges for some days and they can enter your house in order to confiscate stuff (after getting the proper legal sign-off). This is not the case with a 'simple' burglary where the suspect has to be charged or not picked up at all. The criteria are the article 67 crimes, resulting in a jail sentence of 4 years or more.

Michael AshDecember 21, 2005 8:12 AM

"What about the security issue that's being glossed over? The Times article revealed to the enemy that their communications are being eavesdropped on by the government."

What about it? Is it really a good thing to hide horrendous abuse of executive power from nearly three hundred million American citizens, just in order to hide it from a few hundred or thousand loosely organized terrorists?

My answer to that is, "No, no, and hell no!"

Paul ODecember 21, 2005 8:20 AM

Law is clearly something you know little about. You should stick to commenting on subjects you are qualified on, such as encryption algorithms and their application to, say, enable terrorists to gain advantage.

Nobby NutsDecember 21, 2005 8:24 AM

"Is it really a good thing to hide horrendous abuse of executive power from nearly three hundred million American citizens, just in order to hide it from a few hundred or thousand loosely organized terrorists?"

Epecially when any terrorist worth his salt would be working under the assumption that his communications were being tapped anyway, and those that aren't are probably too stupid to terrorise anyone effectively.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 8:38 AM

"What about the security issue that's being glossed over? The Times article revealed to the enemy that their communications are being eavesdropped on by the government."

That's an idiotic argument, and even the White House seems to have dropped it.

Do you think for one minute that the enemy previously thought that they were not being eavesdropped on, and now suddenly do? That they were living in blissful ignorance until the big bad New York Times burst their bubble?

Look up all the stories about how bin Ladin was tracked using his cellphone, for starters.

Then look up all the stories about Echelon.

None of this is news. We all thought this was going on already, but we figured that that Bush was using the toothless FISA court to comply with the law. We also figured the British were spying on Americans on behalf of Americans. (Yeah, that's probably illegal, too, but we couldn't prove anything here.)

What's at issue here isn't the spying, it's the disregard for the law.

The difference here is that

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 8:39 AM

"Law is clearly something you know little about. You should stick to commenting on subjects you are qualified on, such as encryption algorithms and their application to, say, enable terrorists to gain advantage."

Care to be more specific? I have been working with groups like EPIC fighting FISA battles since Clinton. I have more than a little experience with this issue.

MartinDecember 21, 2005 8:48 AM

"Also it's interesting to compare and contrast this presidential overreach to those of wartime Presidents Lincoln (with his suspension of habeas corpus) and FDR (with his ethnic relocation camps). War is hell."

Yes, and people excoriated Lincoln and FDR for their actions then. It's also arguable as to how much effect those actions actually had on the success of the war effort, just as it's arguable that Bush's incredible disregard for Americans' rights is actually having any net positive effect on catching terrorists.

It's easy to say that we're "winning the war" when the opponents are hidden from us, and the victories remain classified.

RoyDecember 21, 2005 8:52 AM

@Pork Soda:

Is it credible to assume that a dedicated adversary is unaware of comsec issues? IOW, does it make sense to assume that, absent the NYT article, this particular adversary would be unaware of transport-layer vulnerabilities in their communications?

Maybe it's just my security bias showing, but I see that argument as dangerously underestimating the adversary. And since underestimating one's adversary has been a known Bad Idea since Sun Tzu (and probably long before), doesn't that hint of another agenda lurking below the surface?

Hiding in the cloud is security through obscurity. A dedicated adversary will know this. Perhaps the problem with this whole controversy is that the game has been tipped to a less knowledgable target: the general public.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 8:55 AM

"Is it credible to assume that a dedicated adversary is unaware of comsec issues?"

It's not even COMSEC issues. It's commonly known that we eavesdrop on everything. Remember, the issue here is not whether or not we're listening. The issue is whether or not we're following the law when we do.

We can, and should, debate the law. But any such debate only makes sense if we have some confidence that the White House will accept the rule of law.

Trichinosis USADecember 21, 2005 8:58 AM

"What about the security issue that's being glossed over? The Times article revealed to the enemy that their communications are being eavesdropped on by the government."

Who are you kidding? OSAMA BIN LADEN WAS TRAINED BY THE CIA. Do you really think they don't know they're being spied on, and how?

Furthermore, if this option is so necessary then where the hell is Bin Laden's head on a platter? Why are they looking for him in Quaker Meeting Houses?


The goons are going to have to put down their "best of amateur sneak-and-peek pr0n" and produce RESULTS before any credibility at ALL can be attached to "the necessity of domestic spying". Why hasn't that happened yet? Because the minute Bin Laden IS produced, their excuse to continue to abuse this power is greatly lessened... and no matter how many times they study it, no one can seem to find him anywhere in that distracting pr0n. WHAT a coincidence.

Say hi to Ms. England for me, PorkBoi!

AGDecember 21, 2005 9:03 AM

Amendment V - Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings
"nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

I find this very interesteding.
Couldn't this mean that your personal information CANNOT be held, captured, monitored, etc UNLESS the government pays you for that information?
Also, what about the private resources that are used to gather the information for these databases?

Scott From AustinDecember 21, 2005 9:15 AM

Clinton authorized no-warrant searches:

Carter authorized no-warrant searches:

Snipped from
The courts have been explicit on this point, most recently in In Re: Sealed Case, the 2002 opinion by the special panel of appellate judges established to hear FISA appeals. In its per curiam opinion, the court noted that in a previous FISA case (U.S. v. Truong), a federal "court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue [our emphasis], held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information." And further that "we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."

JDDecember 21, 2005 9:27 AM

"This is indefinite dictatorial power."

This is where you cross the line from analysis to foaming-at-the-mouth propaganda. Go back and read the history of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia if you want some perspective on what "indefinite dictatorial power" means.

cyphertubeDecember 21, 2005 9:28 AM


Ahh... So does that mean I can go after Choicepoint now? Since my data is worth something to them, and they are holding it and selling it.

cyphertubeDecember 21, 2005 9:30 AM

@ JD

Dictatorial power need not be malign in order to be dictatorial. There have been benevolent dictators as well. Much-loved monarchs of years past were such. That doesn't mean that they didn't have power above the law.

Being a dictator does not mean that one is automatically a psychopath.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 9:35 AM

"This is where you cross the line from analysis to foaming-at-the-mouth propaganda. Go back and read the history of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia if you want some perspective on what 'indefinite dictatorial power' means."

This is just wrong. Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russa are not what "'indefinite dictatorial power' means." They're just examples of non-indefinite dictatorial power. They're scary examples from recent history, but they're just exmaples. What "dictatorial power" actually means is more like "the power to ignore law at will."

If our society can't discuss these issues without falling to the Nazi hole, then we have no hope of navagating this crisis successfully.

The whole point of the essay was to talk about Bush's presumed legal basis for a dictatorship -- which is exactly what the Yoo memo is -- without hyperbole.

ARLDecember 21, 2005 9:36 AM

As I have said before, one of the problems is that we have made complex laws to try and prevent abuse of power. Simple laws are easy to understand and have fewer places for cracks to show up.

I think that the executive branch lawyers belive that what they are doing is legal. These people are not stupid in this area. What should then scare us the most is the possibility that Congress has once again passed up on its responsibility to the citizens.

Of course the bigger danger might be that the NSA has leaked this information to the press. Not as a way to stop a criminal act (my bet is they are involved in a lot of marginal activity at best) but that they did so for political gain (disclaimer here, I am a card carrying member of the LP). "Mr. President we need you to authorize these wire taps, they will help us root out lots of terrorists."

Pork SodaDecember 21, 2005 9:40 AM

I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you all, I don't want the government eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant either. Looking at it from an operational security standpoint however, it's interesting that the Times revealed the information to the public despite that it could possibly help terrorists. If "everyone knew already" that it was happening, why is this even a story then?

Bruce, I'm sorry but that "debunking" posted on one of _the_ most partisan sites on the net isn't going to convince anyone who doesn't already agree. The references to "wingers" and "King George" in the first paragraph didn't exactly fill me with confidence in the writer's credibility. Would you consider credible a rebuttal to that that started out by saying "A bunch of leftist moonbats who hate America believe that blah blah blah..."? I'm not trying to engage in an ad hominem against Kos here but credibility does matter.

AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 9:42 AM

"Law is clearly something you know little about. You should stick to commenting on subjects you are qualified on, such as encryption algorithms and their application to, say, enable terrorists to gain advantage."

It is our *responsability* to comment on law and politics. If you wish to argue that Bruce's views should not be given special weight in this field simply because he is well versed in another, that is far more supportable. I would argue, however, that contrary to your expressed opinion, Bruce has shown himself quite worth listening to on all matters related to security, technical or otherwise.

tgDecember 21, 2005 9:42 AM

This issue is clouded by political preferencies and subjective ideas on what must be done to secure us from terrorists. If we remove these issues it might be possible to determine if the evesdropping is illegal, if the loss of privacy is worth the security we gain. I don't know what is correct, but surely it is a balance game between security and privacy.

David ThomasDecember 21, 2005 9:55 AM

Whether other administrations in the past have crossed the line is irrelevant. What applies is the most recent precedent, and we have a chance to set a clear one here. Obviously, at present, the waters are too murkey. Even at the height of his power as Commander in Chief, the president's authority does not exceed the Bill of Rights (or any other explicit restrictions placed upon the government by the Constitution). We need to slap him down for unilaterally deciding otherwise and acting on it.

cyphertubeDecember 21, 2005 10:10 AM


Isn't privacy a valid security concern in and of itself? It's one thing to worry about the big picture of mass-murderers attempting to kill us off, but it not too dissimilar to worry about an executive branch, regardless of nominal head, being able to engage in activities violating a person's personal security.

The difference in actions, stripped of agenda, is of single large acts against potentially large numbers, or large number of small acts against potentially large numbers.

pigletDecember 21, 2005 10:22 AM

"This is indefinite dictatorial power. And I don't use that term lightly; the very definition of a dictatorship is a system that puts a ruler above the law. (...)
Laws are what give us security against the actions of the majority and the powerful. If we discard our constitutional protections against tyranny in an attempt to protect us from terrorism, we're all less safe as a result."

That's an excellent and (in our current media world) extraordinarily clear-sighted analysis. There is no denying that Bush is acting in contempt of the constitution. He claims the power to fight terrorism by any means he deems necessary, for time indefinite, without being bound by any domestic or international law nor constitution; this is the very definition of dictatorship, or, if you prefer, absolutism. Those who now cite the Nazi dictatorship are well advised to learn some history because this is exactly what Hitler did in 1933: he had all constitutional safeguards suspended on the pretext that it was necessary to - guess what - fight terrorism. Of course, US congress has *not* given Bush the power to act above the law (although it has made some very bad laws). But Bush *claims* that power. This is worrying enough.

AGDecember 21, 2005 10:23 AM

The V deals only with the government seisure of property, but Choicepoint's use of your data would be used as an arguement that the data is worth something.

AGDecember 21, 2005 10:27 AM

Whether you hate or love Bush he has now;

Blatently admitted to breaking the law.
Whether he was justified to do so because of outside "unknown threats" does not matter.
He should be impeached and he should lose.

AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 10:27 AM

"Bruce, I'm sorry but that "debunking" posted on one of _the_ most partisan sites on the net isn't going to convince anyone who doesn't already agree. The references to "wingers" and "King George" in the first paragraph didn't exactly fill me with confidence in the writer's credibility. Would you consider credible a rebuttal to that that started out by saying "A bunch of leftist moonbats who hate America believe that blah blah blah..."? I'm not trying to engage in an ad hominem against Kos here but credibility does matter."

A good point. To summarize:

The law does provide for warrantless wiretaps on "American persons," provided they are agents of a foreign power under very specific terms, namely 1801 (a)(1) (2) or (3). All of these require that citizen to be acting on behalf of a proper governemnt. Terrorist organizations, or individuals with intent to commit terrorism, fall under 1801(a)(4), which is not included. One (supposedly) commonly referenced site exacerbates this misrepresentation by absorbing everything after 1801, which broadens the definition to include all the subsections, which indeed would mean that the same legislation applies in dealing with terrorists as with dealing with those working for actual governments. This is not the case.

That said, if Clinton or Carter or anyone else has actually violated these laws, they should be censured by the Congress and punished accordingly. If they were presently in office, I'd want them impeached, as well, but since they no longer are we'll have to settle for censure. Likewise for any such violations of law and the Constitution.

cyphertubeDecember 21, 2005 10:29 AM


True enough. However, if the government uses Choicepoint or supplies Choicepoint with information, does that become a concern? Can I sue Choicepoint for using my information without my permission, and then when they claim that it is public domain information, sue the government for giving them any of that information?

Moreover, can I go after the credit agencies under RICO?

Ok, I'm way too excited at the idea of going after companies this morning. Need to tone down the caffeine level.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 10:40 AM

"I think that the executive branch lawyers belive that what they are doing is legal. These people are not stupid in this area. What should then scare us the most is the possibility that Congress has once again passed up on its responsibility to the citizens."

I certainly don't hold Congress blameless here.

And certainly the White House lawyers believe what they're writing ... I think. Slate had a good article on this topic today:

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 10:41 AM

"Bruce, I'm sorry but that "debunking" posted on one of _the_ most partisan sites on the net isn't going to convince anyone who doesn't already agree. The references to "wingers" and "King George" in the first paragraph didn't exactly fill me with confidence in the writer's credibility."

Yeah, I know. I'm looking for a better essay. The various legal professors generally take a day or so, so hang on.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 10:44 AM

"Of course the bigger danger might be that the NSA has leaked this information to the press"

That is a side story, but it is an interesting one. My guess is that people inside the NSA have been increasingly uncomfortable with what was going on. We know that the the FISA judges were uncomfortable with it, as was Sen. Rockefeller. One, or more, of them might have realized that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

DavidDecember 21, 2005 10:58 AM

Somewhat OT, but has anyone thought about FDRs famous quote: "We have nothing to fear but fear itself".

Isn't Bush and the Executive branch giving into fear by basically saying that they can't win without cheating, and stooping to the level of the terrorists?

Where the hell is Winston Churchill character when you need them ("We will win because we are right").

Doug G.December 21, 2005 11:02 AM

"the rhetorical "War on Terror": a war with no fronts, no boundaries, no opposing army, and -- most ominously -- no knowable "victory.""

Very importantly, the "War on Terror" also has no actual declaration of war. It is no more a war than the "War on Drugs" or the "War on Poverty".

Peter PearsonDecember 21, 2005 11:18 AM

Careful, Bruce: your lovely blog is in danger of getting sucked down the black hole of politics. The next milestone is when you suddenly realize that global warming is also a security problem.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 11:21 AM

"Careful, Bruce: your lovely blog is in danger of getting sucked down the black hole of politics. The next milestone is when you suddenly realize that global warming is also a security problem."

It's funny, but there's someone who keeps e-mailing me asking about the security implications of global warming. Honestly, I can't think of any that have anything to do with my area of expertise.

ordajDecember 21, 2005 11:22 AM


"And certainly the White House lawyers believe what they're writing ... I think."

This is a default position. It's what they teach in law school, stake out a position and defend it, regardless of whether it is "right" or "wrong." Who is employing you? Basically, those in power, whether CEOs, politicians, or moneyed interests, just take the default stance that they will not be stopped.

"No is not an answer."

"How do we get around this?"

"How do we make it happen?"

This is regardless of any laws, people, or morality standing in the way. It's why we have checks in the first place. Why do certain people (CEOs, politicans, moneyed interests...those with power, money, and advantage) always believe they are exempt? It's because they have gotten where they are with this approach.

MikeDecember 21, 2005 11:23 AM

For a moment, let us step away from the legal debate of who is right and who is wrong and consider the underlying security concern.

It is easier to conduct surviellence when it is done in secret. It is ABSOLUTELY important to realize that we are fighting a war... a deadly war. This is not simply a politically charged discussion held over cocktails at a dinner party. I submit to you that we should allow Bush, the NSA, etc to do their job to the best of their ability..... I'm ok allowing someone to listen to my phone calls becuase, quite frankly, I have nothing to hide...

To support my assertion, I refer to Shannon's Information Theory (1948).
"Shannon's theory of information is extremely important in intelligence work, much more so than its use in cryptography would indicate. The theory is applied by intelligence agencies to keep classified information secret, and to discover as much information as possible about an adversary. The fundamental theorem leads us to believe it is much more difficult to keep secrets than it might first appear. In general it is not possible to stop the leakage of classified information, only to slow it. Furthermore, the more people that have access to the information, and the more those people have to work with and belabor that information, the greater the redundancy of that information becomes. It is extremely hard to contain the flow of information that has such a high redundancy. This inevitable leakage of classified information is due to the psychological fact that what people know does influence their behavior somewhat, however subtle that influence might be."

I am not stating that we should allow NSA to run free, but let them conduct their secret courts... let Bush authorize what he needs to so that he can be an EFFECTIVE command-in-cheif of our military.

ShawnDecember 21, 2005 11:24 AM

@ Doug G.

Also, let us not forget terrorism is the tactical of instilling fear and not an enemy per se. Politicians have been telling the American people what to fear and how they [the particular politician] can protect us from it.

Is the president to have absolute power until no politician remain to oppose him? And that would result in….

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 11:26 AM

"It is ABSOLUTELY important to realize that we are fighting a war... a deadly war."

I'd be more likely to believe this if there were an actual declaration of war.

The "war on terror" is a "war" against an abstraction, against a tactic. It is not a war against an enemy. We don't live in wartime right now. Read any histories of the home front during wartime; it's kind of obvious.

We are not fighting a real war, we are fighting a rhetorical war. And a rhetorical war is not a good enough excuse to ignore laws at will.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 11:27 AM

"I am not stating that we should allow NSA to run free, but let them conduct their secret courts... let Bush authorize what he needs to so that he can be an EFFECTIVE command-in-cheif of our military."

And if Congress passes a law allowing the NSA to do this or that against Americans without a warrant, I probably won't be happy...but it will be lawful.

C. Sebastian MongooseDecember 21, 2005 11:32 AM

"It's funny, but there's someone who keeps e-mailing me asking about the security implications of global warming. Honestly, I can't think of any that have anything to do with my area of expertise."

Hmm... that's not what *our* records of your communications tell us.

JDDecember 21, 2005 11:37 AM

The hysteria over this issue is amazing and appalling. A Bush "dictatorship" indeed -- what a crock.

First of all, none of the public ranters have reliable information about exactly what was being done and what controls were actually in place -- nor should they. Any form of Intelligence collection depends on secrecy and doing things that would not be favored in polite society. Unfortunately, there are too many media mouths and politicians who have no scruples about destroying our nation's Intelligence capabilities in order to score political points. Thanks to them, more Americans will be killed.

If this were a real dictatorship, they would all be shot by now. (I'd be satisfied with just tarring and feathering)

Roy OwensDecember 21, 2005 11:41 AM

A smart lawyer can find a loophole in a STOP sign.

What John Yoo did is what make stuff up.

A lawyer's assertion may be fact. Or it may be wishful thinking. Or a flight of fancy, an absurdity, or an impossibility. The fact that a lawyer asserts it in itself means nothing. You can hire another lawyer to assert the exact opposite.

Lawyers working as legal advisors are valued not in how they can help their customers obey the law, but instead how to break the law and pretend to be not 'technically' in violation of the law.

Do such lawyers actually believe what they're arguing? Remember they get their first taste of lawyering by debating -- given a stand, defend it and attack the other side. There is also a helpful test: turnabout is fair play. If they would accept the same legal manuever turned against themselves -- without protest, without counter-suit, without getting an injunction, or any other legal recourse -- then ... maybe ... they believe it. Or not. Lawyers are by nature cagey.

Many months ago we had the example of Alberto Gonzales asserting that parts of our treaties have been 'rendered quaint', which in his mind means that we can violate the parts we don't want to obey without violating the treaty. This is nothing profound, only typical lawyerly shyster thinking. (Remind you of statements by Bush?)

Remember that Gonzales is the US Attorney General, ostensibly the chief prosecutor, yet has clearly proven himself to be Bush's chief legal cheerleader.

@Paul O

"Law is clearly something you know little about."

The law is not whatever one lawyer thinks it is, nor is it whatever two lawyers agree that it is, nor is it what most lawyer think, or what all lawyers agree on. It may be useful to pit lawyers against each other and see what arises, but only a fool would think that lawyers don't have as their number one priority the protection of their own profession. (This is inherent. Judges have a like problem, so do the police.)

Juries are there to decide what the law is in the particular case. And in a jury trial, you might note that the two sets of lawyers are in complete disagreement on many aspects of the case. As I said, a lawyer's view means nothing per se.


The analogy of the police having more power for a murder than a burglary may confuse the issue. Better is a detective investigating a double murder arguing for correspondingly more power than one investigating only a single murder. Then a detective with a triple murder can get super-extraordinary power, and so on.

ShawnDecember 21, 2005 11:45 AM

@ JD

"none of the public ranters have reliable information about exactly ... what controls were actually in place"

You are blatantly missing the point! The problem is the president has illegally removed all such controls!

JDDecember 21, 2005 11:48 AM

"We are not fighting a real war, we are fighting a rhetorical war."

Tell that to the people who lost loved ones on 9/11. Tell that to the people who are putting their lives on the line today to take out real live terrorists before they slaughter more thousands of innocent victims.

Yes, there is plenty to criticize in how this war is being waged. But some people seem to be doing their best to deny our ability to wage a real war.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 11:49 AM

"If this were a real dictatorship, they would all be shot by now."

Actually, that's not true. And it would be unfortunate if people used that as a yardstick to measure whether a form of government is a dictatorship.

Opening up my handy Miriam-Webster, definition 3 reads: "a: a form of government in which absolute power is concentrated in a dictator or a small clique, b: a government organization or group in which absolute power is so concentrated, c: a despotic state."

The definition says nothing about shooting people, of malovelence in general. A dictatorship can be completely benign, benovelent even.

Reread the Yoo memo. It says that the president has absolute power, and is above any law. That's what a dictatorship is.

But that's the security risk. You might think that Bush is fine to have this power, but you have to be fine with the winner of the next presidential election -- whoever it might be -- having this power.

If you think that Hillary Clinton would line people up against a wall and have them shot, then you need to speak up now against giving the presdent these sorts of powers.

StiennonDecember 21, 2005 11:49 AM

I have always maintained that email and voice are safe ways to communicate securely... until the government starts spying on us. Maybe now the struggling encryption industry will see some action!

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 11:52 AM

"'We are not fighting a real war, we are fighting a rhetorical war.'

"Tell that to the people who lost loved ones on 9/11. Tell that to the people who are putting their lives on the line today to take out real live terrorists before they slaughter more thousands of innocent victims."

That's a non-sequitur. "Dangerous situation" is not the same as "war." "Day where a horrible terrorist attack too place" is not the same as "war."

"Yes, there is plenty to criticize in how this war is being waged. But some people seem to be doing their best to deny our ability to wage a real war."

We certainly have the ability to wage a real war; we proved that in Iraq. Our ability to conduct the sort of intelligence gathering and investigation necessary to defend ourselves against terrorists is more in question, but I have no doubt that we have the ability.

Using this as some sort of argument for breaking the law is nothing more than a smoke screen.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 11:54 AM

"I have always maintained that email and voice are safe ways to communicate securely... until the government starts spying on us. Maybe now the struggling encryption industry will see some action!"

We've been told that encryption must be curbed otherwise the terrorists will win before. (Anyone remember Louis Freeh?) I suspect we'll soon start hearing it again.

MikeDecember 21, 2005 11:54 AM


"The "war on terror" is a "war" against an abstraction, against a tactic. It is not a war against an enemy. We don't live in wartime right now. Read any histories of the home front during wartime; it's kind of obvious."

So, are we discussing the NSA or the Black Chamber? True, we are not "declared at War with xxx (pick a country)'.... the NSA was founded (in part) to continue electronic intelligence DURING PEACETIME! Based on the aftermath reports, one of the reasons we were attacked on 9/11 was becuase America developed a mentality of "we are not 'at war' with any country, thus we don't need to fund, continue, allow war-time techniques to continue"...

pigletDecember 21, 2005 11:54 AM

"It is ABSOLUTELY important to realize that we are fighting a war... a deadly war."

If you don't realize that this is the kind of excuse all dictators/tyrants in the history of humankind have been using then millenia of constitutional history are lost on you. Laws and constitutions must be binding even in times of crisis, otherwise we would go back to the law of the jungle.

JDDecember 21, 2005 11:56 AM

@ Shaun

"The problem is the president has illegally removed all such controls!"

BS. You don't know that. You think all the rants of Bush haters equate to facts?

another_bruceDecember 21, 2005 11:57 AM

good morning, my fellow imperial romans! how could you be surprised at the emerging news? nothing lasts forever, even the diamond on your wife's finger is slowly turning into ordinary carbon, and the republican form of government is surely more transitory than a diamond. in order to see the future, just look at the past! once we had caesars, strong leaders who were yet answerable to the tribunes of the people, by and by, along came neros and caligulas who were answerable to nobody. republican rome was based on certain common principles shared and honored by all, over time these principles became less important, everybody just wanted to go out and have fun. first, an election was rigged and then they stopped having elections. in september and october of 2004, the administration was seriously considering postponing the election in the event of another 9/11, remember? it is but one small step from there to manufacturing a 9/11 to justify indefinite retention of power and bye-bye republic! a dynasty is forming and will ultimately be recognized as such. prescott the nazi sympathizer begat george one, and george one begat the reigning george two. the dowager empress barbara is a truly wicked, nasty piece of work, but she has a beautiful mind! the concept of morality (which has nothing to do with religion) becomes trivialized, and the grossest perversions manifest themselves on the public stage. ever more elaborate circuses are contrived to distract the citizens from what is happening around them. we have something rome didn't, the internet, consequently we will be privileged to experience and savor a brand new thing: e-decadence. the rise of the imperium does not mean you can't have fun anymore, oh no, but you must be careful of one thing. you must watch your ass. do **not** fall off and get caught under the wheels, you could be kidnapped and sent to afghanistan and never heard from again!

David GawDecember 21, 2005 12:04 PM

"That's an idiotic argument, and even the White House seems to have dropped it. ...Look up all the stories about how bin Ladin was tracked using his cellphone, for starters."

Really? Surely the bin Laden example suggests that concern over the security breach here is not at all idiotic. Bin Laden was tracked using ihs cell phone until 1998, when a press leak, much like the current one by the times, caused him to change his behavior.

If the NSA has recently been intercepting calls by people with ties to terrorism, then we KNOW they have been using phones that we can monitor, despite your feeling that our surveilence capabilities are common knowledge to them. People make mistakes and get sloppy over time.

The suggestion that having confirmation that yes, they've been intercepted blasted all over the world press will not remind our enemies to pay careful attention to their message discipline and harm our ability to fight them seems entirely unsupported.

pigletDecember 21, 2005 12:05 PM

As to the question in how far an emergency justifies a suspension of liberty and human rights, I would like to submit to you the opinion of the British High Court Judge Lord Hoffmann, in a landmark ruling overturning indefinite detention of terrorist suspects in the UK (

After 9/11, the UK had suspended part of the European Human Rights Convention on the grounds that a "war or other public emergency threatening the life of the nation" had made it necessary.

Lord Hoffmann: "The power which the Home Secretary seeks to uphold is a power to detain people indefinitely without charge or trial [a power also claimed by Bush]. Nothing could be more antithetical to the instincts and traditions of the people of the United Kingdom. (...) What is meant by "threatening the life of the nation"? The nation, its institutions and values, endure through generations. In many important respects, England is the same nation as it was at the time of the first Elizabeth or the Glorious Revolution. The Armada threatened to destroy the life of the nation, not by loss of life in battle, but by subjecting English institutions to the rule of Spain and the Inquisition. The same was true of the threat posed to the United Kingdom by Nazi Germany in the Second World War. (...) This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. *I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation.* Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda. Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community. (...)

**The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these.** That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory."

AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 12:06 PM

"If you don't realize that this is the kind of excuse all dictators/tyrants in the history of humankind have been using then millenia of constitutional history are lost on you. Laws and constitutions must be binding even in times of crisis, otherwise we would go back to the law of the jungle."

Point taken... Perhaps I wasn't clear. I was rebuting the notion that some say we are not 'technically' at war.... Iraq/9-11/Afganistan is not a 'conflict' that started on Sept 11, 2001.... Whether Congress has said "Ok, this is an 'offical' war or not, doesn't much matter in my book.... our soldiers are fighting, and dying... In fact, this is not a new war... we are continue to engage in a war that has its roots back before the Middle Ages....

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 12:13 PM

"Surely the bin Laden example suggests that concern over the security breach here is not at all idiotic. Bin Laden was tracked using ihs cell phone until 1998, when a press leak, much like the current one by the times, caused him to change his behavior."

Exactlly. The 1998 leak was the problem. Putting myself in terrorist shoes, I haven't learned anything this past week that will cause me to change my behavior.

I'm not saying that revealing intelligence methods is always harmless. There is a lot of history that demonstrates the opposite. In this case, however, I haven't learned anything new about intelligence methods.

Security is always a trade-off. Remember that. And there is always more than one trade-off occuring at the same time. Assuming we can convince Bush to follow the law, the security gained by the New York Times publishing this story is far greater than the security lost by telling the terrorists what they already knew.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 12:16 PM

"BS. You don't know that. You think all the rants of Bush haters equate to facts?"

No, I don't. Nor do I think that the statements of Bush equate to the facts. But Bush did say that he authorized this surveillance without the proper FISA warrants, and I take that as fact for now. I also take the Yoo memo, the FISA statute, and the relevent Supreme Court decisions as fact. And I take the various legal analyses from people I trust -- both liberal and conservative -- as close to fact.

ShawnDecember 21, 2005 12:22 PM

@ JD

"BS. You don't know that. You think all the rants of Bush haters equate to facts?"

The fact is Bush's executive order circumvents the safeguards established by the United States Congress. That is undeniable as well as reprehensible.

What right does the Executive have to declare the Legislature mandate of Judicial oversight be ignored in favor of Executive oversight of the Executive? Moreover, why would we trust any branch providing oversight of itself? That is counter to the very nature of oversight!

Michael AshDecember 21, 2005 12:27 PM

I'm seeing a fascinating argument pop up again and again, both in the comments here and elsewhere.

In response to a statement where someone claims that the USA is becoming like Nazi Germany or the USSR in one particular respect, a reply is posted saying, "The USA is clearly not X, because Nazi Germany was X, Nazi Germany shot people in the middle of the night and had concentration camps, and it is clear to anyone that the USA does not do this. Therefore, you are wrong"

Does nobody using this argument understand how completely circular it is? Not to mention that it applies to a lot of things besides "dictatorship". For example: I say that the USA has a President. But Nazi Germany had a President, and did all these horrible things the USA does not do, so I must be wrong.

People, don't go into automatic "deny deny deny" mode just because you see a possibly-loaded word such as "dictatorship". It does nobody any good.

JDDecember 21, 2005 12:30 PM

@ Bruce

"A dictatorship can be completely benign, benevolent even."

I'd be interested to see your list of examples of benign, benevolent dictatorships. It always fascinates me how people who consider themselves "liberals" can be enamored of such an idea.

Okay, shooting dissidents is not a universal feature of dictatorships, but suppressing them by one means or another is. Show me a dictatorship that could survive the kind of storms of public dissent we take for granted in this country?

When we see government-sponsored goon squads trashing the offices of the New York Times, Washington Post, ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN, then talk to me about an American dictatorship.

cyphertubeDecember 21, 2005 12:30 PM


No, it is not a real war. I will tell those who were victims of 9/11 that they were the victims of mass-murder. This happens.

In 2001 the murder rate, if you count all those casualties as murders in the general sense, was still lower than in the mid-90's.

Random acts will happen, pre-meditated or not. A determined group who is quite intelligent will easily kill several thousand individuals before detected. It is not a big issue. The terror is that it happened in a way not previously forseen by the majority of Americans.

So, in reality, this is no more a war than the standard long-running war on crime, which is a police, not military, responsibility.

another_bruceDecember 21, 2005 12:30 PM

@bruce schneier
you said "Assuming we can convince Bush to follow the law..."
excuse me, i found this assumption, and seeing it committed to writing in public, to be absolutely uproarious.
louis xiv, the "sun king", famously said "je suis l'etat" (i am the state). in his news conference the other day, bush basically said the same thing.
if you're going to approach the modern reigning sun king and try to convince him to follow the law, i would pay $1000 for a ticket to watch, as long as i could watch from a safe distance, out of sight of the sun king.

David GawDecember 21, 2005 12:38 PM

"I'd be more likely to believe this if there were an actual declaration of war."

Why? There was no declartion of war in the Korea War, in Vietnam, or during the Persian Gulf war. Were those not wars?

"The 'war on terror' is a 'war' against an abstraction, against a tactic. It is not a war against an enemy."

Sure it's a war against an enemy... it's a war against the people who employ and seek to employ the tactic. Perhaps it might more accurately be described as the "war on anti-American terrorists", but that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

Is the war on terror a state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties? If so (and I would argue that yes, it is), then at least the dictionary think it's a war.

That life on the home front is different than in World War II seems to speak more to this being a different kind of war than anything else: an indication of our military capabiltiies and the tactics employed by our enemies.

"We are not fighting a real war, we are fighting a rhetorical war. And a rhetorical war is not a good enough excuse to ignore laws at will."

Are you suggesting a non-rhetorical war would be a good enough excuse to ignore laws at will?

mike mDecember 21, 2005 12:41 PM

"The hysteria over this issue is amazing and appalling. A Bush "dictatorship" indeed -- what a crock.

First of all, none of the public ranters have reliable information about exactly what was being done and what controls were actually in place -- nor should they. Any form of Intelligence collection depends on secrecy and doing things that would not be favored in polite society. Unfortunately, there are too many media mouths and politicians who have no scruples about destroying our nation's Intelligence capabilities in order to score political points. Thanks to them, more Americans will be killed.

If this were a real dictatorship, they would all be shot by now. (I'd be satisfied with just tarring and feathering)"

You might want to study history a bit. First of all, there have been plenty of dictators who didn't kill people left and right. Second, many dictatorships have started by the people willfully giving up their rights. Only later does the dictator use the aboslute power granted for malevolence. Since Hitler seems to be one of your favorite examples of a dictator, let's take him. He was given his power by the people and legislature of Germany to fight terrorism. He was a popular man, and gained his absolute power through legal means.

The argument "he needs absolute power to fight the war or more people will die" is BS. This is the same argument always used as propoganda to convince people to give someone more authority. Would you be arguing the same thing if your political enemies were in power? I doubt it.

MikeDecember 21, 2005 12:48 PM


"No, it is not a real war. I will tell those who were victims of 9/11 that they were the victims of mass-murder. This happens."

hm..... don't quite know where to start with that one. Perhaps a good history class might help you?

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 12:49 PM

"I'd be interested to see your list of examples of benign, benevolent dictatorships. It always fascinates me how people who consider themselves 'liberals' can be enamored of such an idea."

What makes you think I am, for even a moment, enamored of such an idea?

Remember that democracy is the worst form of goverment, except for all the others.

cyphertubeDecember 21, 2005 12:52 PM


Killing multiple people is not an act of war. It is an act of murder. For us to react to it as though it is war simply gives credence to a few enemies who have managed to find holes in security and utilise larger weapons. Was the bombing in Oklahoma City an act of war? The only difference is that this was coordinated and used planes. It's still simply mass-murder and they are not generals or geniuses, but thugs who got lucky.

cyphertubeDecember 21, 2005 12:55 PM

@Mike (cont'd)

Moreover, as I think about, part of waging a war is to have definable and reachable objectives. There is no clear goal to these terrorist groups, except perhaps building up their power. It is not like they act as though a reduction in forces in the Middle East would reduce their actions, or that stopping the sale of arms to Israel would accomplish anything. There is no credibility or clear mantra to their argument aside from spreading fear and killing. That is not waging war; it is simply mass-murder.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 21, 2005 1:00 PM

Whoa. I go away for a few minutes and then had to catch up with 73 comments? Well done, Bruce.

I have enjoyed everything so far, but I am especially amused to hear people continue the myth that someone who criticizes the Bush Administration is necessarily a Bush hater.

Aside from the separation of person and policy, the fact remains that this President and his Vice President are very good at using the "all or nothing" argument to avoid the hard work of democracy. The infamous "I'd rather be a dictator" quotes by Bush are very telling. What he means is that you either have to support drilling for oil in the Arctic or you are against troops getting their supplies. You either are for a billion-dollar boon-doggle rainforest in Iowa, or you are against hospitals getting medicine, etc.

And that is partly what is so scary about the shift away from a government that is meant to be based on normal compromise and moderate mainstream values and towards an extremist junta-like approach to policy. Cheney is not kidding when he threatens people on the hill with retribution if they oppose him.

So you don't have to hate Bush to hate the fact that he admits that he can not succeed in life unless he cheats or breaks the law -- and that has now made him undoubtedly one of worst US Presidents in history.

You might be close friends with the guy and love to play rounds of golf or go fishing with him on the weekends. He might be your best buddy. But at the end of the day even friends shouldn't let their friends break the law and drive a country amuck.

David GawDecember 21, 2005 1:06 PM

"I haven't learned anything this past week that will cause me to change my behavior."

I'm not sure that the average al Qaeda operative is as smart as you, Bruce. Plus, knowing what you should do and doing it are two different things. Wasn't former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who spied for the Russians, caught because he left his fingerprints on the bags he used to deliver secrets to his handlers? Did Hanssen not know about fingerprinting? Or did he just make a mistake?

Perhaps the people we were targetting took what they thought, incorrectly, were sufficient precautions, and the New York Times has now corrected their misapprehension. We may never know.

AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 1:09 PM

"I'd be interested to see your list of examples of benign, benevolent dictatorships. It always fascinates me how people who consider themselves "liberals" can be enamored of such an idea."

It all depends on point of view, as many considered Vladimir Lenin to be a benevolent dictator.

However, there is one I know of: Habib Bourguiba. He ruled Tunisia as President For Life. He had absolute power, but as far as I know he did not abuse it. Instead, he used his power to pass many reforms in education, women's rights. He also promoted secularism, ending Islam fundamentalism in the country.

But the point is that benevolent dictators are almost unheard of, and that is true.

AGDecember 21, 2005 1:10 PM


Once you start to think like a Judge you would see the argument holds up PERFECTLY.

1. Your private information is your property.
2. You PAY for you Internet connection and you phone so both are your property.
3. Seizure of your property MUST be compensated

Why even debate whether it is legal to seize your property to begin with? Get paid.

MikeDecember 21, 2005 1:10 PM

"Killing multiple people is not an act of war. It is an act of murder."

I suggested a history lesson becuase you are missing the large historical picture. Osama didn't just wake up one morning and decide to bring jihad against America...
This may be a political war, but it is essentially a war of theology. A Christian worldview vs. Islamic worldview. Think I'm wrong? read a history book.... Islam started to control a majority of the region in the 9th, 10th centuries. Christians fought back (note: don't misunderstand my perspective... BOTH sides committed horrible acts, I'm not justifying one or the other).
Anyway, the quick version is you have the Crusades... the Ottman Empire the early 1900's... All based off the same ideology as Osama Bin Laden's attacks on 9/11.
Furthermore, you mention Ok City... read a book called "The Third Terrorist" by Janye Davis (spelling?). Even if you disagree with her conclusion, she mentions a number of verifiable facts that link bombing expert Ramsey Yousef (who later carried out the first bombing on WTC in '93... )

Anyway, I realize that is quite a contraversial debate and there are people more qualified than I to present a case. However, my point being that there is an irrefutable, ideoligical link between a whole history of events and our current situation. To deny that is simply an indignant response. We are not dealing with "a few enemies who have managed to find holes in security".

Pork SodaDecember 21, 2005 1:13 PM

As an interesting addition to the debate, former Clinton-era associate Attorney General John Schmidt writes in the Chicago Tribune that the taps were "consistent with court decisions and with the positions of the Justice Department under prior presidents".

So here is your prominent lawyer who does not work for the administration and believes the wiretaps were legal.

MikeDecember 21, 2005 1:14 PM


"There is no credibility or clear mantra to their argument aside from spreading fear and killing."

Read the Quran.... I am at work and do not have access to my research material, but you would be surprised at the directness of some passage in the text.... Now, like any religion, you have moderate and fundamental interpretations of the text... I'm not trying to lump 1.x billion people into the same category. However, there are a number of people throughout history, that have viewed the text from the same perspective. That is what unites our enemy....

JDDecember 21, 2005 1:21 PM

@ Mike M

Yes, we all might want to study history a bit. I expect most folks would allow that "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William Shirer is a pretty good study.

The points you make are practically all incorrect.

Hitler was not given power "to fight terrorism" -- the Nazis were the main source of terror in the country. It was more a case of exploiting the anarchy and economic distress that prevailed. Not to mention the belief of many that the coming dictatorship would be benign and benevolent, at least for themselves.

As for Hitler's popularity, in the last more or less free election in the country, after the Nazis had already come to power and had the benefit of control of media and propaganda, 56% still voted against the Nazis.

Finally, as for gaining "absolute power through legal means" -- Hindenberg did have the authority to appoint Hitler as Chancellor, but initially Hitler's legal powers were far from absolute. And how he subsequently achieved totalitarian power in 1933 and 1934 had little relation to any concept of legal means.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 21, 2005 1:21 PM

@ cyphertube

"There is no credibility or clear mantra to their argument aside from spreading fear and killing. That is not waging war; it is simply mass-murder."

Well there is hardly a clear mantra to war from either side these days, eh? That's precisely the problem, so you're going down a very slipperly slope with that argument.

Instead I suggest reading General Sir Rupert Smith's book called "The Utility of Force". He supports the idea that there is no longer any real "war" in the traditional sense, and victory can only come from consent of the people. In other words the conflict can no longer be staged in a "theater" where one side "beats down" the other, it has comes to a battle for the "will" (hearts-and-minds) of the people most affected.

From a historic perspective, just as the calvary was unable to overcome the "senseless brutality" of new methods of combat (machine-guns, mines, barbed wire, etc.) we are witnessing the shift from the technical superiority of US weaponry (tanks, missles, etc.) to a whole new style of combat possessed by those who better understand how to wage war from "among the people".

I've written about this in the past, with regard to how the Special Forces in Afghanistan made recommendations to the Army about how to win the confidence of the locals there and in Iraq and thusly uproot the source of IEDs. This was reportedly brushed aside by the Pentagon, which instead fumbled the support of locals and opened the door to the resistance and proliferation of IEDs.

cyphertubeDecember 21, 2005 1:25 PM


Explain to me how that differs from simply organised crime, like that of the Mafia? Aside from a basic ideology that is used to justify (which is no different from Neo-Nazis, Christian Identity, or White Supremicists in finding justification from all kinds of sources), how are their actions really any different?

How are you going to distinguish those with whom you should use police powers from those with whom you should use military powers? Is it a matter of citizenship? Is it ideology? Is it religion? Violence? Perhaps the NSA should be used to track level 3 sex offenders in the US? They have motive and they're likely to reoffend. Some are certainly known to kill.

The issue is where you want to draw the line. The reality of 9/11 is aside from the impact on the psyche of the nation, the impact was a blip in the statistics for the economy and the murder rate.

cyphertubeDecember 21, 2005 1:30 PM


Agreed that the argument of what to define as war is a difficult one, but again, regarding hearts and minds, it becomes an important issue. How much credibility do you wish to give your enemy?

I'm not surprised that the Pentagon brushed aside a number of recommendations. Many members of this government right now are still functioning on Cold War dogma.

pigletDecember 21, 2005 1:31 PM

@JD: ""A dictatorship can be completely benign, benevolent even."

I'd be interested to see your list of examples of benign, benevolent dictatorships. It always fascinates me how people who consider themselves "liberals" can be enamored of such an idea."

You are mixing up things.
1. You seem to take "dictatoprship" as a moral judgement, but it is a technical description of a form of government. The term originates in the Roman Republic, the Senate of which could in time of crisis bestow dictatorial power on a leader. It was strictly limited to 6 months or until the end of the crisis, whichever came *earlier*. It happened rarely, the last time under Caesar, who brought the Republic to an end. Which exemplifies why most of us don't like dictatorship: even if we happen to like the dictator in the beginning, the risk of power abuse is too obvious. This is what Bruce has been saying and you seem not to get: don't give anybody unchecked power. That's what constitutional checks are there for. Btw, constitutional checks do not *guarantee* that abuse of power will not occur, they just make it less likely. Just as a dictatorship doesn't necessarily do wrong, democratic governments don't necessarily do right. We can only hope, for various reasons, that democracies are more likely to do right, but in fact, sadly, some of the worst crimes were committed by democracies - by the USA in Vietnam, by France in Algeria, by the British in their colonies. They behaved like tyrants, nevertheless, technically they were democratically legitimized.

JarrodDecember 21, 2005 1:32 PM

@Pork Soda:

"Also it's interesting to compare and contrast this presidential overreach to those of wartime Presidents Lincoln (with his suspension of habeas corpus) and FDR (with his ethnic relocation camps)."

Both of which were determined by the Supreme Court to be overstepping the bounds of their constitutional authority as president.

ARLDecember 21, 2005 1:40 PM


The possibility that Clinton and/or Carter may have authorized the same kind of thing underlines the problem with this kind of law. If it was legal for Bush then it was Legal for C&C, if it was illegal for Bush then it was also illegal for C&C.

But the fact that this _may_ be the new standard for Presidentail activity is the greater concern. Partisan politics are an issue, but they existed at the time of our Founding Fathers and they did not seem to be worried about it. What they did spend time on was the expansion of power by one branch of government.

Who we are fighing in this war is a bit abstract. But we should at least need to ask what did Congress authorize:

"To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;"

pigletDecember 21, 2005 1:41 PM

@JD: "Hitler was not given power "to fight terrorism" -- the Nazis were the main source of terror in the country. (...) And how he (Hitler) subsequently achieved totalitarian power in 1933 and 1934 had little relation to any concept of legal means."

You are really that naive? The 1933 "law for the protection of the people and the state" was passed legally, by parliament, and it did justify dictatorial powers with the need to "fight terrorism", as defined by the government - just like certain laws since 2001. And "the belief of many that the coming dictatorship would be benign and benevolent, at least for themselves", as you put it, is precisely a case in point. That is how dictatorships often evolve: at first, people agree to grant ever more powers to the government because they trust that it will be in their interest. You really don't see any connection to Americans aquiesceing to the internment without trial of thousands of foreigners, to torture, spying, erosion of civil liberties, killing thousands of innocents in unprovoked wars? *Aren't they all saying "heck, it's not me who's gonna be spied on, imprisoned, tortured or killed, so it's all right"?*

AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 1:54 PM

"I'd be interested to see your list of examples of benign, benevolent dictatorships. It always fascinates me how people who consider themselves "liberals" can be enamored of such an idea."

No one but Bush has said a dictatorship would be a good thing. Dictatorships, like any other form of government, can happen to be good - the problem is, you can't count on it.

Incidentally, although I poke fun, I actually give Bush less flak for the comments about dictatorship than many do. It's *true* that getting anything done is easier in a dictatorship. Unfortunately, this includes abuses. It appeared to me, from the context of the remarks, that he was simply acknowledging this fact.

This by no means lessens the threat to our liberties due to his actions.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 1:58 PM

That weird piece of propaganda that both Clinton and Carter approved eavesdropping on Americans without a warrant seems to have originated from Drudge:

Think Progress has a refutation:

Both of those sites are highly partisan, so I'll excuse you if you don't believe one or the other -- or both. But in this case, however, it's easy to tell who is right. The Federal Government has the text of both executive orders on-line.

Carter: XO 12139--Foreign intelligence electronic surveillance:

Clinton: XO 12949 -- Foreign intelligence physical searches:

The text cited in the refutation is correct. The text cited in the Druger smear has been edited to change the meaning.

AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 2:04 PM

@ Jarrod

"Also it's interesting to compare and contrast this presidential overreach to those of wartime Presidents Lincoln (with his suspension of habeas corpus) and FDR (with his ethnic relocation camps)."

Both of which were determined by the Supreme Court to be overstepping the bounds of their constitutional authority as president.


Yes, exactly. I'm just trying to point out that in the past Presidents have overreached during wartime in efforts to defend the country and we have historically allowed them broad latitude with which to do so. When they overstep, we slap them back.. after the fact. Neither Lincoln nor FDR were ever impeached for their actions during wartime, as unconsitutional as they were.

Perspective is what is needed here. Eavesdropping on international phone calls to known terrorist associated cell phone numbers is a long way from suspending habeas corpus or imprisoning ethnic minorities.

David ThomasDecember 21, 2005 2:07 PM

"The possibility that Clinton and/or Carter may have authorized the same kind of thing underlines the problem with this kind of law. If it was legal for Bush then it was Legal for C&C, if it was illegal for Bush then it was also illegal for C&C."

This does not quite follow. If they performed the same acts against the same class of people, then yes, absolutely. There are differences in the law, however, between foreign agents who are working for a specific, recognized foreign government, and foreign agents who are a part of a terrorist network. It may or may not be that this actually winds up mattering, as I do not know enough about what Clinton and Carter did, but if that is a difference, then the laws do differ.

"But the fact that this _may_ be the new standard for Presidentail activity is the greater concern. Partisan politics are an issue, but they existed at the time of our Founding Fathers and they did not seem to be worried about it. What they did spend time on was the expansion of power by one branch of government."

Now that I strongly agree with. Whether he's your boy or not, we have to say no to this kind of thing. If C&C, as you put it, did likewise, then censure and prosecute them - they can't be impeached for obvious reasons...

"Who we are fighing in this war is a bit abstract. But we should at least need to ask what did Congress authorize:"

Good point.

pigletDecember 21, 2005 2:24 PM

"Eavesdropping on international phone calls to known terrorist associated cell phone numbers is a long way from suspending habeas corpus or imprisoning ethnic minorities."

Bush DID suspend habeas corpus and he DOES imprison people from ethnic minorities. Unfortunately, discussions like this tend to focus on issues concerning directly US citizens, because the others don't get much space in US media. I agree that the eavesdropping thing is a relatively minor issue in comparison with what happens in Iraq, Guantanamo etc. But it causes a lot more outrage than the fact that people are imprisoned for years without defense and without being charged of a crime. The now prevailing, more critical attitude towards Bush is welcome but I wonder how much of it is hypocrisy.

Bruce SchneierDecember 21, 2005 2:30 PM

Be careful of this "evidence" from the WSJ:

"The courts have been explicit on this point, most recently in In Re: Sealed Case, the 2002 opinion by the special panel of appellate judges established to hear FISA appeals. In its per curiam opinion, the court noted that in a previous FISA case (U.S. v. Truong), a federal 'court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue [our emphasis], held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information.' And further that 'we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power.'"

It's based on sloppily deliberate misread of the decision. The following link describes what the decision really says, with a link to the actual decision so you can check the facts yourself:

You know, it's not acceptable to just make stuff up if the law isn't on your side.

Jaime SantosDecember 21, 2005 2:38 PM

I would just like to quote the following excerpt from the constitution of Massachusetts, taken from the article on the 'rule of law' in Wikipedia (which is short and highly informative):

'In the government of this commonwealth, the legislative department shall never exercise the executive and judicial powers or either of them: the executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them: the judicial shall never exercise the legislative and executive powers, or either of them: to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men.'

— Massachusetts Constitution, Part The First, art. XXX (1780).

Alas, it is known since Antiquity that constitutional guaranties will not hold against resolute factions determined to attack them
(examples of which are already described by Xenophon in ancient Athens).

David ThomasDecember 21, 2005 2:52 PM

"Alas, it is known since Antiquity that constitutional guaranties will not hold against resolute factions determined to attack them (examples of which are already described by Xenophon in ancient Athens)."

Unless we have resolute factions determined to uphold them, which we must do.

Ari HeikkinenDecember 21, 2005 3:47 PM

"But that's the security risk. You might think that Bush is fine to have this power, but you have to be fine with the winner of the next presidential election -- whoever it might be -- having this power."

Excellent point, Bruce.

Aristus StainDecember 21, 2005 3:50 PM

War may be hell but the US president is not bothering with the fig-leaf of real war -- 'real' meaning one with a defined enemy and end. He is warring against an adjective whose definition is whatever he wants it to be.

If you think things are clear-cut recall that Nelson Mandela, winner of the '93 Nobel Peace Prize, has been on the US terrorist list for 30-odd years. Hell's bells -- even 'peace' is kind of slippery: Henry Kissinger is a Nobel laureate too.

The root of ethics is not having to rely on the benefit of the doubt. Bush is demanding extraordinary war powers in a permanent state of war. When they are not granted he's assuming them anyway. Serious questioning is 'irresponsible' and 'aids the enemy'. But that's ok. We've *always* been at war with Eurasia. Or was it Oceana?

AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 4:13 PM

Let's be blunt. This is impeachable. I say that as a lifelong Republican, too. The Republic must be defended from tyrants, and that is what we have here.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 21, 2005 4:20 PM

"Neither Lincoln nor FDR were ever impeached for their actions during wartime, as unconsitutional as they were. Perspective is what is needed here. Eavesdropping on international phone calls to known terrorist associated cell phone numbers is a long way from suspending habeas corpus or imprisoning ethnic minorities."

Whoa, I've seen that passing around the web on some libertarian watering holes but I would actually say the reverse perspective is in order. Some of the founding fathers had slaves, and many used varying interpretations of Constitutional authority, but the point is that is all very different to a President admitting to misleading Congress and the public in order to circumvent their oversight.

Neither Lincoln nor FDR said the end would justify *any* means at their disposal, and moreover both had very clear objectives/ends in mind that were far from secret attempts to shift power to the executive branch. I find it interesting to note that some who criticize Lincoln's interpretation of the Constitution are in fact disagreeing with the legal basis for the federal government to intercept and end the practice of slavery. (

You can't really do a simple and direct comparison from Constitutional interpretations of these war-time presidents to Bush for many reasons, not least of all because Bush has neither a clear end nor any clear limit to the objectionable means he has been found taking deceitfully.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 21, 2005 4:30 PM

I guess I should clarify that the link above is to an interview with Daniel Farber, the author of Lincoln's Constitution. With regard to the current situation in Iraq I probably just should have quoted him directly since he said:

"But in general, the analogies just don't provide much guidance. Lincoln's action took place within a matrix of legal understandings about warfare. Today's international terrorism is profoundly unlike the Civil War itself or the types of wars that were contemplated by the international law of the time. Today's actions may or may not be justified, but the justifications have to be found elsewhere than in Civil War precedents."

The point about opposition from those re-interpreting the case against slavery is mine.

aaronDecember 21, 2005 5:16 PM

Maybe the executive branch is gaining power relative to the other two branches of government, but they're all gaining power relative to the people. Power is zero-sum, so their gain is our loss.

Jaime SantosDecember 21, 2005 5:17 PM

'Unless we have resolute factions determined to uphold them, which we must do.'

I agree with you David, I would only add 'perhaps'.

Running the risk of sounding a bit off subject, let me quote part of the text I was referring to:

'Next a summons was served on Kallixenos for having made an illegal proposal (...). Some of the People showed their approval of this, but the great mass shouted out that it was monstrous if the People were not allowed to do whatever they wished.'

Xenophon, History of Greece, quoted by D. Held

Doesn't this sound familiar, in particular having in mind some of the previous comments?

Brian P O'RourkeDecember 21, 2005 5:31 PM

"This is indefinite dictatorial power"

I don't want to get too semantic here, but I think the more commonly accepted definition (instead of definition 3 from American Heritage) can be found in definition 1 of the OED: "A ruler or governor whose word is law; an absolute ruler of a state."

I think you'll find it much harder to argue that Bush's "word is law". And that really is the essential definition - the "dictate" part. While he may ignore the law, and may not currently be ruled by the law, he does not yet dictate the law.

Yes, it's bad behavior, yes it is certainly a power grab, and more power brings the executive branch closer to dictatorial control. However, Bush can't be called a dictator. That argument seems disingenuous. Plus you don't need it: the complete disregard for the checks and balances established by our Constitution should be alarming enough -- and no one should take such disregard lightly.

AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 5:33 PM

"'Next a summons was served on Kallixenos for having made an illegal proposal (...). Some of the People showed their approval of this, but the great mass shouted out that it was monstrous if the People were not allowed to do whatever they wished.'

Xenophon, History of Greece, quoted by D. Held

Doesn't this sound familiar, in particular having in mind some of the previous comments?"

Indeed. Let's hope that over the course of history, we have learned some lessons. Not rely on this, of course, but hope.

TruthInGovernmentDecember 21, 2005 5:37 PM

"Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship... voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

- Hermann Goering, From a conversation with psychologist Gustave Gilbert while jailed at Nuremburg on the evening of 18 April 1946, documented in Gilbert's book Nuremburg Diary.

Might be nice if we learned something from history instead of eschewed it in favor of "reality television" and other drivel that turns our attention away from introspection and real thought.

Tobias WeisserthDecember 21, 2005 6:42 PM

" It's a dense read and a terrifying piece of legal contortionism, but it basically says that the president has unlimited powers to fight terrorism."

You know, this thing ain't new in history. If Americans knew a little more about history outside their boundaries, they wouldn't need to say "D'oh!" after shit happened so often.

Just take a look at pre-WWII Germany. I advise you to read this:ächtigungsgesetz

Now you can compare. @Bruce: maybe you can make a comparison and post it. I'm not willing to go through this horrible piece of legislation in English, this is just a little beyond my language skills...

When the Patriot Act was put into action in the US, the first comments in Europe on that legislation were that this seemed to be some kind of Ermächtigungsgesetz. Additionally, very few Europeans swallowed the lie about WMD in Iraq. Without the intention to brag: I knew it would come to this. I knew that this Bush administration is made up of criminals of the worst kind.

Remember Ari Fleischer? That nice bald guy with the one-liner prior to the invasion of Iraq? "Time is running out, time is running out!"

Your time is indeed running out. With every day you let these criminals run your country, you're losing an additional bit of your democratic character. Welcome to Germany 1933.

What really makes me mad though, is that people in the US start to wake up just after they realize, that they themselves are becoming victims of the criminals running the country right now. While the rest of the world was demonstrating against an illegal war(!!!), nobody in the US seemed to care. So: killing several thousand people in some part of the world based on an obvious lie is OK for the American people, but being spied upon by their own administration is not OK. Some logic.

Had there been stronger opposition against the Iraq war and its lies, then you wouldn't have to mess with the problems you are into now!!!


Bryan@adminfooDecember 21, 2005 7:05 PM

The real questions we all need to be asking ourselves are:

1) What's 'war'?
2) Are we actually at war right now?
3) Who are the enemies?
4) When did this war (or these wars - are we in more than one war?) start, and why?
5) What are the conditions of victory in this war / these wars?

I won't even begin to try laying out my answers to these questions. At the moment, I don't want to convince anyone of anything.

BUT. Just because the newsies and the politicos keep saying the W word, doesn't mean you should be saying it too. When you have carefully thought out these questions, and arrived at answers you feel good about, THEN you'll be ready to take on these questions about what's right or wrong about how we respond to these situations commonly referred to as 'war'.

I'm dead serious here - this isn't just splitting hairs. If you don't think we're really involved in a 'war', then maybe it's time to start contesting the term. It lies at the heart of all these other twists and turns we're taking. Just the repeated use of that word colors all the other thinking we do on the subject.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 21, 2005 7:07 PM

@ Tobias

I've avoided the obvious comparisons to historic events in 1993 (call me crazy but I didn't want a repeat argument about how Hitler was really a leftist), but since you mentioned the Enabling Act I just wanted to mention the "Decree of the Reich President for the protection of people and state" (Verordnung des Reichspräsidenten zum Schutz von Volk und Staat -- often referred to as just the Reichstag Fire Decree) was also a critical event that led to the passage of the Enabling Act.

Ari HeikkinenDecember 21, 2005 8:02 PM

Many people seem to forget that "war on terror" isn't, as such a "war". It's rhetoric. You could similarly say to be at "war on global warming", "war on hunger", "war on organized crime", "war on drug trafficing", "war on bird flu" or even "war on obesity".

"war on organized crime" and "war on drug trafficing" are actually similar to "war on terror", as all of them deal with criminals and it happens globally and domestically. It's curious however, that only the latter seems to scare people enough to give up all their freedoms and rights and to agree with giving any powers to their government they ask in order for them to "be able to protect people".

Think about it. How, for example, will a power to point a finger at someone and declare he/she's a terrorist and at that moment that person losing all his/her rights make you safer? If that person ever happens to be you (maybe you participated in a peaceful demonstration and got called a terrorists) you'd be in some deep shit, to put it mildly.

It's about time americans wake up. It's not about Bush, it will apply to any of your persidents years to come. Also, this isn't some funny joke you hear from TV, it's something real that can make you and the rest of the world a much less secure (and less safe) place. If shit ever happens in the US the german style who's going to "liberate" you or fight for the freedom of the world when you're facing another "hitler" with the biggest military machine on the planet at his whim? No to mention all the the nuke stockpiles..

JeremyDecember 21, 2005 8:11 PM

You, Jamie Zawinski, and the rest of the Bush-hating crowd are tin-foil hat wearing idiots.

RhysDecember 21, 2005 8:40 PM

It's interesting that in our nation which represents liberty, freedom, and justice, has taken on such a dictatorial behavior to its people; Ironically enough, the very people which elected these government powers into office.

This is a rhetorical dilemma in a sense. America has made an Oxymoron out of itself. Now we're paying the price. 3 Trillion dollars in debt, fighting a war that has no sense of direction, George Bush, the 2nd president to be caught with his pants down, and millions of Americans questioning the very foundation of morals and ethics, which the U.S. was built on.

So what I’m really trying to say is; there's a lot of reflecting on ones nation, and ones government needed to be done.
Americans are known to stand up for what’s right, and what’s just. while this unequivocally, most definitely, is not! The public will not let Bush's crime omit,the ball’s in democracy’s court now, its their move, better hope it’s the right one.

Nick LancasterDecember 21, 2005 8:48 PM

First, for the folks trotting out the 'Bush-hater' arguments, may I suggest you listen to less conservative talk radio and learn how to conduct a rational discussion?

1. "We're at war, dammit!"

No, we're not. We are faced with the challenge of an ideologically-driven enemy. Islam has existed for centuries, and, at various points in history, covered large portions of Europe and Asia. Even the Mongol hordes absorbed Islamic thought and practice to some extent.

The mere contradiction or disagreement of American ideals does not equate with a state of war.

2. "Remember 9/11!"

This is nothing more than jingoism. Mr. Bush has used this often, implying that folks disputing or questioning his Administration have 'forgotten why we fight' or aren't supporting our troops. That we're defeatist, disloyal, appeasement-minded folk who don't have the nerve for a real fight.

Except that war is never as simple as a binary choice, either as a military option or in execution. And questioning extreme measures is simply sound practice.

3. "I've got nothing to hide, I don't mind surveillance!"

Baloney. If our terrorist suspect happens to stop in a Starbucks while you're sipping on your latte, you're saying you wouldn't mind being regarded as a possible terrorist contact, with all that this entails?

I may be doing 'nothing wrong,' but it's a darned sight certain that some folks might question the books on cryptography I have on my shelf; that some religious folks would disapprove of the role-playing games (especially those dealing with magic and vampires) I play; and as the FBI has been spying on environmental groups, I'm sure someone can find fault with my choice of charities.

Also, bear in mind that the very people who say they need to pry into your communications are insisting on their own privlege and right to seek confidential counsel. That the threat posed by terrorism is so protean and mercurial that we have to break the very laws intended to cope with it (FISA, PATRIOT).

As Clarence Darrow put it, we can only be free by protecting each other's liberties.

4. "This isn't a dictatorship!"

And it isn't anything laid out in Article II of the Constitution, either, which charges the president to take Care that the Laws shall be faithfully executed.

There's not a jot or tittle that says 'willfully ignore existing statute because it's perceived as inconvenient.'

5. "Conventional tactics of the military and law enforcement aren't enough."

So we need secret prisons, torture, and spy programs? Why are we striving so hard to trash core American values?

If the laws we have on the books aren't sufficient, there's a time-tested procedure for submitting new ones and amending existing ones.

And it's not sitting in the Oval Office making faces like a spoiled brat who got told he couldn't have dessert before dinner.

6. "Clinton and Carter did it! Nyah!"

So, because person x murdered someone and got away with it, it's okay for me to commit murder?

This is like complaining to the highway patrol officer that there were plenty of other speeders on the highway, many of whom were going faster than you.

Can we expect to now punish crimes on the basis of worst, first? ("Oh, Johnny only killed one person by blunt force trauma, that's so much less serious than Tommy's using an assault rifle to cut down students who were praying at school.")

Tobias WeisserthDecember 21, 2005 8:52 PM


Yes, I noticed the Reichstag Fire Decree. Funny, how setting fire to some building can lead to the collapse of democracy. Reichstag, World Trade Center... where's the difference?

There are historians who claim that the NAZIs themselves put fire to the Reichstag in preparation of their desired legislation. Apparently, US intelligence agencies were aware of radical elements training to fly aircraft in the US prior to 9/11. This is speculation but I wouldn't deny the possibility: what if the US administration let 9/11 happen although they possibly could have stopped it? This idea is not so stupid if you assume that they were probably awaiting an attack with a small aircraft or something like that, like it had happened before (that weird guy that flew into the towers with a Cessna?). Maybe they expected a couple of dead bodies - not several thousand - and were willing to risk this just to have a lousy excuse to bomb the country with the second largest oil resources in the world. Who can know for sure?

But don't worry. You'll soon know if Bush is turning into some Hitler like figure. He can't go for a third term. If he uses the "We're at war" excuse to stay in power longer than granted by the electorate of the American people, it's time to load your fire arms that Americans use to keep at home in large quantaties and march to Washington.

Most of what I wrote here doesn't have to be taken too seriously. Please add some dose of irony and sarcasm as appropriate.

Especially Jeremy should relax, maybe swallow something to ease his pain and just enjoy what's been written here without insulting people ;-) And don't worry all of you Bush supporters: In 1933 there was a majority of people like you with a lot of faith in their administration and its actions. This kind of stupidity seems to be perfectly normal in the largest part of the world's population.


AnonymousDecember 21, 2005 9:24 PM

"Reichstag, World Trade Center... where's the difference?"

The WTC wasn't bombed by "communists"?

Davi OttenheimerDecember 21, 2005 10:42 PM

Here's a fine little gem from President Bush himself (posted by the Office of the Press Secretary, April 20, 2004):

"Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

Ouch! And that's not to mention the part where he says the Patriot Act means FEMA is doing a better job of responding to emergencies (this was prior to Katrina):

"What dawned on me when Jim was talking is that we do the same thing, by the way, for federal emergency response. We've done a better job of coordinating part of the Homeland Security Department. And we better coordinate with state and local authorities. So not only are we doing -- coordinating activities when it comes to fighting terrorists, but we're doing so when it comes to responding to emergencies, as well."

Two fine examples of President Bush's solemn word to the American people.

On the other hand, I guess I should point out that this was the same event where he made the infamous close "I think America is now more secure; and we're working to make it even more secure. There is no doubt in my mind that this country can not (sic) achieve any objective we put our mind to."

Well, which is it, value the Constitution or not? FEMA is ready or not? Can achieve the objectives or not?

You have to admit this guy is waaaay more slipperly than Dick...

MediaMatters' review of the FISA quote debate is pretty good:

I thought their analysis of the Clinton/Gorelick comparison was also interesting:

ypDecember 21, 2005 10:59 PM

>>This is novel reasoning. It's as if the police would have greater powers when investigating a murder than a burglary.

I actually think the police SHOULD have more power in investigating murder than a burglary. I think that, for example, illegal search results should be admitted if they prove A killed someone, but not if they prove A smoked pot. It makes perfect sense - to capture a murderer I am willing to give up more rights. And I do not feel violated if murderers go to jail. But I would cry murder (pun maybe intended) if an illegal search proved someone did, say, steal a candybar from 7-11.
The rest of your analogy crumbles accordingly. Sorry.

jammitDecember 21, 2005 11:43 PM

If you can't find the enemy, you might as well create one. I'm not going to go into any Bush /republican /democrat /liberal /little green men bashing at all here. I won't even comment on if Bush performed a criminal act here. Proving any of these things right/wrong, good/bad, left/right won't solve or even get to the bottom of anything. I am an American. I don't need to compare myself to anybody else. My only desire is to be better today than I was yesterday. In simple terms the wholesale wiretapping was wrong. When laws work against the safety and security of the people then the laws are lawless. These are holes that need to be plugged and never opened again. I can't even put into words my disgust at how so few has made so much out of so little for nothing.

MikeDecember 22, 2005 12:36 AM


Sorry for the delayed response....

Let's see, you ask alot of questions. Some of which are out of my breath of knowledge, but I'll respond with what I can...

"Aside from a basic ideology that is used to justify (which is no different from Neo-Nazis, Christian Identity, or White Supremicists in finding justification from all kinds of sources), how are their actions really any different?"
That is my exactly my point.. the key to understanding this whole war on terror thing is to understand the ideology behind our enemy. Recall the phrase "Know thy enemy".... Mafia, Neo-Nazi, etc... to the best of my knowledge (again, out of my rhelm of experience) their motivations might be domination, conquest, power, control, wealth. The Islamic fundamental ideology is one of religion. Power and Religion are completely different motivators (sometimes used together yes, however, they are distinct and unique concepts). Once you understand the motivation, the distinction of their actions become a bit more clear. Refering to your earlier arguement, I would concede that perhaps Mafia, Nazi, etc can be viewed as isolated situations in history... while they are motivated by power, wealth, whatever, they are completely distinct ideologies.... However, Religious ideologies (in particular, the Islamic fundamentalist worldview) can be traced through history (as I pointed out earlier). You ask how are the actions of all these groups differ. I would propose that it is not the action that is important, it is the REASON/IDEOLOGY behind that action that sets these groups apart. As an example, remember that the Nazi's didn't commit suicide missions to win... They were after power/control. An islamic jihadist is willing to kill himself beucase of a religious belief.... There is no way you can place the two in the same category. Anyway, another key difference is the other groups to propose come and go with history.... The Islamic fundamentalist ideology dates back 1400 years.... to say that we are just now seeing this for the first time is ignoring all that history of the SAME group of people.... Again, thats just my two cents....

"How are you going to distinguish those with whom you should use police powers from those with whom you should use military powers? Is it a matter of citizenship? Is it ideology? Is it religion? Violence? Perhaps the NSA should be used to track level 3 sex offenders in the US?"

We jumped topics with this one. Lets confine this to the scope of the NSA, as that was the topic that prompted this discussion. NSA is tasked with the collection of electronic information... Quite frankly, in my opinion, that scope should be larger than any geo-political-social-ideological-etc group. Their goal is to collect electronic data, analyize that data, and assess any threats. Track them all. Domestic, International, wherever... The more data you have, the better your results will be (typical information theory and statistics at work). You sit at an office or something and debate politics online.... there are thousands of mathematicians, engineers, scientist at NSA that spend 40ish hours a week, 52 weeks a year developing the technology needed to accomplish the above goal. They are damn good at it... You only hear about them when something goes wrong. Let them do their thing...

"The issue is where you want to draw the line. The reality of 9/11 is aside from the impact on the psyche of the nation, the impact was a blip in the statistics for the economy and the murder rate."

I don't know what to say to that other than I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm from North NJ.... I lost a number of friends on 9/11. My best friend and her 3 younger sisters lost their father that day.... don't tell me they were just some bump in a statistic or that they were a casualty of some randomn attack.....

JeremyDecember 22, 2005 2:00 AM

LOL, you lefties. Leave academia some day, stop reading hypocrite ultra-rich Chomsky, get a real job, and pull your heads out of your butts so you realize how profoundly stupid it is to compare Bush to Hitler.

AnonymousDecember 22, 2005 5:55 AM

Jeremy, you amaze me.

Anyway. A fair bit of the comparison is needed before the fact, as it's the only way you can decide whether it's going to be the case or not, so you can prevent it. Or try. Or at least decide if you're going to try trying.
Once (or if) you wait till it's obvious that the comparion is good enough, it's much too late.

Now, I do agree that Bush isn't Hitler, by a long shot, but he's certainly leaning dangerously towards the wannabe dictator option, so *now* is the time to decide whether we want to wait more and see, or not.

I do hope you see at least *that* point.

Mr. LogicDecember 22, 2005 6:14 AM

Summary for those who have trouble following the article:

The armed forces are a tool that congress can send off to fight wars after careful deliberation. After they ask: "Who's the enemy exactly, what are we going to do about it" etc. After they are sent, the president is their "commander-in-chief".

After the plain attacks on US buildings and high-quality anthrax distribution the president asked congress to send the armed forces after the "enemy".

Congress did NOT declare war.

The Bush administration said: We're at war. The enemy is a classified secret, what we're doing is a classified secret.

Because the enemy is everywhere, even in the USA, I'm sending the armed (information) forces into the USA to control the situation and because I'm the "commander-in-chief" I have warzone authority over the USA.

When is the war over? Never! You can't end something that never started.

Logic is the key to understanding this situation. Think and keep thinking.

David ThomasDecember 22, 2005 7:57 AM

"I don't know what to say to that other than I'm sorry you feel that way. I'm from North NJ.... I lost a number of friends on 9/11. My best friend and her 3 younger sisters lost their father that day.... don't tell me they were just some bump in a statistic or that they were a casualty of some randomn attack....."

I am terribly sorry for your loss. 9/11 was an enormous personal tragedy for many people, and of course we must respect that. It was not an enormous national tragedy. Do not assign it more weight than it merits, purely for emotional reasons. If he was shot in a robbery, would that change things? The girls would still have lost their father.

On a personal level, every person there likely mattered a lot in the lives of many people. The same is true, however, of every person who dies in a car accident. On a personal level, it matters! On a policy level, we have to look at the statistics, and it WAS just a blip.

TommieDecember 22, 2005 9:07 AM

HOW DARE THEY SPY ON THEIR OWN PEOPLE? Isn't that reserved for the subhumans outside of the US? Maybe you could route your comm-networks over Guantanamo before tapping them, to relief your conscience. And what a scandal! A violation of the holy fourth amendment which is only some 215 years old. Look at the sorrow your rightwing government is causing throughout the world (and also in your own country) day by day and tell me if that wouldn't be worth a 3000 words article and all that hypocritical excitement... sorry, you make me sick!

PhillipDecember 22, 2005 9:14 AM

Let's not stop at the President with this blame.

Others knew and conscented to this abuse of power by their inaction. Several members of Congress and the Courts stood by as the President went forth.

Any Judge who knew of this and did nothing should be impached.

Any Member of Congress who knew about this and did nothing should be expelled.

The head of the NSA ought to be fired along with anyone else in the NSA who carried out these actions.

Criminal prosecution should be considered by an independant counsel where appropriate.

AnonymousDecember 22, 2005 9:15 AM

"While the rest of the world was demonstrating against an illegal war(!!!), nobody in the US seemed to care. So: killing several thousand people in some part of the world based on an obvious lie is OK for the American people, but being spied upon by their own administration is not OK. Some logic."

Good point. As I said above, "discussions like this tend to focus on issues concerning directly US citizens, because the others don't get much space in US media". Just to correct, millions in the US did care and protested against the war. They were ignored by the media at the time, including the famous NYT and all the other who are now so shocked about Bushs power abuses. As if any reasonable person could ever have mistaken what Bush was up to.

Bruce SchneierDecember 22, 2005 9:21 AM

"I actually think the police SHOULD have more power in investigating murder than a burglary. I think that, for example, illegal search results should be admitted if they prove A killed someone, but not if they prove A smoked pot. It makes perfect sense - to capture a murderer I am willing to give up more rights. And I do not feel violated if murderers go to jail. But I would cry murder (pun maybe intended) if an illegal search proved someone did, say, steal a candybar from 7-11."

And honestly, this is not an unrasonable philosphical position. I think a case could be made that you're right. But legally, you're not right. The police do not have more power to investigate a double murder than a single murder. And the legal basis for the NSA's actions are what's at issue here, not the philosophical basis.

Bruce SchneierDecember 22, 2005 9:48 AM

It's amazing what you can find when you go to, click on the Search function, type in "wiretap" and have it search speeches and remarks...

"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."
Remarks by the President in a Conversation on the USA Patriot Act, Kleinshans Music Hall, Buffalo, New York, April 20, 2004

"The Patriot Act was carefully written to protect the civil liberties that have long defined American democracy. All of the investigative tools I have described [including wiretaps] require the approval of a judge before they can be carried out. And similar statutes have been on the book for years, and tested in the courts, and found to be constitutional."
Vice President's Remarks at the KCI Expo Center, Kansas City, Missouri, June 1, 2004

"Let me -- that's a great question. A couple of things that are very important for you to understand about the Patriot Act. First of all, any action that takes place by law enforcement requires a court order. In other words, the government can't move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order."
President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event, Mid-States Aluminum Corporation, Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, July 14, 2004.

"One tool that has been especially important to law enforcement is called a roving wiretap. Roving wiretaps allow investigators to follow suspects who frequently change their means of communications. These wiretaps must be approved by a judge."
President Discusses Patriot Act, Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy, Columbus, Ohio, June 9, 2005

"The judicial branch has a strong oversight role in the application of the Patriot Act. Law enforcement officers need a federal judge's permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist's phone, or to track his calls, or to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of the tools we're talking about. And they are fully consistent with the Constitution of the United States."
President Encourages Renewal of Patriot Act Provisions, Port of Baltimore, Baltimore, Maryland, July 20, 2005

Of course, that was before this all became public. Now it's different:

"Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Getting back to the domestic spying issue for a moment. According to FISA's own records, it's received nearly 19,000 requests for wiretaps or search warrants since 1979, rejected just five of them. It also operates in secret, so security shouldn't be a concern, and it can be applied retroactively. Given such a powerful tool of law enforcement is at your disposal, sir, why did you see fit to sidetrack that process?

"THE PRESIDENT: We used the process to monitor. But also, this is a different -- a different era, a different war, Stretch. So what we're -- people are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this is a -- it requires quick action.

And without revealing the operating details of our program, I just want to assure the American people that, one, I've got the authority to do this; two, it is a necessary part of my job to protect you; and, three, we're guarding your civil liberties.

"And we're guarding the civil liberties by monitoring the program on a regular basis, by having the folks at NSA, the legal team, as well as the inspector general, monitor the program, and we're briefing Congress. This is a part of our effort to protect the American people. The American people expect us to protect them and protect their civil liberties.

"I'm going to do that. That's my job, and I'm going to continue doing my job."
Press Conference of the President, The East Room, December 19, 2005

Davi OttenheimerDecember 22, 2005 11:13 AM

"It's amazing what you can find when you go to, click on the Search function, type in 'wiretap' and have it search speeches and remarks..."

The new American passtime!

And here's another fun search: "FISA"

Remarks by the President on the USA PATRIOT Act
Hershey Lodge and Convention Center
Hershey, Pennsylvania

April 19, 2004

"For years, law enforcement used so-called roving wire taps to investigate organized crime. You see, what that meant is if you got a wire tap by court order -- and, by the way, everything you hear about requires court order, requires there to be permission from a FISA court, for example. [...] We couldn't use roving wire taps for terrorists. In other words, terrorists could switch phones and we couldn't follow them. The Patriot Act changed that, and now we have the essential tool. See, with court approval, we have long used roving wire taps to lock up monsters -- mobsters. Now we have a chance to lock up monsters, terrorist monsters. (Laughter and applause.)"

Roman PearceDecember 22, 2005 11:13 AM


"I think you'll find it much harder to argue that Bush's "word is law"."

I think Jose Padilla would disagree.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 22, 2005 11:39 AM

The EFF just reported another development in the battle for checks-and-balances related to surveillance:

"Yesterday, Magistrate Judge Gorenstein of the federal court for the Southern District of New York issued an opinion permitting the government to use cell site data to track a cell phone's physical location, without the government having to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause. Judge Gorenstein's flawed legal analysis is in sharp contrast to three other federal court opinions strongly rejecting the government’s legal arguments, including a decision by Magistrate Judge Orenstein in the Eastern District of New York. While Judge Orenstein referred to the government's legal arguments variously as 'unsupported,' 'misleading,' and 'contrived,' and a Texas court called the convolutions of the government’s theory 'perverse' and likened its twists and turns to a 'three-rail bank shot,' Judge Gorenstein bought the government's arguments hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, this dangerous new opinion falls into a procedural black hole. Because the DOJ is the only party in these surveillance cases, there's no one left to appeal the decision."

ColinDecember 22, 2005 12:56 PM

Bruce, I'm surprised that your article doesn't mention any of the speculation based solely on revealing comments by public officials about the possibility that the warrantless wiretaps are really "wide net" tapping based upon word watch lists and softer triggers. While the legal issues here seem clear and damning, the real world implications of domestic, warrantless taps in the hands of powerful NSA computers seem more interesting. Imagine the potential to finger harmless innocents everywhere using such a system.

These two quotes seem especially revealing...

President Bush, answering questions at Monday's press conference: "We use FISA still....But FISA is for long-term monitoring....There is a difference between detecting so we can prevent, and monitoring. And it's important to know the distinction between the two....We used the [FISA] process to monitor. But also....we've got to be able to detect and prevent."

Senator Jay Rockefeller, in a letter to Dick Cheney after being briefed on the program in 2003: "As I reflected on the meeting today, and the future we face, John Poindexter's TIA project sprung to mind, exacerbating my concern regarding the direction the Administration is moving with regard to security, technology, and surveillance."

An article and followup about the speculation:

ColinDecember 22, 2005 1:33 PM

It's known that the words "Bin Laden" were probably once on a word watch list years prior to 9/11. Yet there are perfectly academic or journalistic reasons to use the words in communications. That alone would've been enough to intercept "innocent" communications for scrutiny.

Beyond the intercepts, however, it's known that the government has detained citizen academics for questioning simply for being Muslim and vocally supporting the Palestinean struggle in Israel. Once intercepted, communications to a watch nation would automatically be treated with the sharpest critical eye. Do you really want to leave interpretation of randomly-acquired intercepts up to an overburdened and underfunded Intelligence agency which would rather render suspects to torture nations than do basic detective work?! It's not the intercepts themselves that are the problem. It's how they're acquired that makes them suspect.

dan tynanDecember 22, 2005 2:42 PM


Great discussion. I've done my own, somewhat more scathing take on the topic here:

I am amazed that, while talk of Nazis abounds here, no one has brought up Orwell. So please let me. The premise of absolute dictatorial government in 1984 is perpetual, continuous war. It is the ultimate rationale for every sacrifice, including the complete sacrifice of personal privacy. Because the need to "win the war" trumped every other issue, government weilded absolute power -- including the power to spy on individuals, detain them for illegal speech or actions, and torture them. No other justification (or proof) was required.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Next, Dick Cheney will explain why war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.

War, real or rhetorical, is no justification for circumventing (or re-inventing) the law. A surveillance society is not a free society--nor is it more secure.

pigletDecember 22, 2005 4:33 PM

"Next, Dick Cheney will explain why war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength."

We have passed that stage long ago. All US government propaganda since at least 2001 have been variations on the "war is peace" theme. You are right that Orwell is the appropriate reference in this context. If he hasn't been cited earlier, I guess that is because it is really an old hat. Many of us wouldn't dream of expecting the Bushies ever to make a truthful statement.

AnonymousDecember 22, 2005 5:02 PM

"Next, Dick Cheney will explain why war is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength."

Partly an aside... isn't "security through obscurity" a variation on "ignorance is strength"?

Tobias WeisserthDecember 22, 2005 5:08 PM

"I am amazed that, while talk of Nazis abounds here, no one has brought up Orwell."

The problem with the NAZI comparison in contrast to Orwell is that NAZIs really existed. Comparing someone or something against an experienced reality results in a lot of problems. On the other hand, NAZIs are more believable /because/ they existed and the possibility of something equally happening in the future is more real than the visions of Orwell, however brilliant they are.

In my opinion this whole thing is not so much about surveillance for the current administration, it's more about political power. And that really frightens me.

It's different in the UK and the EU in general at the moment. My impression is, that the EU is even faster in destroying privacy than the US. Think biometrics, think ID cards, think RFID and so on. None of that is reality in the US. It is however in the EU.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 22, 2005 5:44 PM

@ Tobias

Well, the US is in full-secret wiretap mode with no accountability while the EU is apparently is just starting to figure out how to rush anti-terror legislation to see who was calling whom (or they were on Dec 14, 2005):

"European Union lawmakers approved measures to allow police greater access to telephone and Internet data to help fight terrorism and serious crime in the 25-state bloc.

The measures would oblige businesses to keep details about callers, such as whom they spoke to, where and when, for between six months and two years. EU states with longer retention periods in place would be allowed to keep them.

The laws would apply to land telephone lines and mobile phones, text messages and Internet protocols. No record of the conversation or message itself would be kept."

The rush was actually billed as more related to the end of the UK's tenure as president of the EU than any present danger -- "it had pledged to try to force the measures through all the bloc's institutions before its mandate ends on December 31".

Davi OttenheimerDecember 22, 2005 6:44 PM

This just in:

"Bush administration officials believe it is not possible, in a large-scale eavesdropping effort, to provide the kind of evidence the court requires to approve a warrant. Sources knowledgeable about the program said there is no way to secure a FISA warrant when the goal is to listen in on a vast array of communications in the hopes of finding something that sounds suspicious. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said the White House had tried but failed to find a way."

Alas, they also believed there were WMD in Iraq and failed to find those either...and Gonzales disagrees with abiding with the Geneva convention. We should trust these opinions?

Since FISA apparently allowed you to search first when in imminent dange and provide evidence later what diff does it make if the new dragnet is overly broad and unwieldy. All the more reason for oversight, no?

JeremyDecember 22, 2005 6:54 PM

To the one-sided, ignorant Bush-haters:

- How long did Clinton let the "war" in the Balkans continue?

- Carter and Clinton engaged in illegal wiretapping.

As long as comparisons to Nazis, Orwell, and dictators are being made, it's truly disturbing how many people in Clinton's administration mysteriously turned up dead.

AnonymousDecember 22, 2005 7:39 PM

"- Carter and Clinton engaged in illegal wiretapping."

Please support this. The Drudge post misquotes two executive orders, leaving out the part that says, effectively, "but only if it's allowed under FIMA." This wasn't granting the Attorney General powers Congress had denied, but rather saying "you can go ahead with that" in a public and recorded way. If you have other evidence, do please provide it. If it is true, I would quite like to see them censured by the senate and prosecuted (they can't be impeached for obvious reasons).

peachpuffDecember 22, 2005 8:34 PM

@David Gaw
"Perhaps the people we were targetting took what they thought, incorrectly, were sufficient precautions, and the New York Times has now corrected their misapprehension."

Only if their "precaution" was to avoid doing anything that would justify a warrant. The Times didn't reveal anything new about the government's spying capability.

tqftDecember 22, 2005 9:35 PM

What happens when someone arrested says the initial evidence came from an "illegal" NSA wiretap - eg a US citizen (born and bred).

Will the court(s) allow them to have the evidence (potentially all of it) thrown out?

How would the government prove the evidence did not come from a "poisoned tree"?

Nick LancasterDecember 22, 2005 10:39 PM


Could you cool it with the 'leftie/idiot/stupid' routine? It's entirely unproductive, even moreso if you are assuming the moral high ground on the subject of fighting terrorism.

Does America's involvement in the Balkans under the Clinton Administration justify or lessen the breach of law committed by Mr. Bush? No.

Does either Mr. Carter or Mr. Clinton's own Executive Orders for warrantless wiretaps justify or lessen the breach of law committed by Mr. Bush? No.

The question is whether or not Mr. Bush broke the law.

Also, not being familiar with the exact text of the Carter/Clinton executive orders and the Bush authorization, I am not sure if they're even the same animal in legal terms.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 22, 2005 10:42 PM

@ Scott

Thanks for the link. The DOJ piece seems a long-winded way to say "the President determined that it was necessary following September 11 to create an early warning detection system. FISA could not have provided the speed and agility required for the early warning detection system."

That's an odd re-write. I'll leave the "imminent threat" and "justice is too slow for victory" talk to the lawyers, but it sure wasn't a lack of warnings prior to 9/11 that put the US in harms way, it was the fact that the government ignored/mishandled the warnings.

The Bush Administration DISMISSED the very warnings in early 2001 that could have easily positioned the new President in position to respond in time...

"Nobody was expecting the President to reverse decades of bureaucratic intransigence. Nor is anyone saying that a bureaucratic shake-up conducted in the Administration's first 233 days would have prevented the September 11 attacks. They just had to try.

But they refused. And what's especially damning is that they refused despite having the Hart-Rudman Commission hand them on their 12th day in office a detailed blueprint for how to begin making precisely the sort of changes they are now complaining needed to be made."

Davi OttenheimerDecember 22, 2005 10:55 PM

Incidentally, some say commissioner Lynne Cheney, former head of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the wife of Dick Cheney, resigned from the Gingrich-Hart panel in a dispute over the first report, and that has a lot to do with Bush and Cheney's decision in 2001 to pass right over the recommendations and ignore the warnings...

Davi OttenheimerDecember 22, 2005 11:46 PM

Here are some more "obvious" warnings given to Bush that show his case for expanded surveillance is bogus:

Sandy Berger (Clinton National Security Advisor) told Condi Rice in January 2001 "I'm coming to this briefing to underscore how important I think this subject is. I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject."

Note that this was after the October 2000 USS Cole bombing and Bush reportely said on his campaign "I hope that we can gather enough intelligence to figure out who did the act and take the necessary action. ... There must be a consequence." But when Cheney was told on Feb 9th that Al Qaeda was responsible for the attack, nothing happened. Not even an attack on the training camps Tarnak Qila and Garmabat Ghar, per the recommendation by the Intelligence community.

Richard Clarke says he presented a "Response to al Qaeda: Roll back" speech and urged Cheney to take quick and decisive action against Al Qaeda (pages 227-30, Against All Enemies) but the Vice President did not even bring Al Qaeda up as a priority when he met with the CIA.

"The Bush administration now had in its hands what one participant called 'the holy grail' of a three-year quest by the U.S. government – a tool that could kill bin Laden within minutes of finding him. The CIA planned and practiced the operation. But for the next three months, before the catastrophe of Sept. 11, President Bush and his advisers held back."

Instead, Bush, Cheney, Rice and Rumsfeld dismissed all the warnings and advice handed to them by the Intelligence community and decided instead to research a policy of global superiority through the threat of pre-emptive strikes and ballistic missle-defenses, giving lip-service to the "elimination" of terrorist threats.

So the need for better intelligence in the White House seems pretty clear to me, but it has little/nothing to do with giving up liberties for surveillance....

peachpuffDecember 22, 2005 11:55 PM


That letter is typical legal BS.

Want an example? The first full paragraph on page three cites Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the same case that Bruce linked above. The letter uses Hamdi to argue that the President can detain enemy soldiers. The next paragraph uses hand-waving to equate spying on civilians with capturing soldiers. Then it throws in a tangential quote, which it cites to death so that the hand-waving paragraph has a bunch of cites at the end.

Of course, if you go up to the top of this very page where Bruce quoted it and linked to the full text, you'll notice that the authority given in Hamdi was subject to judicial review to protect the rights of citizens.

Disappointed in SchneierDecember 23, 2005 1:17 AM

Mr. Schneier, as one who found Applied Cryptography to be a useful, interesting, and enjoyable read, I came to your site to find-out what you had to say on the probable means by which the government is conducting the surveillance program under discussion.

Unless I am mistaken, you are not a practicing attorney or a sitting judge, yet you feel comfortable in describing the NSA's surveillance program as "illegal" in no uncertain terms. Whatever this program is, it is not clearly legal or illegal. Read Orin Kerr over at Volokh if you doubt this; the best he can do is "probably legal" and he is a trained attorney with access to real legal opinions beyond those of Salon, Daily Kos, The National Review Online, David Corn (hah!).

What Kerr is not is a technical security expert (like yourself). Rather than deciding that the government's action is legal or illegal and then combing the internet for supporting evidence from such legal luminaries as Joshua Marshall (double hah!), it might be useful for you to engage in a dialog with someone like Kerr to fill in the gaps in your respective knowledge. Doing so in public (say in the comments of each others' web logs) would educate all of us other lay people as to the technical and legal status of the NSA's actions.

I (like a few members of the FISC, apparently) do not have information beyond what's been published in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. These are not reliable sources for technical or legal information as far as I'm concerned; the anonymous sourcing of many of the articles further complicates the issue (in the case of the anonymous FISC judge quoted in the WP, his anonymity obfuscates his statement so fully as to make it laughably meaningless).

Anyway, I'm disappointed in what I've read from you on this issue. I expected something more interesting and useful from the author of such a nifty book.

Disappointed in SchneierDecember 23, 2005 1:33 AM

Mr. Schneier,

I'm disappointed in myself, too. I misread Orin Kerr, he said the NSA program is "probably constitutional" and "probably violated FISA, but it depends on some details we don't know". And it wasn't you who linked to Joshua Marshall...


Dana AndersonDecember 23, 2005 5:04 PM

Your link to the DC Circuit is broken. As a lawyer with 15 years experience, you're flat wrong about the president's inherent authority and you are misreading the relevant opinions. Being a security guru does not qualify you to interpret the law. Further, Clinton's AG people argued they had the same inherent authority without major objection.

Nick LancasterDecember 23, 2005 7:11 PM

@ Dana:

The Washington Post has noted that the respective Clinton and Carter Executive Orders (i.e., published and on the record) were explicit that such wiretaps not involve, "the premises, information, material, or property of a United States person."

The news release from the RNC, accusing the Democrats of, 'playing politics with national security,' omitted that fact.

And I'm surprised to find a lawyer arguing that Bush's actions are legal because Someone Else Did It First. That, to my understanding, is not a valid precedent, even for a child explaining his misdeeds to a parent.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 23, 2005 7:19 PM

I recalled that surveillance was used by the Republican party for nefarious and partisan purposes, but it took me a bit to find the exact reference:

July 12, 2003

"After the Democrats failed to show up for work at the Capitol May 12, the FAA was asked for Laney's flight information by DeLay's Washington office and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security..."

Republicans apparently called the Department of Homeland Security to demand that the federal government locate the whereabouts of Democratic legislators. Apparently the Republicans even called the Democrats "terrorists" for blocking their plans. (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 14, 2003).

Here's a funny writeup of the whole event:

Not exactly wiretap, but this has some good background on the marginal legality of the manhunt:

"By tricking them into thinking they were searching for a missing or crashed plane, the [Texas Department of Public Safety] got Homeland Security to help track down the airplane of former Texas Speaker Peter Laney (D), whom they suspected of helping ferry Democratic legislators out of the state." The DPS then ordered all records of the manhunt destroyed.

Yes, DeLay, like Bush and Cheney, are exactly kind of people who should make you run screaming when they say "it's my way or the highway". And if/when they have unlimited surveillance powers to force you to accept their rule, well I guess that means you're basically screwed.

peachpuffDecember 23, 2005 7:21 PM

Wikipedia has a page about the case with the broken link pointed out by Dana:

More importantly, that page has a link to the opinion:

Basically, it says that the President has limited authority to conduct surveillance without a warrant, but that FISA court approval counts as a warrant. It overturns an attempt by the FISA court to impose conditions on their approval which were based on the no-warrant limits.

Check out pages 48 and 49 for the much-abused quote:

"The Truong court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue, held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information[26]. It was incumbent upon the court, therefore, to determine the boundaries of that constitutional authority in the case before it. We take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power. The question before us is the reverse, does FISA amplify the President's power by providing a mechanism that at least approaches a classic warrant and which therefore supports the government's contention that FISA searches are constitutionally reasonable."

That's right, inherent authority which is limited. With the limits partly removed by a FISA warrant. There's a lot of discussion about how terrorism is a sort of cross between crime and foreign affairs, but it ultimately dodges the issue we're debating now by saying that FISA warrants are good enough for the Fourth Amendment.

In the end, I say the President's generic authority to conduct wars is trumped by the specific protections in the Fourth Amendment. Otherwise, what the heck is the second part of the Third Amendment for?

David ThomasDecember 23, 2005 9:22 PM

"Your link to the DC Circuit is broken. As a lawyer with 15 years experience, you're flat wrong about the president's inherent authority and you are misreading the relevant opinions. Being a security guru does not qualify you to interpret the law. Further, Clinton's AG people argued they had the same inherent authority without major objection."

As educated citizens of a democracy, we should any of us be "qualified" to interpret the law. How else are we supposed to obey it? We cannot all afford to ask a lawyer about each action we wish to take. That said, of course we won't get it right every time. If a mistake was made in the interpretation here, please explain it, rather than simply asserting it.

Joe AnybodyDecember 23, 2005 9:56 PM

Where are all these terrorists at?
We fore sake our Constitution for what?
Trumped up exploited Terror Alerts?
There are no terrorists that I can see!
Our Government was involved in 911.
Not only did they allowed it but were probably behind it too.
Do I get spied on because the Neocons allowed this Horror to take affect?
Show me One Terrorist that we have caught by this Patriot Act.
911 was done to give logic and pretext for as the Project For New America Century Think Tank suggested long before Sept 11 01 Americas needs "A New Pearl Harbor".
America has been suckered and slowly we are realizing that this TERROR is fabricated and exploited to gain favor with only certain individuals...and guess who they are.
It is with the Power Of Nightmares Bush is able to steal our freedom so blatantly.
By the way Bruce, this article was an excellent article and very well referenced, and written. Thanks you from an average Joe Anybody out here.

Ben WaitingDecember 23, 2005 10:07 PM

If Bush does this in spite of all laws and congress approval,or anyones approval, is there going to be any fools following him when he is done being so argorantly stupid. Seems to me if he wants to disregard common since and supercede law as we all understand it for his illegal causes, wouldn’t that tend to upset millions of people. Or is everybody asleep or could care less about the world and our freedom as it slips down the toilet?
I have Ben Waiting for this country to wake up and yell "Foul" in spite of if he has the right or not to spy on us for no good reason other than "he can"

Stand__SureDecember 24, 2005 12:51 AM

If this does not qualify as a "high crime", then I need some Orwellian re-education.

One of the purposes of the three branches of government in the United States is to provide checks and balances. If any branch is allowed to run roughshod over the law, then the system is broken. This is a fundamental concept of the American system of government. We do not elect a king with fiat powers; rather, we elect an executive who swears to defend and uphold the Constitution.

Many of us have 4th Amendment issues with the secretive nature of the FISA law. Nowhere in the social contract does any citizen yield his or her rights simply for the sake of expediency -- there has to be a compelling and permanent reason for a right to be ceded to the government. Furthermore, no where in the contract does a person agree to let the government abridge his or her rights by doing whatever it wants in secret. Nonetheless, FISA exists, and, if my information is correct, in some 19,000 applications the government has been denied less than 10 times. Moreover, there are provisions in FISA for "emergency" situations that require judicial approval ex post facto. Thus, the Administration's actions have no justification whatsoever. The existing statutory regulations would have allowed what was done. The real difference (and the point that everyone seems to be missing) is that the surveillance being done has no footprints -- it is 100% secret. No one outside of those doing it knows who is being monitored. This is unacceptable. It eliminates accountability, and violates both the letter and the spirit of the law.

Sylvain GalineauDecember 24, 2005 11:56 AM

Since Mr Schneier is neither a lawyer nor a legal analysis expert, one might want to peruse the thoughts of those who are; one sample can be found here :

No, he was not, and stating it in angry Usenet uppercase won't make it any truer. The CIA provided funding, weapons and assistance to Pakistan's ISI, which then passed it to a network of organizations in the field, including - directly or indirectly, how much and how often, no one knows - bin Laden's. There is no evidence Bin Laden or anyone in his organization were trained by the CIA.

Bin Laden helped the mujahideens, the CIA did the same. That is not sufficient to claim one worked for the other, let alone that he was trained by them.

If he was, however, it would be interesting to see how he would justify working for the dreaded Crusaders for so many years to his own foot soldiers and supporters...

Nick LancasterDecember 24, 2005 4:38 PM

For all the carping about, 'Bruce is not a lawyer,' blah-de-blah ... have folks considered that many conservative media 'experts' suffer from a similar lack of credentials? And they comment on a heck of a lot more than legal issues.

The Constitution is not supposed to be some arcane holy-of-holies. The average citizen is supposed to be able to read it and discern intent and meaning, with the courts providing guidance on the more intricate matters, or those that are not explicitly set forth.

But we see now that Bush's concern over 'activist judges' is, perhaps, more direct, for such judges are in a role to contradict the Executive and deny it perceived privleges.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 24, 2005 9:35 PM

@ Sylvain

That's really a game of semantics meant to cover the breadcrumbs back to the US. As if an Intelligence agency in their right mind would stick a shoulder patch on Osama before sending him into battle?

At the end of the day the CIA was heavily involved in training a resistance force to oppose the USSR forces in Afghanistan. Osama was among the Islamic fundamentalist forces who clearly were intended to benefit from this US policy of assistance, training, etc. to make them more effective against a large conventional army:

"In the words of CIA's Milton Beardman 'We didn't train Arabs'. Yet according to Abdel Monam Saidali, of the Al-aram Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo, bin Laden and the 'Afghan Arabs' had been imparted 'with very sophisticated types of training that was allowed to them by the CIA'. [...] In a cruel irony, while the Islamic jihad --featured by the Bush Adminstration as 'a threat to America' -- is blamed for the terrorist assaults on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, these same Islamic organisations constitute a key instrument of US military-intelligence operations in the Balkans and the former Soviet Union."

According to a statement by Cheney himself, this makes the US culpable:

"If a state or a government provided safe harbor or sanctuary, or financing, or training or weapons to a terrorist organization, they would be deemed just as guilty of the terrorist act as the terrorists themselves."

Did you say the CIA gave money and weapons that went to Osama? Uh oh...according to Dick himself that makes the US as bad as Osama.

Oh, and if you really want to split hairs over the Republicans' ongoing hypocritical role in the region, you should also probably wonder how the Ford administration's Chief of Staff, Dick Cheney, feels today about his support of the US policy in 1975 that "introduction of nuclear power will both provide for the growing needs of Iran's economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals".

Was Dick specifically in favor of Iran getting the capability for nuclear weapons thirty years ago? Probably not. But was he just showing an early talent for supporting the wrong geopolitical strategy and generating serious "blowback" that would later threaten US security? Definitely.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 25, 2005 1:10 PM

As a follow-up to my last comment, and to tie this all back to the central theme of this log entry "the security threat of unchecked presidential power", consider Cheney's recent admission that he thinks there should be no checks at all:

"I do believe that, especially in the day and age we live in, the nature of the threats we face, it was true during the Cold War, as well as I think what is true now, the president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy."

Bruce says unchecked, Cheney says unimpaired. How's that for one-upsmanship? We're all worked up debating whether a control is in place and working, and Cheney says "screw you, I'm in power".

It's like we're trying to fix a broken lock on a gate to the Cheney's property and they just light up a howitzer and blow the who damn fence down.

So when we argue about the legality of the Bush Administration, perhaps we need to just stop and think for a minute about a Vice President who openly says that the US is in a state of constant war ("the nature of the threats we face") and the President should not be bound by the law. He might as well just give up the ruse, prop his automatic rifle on his knee and say "I declare jihad against all you infidels who aren't behind me", since it appears he and his wife finally have lost all touch with the meaning of a democracy.

Sylvain GalineauDecember 25, 2005 1:27 PM


If you don't know what training means, I suggest you ask those who know, instead of accusing others of semantic games and 'splitting hair' as a prelude to overindulging in them yourself, never mind scoring the same tired old black-and-white talking points against the same tired old oh-so-evil scapegoats.

You may choose to define your view of the world or the evidence according to Cheney's statements, as if he was the relevant point of reference in everything. (Is he ?) There is no evidence to assert that Bin Laden was 'trained by the CIA'. Claims, certainly. Speculations ? A ton of it. Evidence, none so far.

You'd think the Administration's critics would have learned a thing or two about making claims with no or little evidence by now. In time, there is hope they will realize why their criticism is getting so little traction, despite its volume. You can't convict liars just by virtue of making less shit up, if you'll pardon my French.

Case in point : I have no idea who Abdel Monam Saidali is or why I should believe him; I doubt you do either - do you ? - but claiming what you want to hear clearly seems sufficient proof to you; how different is this kind of argument from the one used to justify Iraq, really ?

Lastly, Pakistan's ISI is not, last time I checked, considered to be a terrorist organization, and neither were the mujahideen in Afghanistan back when they were funded through them, by the U.S. or anyone else; neither were they a threat to the U.S. so I don't see why financing them at that time ought to be considered funding a terrorist organization because a few of the individuals involved turned out that way later.

We also financed Massoud and toppled the Taliban with the help of his troops after he was assassinated just before 9/11. Why is that less relevant ?

Try again. Maybe without the overworn 20/20 hindsight political point scoring that's been beaten to death for years all over the Internet.

On the other hand, this is not even the topic here so there is probably no point.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 25, 2005 1:34 PM

And here's icing on the cake:

"The only problem with Cheney's analysis, says Bruce Fein, a constitutional scholar and former Reagan administration lawyer, is that these limitations on presidential power had been gutted long before Cheney assumed the vice presidency.

The demise of the legislative veto in 1983 and Congress's general reluctance to cross the president's wartime powers has rendered these 'museum pieces,' says Mr. Fein. 'So what's the continuing push on executive power to greater and greater heights here?'"

The article goes on to say that the fear of blame is at the heart of transfer of power to the executive branch. Cheney probably threatens congress with "do you want the next attack to be on your head" and this scares a vast majority into saying "take what you need for whatever purpose you have".

Allen's book "None So Blind" comes to mind.

Sylvain GalineauDecember 25, 2005 1:41 PM


Bruce is not a lawyer. Orin Kerr, the author of the Volokh Conspiracy post I linked to - I missed Bruce's link to it - is an Associate Professor of Law at George Washington University. So yes, his legal opinion has a bit more weight in my view than Bruce's or that of those who only need to hear the qualifier of 'conservative'/'liberal'/etc to preemptively dismiss a different point of view.

At the very least, Mr Kerr puts the complexity of the issue in a useful perspective, in a way that puts the general media - conservative or liberal - to shame. Acting or being offended and blowing steam is quite easy, and may also be convenient if it supports your political views (or objectives, if you are a politician). Whether it is relevant, correct or accurate is another matter entirely.

For the record, my personal opinion after reading Kerr's fascinating analysis is that this is a much greyer area than many are pretending it to be, and for obvious self-interested reasons. And this is precisely why it was very tempting for the government to both step into it and keep it quiet.

Given how little I know about what has actually occurred, and my own limited understanding of the law and the Constitution - amazing how many people suddenly affect to be constitutional experts - I'm hard-pressed to say more at this point.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 25, 2005 2:11 PM

@ Sylvain

"I have no idea who Abdel Monam Saidali is or why I should believe him"

Good point. But at least I know who Sylvain Galineau is...oh, ooops. I guess not. Again, good point, but I can only help with the former. You'll have to expose yourself for the latter.

So, first of all I should point out I was actually quoting Chossudovsky, who is a Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa, Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), Montréal.

Second, he was quoting Abdel Monem Said Aly, from the Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Al Ahram Foundation, Cairo, Egypt.

Incidentally, the statement in question is actually from the Weekend Sunday (NPR); Eric Weiner, Ted Clark; 16 August 1998. You can listen to the program yourself if you wish:

Isn't the Internet great?

And after all that fun stuff, it seems to me that you not only aren't so good with the research, but you also really missed the point of my post.

Let me be clear. Cheney clearly says that any support of a group whatsoever makes a country culpable for the actions of that group. The CIA clearly supported foreign-born Islamic fundamentalist soldiers to fight in Afghanistan (along with and often instead of indigenous rebels), including Osama, thus the US is cupable for their actions.

I don't think he would disagree with me, actually, in that assessment. But I suspect he and I would have radical differences about the method and power required to fix the problem. Then again, maybe if I made as much money as he does from petroleum and "recontruction" companies, I would have a different opinion.

"We also financed Massoud and toppled the Taliban with the help of his troops after he was assassinated just before 9/11. Why is that less relevant ?"

Yes, that is just as relevant, but I suggest you research "blowback". Let me know if you can't find anything. Here's a hint: Mossadegh was unlikely to be a tangible threat to US security (incidentally that meant oil exports, even back then -- concern yes, but threat no) but Dulles approved $1million to be used "in any way that would bring about the fall of Mossadegh". Another loose connection, but we must be careful not to get lost in the trees.

Sylvain GalineauDecember 25, 2005 3:08 PM


Maybe you do not need to know who Sylvain Galineau is because he is not the one whose statements are being quoted as evidence in an argument. Can't you tell the difference ?

I'm not asking you where this individual works or who you are quoting, but who he is and most importantly, why I should believe his claims. On what evidence are they based ? Where can I check them for myself ?

In other words, why should the standard of evidence for the Administration's critics be lower ? You demand the highest standards from Cheney & co. - and I am perfectly fine with that, by the way - but seem perfectly happy with perfunctory online quotes from people you know next to nothing about, except that their statements support your own view and bias. Claims that cannot, as far as I can tell, be verified.

Sorry. Not good enough; you are entirely correct about one thing: our respective definitions of research are rather different. Googling quotes to support a pre-existing belief does not constitute 'research', as far as I'm concerned. To each his own, I guess.

So your point about Cheney is no more relevant now than it was earlier. The U.S. did not finance a terrorist organization called al-Qaeda or one Osama Bin Laden; it gave money to a foreign government to arm, train and organize those who volunteered to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. So Cheney's definition does not apply here.

Did Cheney imply that "if a state or government provides help to an organization, a very small minority of which later become a terrorist group, that country is then responsible for their actions", or was he talking about helping organizations *known* to be terrorist at the time they are being helped ? You are claiming the former. Your claim is rather dubious on its face.

Never mind that by your own standard the man who sells a handgun to a future murderer, years ahead of the actual crime, would be retro-actively 'culpable' for the murderer's actions. That may be your opinion. I disagree, obviously. And I would suggest you clear this one up before interpreting constitutional law in public.

In the end, repeating 'blowback' as a leitmotiv does not prove or establish anything. As far as Mossadegh and Iran are concerned, maybe you should heed your own warning. This thread is about government wiretapping. Speaking of getting lost in loose connections and other trees...

Davi OttenheimerDecember 25, 2005 7:58 PM

"Never mind that by your own standard the man who sells a handgun to a future murderer, years ahead of the actual crime, would be retro-actively 'culpable' for the murderer's actions. That may be your opinion. I disagree, obviously. And I would suggest you clear this one up before interpreting constitutional law in public."

Interesting and rather sadly mistaken viewpoint about culpability, let alone blowback (e.g. knowing better).

Obviously you wouldn't believe me even if I said you are wrong, so I'll let the BBC explain a relevant example:

"The court found [Dutch trader Frans van Anraat] guilty of aiding war crimes, as 'his deliveries facilitated the attacks'.

'He cannot counter with the argument that this would have happened even without his contribution,' the presiding judge said.

However, the judges ruled that van Anraat was not aware of the genocidal intentions of the Iraqi regime when he sold the ingredients for poison gas."

Nick LancasterDecember 25, 2005 11:58 PM


How does, 'Bruce is not a lawyer,' constitute, 'Bruce's opinion on this subject is a crock,' - regardless of Mr. Kerr's credentials. I'm interested in the questions Bruce raises, and my own reading of both Article II of the Constitution and the Authorization of Force is that neither explicitly states nor implies the broad powers that Mr. Bush seems to believe he has.

I shouldn't have to be a lawyer to express that opinion. I shouldn't have to be a lawyer to be able to make a reasonably accurate interpretation of either the Constitution or the Authorization of Force that is in keeping with general principles of law and the checks and balances of our system of government.

If such is not the case, then we are ALL talking out of our hats.

Sylvain GalineauDecember 26, 2005 1:55 AM

Nick, where did anyone say you couldn't state your opinion about the Constitution ? But it's just *your* opinion; and yes, Bruce, you and I are talking out of our hats on this matter, however distasteful it may be to you, which is why the opinion of fellows such as Mr Kerr matters.

Interpreting constitutional boundaries and U.S. laws is not something anyone can do with no training. Which you'd quickly understand if you bothered reading Mr Kerr's article instead of dismissing it as mere credentialism.

Never mind that we still have too little information about what was exact ordered, how and against whom. Which is rather critical in determining its legality, as anyone who has read the relevant legislation would know. Asserting something is legal or constitutional is not just a matter of stating one's opinion. Evidence, rules and procedure are involved.

We have, as usual, enough to state opinions. So far, I do not see enough expertise nor data to support the kind of categorical statements being made on this matter.

Sylvain GalineauDecember 26, 2005 2:32 AM


It's not my 'viewpoint', it's yours, apparently. Modern societies and legal systems do not recognize the retro-active culpability you claim (Except, possibly, in a few harsh dictatorships). And for good reasons. Sorry.

Since Mr Van Anraat's case proves this rather nicely, I gladly welcome its quoting.

His conviction was based on his knowing his products were going to be used as ingredients for chemical weapons such as mustard gas, thus violating various international embargoes on their exportation and providing the grounds to convict him of complicity in war crimes; the use of chemical weapons against Iran during the war and later Kurd civilians were publicly known at the time of these sales, you will recall.

In other words, Mr Van Anraat is not someone who sold Iraq weapons' ingredients years before the crime, at a time when no clues existed as to their future use and application. In fact, the genocide charges against him did not stick precisely because he could not be proven to know about this specific intent of the client regime.

So whether he knew or not was the crux of the case. His fleeing to Iraq until 2003 under an identity provided by the Hussein regime did not exactly help his case either.

Are you then saying the US government knew, throughout the 1980s, that a few mujahideens would turn into ferocious enemies of the U.S. and bring down the World Trade Center nearly a decade later ? That they knew as much and as well as Mr Van Araat ? That is a very dubious claim, to say the least.

Your incoherent rantings about cherry-picked quotes from Mr Cheney are still as irrelevant and unpersuasive as they were earlier. Your ramblings confusing long-term consequences with responsibility in contradiction with basic legal principles are unimpressive. Quoting news releases about cases the basic logic of which you do not understand is not helpful either. (Speaking of 'blowback'...)

Should you be able to provide more evidence for Bin Laden's alleged CIA training than googled quotes from 'experts' you know nothing about and whose competence you are unqualified to assess, let us know.

Back to our normal programming.

Nick LancasterDecember 26, 2005 4:21 AM

@ Sylvain:

You misread my statement, which is not a dismissal of Kerr's credentials or his opinion, but questioning the trend of dismissing Bruce's comments out of hand because he's not a lawyer.

In other words, if Bruce's opinions are factually incorrect or misinterpret Constitutional Law, this can be pointed out by presenting facts to the contrary, not the childish, "You're not a lawyer! Shut up!" (Which is not solely directed at you, as others have made the same statement in far more infantile tones.)

IMHO, a non-lawyer SHOULD be able to interpret the Constitution with some reasonable degree of accuracy. Understanding the basic principles of our Constitution, and the rights afforded to us under law, makes our democracy stronger.

Similarly, all citizens should feel comfortable discussing the law and the Constitution without fear of being shouted down on the sole reason that they aren't a lawyer, or that their perception of right and wrong is somehow flawed as a result.

Sylvain GalineauDecember 26, 2005 4:54 AM

Nick, I am afraid the misreading is entirely yours since I did not in any way dismiss Bruce's statements; I only pointed out that he is not a lawyer or a trained legal analyst - a plain fact, as far as I know - and pointed out the analysis of someone who has extensive professional expertise in the matter. In other words, something as close to a legal 'Schneier opinion' as I could find at the time.

How exactly does that imply I am telling Bruce to 'shut up' ?

It would indeed be nice if a non-lawyer could interpret the constitution and the U.S. code. But in practice most of us generally cannot; you might judge it unfortunate but that's hardly relevant here. I could likewise claim that non-engineers should be able to secure a computer network; that is a lovely intent as far as it goes but does it follow that anyone's opinion on the matter is as valuable or relevant as Bruce's ?

Pointing out your inexperience, my own, or someone else's factual lack of expertise, and providing a pointer to the informed opinion of one expert is not tantamount to 'shouting them down'.

Mere perceptions of legal right and wrong based on a layman's understanding of complex legislation is in fact quite likely to be flawed, or at least vastly more so than the opinion of someone who studies and teaches in the legal field for a living.

And anyone - including me - should feel comfortable in pointing out that fact, shouldn't they ? Or are you the only one who should feel comfortable ? Shouldn't I feel free to express my opinion without being accused of implicit censorship as soon as I point out that Mr Schneier is not a lawyer ?

When and if Mr Kerr opines on matters of computer security design, I will suggest he reads what people like Bruce have to say. But when the latter opines on complex legal matters,I will suggest he and others people read the opinions of experts like Kerr.

Why is that inappropriate ? I'm sorry if it bruises your legal self-esteem, or Schneier's, but unless you are both legal and constitutional experts, shouldn't your opinion be at least in part informed by theirs as much as Kerr's opinion on network security should take some of Schneier's into account ?

Thomas Elias WeatherlyDecember 26, 2005 1:37 PM

We know that President Bush desires to establish the Presidency as a dictatorship. He assumes that his faction of American politics will remain in power. (Do you think that he will suspend elections and we will let him do it?). What are we going to do about it. We owe it to ourselves, our children, our Constitution, our country, and the planet to restore the rule of law in this country. If our present representatives and senators will not hold hearings and demand that the president act in a lawful and constitutional manner, vote the rascals out of office. This is not a liberal, conservative, democratic, republican, christian, jewish, atheist, rich, poor issue; it is whether we want a dictatorship or not. Plain, honest speech followed by legal, constitutional, determined action is needed to correct this matter immediately. Write your senators and representative immediately. Join EFF. Join the ACLU. Join the Libertarian Party. Join the republicans and democrats and express your displeasure with the president's action to your party leaders, especially if you are a republican. You are free by G-d or nature.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 26, 2005 5:02 PM

@ Sylvain

It seems that we should be outside throwing snowballs at each other instead, but since I don't even know if you live near snow...

"Modern societies and legal systems do not recognize the retro-active culpability you claim (Except, possibly, in a few harsh dictatorships). And for good reasons. Sorry."

Ha ha. ROFL. Thanks, that really makes my day. First you say you are not the one being quoted and therefore need not provide your background and qualifications (your standard, not mine) and then you espouse this right wing credo like it's a given.

That's precisely what the likes of Cheney and his "good ol' boy" network is trying to make us think.

Look at it this way, when a President or VP makes a *policy* they have a result in mind, right? You might say that they *want* to be found culpable if the results are positive (a pat on the back) and ensure plausible deniability if the results are negative. Hey, that's politics. Cheney goes one step beyond, though, and argues that not only should Executives be able to skirt blame, but they should also be left to operate above the law.

"Are you then saying the US government knew, throughout the 1980s, that a few mujahideens would turn into ferocious enemies of the U.S."

Well no, actually, they weren't going to turn into ferocious enemies -- they ALREADY were. The CIA knew very well that providing radical Islamic Arab mercenaries in Afghanistan, instead of indigenous and more centrist rebels, could backfire. The very term "mujahadeen" means (Islamic) holy warrior. You think that meant something positive to Regan? Perhaps, since they had people like Lynne Cheney hanging around who thought religious extremism means "good guys". But in fact it was the Pakistanis and Saudis who wanted to align with the Islamic Arab forces, for obvious reasons, and the US did little or nothing to protest mostly because they had post-Vietnam shock compounded by cold-war blinders. They thought they were still just engaged with the USSR, even though many in the intelligence community said another "hearts and minds" theater of conflict was evolving. In fact it is well documented that by the late 1980s it was clear that mujahadeen leadership (e.g. Hekmatyar and Sayyaf) were totally anti-American, but the US policy makers basically ignored the warnings and failed to engage locally to stabiliz the country. (check out the book Ghost Wars)

You are absolutely kidding yourself (and us) if you think that modern societies absolutely do not recognize "retro-active" culpability. I don't know how that would differ from any other culpability, since it's mainly to do with something in the past. BTW, what's the statute of limitations you are proposing? One minute, a day, two weeks, ten years? Is there also a scape-goat clause so culpability disappears altogether as soon as someone like Ollie North steps into the picture? Oh, the Contras. Do you find, like Cheney, that Reagan should not be culpable for that major policy (legal and human rights) fiasco?

"In other words, Mr Van Anraat is not someone who sold Iraq weapons' ingredients years before the crime, at a time when no clues existed as to their future use and application."

Well, that's one standard, but far more limiting than Cheney's broad-based criteria. Even so it is clear that Bill Casey (CIA director) supported the mujahadeen in full knowledge of the fact that they were radical militants and anti-American. The policy-makers of the time just didn't think that the subsequent roll-back of the USSR and following destruction of freedom in Afghanistan would pose any direct risk to US security. Just look at Iran-Conta. The US sold weapons to Iran, an avowed enemy with total knowledge of what they would be used for, and then gave money to the Contras to support a totally repressive militant regime. Yeah, no culpability there. Duh.

"Should you be able to provide more evidence for Bin Laden's alleged CIA training than googled quotes from 'experts' you know nothing about and whose competence you are unqualified to assess, let us know."

Me? I have provided plenty of source and reference material. You? Howabout some backup to your wild claims. If you hate Google, then use another search engine. Go to the library. Eventually you might come to terms with the fact that Cheney says any support whatsoever/whenever is a link to terrorism. So there's really no need to dicker about the word "training" when it's a fact that military technology was given by the Regan Administration to anti-American forces around the world and Bush fumbled the blowback ball when he took office in 2001.

Incidentally, the "unless you are both legal and constitutional experts" is a bunch of crap.

Either make a sound argument or leave people alone. Repeatedly attacking the person speaking for not being smart or qualified enough for *your* liking smacks of nothing more than a pathetic ad hominem fallacy.

Richard SchwartzDecember 26, 2005 8:29 PM

Hi Sylvain -- fancy meeting you here ;-)

I agree that Kerr's analysis shows many grey areas. But go back to Bruce's post, and tell me... if courts ruled that every single one of those grey areas favored the administration's interpretation, which of Bruce's statements would be false?

- "a terrifying piece of legal contortionism"

- "a legal rationale for a dictatorship"

- "Unchecked Presidential Power"

- "the president can define war however he chooses, and remain 'at war' for as long as he chooses"

I've got two threads about this going on in my own blog right now, and in one of them I've pretty much convinced myself that Echelon-style domestic surveillance without warrants probably is constitutional. Whether or not it violates statute I'm not sure, but maybe it is perfectly legal from every technical point of view. If that's true, I find it disturbing -- but not surprising. Bruce has laid out the reasons why it is disturbing, but I'll add one further point. It's disturbing because the administration's viewpoint boils down to this: we're supposed to trust the executive not to abuse the unchecked domestic power it has in wartime, and that's antithetical to the single most fundamental principle that the Constitution was meant to establish. I.e. that the only way to trust the government at all is to never trust any one branch on it's own.

As for why it's not necessarily surprising, that's simple: we can't take it as a given that the Constitution was perfectly constructed 200+ years ago to cover all the implications of modern technology on issues of separation of powers and personal liberty, or even that statutes passed into law within the last 50 years deal with these issues adequately. I've got a thread running on my blog in which I've tentatively convinced myself that Echelon-style domistic surveillance without warrants probably is legal... but it shouldn't be. Not even in wartime. (The thread is here: ).

Sylvain GalineauDecember 27, 2005 4:14 AM


If qualifying statements of 'right-wing credo' and hammering on Cheney conspiracy theories is all you have to dismiss an argument, I'd suggest it might be time to wonder whether you are standing on such solid ground.

If one single unverifiable quote constitutes 'plenty of source material', then it's another indicator of the quality of your standards and how much you need to establish your beliefs. Very little, apparently, as long as it says what you want to hear.

Which doesn't make you so different from the people you claim to be denouncing. Maybe obsessing about Cheney is causing you to emulate the man a bit ?

Never mind that the quantity of 'source material' is of no importance, nor is it in question. Its relevance and quality is the problem here. You have so little you are forced to grandstand and gesticulate all over the place about Mossadegh, Iran-Contra, Cheney and his wife, Reagan, tying it all together to somehow prove Bin Laden was CIA-trained, and all in a thread about government wiretapping. Training for the circus maybe ?

I don't know, one would think you would have learned a thing or two about trusting claims and unverifiable intelligence in the past few years, never mind connections that cannot be proven.

You have, however, provided plenty of evidence that you do not quite understand what you are talking about, especially when it comes to law and responsibility. Common law, as a general rule, does not recognize responsibility for providing future criminals with tools long before a crime is committed, if one has no way of knowing that crime would be committed. There is nothing right-wing or left-wing about it. And there is no issue of limitation since those apply to actual crimes.

Instead of flatly asserting I am kidding myself, provide actual examples to show that this is commonly done. So far, you have provided a single one that doesn't apply since the accused was arming a criminal regime while the crime was being committed in full knowledge of that fact. So much for your understanding of the issue and the relevance of that voluminous 'source material'.

Finally, I do not have any wild claims to back up. I am only questioning yours. I do understand your desperate attempts at evading the embarassing questioning by diverting it all over the map and as far away as possible from those arguments you are so obviously no more equipped to back up than Mr Cheney.


1. Can you back you up allegations of Bin Laden's CIA training with more than quotes from individuals I would have to believe on faith ? It's a yes or no question. No ifs, maybes or uninformed speculations about this, that, the other thing or the color of Lynne Cheney's dress on Monday. Can you or can you not ?

2. Can you show that Mr Van Anraat provided the Iraqi regime with tools and ammo long before it was to be used, without knowledge of that ultimate use ? In other words, can you in fact contradict the court that convicted him ? Yes or no ?

3. Can you prove that people or entities can as a matter of law be convicted for providing criminals with instrumental help long before they committed a crime, when they had no way of knowing the latter would be committed ? Yes or no ?

Yes, you are not qualified enough for my liking and the evidence to justify it is now spread over several posts. Thank you.

"Either make a sound argument of leave people alone."
Precisely. Once again, may I suggest you heed your own warning ?

Sylvain GalineauDecember 27, 2005 4:51 AM

Richard !

So nice to run into you. And such a relief to know I am not the only one doing this under my own name...

Like too many these days, from Literature Nobel Prize winners to anti-war demonstrators, Bruce sounds sufficiently ticked off to indulge in trivializing dictatorship. But while I still find this kind of language over the top and even counter-productive, I will grant those who use it a bit too lightly and liberally for my taste one thing: dictatorship can and will creep on you, one small step at a time. Such is the nature of the beast; but that also makes it even more important to not cry wolf all the time, lest we dull our senses to the actual thing. It's a tough balancing act.

Yes, it is definitely a grey area and there has been more by Kerr and his associates since. As it turns out, the Fourth Amendment, for instance, is far from being as absolute as everyone makes it sound these days (see the post about Special Needs exceptions: There is more on FISA and how the technology involved may be relevant:

Bottom line: it's one thorny bush - no pun intended - and for all the political grandstanding, very smart are those who can see clearly what is going on.

I do agree with your general point, which seems to concur with Daniel Solove's, linked by Bruce above. His problem, yours, and mine, resides in the two words used to justify a lot of this : 'inherent authority'. Which, in the way it is being used, seems to intend 'inherent' as synonym for 'unchecked', if not 'uncheckable'. This is all the more worrisome since there is an apparent pattern to it.

In the end, I wonder if our checks and balances can be so effective when one party holds so many levers of government. Not to sound overly trite, but the Constitution is ultimately a piece of paper; if a majority of the people sworn to uphold it have an interest - political, personal or otherwise - in looking the other way, what happens ?

The healthy thing during the Clinton presidency was not so much the latter as the fact that the Congress was on the other side, led and prodded by a charismatic leader of its own. So neither side could easily indulge in the abuse of power necessary for their grand ideological pet projects. As it should be. So in a way, I am surprised that things aren't worse than they are today.

Quite reassuringly, the word has leaked out and a solidly American questioning and debating process has begun. If this were a true dictatorship, the critics would already be sitting in jail or worse. The leakers would be pursued and eliminated as we speak. And the leader would not be sort of apologizing by claiming this is in fact a very limited thing, nor would he be defending its legality, would he ?

Count me as an optimist. The system is still working, and rather well, because people are vigilant. And I have a ton of respect for that, however loony their individual motives or rationales may seem.

ortsedDecember 27, 2005 9:12 AM

"Surely the bin Laden example suggests that concern over the security breach here is not at all idiotic. Bin Laden was tracked using ihs cell phone until 1998, when a press leak, much like the current one by the times, caused him to change his behavior."

That story was never true. The press never caused bin Laden to stop using his phone. He had already stopped using it by the time the story came out:

Davi OttenheimerDecember 27, 2005 2:29 PM

@ Sylvain

I see nothing new in your post. The same re-hash of your argument that "you can never provide a source good enough for me" is really not an argument at all.

Thus, the fact that you dismiss my references doesn't really surprise me. I am not sure what you hope to accomplish by failing to explain a fair criteria by which someone could be considered "qualified" to have an opinion in your world.

For example, you said the US did not know that the mujahadeen were anti-American at the time that they were providing them technical and financial assistance (e.g. allowing them to become more proficient in their resistance to large a large conventional army).

That is patently false and shows you have no idea what you're talking about with regard to a history of US forreign policy. Moreover, you held out this falsehood as a prime differentiator from a man found guilty of aiding war crimes. Well, what now? There would appear to be no difference again other than your hope that some concept of "long before" might be useful. But again, the key point is that the US knowingly armed anti-American (or extremely anti-Democratic, if you will) forces. Just because the US Administration believed there was little/no risk of them turning around and attacking on US soil, does not mean that there was no risk, as 9/11 proved uncontestably.

"Common law, as a general rule, does not recognize responsibility for providing future criminals with tools long before a crime is committed, if one has no way of knowing that crime would be committed"

Eh? Future criminals? This is the sort of double-standard thinking that is at root of the problem. If the law were blind, then human rights violations would be just that, but instead we are told to swallow the fact that a policy of arming extremist anti-Americans is not the same as arming terrorists. Why? Because we call them "freedom fighters" when they do our bidding. Because we estimate the damage they will do will not make it to our local newspapers?

You remove the ability to say a crime was committed (or will be) when you let the Executive power define a violation of human rights as a necessary and just cause.

You say that this is a distraction from the issue of "wiretap". But the issue is whether the Executive branch should be allowed to operate unchecked in any/all areas of policy. Wiretap is merely a symptom of the Cheney doctrine that specifies that Executives should be allowed to declare a constant state of war and operate above the law.

We should no sooner allow the wiretap than we should allow the Executive branch to escape the checks and balances that are meant to prevent another Watergate, Iran-Contra, 9/11...

"one single unverifiable quote"

Oh, please stop. You're killing me. How nice it would be to live in a world where you just could doubt everything -- in fact, I find it endlessly amusing that you like to just say "not good enough" without providing any counter-argument. Alas, for those of us here in the real world it is no secret that the US supported the anti-American mujahadeen. In fact, as I mentioned, the US policy was to support Saudi and Pakistani involvement in the conflict, so you will be hard pressed to find evidence that anti-US groups were NOT a beneficiary.

So, how would you address this scenario: a man comes into your gun store and says he needs you to give him money and weapons to help a gang to attack the police in another town. Even though you know all gangs rob gun store owners you give him the weapons because you hate the police in the other town. Then, when some people from the original gang come and rob your store you claim "but I never thought the gangs would attack me". From an economic, and therefore risk, standpoint you significantly increased the chances of causing harm to yourself. And from that point forward you would be wise to use a better system of checks and balances to prevent causing yourself another predictable disaster, rather than assuming that everything will work out for the best if you just pin on your sherrif badge, toss on your ten-gallon hat, saddle-up and head out for revenge.

Davi OttenheimerDecember 27, 2005 3:09 PM

" If this were a true dictatorship, the critics would already be sitting in jail or worse. The leakers would be pursued and eliminated as we speak. And the leader would not be sort of apologizing by claiming this is in fact a very limited thing, nor would he be defending its legality, would he?"

Oh, I guess I'm a glutton for punishment so I'll dispute this as well...

From a security perspective the lack of an incident is not reassuring, let alone proof, that there is no risk of a future incident.

Instead you should look for defense-in-depth from a serious of controls. Granted, the ability of the public to criticize the Administration's policy is evidence of one type of control, but it certainly does not have enough teeth on its own. Critics are a mere detective control and without some preventive controls to back them up, they are no more effective on their own at preventing a dictator than a camera on its own can prevent a terrorist attack.

In other words, there is no need to bother with pursuing the critics if those in power have little/no fear of ignoring them. Some historians suggest the presence of critics can actually end up becoming self-defeating unless there is a clear charismatic leader to their voice, or at least organization that provides a unified message. In fact they may prove to be a useful distraction as they give a guise of some form of control when in fact the more important preventive ones are carefully undermined or removed entirely from the system.

Sylvain GalineauDecember 27, 2005 4:07 PM


Since you now have me saying things I did not write - I never said we did not know they were anti-Americans; is there no gap between radical anti-Americanism and active warfare involving thousands of dead civilians on US soil ? - to support arguments that are increasingly removed from both the overall topic of this thread and our discussion, there is little point in pursuing this. I don't see the point in arguing against the same incoherence for pages on end, as oddly entertaining as it may have seemed at first.

So feel free to keep hammering your pet conspiracy theories, please make up more invalid legal arguments - people are now to be made retro-actively culpable for taking more than zero risks...good one ! - and whatever contorted examples are required to make them sound vaguely relevant to the bizarre version of history you describe. Hey, as long as it's fun to you.

I am also increasingly afraid we are beyond overstaying our welcome around here. But I'll make one last general point about this tired topic and then go spend my time in more productive ways.

This much is certain: your strenuous belief in your self-evident monopoly on the truth. Which makes you sound very much like some of your opponents; we are clearly with you or against you.

What amazes me to this day is how many are still so willing, able and ready to rationalize their beliefs and arguments with the same extraordinarily weak assumptions, on both sides of the argument.

In this instance, that al-Qaeda and Bin Laden are indirect U.S. 'blowbacks' i.e.
that they would not exist today if it hadn't been for the U.S. involvement in the Afghan war. Because in order to have a blowback, you need a (negative) consequence that would not have occurred in the absence of the alleged cause.

The facts, as usual, tell a rather different story:

1. Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Yemen and others provided the vast majority of the foreign manpower, organization and logistics in the Afghan war against the Soviet invasion. Bin Laden and his collaborators are mostly Saudi, Yemeni or Egyptian citizens, for instance.

2. Contrary to what is generally assumed, most of the funding for this conflict also came from non-US
sources. Saudi Arabia alone spent more on the conflict than the U.S. did.

In other words, the belief that the U.S. alone either engineered the mujahideen monster or was absolutely necessary for its birth is a gross exaggeration, if not a myth, nurtured and maintained for different political purposes by different groups. (Including the Taliban to discredit some of its enemies at one point).

We are effectively asked to believe that the same CIA that could never eliminate Castro next door, could not handle minor civil wars in neighboring South America without causing large disasters, the CIA that, later, failed to detect India's and Pakistan's nuclear activities, the CIA that came to publicly assume Iraqi WMDs were a 'slam dunk'...we are asked to believe this rather gaffe-prone agency not only went to the most remote, most isolated and culturally alien country on earth and got it all right, but that it was so effective and central to everything that it is the undeniable root cause of everything that came in that region since then, good bad and ugly.

Is that the tale I am supposed to swallow ? I don't know if I have that kind of appetite.

While the CIA was influential and sometimes instrumental - Stinger missiles come to mind - implicitly or explicitly claiming that this war was owned and run by its agents is a very significant exaggeration. A claim that, ironically, still aggravates many Muslims to this day.

That the CIA used the networks set up by the Saudis and Pakistan's ISI to move people and equipment around the battlefield is a given. Claiming these networks may have been wholly or significantly created by the Agency is at least an order of magnitude less credible given how few people it had on the ground and how little evidence there actually is for this.

Given the context at the time - Reagan's presidency, the Cold War and the Evil Empire etc - it was quite natural for the United States to exaggerate and amplify its role in the USSR's defeat, even to the risk of insulting our former Muslim buddies in the field by claiming it as a U.S. victory. The truth can also be the casualty of pride and arrogance, especially when politics are involved.

Today, it is also understandable that some will exaggerate the US role even further in order to score their own narrowly partisan political points. Not only did we pay for that war, we even 'created' and 'trained' all its actors (especially the bad ones). Which, of course, is a necessary presumption in order to justify the fashionably self-loathing litany of U.S. evil and other self-inflicted calamities.

All understandable as far as it goes, but how does it relate to the truth ?

Not long ago, as we listened to yet another armchair intelligence expert rant about Bin Laden and CIA blowbacks at the local pub, a Lebane friend remarked : "Who do Americans think they are to believe they can be
the only possible source of everything under the sun, even their own enemies ?" In his own way, the man had a point.

Most ironically, the same people who most believe in such theories also assume a better understanding of Muslim sensibilities...all the while supporting arguments that essentially rob those same Muslims of their one remarkable, courageous, collective military victory of
recent times, the one they can most claim as their own. After all and however religious, radical or creepy their motives may have been, hardy individuals had to climb those mountains and aim those missiles; that so many of them came from all over the Muslim world, Shia and Sunni, to do just that, is sort of remarkable and was in itself an indicator of things to come.

But that doesn't quite fit the narrative Republicans or Democrats need for their purposes; both sides need to claim we made all this, for opposite reasons of course.

And here we are today, implying that if it hadn't been for the CIA - the same would couldn't kill good old Fidel after trying for decades, remember - they couldn't possibly have done it. (Maybe Bin Laden would not even have been born ?...)

No arrogance and ignorance in that line of thinking, uh ? But hey, if that's what it takes to claim Bin Laden as our evil creation, then so be it. Apparently.

Tell you what. You go believe that story. Good luck with that.

Sylvain GalineauDecember 27, 2005 4:24 PM

Ooops. One bit didn't pass the copy-and-paste, fwiw :

We are also supposed to believe rabidly anti-American zealots, possibly with a secret desire to attack the US, volunteered their lives to take orders from the CIA for nearly a decade. If they all fit such a profile, isn't it more likely the agency actually kept as low a profile as possible in all this ? In other words, that this could not have possibly worked if its actual footprint and influence was in fact much smaller than assumed ?

Richard SchwartzDecember 27, 2005 11:27 PM

@Sylvain: I'm with you about one-party control of all branches of government -- or for that matter "veto-proof" control of both houses of Congress by one party. In general, I generally prefer to see a narrow majority for the opposition party in the Senate.

Your point about "If this were a true dictatorship..." is well taken, but I don't think this is a case of "crying wolf all the time". In fact, given how willing the Democrats have been to go along with the vast majority of what the administration has asked for since 9/11 in the Patriot act, authorizing force in Iraq, etc., and given the fact that the NY Times (probably the single most glaring example of "liberal media" in the eyes of most conservatives) was willing to sit on this story for more than a year, I think that "all the time" is a particularly inappropriate characterization.

What bothers me the most about this is that, without trivializing the importance of the current war on terror, I think it's imperative that we recall that we were involved in the cold war for about 45 years, and there was authorization to use force in various theaters of that war, too. Yet, when we saw some abuses of power during that war and we enacted laws to curb those abuses, nobody had the temerity to stand up and say "we're at war, so those laws don't really apply", or "people who support those laws are putting our nation at risk". To be honest, that type of rhetoric from the Executive branch goes beyond simply bothering me. It makes my blood boil, and it does more to convine me that there's a wolf out there than anything else.

Sylvain GalineauDecember 28, 2005 2:10 AM

Richard, it might my being European or my reading of too many political blogs on both sides, but this is not the first time - by far - I see the current Administration being called a dictatorship, or worse (Nazis etc). So 'all the time' applies, as far as I am concerned. I will admit I couldn't help rolling my eyes as soon as it started this time because this has been the reflexive tune for so long already. I accept others have a different perception or experience, of course.

That Democrats or newspapers have been going along despite all their noise certainly does help their critics in their assertion that the lady doth protest too much, or that there is more noise than substance to this ritual. That is my concern. While some will support the Administration come what may, I don't think they are more than a hard-core minority. Many more have been made deaf to criticism by five years of angry tantrums that never amounted to much. Like some environmentalist groups who constantly have to tell us that this time it *really* is the end of the world as we know it - we swear ! - the Democrats have to constantly raise the volume just to stay where they are. That is the difference between opposition and oppositionism. The latter might please the dedicated base but it has a cost with the wider public.

I honestly don't have a concrete example in mind and will have to trust your personal memory for now, but it seems odd that people in the Nixon administration and their supporters, to take one obvious example, never publicly protested that the President had the power to do what he did when he did it.

But before him, how many dared protest the internment of the Japanase during World War II ? I may be overly glib, but looking back it is hard for me to consider the public reactions to current abuses as anything but healthy. And the scale of these abuses compared to those of previous Administrations who governed in a similar context does not strike me as a step backward, despite claims to the contrary. Which would imply, given the reactions we are seeing across the board, that our collective standards have risen over time. This can't be bad.

directorblueDecember 28, 2005 1:31 PM

Bruce, please tell me you were kidding when you pointed at DailyKos' "analysis".

Trying, where the highest of high-powered attorneys have looked at this issue from multiple angles. They're at least in the business.

As an aside, here's our beloved New York Times, in a related story dated 11/7/1982:

"A federal appeals court has ruled that the National Security Agency may lawfully intercept messages between United States citizens and people overseas, even if there is no cause to believe the Americans are foreign agents."

Indeed. [tm]

Davi OttenheimerDecember 29, 2005 1:45 PM

@ Sylvain

"it seems odd that people in the Nixon administration and their supporters, to take one obvious example, never publicly protested that the President had the power to do what he did when he did it"

Whoa there. Actually, it was someone inside his administration who brought him down by leaking information to the public. And the public protest was so vicious and vociferous that some saw things turning to actual battle. But beyond that crucial oversight don't forget that the people in the Nixon/Ford Administration, like Cheney, clearly thought that the President had unlimited power then, as they do now, and they have spent the last 30 plus years trying to undo the checks put in place after Watergate:

"'Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam … served to erode the authority I think the President needs to be effective, especially in the national security area,' Mr Cheney said on Tuesday as he flew back to Washington to support Mr Bush."

Consider that in light of Ford's stated reason for pardoning Nixon:

"My concern is the immediate future of this great country...My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My conscience tells me that only I, as President, have the constitutional power to firmly shut and seal this book."

Hmm, or at least shut it until the public quiets down and an the Executive expansion of power can begin again.

"While some will support the Administration come what may, I don't think they are more than a hard-core minority."

You should really go visit a red state. Or just read "What's the matter with Kansas". What you say makes sense, but politics unfortunately doesn't always agree with reason.

"how many dared protest the internment of the Japanase during World War II"

That's not a good comparison at all. First of all, protesting was grounds for incrimination, as a recent documentary explained:

Second, the internment camp case has to be considered in much broader issues of assimilation and Americanization, since the people impacted were already seriously disadvantaged and disenfranchised:

"Prejudice against immigrants from Asia had been longstanding on the West Coast when World War II broke out"

Third, the internment clearly did have an impact on people and by the time the second court case was heard by the Supreme Court (Korematsu v. US) in 1944, "three members of the Court, Frank Murphy, Owen J. Roberts and Robert H. Jackson, dissented. Justice Murphy's dissent, which most bluntly dealt with what he termed a 'legalization of racism'" and that was *in spite of* the fact that at the time the Supreme Court "was loath to interfere with what the administration considered a necessary war measure".

Oh and I agree with your uncertainty you mentioned above about whether US policy toward the mujahadeen was 100% to blame for the blowback or there were other factors at play. In fact, I would say the predominant issue is probably not so much whether the Pakistanis and Saudis needed US technology and intelligence to drive back the USSR, but that the US did in fact support anti-American forces and yet failed to make effective policy decisions when they saw the danger signs. The intelligence communities "roll back" strategy was likely to have been far more effective than the "elimination" approach that has ultimately led to a conventional war with non-conventional forces in Iraq. Again, I suggest you read "Ghost Wars" and "None So Blind".

Sylvain GalineauDecember 31, 2005 3:08 PM


- Re: Nixon. This is what I was saying and suspecting so I don't see what your point is. The argument was that I didn't think the justification of executive power we are hearing are new. Rich thinks they are. I don't know enough about the details of that period, but it just seemed odd no one would have justified Nixon's actions in similar terms. Note that the fact that they did use such arguments is not, in and of itself proof that another administration using is acting illegally because it relies on the the same arguments.

The Constitutional issues here are complex. See Orin Kerr's continuing analysis for discussions of the law in this matter and some of the cases and precedents involved.

- Kindly spare me the dumbed-down binary 'red state'/'blue state' spiel. I have visited and lived in so-called 'red states', unlike the vast majority of people who refer to them as such. The notion that a majority of citizens living there would support any kind of government policy *come what may* (my original qualifier) as long as it comes from one George W. Bush is absurd. One only has to sit down with a fiscal conservative or an evangelical anywhere to know that all is not rosy and cosy in the President's coalition of interests.

Because a coalition of factions is what it really is. The homogeneity of a polity only exists in the imagination of their opponents; it is the fruit of ignorance and results in the inane conservative/liberal, red/blue labelling that has come to define political thinking, or rather the lack thereof that passes for it.

"First of all, protesting was grounds for incrimination" Well, that would make it an even better comparison than I thought. Not only did we intern people but protest against the practice was forbidden. That would seem much closer to actual dictatorship than our current situation, would it ?

Incidentally, the NYT might be getting in hot legal waters for leaking this so the situation might be more similar to this specific past than it seems, at least for the press.

"Second, the internment camp case has to be considered in much broader issues of assimilation and Americanization..."
Say what ? How does that relate to anything ? Assimilation issues have nothing to do with the legality or morality of interning citizens and others (62% of those interned were US citizens). Is it better to intern people who are not disenfranchised ? Or is it OK to put them in camps because they are disenfranchised ? Either question is absurd, of course.

The government cannot possibly justify internment on the basis of one's assimilation or lack thereof; so the issue is not larger at all. It's not even secondary; it's orthogonal.

But the point was not to argue the details of Japanese internment. To hear some today, some of the measures taken by our current government are so unprecedented as to be tantamount to dictatorship. By their definition, I am quite confident we could prove FDR to be an even more ruthless dictator.

The point being that we may dilute words to make them fit anything according to our needs, at the cost of making them meaningless. Trivializing dictatorship or the Nazis is fashionable these days. That those who indulge in this can only make their point in such terms does not reflect highly on them or the credibility of their argument. In time, there is hope they will realize this. So far, their attitude seems to be : "They're not getting it; let's shout louder". There is still hope they will learn and adjust.

I've read both Ghost Wars and None So Blind so there is little point in repeating their suggestion; unless of course you are one of those individuals who assume as a matter of course that they *must* be better-read than others as soon as the latter have a differing opinion...For your sake, I hope not.

Neither book really stands out in my mind. Former CIA analysts and other mid-level government officials always blame everyone else for not listening to them at the time. Allen fits that I-told-you-so pattern pretty well. For what it's worth and on that period, I found Ellsberg's Secrets more gripping despite its flaws.

Ghost Wars relies on far too many anonymous sources for comfort in a matter as complex and rich in misinformation, distortions, omissions and plain old turf wars. This is unavoidable given how close we still are to the events. But that should be cause for caution.

There is in fact much evidence to show that the US had a moderating influence on the jihadist movement in Afghanistan while we were involved. And I'm not talking about Milt Bearden's world-famous Jalalabad camel bomb story. As long as the US provided the most effective Russian-killing toys and paid some of the bills, all involved had a vested interest in keeping a lid on the hard-core elements. How many terrorist attacks originating from Aghanistan during the 1980s ?

After the war, we left those people to their own devices with some of the results we know in Afghanistan and beyond. To some extent, this might be another post-war failure. We should have gotten more involved over time, not less.

Besides which, limiting oneself to supporting pro-American forces would be incredibly constraining assuming it is at all practical; a significant chunk of the French Resistance in WW2 was communist and pro-USSR. Yet we supported them, despite their post-war agenda, which was, to say the least, not really pro-American.

In Afghanistan, who were the alternatives ? What pro-American forces were available in sufficient numbers ? And what precedent existed to indicate that this could result in terrorism on our own soil ? Armchair 20/20 hindsight can only go so far. Nowhere, that is.

Arguing that we should not rely on anti-American elements is not only naive and simplistic, it might also be impossible. Just like making it hard to recruit informants or spies with human violations records can make the CIA's job much harder in places like North Korea, Iraq, Iran or Syria and put *us* at a disadvantage.

In the end, we are talking here about trade-offs. Those are quite easy to denounce a decade later as the 'root cause' of something else, and claim a failure to see what is only obvious to us because it's already happened. Proving that they are in fact the root causes of the problem on the basis of *all* the evidence - not just the one that fits your prejudice - and deriving legal culpability or something approaching it is something else entirely.

surendra sakalJanuary 24, 2006 4:06 PM

the NSA has attained the technology that can read minds via the gravitoelectric field, using supercomputers and technology to convert gravity radiation to the frequencies that handle light and sound. this may sound entirely unbelieveable,but that is the reason why it it stays secret. it is in use now in trinidad,and has been reading with absolute accuracy every thought and visualisation in my mind, and repeating it to me via nanotech microphones. all other technology seems childish in light of this which i know of, and from which nothing is secret, as the entire memory can be accessed as a film.
i have sent over 1500 e-mails to many institutions and people, and written to the u.s.congress. but the technology is so advanced it is beyond the grasp of highly trained scisntific thinkers,who cannot believe it.there is nothing in the scisntific info. known to te public which even hints at the possibility of even such a thing being remotely possible. this is why ther will be great difficulty in convincing people that it exists. of this i have no doubt, and i hope to god, that one of the inventors comes out and says of the technology they have created. they know every word as it rises in my mind,and the general effect is as if there is a mirror of myself, consciousness and all, which informs me of all that is in my thoughts every waking moment. this tech. can only arise from the NSA.beware.

surendra sakalJanuary 24, 2006 4:54 PM

Extending on the above. Please excuse errors in spelling. The device digitalises the Electromagnetic fields of the brain, from the level of gravitational radiation. I speculate that the magnetic fields of the Electrons in the brain are digitalised, and the supercomputers translate it into visuals and sound. in 2001 the best computers could do a few trillion FLOPS,and funding was all that was needed to develop a hybrid technology multithreaded system,with 100 times the capability of those.
the computer attached to the device that accesses the Gravitoelectric field to scan my brain has to read a living system that is in continuous change, and has to be in the class of a teraflops device or beyond. It is locked onto the entire brain, and can decipher the workings of the trillion or so neurons, that are connected by 10 quadrillion synapses, that fire in a thousanth of a second.
Scintillator technology can convert X-rays into light,(see, back cover, Scientific American mag.Dec,2005), and it requires a refinement of that technique to convert gravitational radiation into the frequencies we can translate in the brain via the senses.
The device translates the brain, much as the brain translates the data fed to it through the senses, and it does so almost instantaneously. there is no way of knowing that your brain is in such a lock. For some reason. they insist on repeating every thing I think of via a number of voices that are indistinguishable from real human voices, and which are computer generated, and modulated to change according to the changes in my emotion and thought, so that it seems that I am surrounded by a number of people, hidden some distance away, who know my every thought. This has been going on every waking moment i am home. which is 97 per cent of the time, for he past 18 months. Reasons absolutely unknown. I am a farmer with a few cows, and an interest in science. It required several months of thought to figure out the only possible means by which I could explain how the contents of my mind are known with such absolute accuracy.The setup is so beautifully done, that had I not known some science, I would tend to have believed in a number of mindreaders, or spirits, or have fled, or gone mad, which can easily happen in a scenario such as this.
The tech. is decades ahead of its time, and at first seemed to be alien, as from another world.But it is here, and I hope someday it will be revealed, for which I pray everyday. Whoever has this tech., and it can only be the NSA, otherwise all their codes etc. would be suddenly no secret at all, owns the world.

interessatoJanuary 26, 2006 3:46 PM

What about the Point of Law? There are two cases being fought right now in which claims are made by the legal teams representing the (alleged) terrorist, that the information gathered is no good because proper procedures were not followed.

(looking for answers from law students or professors.)

surendra sakalJanuary 28, 2006 6:06 PM

my mind being entirely in the possession of the N.S.A, i will hazard a replyto interessato since the procdure being used on me ensures every thought in my brain is known to them. The whole thing comes down to fear, which leads to many unfavourable psychological reactions.When the tech. is available, the natural thing to do, will be to utilise it to the max., ferreting out every remote suspicion, to satisfy that gnawing need to know your probable enemy. This is a thing old as man.Check the spy systems of tyrants; one that comes to mind is mohammed bin Tughluk, of India in the 1300's.
In a society govened by law. the freedom of every individual must be consistent with the other,and law sees to this. Where the freedom of the individual is encroached upon, unless there is a provision in the constitution, which would allow this in special cases of a threat to the nation, then the procedure that would attenuate the rights of the individual are illegal.
The constitution arises from the idea of liberty. With advances in technology, the liberty of a person, which is consistent with his privacy, can shrink,as with the interception of communications, and be lost absolutely,as is being done in my case with the mindreader. The intruder who determines himself to apportion whatever portion of my liberty to himself does so by trespassing against the most fundamental elements of the constitution, in that he proceeds to reduce the rights accorded to me and to abuse that which are his.
In times of grave crisis, the law, or Justice, which"has also life and growth,and therefore mutability.It is an 'ever-fixed mark'; but it is also an ever-flowing stream"-(E.Barker, principles of social and political theory,Oxford,1962) can allow such measures, but the power thus used must govern itself by continuous refrence to the Constitution, and provide to the elected body of lawmakers the account of the measures adopted, and the duration of those, without which the governing power of the Constitution would begin to be eroded.

Roger vanFrankFebruary 1, 2006 3:38 PM

Extending Presidential authority my ass!! The sonofabitch has broken the law and every one in the government who has been aware of this is guilty of the felony charge of a "Misprison of a Felony". Did you see the treasonous Republicans cheer this program during the "State of the Union" address? Ye Gods.

All this conversation to the contrary is simply a ruse to confuse and bemuse.

"Wartime Powers"?? Fiddlesticks. The necessity for secrecy? More fiddlesticks. Let's face it, the "Enemy" is our own government.

Broadcasting the survelliance program to the supposed "Terrorists" simply means their necessary requirement to conduct their worldwide operations by courier to absolutely trusted sources. Try that on for an organized opposition to a world power! Even the Cosa Nostra couldn't operate the rackets in such an environment. (Which, you may note is more than strangely similar to this Federal racketeering).

The fact that the Government has conducted this in secrecy only compounds the seriousness of this infraction of the law. What else are the miserable bastards concealing?

surendra sakalFebruary 2, 2006 4:01 PM

Following is the copy of a letter to Lt.General Keith B.Alexander, Director of the National Security Agency, U.S.A.

From:Surendra Sakal, 40 Centeno Branch Trace,La Romain P.O. Trinidad, W.I. 26th January,2006.

To Lt General Keith B Alexander,
Director, National Security Agency,U.S.A.

General Alexander, From the moment I thought of writing his letter to you, it was known to the device that is locked onto my brain; the device that will alter the history of humanity, and which was developed by the National Security Agency of the United States of America.As the words appear in my consciousness they are repeated to me by computer synthesised voices via the Nanotech microphones deployed about my dwelling for the past 18 months or so.Your agency is aware of the contents of my mind, inclusive of memeories, dreams and imagination.All has been recorded in the supercomputer that translates the Electromagnetic fields of the brain, which are known to it by means of that wonderful device that accesses the gravitoelectric field.
Why your agency decided to use the most advanced technology man has yet achieved on me is utterly beyond my understanding.Apart from probably testing your equipment and recording the response of the individual to continuous psychological torment that exposes every item in his mind, recited in a variety of voices that are real as could be, thus also demonstrating your entire possession of my mind, you have achieved nothing.
The considerable problems I had whilst striving to figure out how you could have achieved what you did, who are you, and why you are here are largely past.
May I compliment you on the efficiency of your local operatives,in particular, the use of voices identical to some i am used to hearing, which your computers have duplicated with perfect accuracy, and the many other voices that you attempt to delude me with.By simply thinking of something and hearing it repeated instantly,I know thay are synthesised.Compliments to the programmers, and i doff my hat to the entire team who invented the device.Iwish they could come foward and be recognised for the great scientists that they are.
You have wonderful support in the peole who live around my home.Apart from providing many of the voices for use by your computers, they have borne the sound of voices day and night, every waking moment I am home, for all this time without squealing on your operatives.Congrats, on having such a pack of rats in your employ.
The equipment you have here must be worth over 1billion$ in local currency.As you know, I have tried to track it through electricity consumption, and i am sure the local authorities know where you are located.I wonder if they granted you permission to conduct psychological torture here.
The scale of the operation is amazing.What are you really after? This invention of yours makes you the masters of the world.
You can destroy or make people as you wish.By knowing the contents of their minds, you can manipulate them, and working on their emotions, lead them along any way you choose.You can steal any idea, and find any secet.The device can achieve this without ever being detected. Which brings me to the question, what is its range?It must be tens of miles, for there are no buildings around that have the power feed you need.And then, the transmitter by which you broadcast to the nanotech microphones.Is the broadcast coded?if so, they must be a work of art, to be so tiny, hidden in houses, trees, grass, bushes, performing in spite of adverse weather, and the voices so clear and distinct!Even from half a mile away.Marvellous job.You failed.
Now i am in possession of this knowledge, and i am trying to warn people.Maybe i will succeed, maybe not. But the fact that I am absolutely sure of the existence of the device means i will never give up.
My advice to you is to come clean and inform the world of the invention.It is just a matter of time before someone realises it is possible, and builds one.So it is with science.These things have their time, and come to be when the pattern of things requires it.You are the first to invent it and men did it.In a few years, someone else will.
In the meantime, your possession of such a thing, and using it secretly-though not so in my case-i wonder why-perhaps you wanted to drive me mad- is a deadly truth that will come to poison the U.S.A in the future, with irremediable effects.
Your job is to guard your nation, at present and as far as possible from future threats.Be warned, that the greatest threat to the the device which you have locked onto my brain at this moment.
Ever heard a bald eagle's warning when it is angry?

Copies of this letter will be sent to the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. as it is necessary that he be informed. whether he believes it or not. and to the U.S. Ambassador here.

surendra sakalFebruary 20, 2006 4:30 PM

Thanks to Bruce Schneier and Epic for creating this weblog. It gives me a chance to speak openly to the National Security Agency, and to inform people of the deadly danger they now constitute to the freedom of the individual.
The only way that the mindreading device which they have invented can be proven to exist is to have it locked onto the brain of the individual, and the contents of his mind described to him, as is being done to me at this moment.
When i realised that the contents of my mind were known with absolute accuracy, and within one second of my thinking of anything, i realised that it is only by the mastery of gravitational radiation that such a thing could be accomplished.
the grav. radiation penetrates everything, and my brain is accessed through any obstruction-walls, hills, and, of course, the skull.
Given a single fact that is known to be absolutely correct, the thinker can arrive at the causes of that fact. My starting point was the fact that my brain was wide open to something, this being the Gravitoelectric field( see Scientific American, June 2002, pg.15).
then i knew that a device had been invented to sight along the Gravitoelectric field, as telescopes and cameras sight along visible light.
This device can lock onto the electromagnetic fields of the brain that are the translations of data supplied by the senses. All the data fed into the mind is constituted of electromagnetic energy, that the organs of sense decipher and store in the neural fields, just as sound and visuals are stored on tape, or digitalised.
The neural fields, that stores all images and sound, are digitalised by a supercomputer, and simply translated into visuals and sound.
The effect is as if my brain is under a read head.
Nanotech microphones, powered by Nanotech batteries repeat to me the contents of my mind, that is broadcast from a transmitter linked to the computer in voices that are synthesised.(see Conversational Computers, Scientific American, June, 2005).
The entire operation is well planned and had i not known some science, the effect would have been disastrous.

In his development of the General Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein was led by a single absolute fact, and that was, the Perihelion shift in the orbit of the planet Mercury.
The entire solar system behaved perfectly, according to the Newtonian mechanics, SAVE FOR THAT SINGLE DISCREPANCY, IN WHICH THE PERIHELION WAS SHIFTED FROM THE POSITION IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE BY 0.10 ARC SECONDS, OR ABOUT 18 FEET, (by my calculation. i may be wrong).
Probably the happiest time of Einstein's life was when his theory explained that discrepancy.It required a re-thinking of space and time and matter to explain that tiny flaw in Newtonian mechanics.

The NSA came after me, with their finest technology. Until last year, i did not know that they existed. Now I realise that they are the most dangerous bunch of people on Earth.
Any organisation secret as that is bound to corrupt itself; that is an inevitable law of human nature.
It would require a superhuman saintliness to steer clear of the temptations of the ego, when secrecy and power are combined.
The very elements that humanity has sought to govern by law and justice are than let free to exist uncontrolled, as i know.
I wonder if President Bush, or his cabinet are aware of the mindreader.Who decides on whom it is going to be used, and what is done with the data gathered from the brains of people, or, their entire minds?
check "Black Holes and Time Warps" by Kip S Thorne for the perihelion shift of Mercury.

surendra sakalFebruary 24, 2006 5:58 PM

Being aware of a technology as the mindreader, the problem is to prove its existence to others.Consider a person living at the edge of a swamp, on a small island (we export a lot of L.N.G to the U.S.A), lacking a, my only knowledge of science being from scientific American, to which i subscribe, and who accessed the internet only last August, realising that his mind is being read, and his entire consciousnes is bare to a technology that nothing in 10 years of reading even hinted at.
At first , i was full of admiration and awe at the genius involved in the invention of the device,and then began to speculate on the structure of the device, arriving at the conclusion, that it must involve the Gravitoelectric field, and a supercomputer that could handle the digitalisation and translation of the neural electromagnetic fields that hold the content of the mind.
This would involve some geniuses in programming, to devise the algorithms that would handle the content of a living system that is complex as the brain.
It was heartening to see that the Japanese firm of Hamamatsu has devised a method that converts X-rays into light, using scintillator technology.Perhaps they can refine the technique to do the same with Gamma radiation, and beyond that, which is Gravitational radiation, that is a species of electromagnetic radiation.

The contents of my brain, when translated by the supercomputer, is then broadcast via a transmitter to nanotech microphones bowered by nanobatteries, that repeat to me in a variety of voices, what I am thinking of.

The gap between the state of knowledge in the fields of Neuroscience and Neural Computation what I am aware of was so vast, that had anyone informed me of such a technology, I would have regarded that person with much amusement, and being more than a little mad.
But here was the absolute fact, the proof of which I hear all through my waking hours at home, which is about 90% of the time.
My mind is owned by someone, and that could only be the NSA. At first i thought it was the C.I.A, but later I learned of the NSA, and knew it was they.
Such a tech. could only be developed in absolute secrecy, by having the work done in segments, with a few masterminds knowing the full picture. The leap in tech. is so amazing, that it would have required a chain of geniuses working over decades, in a variety of fields to build the device that accesses the Gravitoelectric, and then, only with the info. processing capabilities of suercomputers could the device be put to work.

The whole thing would be well guarded, but its greatest guard is its seeming impossibility.
As to why they brought it to Trinidad, and picked me out to be tormented, I do not know, and have stopped trying to imagine why.
At this point, all I have to say to Lt.Gen.Alexander (who I refer to as General Jubilation T Cornpone, and the people who run this project as the slobbovians-see lil Abner) is that sooner or later, you will have to surface.

until next entry. All thanks to Epic.

surendra sakalFebruary 27, 2006 4:47 PM

It is vitally necessary that I continue to record on this weblog, the only place I can discourse publicly with the NSA, the continuing experience of having my mind read by their truly astounding technology.
Even before my fingers hit the keyboard, the computer synthesised voices were repeating what I was about to type. Marvellous transmitter, and microphones.(i see the February 2006 edition of Scientific American has an article on Nanotech batteries-well, the NSA has been using them here almost 2 years now, to power the receivers on their nanotech microphones). The NSA clearly has a strata of secret scientific achievement that is out of the domain of congress, and maybe even the President.If the President of the USA knows of the mindscanner, and authorises its use, then whenever this comes to public knowledge, he or his successors will face some problems.
Since August 2005 when I first acccessed the internet, I have visited many sites that deal with neural research, such as Riken in Japan, Salk institute, The Univ. of California, Carnegie Mellon U., to name a few, and sent over 1500 e-mails, pointing out the existence of the tech. developed to read minds via the Gravitoelectric field.

In all cases, the research was nowhere close to what I know of, and nowhere was a reference to the possibility of reading the EM fields of the brain via the Gravitoelectric, and digitalising them, for translation by computer.
This gives an idea of how advanced is the secret science of the NSA, and how well it is guarded. I am certain, that some scientists at the top research centers know of this device.

The group of people who know of this are a truly dangerous lot.
I tried putting myself in the position of knowing everything in the mind of an individual, and the result was startling. The person became completely dehumanised, and contemptible, as if 'it' were a curiosity, or toy, that could be used for amusement or destroyed, at will.
There is no doubt that this is the mindset of the possessors of the device. The god-like power it gives them infallibly will result in a sense of overwhelming psychological superiority, that is sure to have disastrous results for the lesser beings.

With the device, the entire memory of a person can be stored as a movie on a disk. This I know to be absolutely true, for the supercomputer must translate the sound and visuals in my thought to be able to broadcast the entirely true description back to me, and everything is recorded in its memory, which can be downloaded and stored.

This goes beyond terrorism, or any sort of survelliance dedicated to th security of the USA. There is something far more ominous going on, of which I have no conception at present.

The facts are that the NSA can read minds, and store the contents. They have access to any brain, through any obstruction, and are so confident that they will not be discovered that they have not tried to interrupt my campaign against them, which began as early as November 2004, when I began writing letters. It was in September 2004 that I was certain my mind was being read, and it took me several months to figure out the technology involved, and the laws of nature it used.

Of the more that 1500 e- mails sent to mostly scientists, I have received no reply, which does not surprise me, for I specified that they know all the addresses I send it to, and it follows, they will know all the replies.
Assuming only 40% of my e-mails were read, and only 5% of the readers believed what I wrote, then I will have made some progress.
I also sent about 100 letters by snailmail.

It does not diminish my confidence in the least that the NSA has chosen to ignore my counterattack. The fact that they have not left my brain is evidence that they are after something, which as yet has not happened. They are not as well hidden as they think, and had I the resources, I would have located them on this small island. Their electricity consumption is a giveaway, unless they walked with some real generators.

until next entry.

surendra sakalMarch 4, 2006 5:38 PM

I sometimes wonder at the personnel who comprise the local team(Slobbovians).For a round-the -clock operation such as this, a liberal estimate would be about 10, highly skilled-technologically-perhaps several p.hd's-all with false identities. Then the native operatives. This one has me wondering.Who could obtain a degree of support from the people living around my home-A minimum distance of about 1100 feet, that they would allow them to place microphones in their homes that broadcast at anytime ,day or night, repeating whatever I think of? The voices come from locations that are always out of sight;these are decided by the views they obtain when I look around.Even more puzzling, is that the voices are identical with some I have heard from the houses for years before this began. Somehow, these persons were persuaded to allow their voices to be used as the basis for the synthesised versions, which are perfect.(see 'conversational computers", Scientific American, June, 2005).
Who could have such power over these people, and command such loyalty, that they will never speak of it, or complain? the only conclusion is that some local politican is involved, for these people are fanatically loyal to a particular party. I assume they must be paid, though I doubt it.
Maybe there is some other reason, but it is common among them that they hate me, and I simply do not interact with them.
The person who deals with matters involving my neighbours must be a native, and he must have given them a good reason for they to allow the microphones to be placed in their homes.
The operation is truly a work of art.But, the people who planned it are geniuses, so the best is to be expected.
Just think of it. More that 125 million US $ worth of equipment, a team of real specialists, and who knows what else, to conduct a operation that is in progress after well over one year, in which one man is being tormented every waking minute that he is at home.
What story did they give the local authorities? that they were protecting local U.S. investments in the energy sector? It is 100% certain that they would never tell that they can read minds.
This country effectively belongs to the NSA. You know the contents of someone's mind, and they become your property.
As to why they chose a nobody as myself for this exercise involving the most advanced technology in the world, I can only put it down to a bout of stupidity.
I have speculated that they hoped for a reaction that would be so ridiculous that the existence of the device would be safer than ever.
I am absolutely certain that they never expected me to figure out that the Neuroelectric and magnetic fields of my brain were being digitalised and translated by supercomputer, then broadcast to nanotech microphones, which repeat the contents of my mind to me in voices that are so like some I know, that it seems impossible that they could be synthesised.
It is certain that they expected me to self- destruct, or run, or go mad, or react in a way that would ensure my credibility being utterly extinguished, or whatever.
One thing is certain, and that is, no good intention motivates them.
These people are entirely evil.
With the help of God I withstood their attack, and got somewhat used to it, becoming aware of their technology in the process, which is orders of magnitude beyond what is known to most scientists and the public.

To the computer programmers who devised the software that is used in this operation.
Your talent is a continuous source of wonder to me. The link with my Physiology is so absolutely accurate, it is as having a mirror out there that reflects everything back to me. That setup you have somewhere in Trinidad is great, a thing of awe, of a genius almost beyond belief.
But you have put it to an evil use, and kept it secret, which is a greater evil.The mind of man is his greatest treasure. It is that with which he measures himself , and places himself in the cosmos.
Your technology is a product of that mind, and it must never be used for evil.

until next entry

surendra sakalMarch 11, 2006 5:00 PM

It is fascinating, and saddening, even tragic, to look at scientific journals and websites of the most respected institutions and know that the work of the geniuses described therein are far behind the reality of the technology possessed by the NSA.
It also is an indicator of the frightening degree of secrecy that envelops this technology. My speculation is that the people who worked on the device that can access the Gravitoelectric field are a close knit bunch of Physicists and Mathematicians. There is not much need for skills in neuroscience, for the process involves the access to information, and then its translation and analysis.
The ability to sight along the Gravity field provides access to the Electromagnetic data storage in the brain, which are then digitalised and the digitals translated into the visuals and acoustics that represent the human mind.

The things we photo and record are but the vibrations of the Electromagnetic field stored on inorganic medium. Our mind is similar- the organic medium of our body and senses being the means by which the information is accessed, and processed, then stored in the brain, which by a continuous process of refrencing and connecting, animates the body (somehow the name Kurzweil just crossed my mind).
A computer such as the one that is translating my brain can easily become the mind for a robot, making AI a reality-only that it would be functioning on the memory of a living entity.AI simply will not work without such a store of info as occurs in the human mind, and the patterns by which the living system utilises such info, or, the activity of the brain by which it directs the organism.


Well I guess I went a bit off track there, but it is very possible. Knowing what I know has greatly expanded the borders of possibility.

It is depressing to know that a small group of people have the power to know eveything in the human mind, and that they can literally achieve anything amongst men. Even Quantum Encryption isn't secure from them.

As yet I have not a clue as to what they are after, or what they hope to achieve, My real fear is that there are people among them who can become afflicted with the disease of God-like superiority.

You are really great scientists. But ponder, that the human race did not emerge from the aeons and come to possess a mind by the activity of a few. Our minds are the result of the interactions of the entire race, over time.
Maybe you keep in hiding because you fear destruction.
Your present activity against me is evil. If that is the nature of your eventual goal, you will fail.

untiL next entry.

anonymousMarch 11, 2006 9:30 PM

"the NSA has attained the technology that can read minds via the gravitoelectric field"

"i have sent over 1500 e-mails ... [but they] can't believe it"

That's because your rantings sound like those of a paranoid schizophrenic. Have you considered that your own mind might be playing tricks on you?

surendra sakalMarch 13, 2006 4:40 PM

I am really grateful to Bruce Schneier for not scrubbing my entries off this weblog. It is easy to dismiss something of which I am speaking of as trash or the products of mental aberration; if someone came to me with an account of something as this, I would have laughed at the peson, for in my reading of science there is nothing to hint at the possibility of a device that can read minds, and I would have ascribed the concoction to being the maifestation of some form of mental abnormality.
Which is why I am truly grateful to Bruce Schneier, who obviously has an open mind, and endures the real possibility that his weblog may become a source of ridicule, because of the entries of a person who herds a few cows at the edge of a swamp, and who has no formal scientific education, and who is speaking of a device comprising a technology orders of magnitude beyond what is known to the public.

what I am speaking of is not the result of any natural aberration of the mind. It is the proof of the existence of a technology that can access the brain through any obstruction and translate its content almost instantaneously.

All I have to do is think of something, and the voices describe it, and they are there every waking moment, for well over one year. I am a walking sensor, for everything that is recorded in my brain is accessed by the device.
The quality of the voices being synthesised by the computers is so amazingly real, that anyone listening would surely believe that they are issuing from the mouths of actual people.
All the NSA needs is a sample of the voice of any person, and they can duplicate that voice to perfection, in any conversational mode, and it follows, that they can create fake conversations between people, that the possessors of the voices would be hard put to deny, so real would the voices be. This observation follows from my knowledge of perfect duplications they are capable of.

My decision to send E-mails, which are in the form of an attached file, was simply to alert people, for anyone can see the damage the NSA can do with such an invention. At first I thought that it was the CIA at work, and then I found out about the NSA.


Otherwise, they would simply not hold that station anymore. At times I wonder how many minds of the intelligence services of other countries they have stripped.

To enter on a counter attack to the stakeout of my mind by the NSA was something I knew would most likely place me in the ranks of the fringe crowd, and that I would carry that stamp for a long time, in fact all my life, for I am not relenting until they come clean.
Why they are doing this, I have not the slightest idea. Maybe by doing this I am proceeding as they planned, maybe not.

Proceeding against such an opponent needs a lot of staying power. By not moving against my countermoves they are allowing all the negatives that crop up with being totally ignored to do their work.Won't work here, Slobbovians.

That I am absolutely certain that such a device exists is all that I need.

This weblog is the only public forum by which I can address the NSA directly, and I am aware of the privilege being afforded to me, in view of the nature of the content of my entries.
In tracking the nature of the device I located the following refrences that are mentioned in the E-MAIL;
For the Gravitoelectric field, see Scientific American, June 2002, pg.15
for the read head that can handle data densities at the level I am speaking of,
See Scientific American, July 2004, Magnetic field Nanosensors, by S.A.Solin, where is described a read head that can handle data density of 700 Gigabytes per sq. inch

Check Scientific American, May 2000 for DARPA demonstrating a holographic memory from which data could be read at the rate of 1 billion bits per sec.(avoiding a data crunch, by J.W.Toigo)

Conversational computers, sci,am., June 2005

Neuromorphic Microchips, May, 2005, by K. Boahen.

As to the device that can access the Gravitoelectric field, that is the great secret. All I know that it has to be linked to a supercomputer to do the digitals and translations, and manufacture the voices, which are then broadcast.

until next entry.

anonymousMarch 13, 2006 5:02 PM

"in my reading of science there is nothing to hint at the possibility of a device that can read minds"

That is not true, and your beloved Scientific American has carried many articles covering the topic. For example:

None of these technologies requires any speculation about the "gravitoelectronic" field. But neither do these technologies permit the kind of "mind reading" that you are claiming.

"lacking a, my only knowledge of science being from scientific American, to which i subscribe, and who accessed the internet only last August"

And yet you think that you are qualified to identify "the most advanced technology man has yet achieved"?

Face it, if you are hearing voices, then you are sick. It is not uncommon. It's nothing to be ashamed of, because it's not your fault. Many, many people have had friends and loved ones vicitimized by mental disease, myself included.

If you truly live in Trinidad, at "the edge of a swamp," then I don't know what your options are. But if you are living in fear of the NSA, then I suggest you keep talking to other people. However, those conversations will be much more helpful if you at least admit the possibility that you have an illness.

Good luck.

surendra sakalMarch 16, 2006 5:59 PM

I really appreciate the kind comments and concern, Anonymous.
Perhaps the motive of the NSA is to convince me that I am mentally ill. Believe me, they have the perfect setup. Those voices are just perfect.They would have driven many people to seek medical help.

As to your comments on mind reading, without looking at the refrences you mention, I can say that they never referred to the digitalisation of the neural EM fields. which are accessed via the Gravioelectric, and translated by supercomputer.The folks at SCI.AM. would regard such a thing as wacko.

The deduction of the existence of such a device requires consideration of all possible explanations to account for the contents of my mind being known with absolute accuracy, and repeated almost instantaneously to me.

To achieve this, something has to be capable of reaching my brain through any obstruction, and view it at molecular, or even atomic level. Only the Gravitoelectric field can provide such access.This leads to the fact that someone has invented a device to access that field, and use it to read the Electromagnetic storage fields in my brain, and digitalise them.

Only a supercomputer can do such a thing. The SC then translates the digitals into what is pictured an remembered as sound, which is then broadcast via a transmitter in a variety of voices to the nanotech microphones powered by nanotech batteries.

Ther can be no other explanation. This is the only way it can be done.It requires no great amount of formal training, only a confidence in a single fact of which I am absolutely certain, and the decision to adhere to the only explanation possible, regardless of how fantastic it is.

I recall that one of the factors that prevented some geniuses from stating the theory of Relativity before Einstein was that they had to accept that Time itself was variable. They backed down.

Einstein himself dropped a factor called the Cosmological constant from his theory. Today, a discovery called dark energy proves he was right. He should have kept it.

It requires a lot of confidence to claim the seemingly impossible is true.I may be a quack, trying some hoax. What do I have to lose? What do I have to gain?

At times,I am amused at the NSA. What do they have to gain by expending this vast effort on me? It seems really stupid, but somewhere behind lurks the real reason, which I am sure is exceedingly unpalatable.

They can manipulate people to do almost anything they want them to do.They own the world.
I really live at the edge of a swamp.

until next entry

anonymousMarch 16, 2006 7:51 PM

"I really appreciate the kind comments and concern, Anonymous."

You're welcome. I hope you take my suggestions to heart.

"There can be no other explanation."

As you know, I have offered a different explanation. Occam's Razor suggests that I am probably correct.

Here is a very simple test: Use a tape recorder (or a trusted friend) to "witness" this fantastic technology. If it does not record the "synthesized voice" that you hear, chances are it's in your head.

Best of luck.

surendra sakalMarch 17, 2006 5:19 PM

You make me smile, anonymous. What is going on here is not so easily solvable. All they have to do at the moment some objective test is commenced on my part is to cease broadcasting. You see, they know everything I think of, and always have the advantage of being forewarned.

Only twice in the duration of this psyop were the voices shut down for a while- less than an hour in each case, and I still like to think of the relief I experienced.

Once I even thought of wearing a lead helmet, until I realised it would be no use.It took time and a lot of thought to get the full picture.

It is only by approaching the area without my knowing it and detecting the broadcast, or finding where the equipment is located that any progress can be made.
Then, how could it be proven that the equipment can read minds? The only way is to have it locked onto your head and experience it yourself. There is no other way that it can be proven.

See what a challenge it is? See why they are so confident? One of my hopes is that someone else invents the device that can access the Gravitoelectric. It is a fact that in science and technology things do not develop in isolation, but are approached simultaneously at several points along the edge of thought and research.

Then the inventors would probably keep it for their own use, telling nobody.

Wonderful, isn't it.
The experience is as being a lab mouse, with the scientists knowing my every thought, emotion, sensation, dream, imagination, speculation, and informing me as they occur in my brain. Thrilling.

until next entry

anonymousMarch 17, 2006 7:11 PM

"All they have to do at the moment some objective test is commenced on my part is to cease broadcasting."

Well then, leave a voice-activated tape recorder on 24/7. That would, at least, give you some peace.

Anyway, I've said all that I can say. You won't hear from me again.

surendra sakalMarch 19, 2006 4:34 PM

Well, thanks for your comments, anonymous.May your program never halt.

Whilst looking over some entries pertaining to the illegal wiretapping by the NSA, I came across a couple of lines posted by tqft at Dec.22, which causes me to emphasise the following, that with the ability to synthesise voices to the state of conversational perfection, meaning that the software can provide a voice with modulation, intonation, emotion and all else to make it indistinguishable from the natural voice of the person, Judges should be made aware that such a technical capacity exists, if they have not been already informed.

All that is needed is a sample of the voices which are then used to provide the pattern for the synthesised product.The desired conversation has to be entered in the computer, and the results can be provided to the court as being a result of a wiretap.

It is therefore necessary for judges to be informed that the technical ability to achieve the above exists, if they do not know this.

Legally authorised wiretapping is the state utilising a method to secure itself.

When it is done illegally by the servants of the state, then they are demeaning the state.
I wonder how the job they are presently doing on my mind can be characterised. But I am not A U.S citizen, so what.
Thanks, Bruce Schneier.
More on the implications of the mindreader next entry

surendra sakalMarch 21, 2006 5:03 PM

Until late last year I had only a vague idea of the tremendous concentration of scientific brainpower that the Intelligence agencies and military of the U.S.A possesses. Entities such as the C.I.A'S Directorate of Science and Technology were unknown to me.

Within such a vast structure that has existed for decades, some really strange things can happen, by reason of the motivation in a military-intelligence complex, which is primarily to be ahead of its enemies. Lines of research are entered on that would be regarded as far-fetched or arcane by the normal academic establishment.
The goal of the intel-military is to be able to have a bird's eye view of the normal, and more importantly, be able to deal with any entities that may be above the normal, in intelligence and power, which may pose a threat to the U.S.

This means it has to explore all the conceiveable possibilities which may lead to its superiority in areas such as weaponry, Biology and in brain research, as the brain is the origin of thought.
Somewhere along the way some genius would have realised that the body is but a huge receptor of information, that it stores in the brain and this info could be accessed if the storage mechanisms could be translated.
The genius, or geniuses would have known that the Electromagnetic radiation in the range of visible light and sound in the frequency of vibration allowed in our density of atmosphere plus the chemical reactions that are responsible for taste and smell, and touch, are all electric in their operation. In fact, almost all of life is dependent on the electricity generated by the photons of sunlight, which is really an EM field.
They would have reasoned that all memory is a store of electromagnetic vibration in the brain, a fixed record, that persists over a century, being stored in a manner that does not deplete it significantly.
They would naturally have pondered a method by which they could find the memory and read it, as the individual does, consciously and unconsciously, throughout life.
Then someone came across the way to access the gravitoelectric, "a powerful static field", and to sight along it, as the cameras in the statellites sight along the visible EM spectrum.
Looking at the brain, they would have felt as the inventor of the X-ray machine when he first looked at the human body.

The rest would have been relatively easy, and is described in entries above.

To the bunch of people who worked on the invention and are operating it:by now you must be really mad. The way I figure it, I was not supposed to get beyond the ring of voices.
I am satisfied that I have pierced your layers and layers of secrecy, and that you know it.What your game is, I do not know. One day it will come to light.

until next entry

surendra sakalMarch 24, 2006 5:45 PM

During the last 4 years, scientific american magazine has held an annual summit called Biosilico.
I wonder how many scientists from DARPA-the defence advanced research projects agency, or the NSA, or the C.I.A'S dirctorate of science and technology, or any of the other state run laboratories and agencies, attended, or presented papers.

With the with the explosion in raw computing power during the last 2 decades, the pace of scientific discovery accelerated, and classified scientific research today constitutes a vast amount of discoveries that are largely unknown to mainstream science.
Thousands of scientists work on projects that ar classified,and I am sure that if open research on those lines is pursued by institutions or firms, they are either absorbed by the state agencies or discouraged from continuing, by manipulation of funding, or people.

The natural result is two tiers of science; the hidden, and the known.
With the invention of a thing as the mindreader, which to almost all people would seem a thing impossible, a real danger arises. How do you handle a thing that can place the entire individuality of a person in the possession of others?

At present, how many of the devices exist? how many people know how to construct it? Who decides on whom it is to be used?
As far back as 1991, as described in SCI.AM. MAY 1991, M.A.Mahowald and C.Mead built three layers of the Retina of the eye in Silicon. In 2001, K.Zaghloul morphed all 5 layers in silicon, producing a silicon retina chip called Visio1, as described by K. Boahen in Neuromorphic Microchips, Sci.Am, May 2005.
Prof. Boahen and other researchers are trying to morph the cortex of the brain, but are facing problems with the densities of transistors on the microchips. With the several lines of research in that area, that problem will be overcome pretty soon.
This is the level of tech. we know of. What is the level of achievement in the hidden tier of science?

The human mind is an entity that is continuously involved in cognition. By the flow of electric signals via its senses, it forms a body of information stored electromagnetically in the brain, which it uses as a reference to the flow of cognition, and so builds a world of experience.
Perhaps they are trying to teach the supercomputer that does the digitals of my brain and translates them, what processes are involved in thought.
In other words, they probably are trying to build a brain, by following all what goes on in a real brain, a sort of clone?

But why my brain? are there not hundreds of millions in the U.S.?

Until next entry

surendra sakalMarch 27, 2006 5:18 PM

To repeat, the device makes the subject the pefect probe, or sensor. Whatever I see, hear, think, feel, dream and imagine is known, and stored.
It can be stored on a disk, and any number of copies made. Pretty soon there can be libraries of mind videos, where the minds of people can be viewed, as films are.
Today I was reading 'The Vicomte de Bragelonne' by A. Dumas. The sequence of events therein, if visualised by a powerful imagination, would provide a film, which would vary with the personality of the reader, so that any number of versions of the book may be produced in the mind.

Returning to the subject of thinking computers. By causing to be fed into the computer the continuous and varying stream of information, which is the result of the operation of the neural cells and the sensors of the nervous system, (for unless the raw information received by the sensors is processed by the brain, by the refrences to memory for identification, it cannot be stored) the computer, recording the patterns of the electrical activity in the brain, may after some time commence on its store of information, the general pattern of the electrical processes in the brain that yeilds memory. It would have gathered information until the threshold arrived for such a commencement of the use of memory to provide the basis for the processing of information to provide the basis of a self-aware reality

In the most general terms, something similar happened with the early link-up of amino acids that evolved to form DNA. Perhaps they took the patterns from the surrounding molecular activity of inanimate matter, and acquired their own. Only now, the computer is acquiring its patterns from living matter.

A newborn baby does not have much memory. That is built in the first few months by the neural cells storing information, and acquiring the ability to comprehend the world by referring sensations to that store of knowledge for ID. The mechanisms by which this is done, and which persists through life, are what the computer will have to be able to commence adopting, on its own, to become an intelligent being.

until next entry

surendra sakalApril 2, 2006 5:57 PM

Occasionally it is necessary to dip back into the metaphysics that are preliminary to , and the indefinable background from which the constitutions of states emerge.

The best constitution is that which is unwritten, as in the case of England. The indefinable there has its boundary in the minds of the law lords, rather than on a written document.
In the U.S.A.,it was a pity that when the declaration of independence was drawn up, the independent minded men did not abolish slavery. The idea of 'independent' men, declaring an independent state, retaining slavery within that state, is inconsistent with the essential nature of the idea of freedom.
That idea,however,would not remain part-realised, and it took a war, and many legal decisions for it to become more complete in its realisation.
Had they abolished slavery with the declaration of independence, the history of the U.S.A.would have been much different.

Reminds me of a flaw in Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings'. All Gandalf had to do was simply whistle up the eagle that rescued him from Saruman, hop on it with the ring and in a couple of hours it would be dropped into Mount Doom. Dosn't say much of him and his advisors-even Galadriel- that they did not think of that simple solution.

How will the constitution of the with the technology of the mindscanner? one of the highest expressions of freedom of the individual is the right to privacy, and the thoughts of a person are their most private possessions.

Slavery is simply ownership of the person without their consent. The owner receives all the economic output of the person without any compensation. The entire privacy of the individual is non-existent, since no law defines his rights.

The mindreader reduces the individual to the a state worse than physical slavery.
It erases all notions of privacy, and extinguishes all the legal measures that makes each individual a microcosm of the state.

Which brings me to the topic of the thousands of employees of the NSA. Are they all the incarnations of angels? or are they human beings with all the frailities of such?
In any organisation of that size there are to be found every example of negativities. What about connections with criminals, and passing of info. to them? drug abuse? ideological leanings?(a healthy number of Nazi mass murderers ended up in the U.S. where they lived happily ever after) those ideologies do not die easily. They are simply there, waiting to emerge.

Why does the NSA not use this device locked onto my mind to strip the minds of drug lords, and destroy the trade in illegal drugs?

When this mindreader is revealed, the legal and political repercussions will be cataclysmic. (Unless they are preparing a scenario to deal with such)

Until next entry

surendra sakalApril 4, 2006 5:33 PM

To hijack a system is not difficult. Take the case of the Nazi war criminals who successfully escaped to the U.S.A. and were never prosecuted, because "when investigations are started, they are blocked by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization service and by the Justice department. This suspense-filled account of disappearing files, intimidated witnesses, quashed inquiries, conspiracy and treachery is fully documented.It suggests the looming presence of ODESSA,a Nazi-protection organization, which has infiltrated the very fabric of America"

The above quote is taken from a prefatory note in the book "WANTED!" the search for Nazis in America, by Howard Blum, published in 1977 by Fawcett Crest Books,CBS publications, CBS consumer publishing,a division of CBS Inc,by arrangement with Quadrangle/ The New York Times Book Company, Inc.

One of the Nazis became a Detroit bishop, and was invited by Richard Nixon to give the invocation at the opening of the U.S. Senate. He was responsible for the massacre of 4,000 Jews.

I have mentioned the above to indicate how organisations can be controlled by a few careful planners from outside, or within.
In an entity mantled in secrecy as the NSA, particularly sensitive research can be hidden for decades. As problems arise in the pursuit of the particular goal, intellects from outside can be put to work, without giving them any indication as to the overall nature of the project. This remains known to a few, and is passed on to carefully selected successors.

I believe that the efforts to read the mind may have begun in the time of the great mathematician, John von Neumann, or before, and pursued with maximum effort over the decades, until success was achieved, and it could have only come with the attainment of the requisite computing power.

A body as the NSA may be easily hijacked by a particular group professing an ideology. Maybe it has been hijacked. Who has the all- important bird's eye view on such an organisation, to be able to detect any patterns in the placing of personnel? If the NSA polices itself, then the hijack can be total.

I know what they have invented. I know some of what they can achieve by this invention. Materially, the control of the world. All power, and Wealth. Controlled secretly, and manipulated to their satisfaction.

This is the least of achievements. The people who control the device know that they can achieve awesome things with the ability to digitalise minds.

until next entry

surendra sakalApril 10, 2006 5:45 PM

Among the things that really worry me about this device is whether the President of the U.S.A. knows of it. As Commander-in Chief of the most powerful military apparatus in the world, if he is not informed of the existence of this weapon, or then his power in these matters is no longer supreme.

If he is informed of this device, his problems are enormous. There is no way its use can be reconciled with the constitution of the U.S.A.

From any angle this device is looked at, it represents deadly danger. It represents a new era in the evolution of humanity.
The questions such as: How many people know how to build the device, and operate it, How many have been built, and are in use, and who decides on whom it is to be used, when contemplated, can lead to some scary scenarios.

In a few days, they would have known my entire past. They are here now for over 18 months. This is really a mystery. What is there in my head that can be of such importance to them? the only speculation that makes sense, is that the lock is working so well that they are reluctant to take it off, and are learning from this case.

Then there is the possibility that they are using the lock in experiments to create artifical Intelligence.

Whatever the reason, it is puzzling as hell to figure out. At times I am filled with a great disquiet, when I consider the great power the possessors of this technology have over the rest of humanity, and the deadly danger they can be, when it is contemplated that the codes that guard nuclear weaponry in all nations are entirly penetrable by them.

It was encouraging to read of the achievement by the firm Hamamatsu of Japan, who digitalised X-rays. Soon, people will be aware that the Gravitoelectric can be digitalised.

Soon, the scientific community will become aware that a device that can read the mind is very possible, and the NSA will have to admit they have invented the same. Or, why admit it? just use it at will, and wait for others to come close, then manipulate them, so that the discovery is never made.

It gives me some satisfaction that I have become aware of your invention.It was not easy, but the general picture is said in the entries above, as well as I can. I am certain you never expected me to reach as far as I have, and perhaps you are keeping the lock on to cause doubts. Won't work. You hide is nailed on this weblog. You know it, and I. And this is something we are both entirely sure of.

until next entry

surendra sakalApril 13, 2006 6:13 PM

The brain has the ultimate search engine. With a thought, the entire memory is accessed to yeild remembrances of things past, from the domains of smell, taste, sight, or a combination of all pertinent experience relating to the thought.
These memories are certainly stored at the level of electrons,as in the case of all electronic data storage systems. The organic nature of the body which processes the incoming data stores it in the frequencies in which it is received. Otherwise there would have to be data decompression or compression enzymes, which is very doubtful.

It is the handling of the stored data that gives us the sense of being. Really, we are but a particular kind of information relation with the rest of the cosmos.

A couple days ago I received the April edition of SCI. Am. mag. The Hamamatsu ad. on the back cover cheered me up. There was the info. that Hamamatsu had developed advanced algorithms for creating 3D images of the brain from shining near-infrared light through the skull.

Now, the access to the Gravitoelectric provides long range access to the brain through any obstacle. But, in a case as with the use of other radiation that can reach the electronic level of the neurons, all that is needed is the lock with a supercomputer, the appropriate algorithms to digitalise and translate the electromagnetic fields, and there will be the mind in full view.

The fact is the information is there, and the working of memory proves that it can be translated, into sound and visuals. In remembering something, is not the picture recalled, and the sound? the info. in the brain is very accessible, if the adequate tech. is devised. I am sure that in a few years, mind reading as contemplated here will be achieved outside the NSA.

The sensitivity of the detectors is of ultimate importance.
The set-up that the NSA has here is perfect. It detects thoughts and their associations even in the rudimentary stages, before they are brought into full view of contemplation. It is as having a parallel mind, that identifies its contents in dozens of voices.
IT is still a mystery to me as to what they are after.

I suspect that they view the EM fields as a 3D hologram, and read the data as it is focussed on by the individual. All the peripheral thoughts are translated, to perfection.

until next entry

surendra sakalApril 22, 2006 5:19 PM

Conducting a counterattack such as this against the NSA may seem the perfect example of a futile exercise.
Contemplating the decades of entrenched secrecy that they represent, with all the pyschological stratagems at their disposal, and the cumulative achievement of the brainpower that is built into their operative mecanisms over the decades, they must be near to perfection in their line of work.

Now, with the mindreader, that has jumped to a state of near divinity.
Consider my case. Gradually I become aware that the contents of my mind are being repeated to me, and the things I visualise are identified and described exactly as I think of them.
The voices are perfectly natural. No obstacle hinders their view into my mind.
The only scientific, and possible explanation, is given in the entries above.

The mindreading continues night and day, and I gradually become used to it.
More than 18 months have passed, and they are still at it, for reasons I do not know.
As far as I know, they have made no attempts to hinder my counterattack. They are playing the "NSA does not pay attention to lunatic ravings" game, which won't work here.

I am entirely certain that they were counting on the complete bewilderment that would have resulted from this psyop, the ultimate psyop, I may add, to destroy me.
Well, NSA, you can see where I am. You know all the addresses of the e-mails I have sent, and the snailmails. You cannot know the reactions of those who read the mails, unless you have a lock on them. Maybe ten, or five believed me, or saw the possibility of the existence of such a device.
Which is quite encouraging from where I stand. You see, I began at absolute zero, so anything is an improvement.
That Bruce Schneier has allowed my entries to stay on his weblog is the most encouraging thing thus far.

You have lost the powerful factor of being unknown, as regards the technology of your mindreader, and the organisation that owns it.

Hello to the local team. what have you achieved thus far? (apart from revealing the existence of the mindreader- but perhaps you intended it to be discovered in such a way that no one would believe it. Enjoy your stay, slobbovians)

Until next entry.

surendra sakalApril 26, 2006 5:41 PM

It is certain that the NSA intends to achieve something very specific, and which is of considerable value to them, for to have deployed their most advanced technology for such a duration, without pause, indicates that this is no random exercise, but a carefully planned operation.

In such endevours, and with the brainpower available to the NSA, the stratagem will be of the best, and a prime objective would be to conceal the identity of the operating agency, and in this case, the method being used.

Both have been identified, but the goal still remains elusive. Planners in a scenario as this do nothing randomly.For some reason, I was picked out, and an elaborate contrivance founded on the clear and total access to my mind, and the ability to synthesise voices that repeats its contents was put into operation.

If it were the contents of my mind they were after, the whole thing could have been done without my awareness; the voices, with their absolutely accurate repetitions, is the reason that I have been able to pierce the secrecy, and the use of the voices holds the clue to what they are after.

There are any number of ways they could have gotten rid of me, if that was their intent, and with the greatest ease.
The whole thing seems to be some sort of experiment in progress, which, unlikely as it sounds, is the only plausible explanation at this point.

If they are found to be using a device as the mindreader in the U.S.A., the consequences would be grave. I can imagine the litigation that will instantly commence.

But the fact is, they can use the mindreader without the slightest fear of being detected, and it is entirely certain that in its development, they would have tested it repeatedly on individuals, with or without their knowledge, most probably the latter, as the fewer people know of it, the better.

They could do what they are doing here with anyone, anywhere. Why select me, who have never travelled out of Trinidad, and lives a stay-at-home life?

That they seem to be set for an indefinite stay points to two possible things; that they have not got what they are after, and intend to stick around till they do, or the lock is working nicely, and they are learning from it.

Whatever is it, the cost must be quite substantial, and their local base well camouflaged; to go on broadcasting without detection indicates that the broadcast must be coded, or a method is being used that cannot be detected easily, or permission has been obtained from the local authorities.

If I may make a helpful suggestion; the strategy you are using in response to my counterattack, must be done perfectly to succeed, meaning, your interference must be absolutely nil.

Keep up the good work, especially with the voices. They are perfect. And being computer generated, they don't tire, so you are able to afflict me with all ease, while my ego-burdened, living mind, reacts to them. That indicates the level of their quality.

Until next entry

surendra sakalMay 1, 2006 6:20 PM

The speed at which the cerebral synapses fire is about one-thousanth of a second, which when compared to a computer is very slow. Even a million FLOPS computer is like lightning compared to the brain.
But the brain carries a number of sensations via its slower processing rate, such as smell,feel, acoustics and sight simultaneously, and has to log the electrical structure of those sensations into the electronic storehouse where they will be integrated with all previous record of sensations, compared, and categorised.

Really fabulous algorithms operating there.
When the vibrational pattens of the Electromagnetic radiations that carry the knowledge of the environment reach the sense organs, they are converted to electricity, that is then transferred chemically, via the organic molecules of the nervous system, to the brain.

This change of medium, from the mechanical, for example, in light reaching the eye, to the Chemical, means a significant slowdown in speed, and the delivery of the sensation to be imprinted on the electron wave patterns in the neurons is thus a relatively slow process.

Inside the skull is pure darkness. No light can exist in that medium, and yet we "see" by what goes on in there, and diffrentiate between :light"and "dark".
When the Electromagnetic fields are digitalised by the supercomputer, the only way it can know "light"and "dark", or sensation, is by linking with my consciousness. It seems that my brain yeilds the recognition of the digital patterns, and provides the meaning for what it reads. Talk about Biosilico. This is so high up it is way out of orbit.

As I suspected, and this is still very probable, the SC is learning to think. And my reactions, emotionally, provide the very important input to it, that of verification of its accuracy, for the slightest changes in my emotional physiology is detected. That is why they insist on repeating everything that occurs in my mind, so the SC can record the emotional reaction, and hold it as a verification pattern in its memory, which is being trained to store things according to sensation, and to interpret digital patterns the same way the brain interprets the info. it has stored in its own way.

How else can the SC be taught about sight, hearing and thuslike? A computer is mechanical, and can operate at the incredible speeds that it does because of that.
But the organic body is far slower, and incredibly richer. It created light, and dark, out of vibrational patterns in the EM field. ALL colors are its creation, made by the cerebral electricity.

Nice piece of thinking, in the lines above.Somehow, George Orwell's "Down and out in London and Paris" just crossed my mind, which associated it with Dominique Lapierre's "City of joy".

But this does not change the fact that the SC can produce the exact picture of what is going on in my mind. With the computing speed being billions of times faster that the brain, it is no wonder that the interpretations are done so rapidly, reaching me often within the second.
The thing is really awesome. Who the hell are the main brains behind it? What is it you are looking for?

Well, I suppose that is top secret. So was your mindreader, until you locked onto my mind.

Until next entry

surendra sakalMay 5, 2006 5:51 PM

What are the genes that govern the conversion of mechanical EM radiation to the electricity conveyed chemically in the body? What are the genes which build the world in our brains out of the information delivered by electricity?

This may be not immediately apparent, but as said in the previous entry, all the reality we know is a result of the interpretation of information delivered to our brain via electrical energy arising from the conversion of mechanical radiation.

By mechanical is meant inorganic, and the radiation can reach its maximum speeds, as in light and sound. The sense organs receive those and change the vibrational frequency, while preserving the info. they carry. In the brain, this is made into sight and sound, feeling, scent and all else that is our world.

A being whose rate of processing of information was based on the reception of higher frequencies, would experience a different reality, though in the same frame of reference as a human.
When we look at an X-ray photo, we see the result of a higher frequency of vibration, brought to our level via the film, the radiation from which can be handled by our senses, being reflected light, or photons of the "visible" range of EM radiation.

Beings whose senses are capable of handling X-rays, Gamma rays, Neutrinos, or Gravitons, will experience differing realities.

Amazing, isn't it. Within the skull, where no visibility is possible, the entire consciousness of "light" is created, out of information conveyed by electricity to a biological translator, most probably a series of enzymes, which also translates the sum of info. reaching them to produce our world.

The NSA has found the means to access this store of info. and extract it. Staggering, really. To reach through the skull, and any obstruction betwen the device and the subject-hills, solid walls-anything- and be able to remove with absolute accuracy the reality known to the subject, within a second, literally, and to be able to store it as any other info.

You inventors are smart enough to realise, that an invention does not happen until the evolution of humanity needs it, or, a point has reached when it is necessary, unavoidable, for there will be a use for it for humanity as a whole, in its blundering through time.

Do a little philosophising. It will benefit you.

And beware of yourselves.

Until next entry

surendra sakalMay 15, 2006 6:55 PM

Although I live with the reality of the mindreader every waking moment I am at home, the literally mind-numbing advance in technology it represents always awes me.

At times whilst contemplating that height of scientific attainment, all other things seem dull and ordinary. What other advances have you made, from that level which I have described in the above entries?
You are at the edge of a great unknown, much as one standing at the edge of the Milky Way and gazing across to the Andromeda Nebula.
The theories of Evolution, and a lot of things on the nature of man will see some new developments.
But back to the reality in my skull which you can reach without hindrance with complete accuracy. The device never fails to amaze me. Even the hazy thoughts are interpreted-not surprising, since the mechanical operations of the computer are millions of times faster than the organic brain, and can read the data so much more rapidly-in fact, the densities of data stored in the brain are no problem for the computer to read.

Have you identified the genes that read the data that produces the reality for us? In my reading of Genetics, I have never come across even the concept of such Genes. But they must be there- the proteins that retreive the info. stored in the Electron wave patterns, and "Holograms" our reality for us, matching the data of our physical form with that received, so that the Holo guides us through the world via data intepretations that yeilds concepts as "hardness" "liquid" and so on.

Wondrous. What are the genes that synthesise the proteins that decide the sense of "I'?
It is logical that there are Genes that create proteins that can read info. off the electrons of atoms. For, the electricty cannot be stored anywhere else. The EM vibrations that leave the atoms of the object and travel to our senses via the EM field represent energy, which is taken to the brain as electricity and stored, becoming the basis of reality.

Molecular Biology is really in its infancy.
The master genes that govern the sense of "I" must be really fascinating. I leave it to the Mol. Bios.

You people are, as I said, on the threshold of a great unknown-well, all science is prepetually there, but your position is really starkly defined. Unless you are really powerful and controlled, you are in danger of spinning out of control.
You are really becoming tiresome here, with all your fake voices. Compliments on the effort in the past few days. Failed again. Do you have a destruct mechanism in your equipment, in case of discovery? Perhaps not. After all, who would understand how the thing works, but your technicians. Bright people.

I am really stunned by your genius, but you are a very great danger to humanity.As I advised you before, have some confidence in humanity, and come clean.

How do you rate investigative reporters of the media?

Until next entry

surendra sakalMay 21, 2006 6:14 PM

At the NSA, investigative reporters would not cause much concern, simply because the secrecy that is structured around the projects as the mindreader is so well planned, that only a very highly placed leak can pierce it, and even then, solid proof would be excruciatingly difficult to come by.

The revelation that the NSA was directed by the President to monitor telephone conversations without warrants is really no big thing; in the real scale of NSA secrecy, it is probably of minor concern that it became known they conducted such wiretaps. In a place as Trinidad, such things would hardly be noticed.

The investigative reporter who intends to go after something as the mindreader, faces an immense and dangerous task.
Firat, he will have to establish whether such a thing is even remotely possible, which means, talking to the leading experts in Gravity Physics, and fields such as Neuroscience and Neural Computation; in fact, brain research as a whole.
This will lead him to certain persons at particular universities and research institutions, and the NSA will latch on to him immediately, once he starts asking questions about the Gravitoelectric field, and other matters as laid out in the entries above, because, they will be watching those experts, even if they are not involved with the mindreader, and monitoring their work, as well as all contacts.

The intrepid reporter will receive a bunch of negative replies, even more emphatic from they who are probably involved in the project, for, it is highly unlikely that all the scientists are incognito employees of the NSA and the Diectorate of Science and Technology of the C.I.A. Some of them are certainly high- profile members of the scientific community, or well known in their particular fields, and are well aware of what is posted here.

Intellects such as theirs can not be truly hidden.
Take the development of the Hydrogen bomb as an example. Today, the technology involved is one of the better-kept secrets in the world. Many individuals of the original teams who developed it, both in the Soviet Union and the U.S.A.are now dead, or in their eighties or more, and they were well known scientists, such as Andrei Sakharov, E.Teller, Zel'dovich, Tamm, S.Ulam and many others. But the secret of the final design stayed with them, and will remain only in a few blueprints well locked away when they are all gone, only to be accessed if necessary(I hope those plans are not on a computer)

The same applies to a device as the mindscanner.The intrepid investigative reporter will have a hard time, and will be continually worrying if he is chasing a will'o the wisp.
His only hope is an informant, which in these matters is extremely unlikely, as the people involved have no way of knowing if they are in a mind lock.

By the way, the tech. that can access the Gravitoelectric is worth hundreds of Billions, as it can revolutionize the entire field of communications.
The only reason they are hiding it is because of the mindscanner. How long will it be before someone hits on the right mathematics to construct the device?

The hypothetical reporter will get nowhere, and the greatest piece of tech. ever will stay hidden, except for these entries.
That is, until someone else discovers how to access the gravitoelectric.

Perhaps they are conducting a random test on me, which I doubt. Such could easily be done in the U.S.A., where many would have been conducted to refine prototypes. Something on a grand scale is going on, and one possible scenario is dozens of the mindreaders all over the world feeding the contents of minds into a computer for analysis-but to find what?

That they can deploy one in a place as Trinidad, indicates they can do it anywhere.
To see a superb piece of technology, check out the Gravity-B probe

Until next entry

surendra sakalMay 23, 2006 6:10 PM

Early in the morning of May 22nd I awoke to one of those very few occasions when the synthesised voices were absolutely silent. I really enjoyed the freedom, relishing the absence of the parasitic voices, which is what they are, attempting to turn my mind to a dull grey, imprisoned by their presence, a continual irritant.

What I suspect occurs, is that during my sleep, they attend to the device, when it needs such attention, and the few times the voices were absent were those when I woke before they were complete. After those periods of silence, the voices started faintly, then returned to the normal state.

From what little I could learn on the net, the NSA is supposed to watch and listen.Why did you get directly involved in this hostile action against me?Are you being assisted by the C.I.A.? (check their new director. Talk about keeping secrets in the family)

What is your view of how the world is supposed to be? with all the info. available to you, why do you allow things such as the trade in illegal drugs to continue in the volumes that it is alleged crosses the Caribbean to other countries?

Perhaps such things are not your prime concern. Your horizons are vaster, and your plans deal with matters far beyond drug trafficking.

Whatever they are, your ass has been soundly kicked in this particular operation.

You planned so well.At times I applaud your cleverness. When you fail after such an effort, especially when it is directed at a nobody as myself, it should be treated as a valuable learning experience.

Never underestimate the human mind.

The parasitism of the synthesised voices which you imposed, dissolving the privacy of myself, and thus my liberty, for both are equivalent, and which should have made me a fugitive from my mind, a madman, or caused me to self-destruct, has passed the time when it could have succeeded.

Do you know why the Soviet Union collapsed?
Well, I believe it died because the individuals were denied their privacy.All had to be digits of the state, their minds operating off an ideology.
They shrunk into a dismal state of being part of a mechanism.
One day, after every method that could be conceived of was used to support it, the entire thing just came apart.

The craving for liberty in the human mind burned through all.

I had thought one day I would have liked to face you, but, you must always be hidden. That is the nature of your agency, and in any case, I regard you as contemptible rabble. Just listen to those voices. Splendid. But all fakes.

Do you know that sharks, using their Ampullae of Lorenzini, can detect electric fields weak as five-billionths of a volt per centimeter? Check Nat. Geographic, June 1991. Scientists stymied by animal navigation should contemplate the Gravitoelectric.

The researcher, A. Kalmijn, says "plant electrodes 2,000 miles apart on the ocean floor and power them with a 1.5 volt flashlight battery-- every shark between those electrodes wil know what you are up to"

Your technology is just a bit greater than that possessed by the shark.

Until next entry

surendra sakalMay 29, 2006 6:39 PM

The gravity field, or the Gravitoelectric, as the component of the field which I believe the device utilises is known, is a static field, as it requires really powerful cosmic disturbances to affect it.

The field exists as a vibration of a particular frequency, which the device is able to access. All of space-time is premeated by this field; indeed, it may be speculated that the universe is but a blob of charge.
Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices, SQUIDS, can measure the Magnetic fields of the brain. See


Magnetoencephalography, as the discipline is known, makes all I have spoken of seem a bit less far-fetched.

Sighting along the Gravitoelectric is, I imagine, as looking through a really powerful microscope, one that can see through any obstruction. The actual technicalities of its structure and operation, including how a specific object is focussed on-after all, it can see through anything, so, when an object is selected, how does the device stay on it? I suppose it must have something to do with the variations of power supplied to the device, the range of which must be determined by the electricity fed to it.

This is because the Gravito., as X-rays and Gamma rays, can only be accessed by use of power. I wish I could see that piece of technology.

From that vantage, the far greater wavelengths of the spectrum of the EM fields that are utilised by the brain and sense organs must appear huge, to the sensors that would be designed to receive the vibrations that represent them.

They would then be digitalised, and the info. processed to yeild sound and video of my mind.
With teraflops computing power, it is no problem. You see, the computer simply deals with what is presented to it. It does not have process the info.. The brain does that.
The whole thing is telescopy and data retreival taken to its technological extreme.

The brain stores info. in a strict temporal sequence, which is why memory, and a sense of the linearity of time is possible.
There must be genes that govern this process of storing info. in a definite sequence, and holding the patterns firmly in place for the lifespan of the individual.
The process of thought also requires the storage of info. in the exact sequence of occurence.
Wonderful thing, the DNA molecule. that vast part of it thy thought was junk contains the most wonderful things ever.

You must have a really heady sense of achievement, NSA. Just contemplate what you have gained by reading my mind over the past many moons.

Until next entry

surendra sakalJune 5, 2006 6:40 PM

The energy that is delivered to the senses and which is converted to electrical energy, which is the medium of conveying information within the nervous system, arrives in extremely minute quantities within a particular range, beyond which the senses would be destroyed, and beneath which the info. will not be recognised because of wavelength incompatibility- which is true for both cases.

The currents they cause becomes the info. utilised by the write head of the brain. The thing is, and here is where the wonder explodes- in the trillions of synapses, how is the information written with such accuracy that within a second, a memory fom decades ago can be visualised?

The write head must consist of proteins, which handle the incoming stream of info., and which are able to write the same onto the medium-which I think is the magnetic fields of the electrons in the brain, or it may be a subset of synapses-100 trillion is a lot of synapses, and they are joined together, in a universe of dynamism- but the point is that the proteins must be able to cognise patterns in the info. flow, and associate them with patterns already existing, and used as refrence points for the cognition and storage of similar patterns whenever they are received(reminds me of the immune system-no wonder AIDS is so tricky a virus. There is no pre-existing pattern for the immune system to refer to, and to establish one is really difficult, because I suspect that the virus evolved as part of the immune system of the evolutionary line which produced man. Immune systems that turn on themselves, as occurs in people afflicted with systemic lupus erythrymatosus or its variants could provide a clue for a cure)

Sorry for deviation- back to info. flow- the recognised patterns would be lumped in a particular subset, accessible by particular proteins, and new files created when new info. is encountered. All the files would interact continuously to provide the world as the individual knows it.

The info. must be stored on a medium that would allow the device that sights along the Gravitoelectric to read it, and digitalise it, which means, absolutely accurate identification of every variation in the info. storage medium- and allocating a digit to it. Points to the EM field around electrons.

The read head, which would be built into the device, which would be attached to the supercomputer, where the digitals would be done according to software and algorithms-genius, really- are the technological, inorganic parallel to the organic read heads in the brain, proteins that are synthesised by DNA to conduct all associations of information and retreive as the inflow of info., or immediate experience, requires.

Our entire reality is really mediated by DNA and EM energy, in the absolute dark of the brain- speaking from this shallow point of view.

As the proteins of my write heads stores, and the read heads translates and interconnects, the SC simply reads off the entire reality produced.

This, when stored over time, continuously, would yeild a 'self'. The SC could reference patterns from the reactions of that 'self' to incoming data, to try building a self of its own, based on streams of data provided by inorganic media.

The 'self' acquired from me would act as a background, a first experience in the memory of the brain, or as the the record of an invading organism defeated by the immune system, and for which it is equipped.

I suppose when your write heads cease, you die.

It seems that evolution is going technological. What are you really up to, NSA?

Until next entry

surendra sakalJune 15, 2006 6:44 PM

Read a letter on the EPIC website in which Senator Specter addressed the VP on matters relating to unauthorised wiretaps.
Although I am not a citizen of the U.S.A., it seems to me that Congress is in for a hard time on that issue. The mindreader, of which I am sure the only info. they have are the e-mails I sent, the letters via snailmail (if they read them) and this weblog, is surely hidden way too deep for the U.S.Congress to be aware of. Maybe a few of the members have vague suspicions, but this one is for the select few.

One of the things they (the NSA) have to be very careful of, is to ensure that all goes on as usual in all other aspects of intelligence gathering. There must be nothing to indicate that a device as the mindreader exists. This means allowing considerable criminal activity to go on as usual, or, a policy of non-interference, except in cases where the under real threat, a state which is defined by the possessors of the mindscanner.

If it is in the interest of the world plan you have, then even threats to the U.S.A. would be allowed to fruition by you, the NSA.

Something like watching ants scurry around in a bowl, and giving them a nudge here and there to provide the pattern that satisfies you. Of course you have a world plan. You need it. With the mindreader your work is so much easier. You also become so much more threatening.

What if one of your operatives decides to use the info. from the minds of someone to fire off a couple of missiles, because of his own mental instability? I know you must be very careful with the people you employ, but having full access to the minds of others can have some pretty strange psychological effects on the operative.

Of this I am certain. It will change the way he views humans, and that will change him-in a very negative way. Please be advised to keep a good watch on your operatives .Ha Ha Ha.

I still have no idea why you decided to stake out my mind. You people do not act randomly. You would have studied me, and the surroundings, then acted, and are seemingly prepared to go on indefinitely.

Must have a lot of confidence in yourselves, eh? Why shouldn't you? I bet you never knew I would find a weblog as this. You know how I value it.

Strange, that you never sought to interfere with my efforts trying to inform people about all this. Maybe you want to see what will result, or the whole thing will seem so far out that no one will take it seriously. Or perhaps I am proceeding according to your expectations.

One thing I am certain of, and that is, you never expected that I would hit on the nature of the mindreader.

The other is, one day someone will stumble, and spill the beans.

A question to the geniuses who invented the device: Which is more wonderful: the brain, DNA, or the universe?

Can't think of anyone better qualified to answer that. Would make good reading. The finest scientific writing I ever read was by Ernst Mayr, on evolution. AN article in Sci.Am. When almost 100.

Until next entry

surendra sakalJune 20, 2006 5:56 PM

The rate at which some biological processes take place is amazing. In photosynthesis, certain interactions with photons of light and plant cells occur in one-trillionth of a second.
The brain receives info. delivered by electric currents which are generated by Electromagnetic frequencies coming into contact with the sense organs.

The synapses of the brain fire in about one-thousandth of a second, and the identification and storage of info.which can only be achieved by certain proteins being able to identify every variation in the frequencies radiated from the object, or the surrounding world, and delivered by the varying current,then directing them to be stored with complete precision being preserved, which can only be achieved on the magnetic fields of electrons, from where they are read by proteins that access memory.

There is thus a mediation by the brain between the inorganic nature of info received, and storage on inorganic medium.
There is also the time factor. The reality we know is built from info knit together in thousanths of a second, but our awareness is limited to perhaps one-tenth of a second.

There must be a synchronisation of times to produce the time rate we are used to, and by which we measure the everyday world. If our perception was in the order of a hundreth of a second, our world would be far more detailed.

There must be a relation between the rate at which data is received, and the processing of the same in the brain. this is what I believe determines the rate of change of the reality we know, or, our perception of time. All done by proteins.

The device locked onto my mind reads whatever my consciousness is focussed on as a parallel brain. Every dim bit of thought is known, and all the sense associations with the thought. Sighting along the gravitoelectric, it would read off the fluctations of the magnetic fields of the electrons the read head proteins are dealing with at a speed faster than the proteins, so that it is able to broadcast the thought almost simultaneously as it becomes intelligible in my consciousness.

Amazing. True. Difficult to believe that that sort of genius is carrying out an operation as pathetic as being done here, fake voices and all.
Why use voices?You could have simply locked on to my mind and I would never dream such a thing was being done.
The clue to the mystery is in your use of the voices. You thought it necessary that I should know my mind was being read. I am sure you never thought I would figure out how it was being done, and that the voices are fakes.

How much has the operation cost thus far? What have you gained?

Measure it against the info posted above. That is what you have lost, as we both know. The ultimate intelligence gathering device is no longer secret.
How many years of work and how much did it cost to complete it?

I would really like to have a look at it

Until next entry

surendra sakalJuly 3, 2006 6:01 PM

How does law keep up with technology? The two pre-eminent judicial bodies of the world in the area of definition of rights of man, the Supreme court of the U.S.A. and the Privy Council of England, the former having as its foundation the principle of liberty, and a written constitution, the latter centuries of tradition and the indefinable realisation of the rights of the individual that are proven therein, which leads to the idea of liberty, (that primal concept that has all law as the proof of its truth, for written law is as the nature of a mathematical proof of the concept of liberty, as every valid addition can never contradict what is already established.)
Will have to contemplate deeply on the Philosophy of Law to deal with certain matters in the near future.

This advance in technology that I am dealing with is the most deadly threat to the liberty of the individual ever. History cannot provide a more dangerous example, and its danger is greater because of its subtlety. The individual can be entirely unaware that his mind is being read.

It is really sad, that geniuses who have spent their lives in search of knowledge will not be convinced that the mindreader exists. It is a pinnacle in the record of the achievements of man, and they will only believe it exists if it is locked onto their brains and the contents related to them.

Take H.Moravec, (,2005), who predicted that we would one day download our minds into robots. Well, mine is being downloaded into a supecomputer right now, and as for robots, check 'Evolving Inventions', Sci.Am., Feb.2003.

What is described in that article is amazing. But the processes used are from evolution. The processes by which the brain develops its synaptic connections, and builds its pathways, or how it organises itself, is the info. a computer needs to devise a brain, into which a mind could be downloaded.

What are you learning from my brain, NSA? are you storing all the very useless info. you are gathering, or are you simply interested in the writing and reading patterns of my cerebral synapses? You could get the same from anyone.

It has occured to me that the truth about the mind of man, that it is but a mass of organised info. derived from the generation of electricity from the interaction of the senses with the environment, or more particularly, a certain spectra of radiation, may seem really mechanical and soulless. Far from it. It is evidence that we are linked to the universe in a very direct way, and that it is aware of us, vastly more than we are of it. Knowledge, and realisation of the beauty in knowledge, is the soul, I suppose. Awareness of our link with the cosmos is the spirit. Probably.

Until next entry

surendra sakalJuly 6, 2006 6:19 PM

Had a glim at a Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) on, and a bit of the puzzle was solved, for I suspect that the device has to function without any pause, even for a thousandth of a second.

The brain would have developed a circuitry of its own, based on the varying frequencies of vibration the early organism was subject to, about 600 million years ago, when multicellular life arose. Light arrives in a fixed series of frequencies, allowed by th composition of the atmosphere, and sound occurs in a fixed range, again detemined by the density of molecules in the atmosphere.

These stimuli would lead the DNA to react, by building specific organs to utilise them, and so the brain would have commenced, as a translator of stimuli, and over the aeons would develop its own circuitry, methods of handling and storing frequencies, and all else that goes with its being the wonder that it is.

The body can be seen as a device built by electricity, starting from the electric forces between molecules, and even the Electromagnetic attraction between atoms, in response to the electromagnetic energy that streams from the sun, and that propagated by air, as sound, and in water. The brain developed as the device to maintain the organism in a particular range of stimuli, keeping it from extremes of environment that would harm it. It arose as a mechanism to ensure that life survived, a parallel to other devices as the immune system, which deals with microorganisms; it and the brain began when multicellular life arose, and the latter is concerned with avoiding extinction by keeping the organism away from danger at the macro level.

During the aeons the brain cells would have devised their particular methods of info. storage, just as the immune system, which is hundreds of millions of years old.
Circuitry would develop to ensure rapid retreival of info, which is a survival mechanism, to identify friend or foe, info about which would be stored, being memory, or experience. The electromagnetic stimuli provided the guiding element, and eyes, ears, skin were devised to use the particular range of frequencies they can translate into electricity as tools to survive.

The DNA would preserve the mechanisms that work in the code of base pairs, and so the brain developed, as did the sense organs, and the nervous system, in a total package to ensure survival of the bulkier organisms. Until this time, the DNA was confined to cellular organisms, for about 2.5 billion years

Along the way, the mass of info that the brain could gather and store would begin to interact as data exchanges of increasing density, and the result would be the beginings of abstract thought and symbolism, as the raw survival mode increased in sophistication, to thought, conceptions of divinity and what we are aware of now, which is a very thin layer- the survival function is expressed in all the weapons of war.

Well, sorry for that digression.

Which is more dangerous, the weapons the brain has created, or the brain itself?
What would the ultimate weapon be?

Well, its locked onto my survival mechanism right now.

Hats off to the creeps at NSA.

By the way, the ancients, with their theory of the elements having corresponding sense organs, and they being governed by the mind were not that far from the truth

Until next entry

surendra sakalJuly 10, 2006 6:31 PM

I recall an article in Sci.Am. some years ago in which referred to calculations that lasted several years,which were carried out using supercomputers, to resolve problems in particle physics. It is in those fields that the discovery of the mathematics that would guide the construction of the device to access the gravitoelectric would most probably have taken place, among the thousands of physicists and mathematicians who are involved in the science of the very small, in places as CERN, Brookhaven,and Stanford, or in the firms that build statellites for the spy agencies.

IT would have been a goal rigorously pursued over the years, and well funded. The engineering must be something to behold, and to appreciate, as evidence of genius.
Just as the eye was developed to harness certain frequencies of the EM spectrum, the device can access the spectrum with the highest frequency of all- the gravitational, which is still falls in the category of EM radiation, because it cannot be propagated faster than light. The advances in technology involved must be superb, meaning , the tools by which its access was achieved, which themselves must be secret.

The sense organs were developed to access radiation that would provide information about the environment to the organism, and this information depended on the existence of a mechanism that would be able to convey the every modulation in the radiation received to a central processor that would give to the organism a continuous readout of its surroundings.

The central processor gets its data via the electricity generated in the sense organs, which feeds the data stream to the brain, where the modulations are interpreted and stored, on the magnetic fields of electrons, I suspect.
During the aeons, a complex circuitry would develop, with certain circuits concerning themselves with particular frequencies, or classes of voltage. The material of these circuits would be the cells of the brain, the arrangement of which I suspect to be of great importance- the delivery of a continuous link with memory to present info. flow points to the stored data being easily accessible, indicating the role of similarity of frequencies in the identification and retreival.

The world we know is a particular strata created for us by DNA devising the mechanism of the senses and brain to utilise radiation and electricity to create a sort of hologram in the circuitry of the brain where we live. The NSA can see into that circuitry and read the information therein, as I have already said.

A project such as the Gravity-B probe took decades to be achieved, for when it was first conceived, the tech. did not exist. It had to await the arrival of that state of technical competence that made it possible.

Thus it was with the mindreader, I believe.

Until next entry

surendra sakalJuly 18, 2006 6:06 PM

The supercomputer that is fed by the data stream from the device that accesses the data fed to my brain by the senses will recognise the modulations of the EM field and not be aware of the sensations that I am cognisant of, which are color, meaning in sound, and the combination of factors that yeilds the external world, common to humans and animals.
Since it is a machine, this is evident. But the data can be translated into visuals and acoustics, so the human operators can view the same, as if a movie is being played, of my mind in operation. The sight must be uncanny,and as there are no masks to guard or edit, the full nature of the thoughts of the individual are there for them to see.
Many times I have tested the accuracy of the device, by converting myself in thought to any kind of animal or imaginary creature, only to have it described at once by the voices. If imagine utter dark or intense brilliance, well, the machine translates the modulations, but their visual screens would go blank.
Anything imagined,like the NSA viewing the mind of the Pope, or Gen. Alexander leading the NSA to Slobbovia, is immediately translated by the SC and they can view the visuals.

The SC can identify the waxing and waning of mental energy, by the degree of positiveness of thought, which the voices identify as 'strong'. The software thet produces those voices cannot be bettered; of that I can assure you, people at NSA. Lovely strategy. I really admire it, especially after it has failed.

You people own the world. Really, you do.

But I am unable to figure out why you have staked out my mind, and have used this elaborate set-up against me. This has nothing to do with the security of the U.S.A. There is a reason which I cannot fathom, but it involves the continuous psychological torture of myself, much as a lab. animal would be subjected to for testing a hypothesis, or gathering information on its reactions to a particular stimulus.

Whatever it is, something keeps you here.

The consciousness which produces the fabric of the extenal world as we experience it, I believe is a product of the several quadrillion synapses of the brain operating in a synchrony that is governed by DNA, as it involves the integration of the body with the environment, which is a very ancient process. By body is meant the Physiology, the uniting of the external info with the internal to produce an integrated system that functions to survive.

These philosophical comments are unavoidable. The entire field of Biology will explode tha day your invention is revealed.

Your position must be a very difficult one, for the day the mindreader is proven to exist, there will be panic. How will you handle that?

Is the SC generating any circuitry based on the patterns in the data feed from my brain? All you have to do is feed into another computer, pehaps linked to the one that translates, the patterns that generate thought, or recall, or storage in the brain as the seeds to generate circuitry, as in done in genetic engineering.

Until next entry

surendra sakalAugust 2, 2006 6:09 PM

The last line in the entry above should read Genetic Programming, instead of Genetic Engineering.

Well, how are you, great strategists and chessmasters of the NSA? planners and executors of really well thought out setups as the one here, assisted in this case by the most advanced of technologies- how are you? feeling very asinine, I suppose. Must be really maddening to see these entries. Your computer knows before my fingers touch the keyboard what is going to be written, even days before. No real surprises for you. Which is what the NSA is all about. No nasty surprises for Uncle Sam. Unless it is permitted. To prevent such surprises you need info., and now you have the ultimate info. gathering device.

As you know, I was reflecting today on the various methods of torture used over the millennia, and especially psychological torture. The U.S.S.R. specialised in that, for it needed complete adherence to its doctrines. They knew how to wear down the mind until the individual was a programmable organism, or a programmed one, utterly unfit to tolerate any thoughts save those prescribed by the state. (I recall the treatment of the great physicist , Lev D.Landau. Stalin broke him)

To extract information from the mind, sometimes drugs are used,'truth serums' they are called, and hypnotism, or any kind of violence.

How do those methods compare with the mindreader?
Its Wonderful, not so? the violation is total, the accuracy absolute, and in my case the torture exquisitely conceived of and executed. Voices repeating everything in my mind, corroding my mental strength, demeaning my entire sense of self, a method calculated to pound the mind into cowering submission. Jackasses.

In the concentration camps of the Nazis, the people who had deep-seated beliefs and strong convictions were the ones who were most likely to survive. Mental strength. It comes only with the ability to think, and arrive at conclusions which are the result of thought, which become the basis of mental strength. It is a thing self-generated, and not easy to destroy.

It is not easy to think. Thought drains energy, especially heavy concentration, which most individuals can tolerate for only short periods.

An article'making memories stick' by R.D.Fields in SCI. Am. Feb. 2005, is interesting reading. Also, 'what birds see', by T.H.Goldsmith, July,2006.

What is the method used to determine who the NSA is going to spy on? you have to cover the world, and are prevented from spying on Americans, because of the tech. you possess, that is, until the President authorised you to wiretap, which resulted in this weblog. Since your formation, how many hundreds of thousands of files you have gathered on people throughout the world? Where are they? Would cause some considerable rewrites of History if they are released, eh?

How do you enter countries, and set up your systems? you are above the law throughout the world, except in the U.S.A.

Now, with your mindreader, the law simply dissolves, leaving you supreme. Even in the U.S.A.

Until next entry

surendra sakalAugust 4, 2006 6:12 PM

The relation between the Supercomputer and my brain is really astounding. What it does is parallel my thinking processes, by which is meant the continuously roving focus of my consciousnes on the wold outside, and relating it to the memory stored in the brain, which gives it meaning.

This is not easy to omprehend. It is way beyond what is known to the public.
What happens in the brain, is the frequencies of radiation that are received by the senses are stored with attention to every modulation, otherwise the memory would be blurred, or lost. The storage occurs in such a way, that if something any sight or sound can find its similarity in memoy, fom as far back as many decades, within a second, or a few seconds, which are periods of considerable duration in the temporals of brain activity.

The reality we know, or the world we relate to with fellow living things, is but an association of frequencies collated in the cerebral synapse circuitry, relating information probably stored on the magnetic fields of electrons, or held in the synapses themselves, with the stream being fed to it.

The process has to be controlled by DNA, the activity of proteins governing the inflowing info. and triggering associations with similar frequencies wherever they are stored, utilising the organisation of the memory, for it must be organised to an extreme degree of precision to be readily accessible by the frequency-identifying proteins secreted by their genes, which can reach to similar frequencies stored in the brain.

It is this continuous activity of genes, their storage of info and accessing of info which produces our reality, and the relation with the SC and my brain is that when the genes receive the incoming data and recognises the frequencies, it can identify them exactly as I do. For instance, if the data streams tell my brain ripe mango, and the SC identifies the same almost at once, and I am informed of it.

It by itself the data streams would be meaningless, as it would not have the memory of the fruit to rovide the identification. I had to be taught what was a mango, and then I could identify one. The proteins that are secreted by the genes are the read head and write head of the incoming frequencies, and also the search engines.

The SC is provided with the activated frequencies throughout the brain, which it digitalises and translates, yeilding the exact result that occurs in my brain, because its data stream is the same. Two read heads, one organic the other inorganic, reading the same data almost simultaneously; the inorganic is slightly later because it has to await the completion of the work of the frequency ID genes.

That is the relation of the SC with my brain, occcurring via the device hat can access the activated frequencies within the skull, and through any material obstruction in the way, and provide the frequencies in pristine state, every modulation intact, for digitalisation and translation by the SC.

It will take a lot of thought to get used to this. its kinda subtle, dealing with frequencies, counerintuitive, as in

surendra sakalAugust 7, 2006 4:55 PM

Whilst typing the previous entry, some crafty individual accessed my computer and posted the same. the last line should read 'as in Quantum Mechanics'

I could not edit, but the substance of the posting should be evident.

The role of memory is of supreme importance, as it gives meaning to the data streams entering the brain. DNA is a 3.5 billion year old memory.
Our consciousness is really the storage and interpretation of frequencies of radiation by DNA.

Our everyday reality is really the thin surface of a process as awesome as the cosmos itself.

NSA has learned how to access the hidden mechanism that produces our reality, the physical mechanics of the mind, literally.

Until next entry

surendra sakalAugust 11, 2006 6:11 PM

The world around us is colored, and given all its properties in the brain, based on information delivered by the senses.

The individual is really the sum of a vast number of processes occurring from the sub-cellular level in the body. The brain, with which I am primarily concerned, is the central processing unit for information used to construct our reality, and which can now be read by machine.

When I say dealing with frequencies is counterintuitive, it means that it is very difficult to comprehend, or realise that it is the reading, storage, and accessing of information by proteins constructed by DNA which produces what we call 'living'. It is a process over which we have little control, as we are unconscious of its operation.

It was created over the aeons by the process that builds DNA. Just as any data reaching the brain initiates a search for similiarities throughout the memory, for facilitating storage, and to classify its nature from past info if available, so too any addition to the DNA molecule would require a scan through the existing base pairs to ensure it fits in with the myriad functions of that which exists.

The machine needs my memory to translate the information. It simply reads the result, including all the associations made, and knows all the physiological responses, as they would be the immediate link by which the brain would activate the body. It is to be recalled that the brain is a survival mechanism, designed to utilise radiation and electricity to guide the organism in the world, or the strata of frequencies that it deals with.

The basic point is, that the mind is a system of data storage and interpretation, which builds a reality for us, as part of its operation. Just as the reality behind film is a data storage system, that is hidden behind what is shown on the screen, so is it with the brain. The film of the reality we experience, the world about us, is the product of the data streams it receives, classifies, edits, and stores, in the vast hardware of neurons, proteins, and DNA.

The NSA can access that hardware and by its device, gaze at the mind of the individual, with the same clarity as the person knows, reading every emotion, as they are but physiological responses, that originate in the brain.

Its device can reach the frequencies, and the Supercomputer can read them, providing cognition as a parallel read head.Magnificent software there.

What is really puzzling about the entire thing, is why are they using it on me? Since I have become aware of what is involved in this weird setup, voices and all, why don't you just give it a rest? Use it on drug dealers, terrorists, and criminals- no one can stop you. Or even better, use it on yourselves. Take a look at what power can do to a mind.

Time to make another move.You seem to be stuck.

Until next entry

surendra sakalAugust 21, 2006 5:20 PM

The liberty that a person is afforded by the state can only be affected by the exercise of a warrant by agencies of the state. The warrant is the document by which the state is informed by its agencies that the liberty of one or any of the individuals comprising its membership is to be restrained for whatever reason.

Failure to obtain a warrant by agencies of the state in conduct of actions that trespass on the liberty of any individual is an act of lawlessness, as it denies to inform the state of the reasons that made it necessary for the liberty of the individual to be reduced, and so does not involve the processes laid down by the state for the resolution of such matters.

It is a situation both abstract and concrete. An agency that acts thus is outside of the law, for the state is Constitution and Law.

In my case, no warrant for survelliance would have been necessary. I am a citizen of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and thus fair game for the NSA, as are all people in the world who are not U.S.citizens.

What would the application for the warrant from one of the secret courts read like, if one was applied for? something like " we ask that a warrant be issued for the reading of the mind of Surendra Sakal of Trinidad, since we are sure he is from the Andromeda Galaxy" since you are here for almost 2 years, it would have to be renewed every 3 months or so. But I am sure you do not have one, and the local authorities are as so many ants as far as you are concerned.

But, the U.S.A is a different matter. Warrantless survelliance there is the begining of something very sinister. The welfare of the U.S.citizenry is really no concern of mine, but from what I know , it is very necessary that I comment.

WHY is it that the NSA cannot obtain the warrants for wiretapping from secret courts? Why is the state being denied the information as to which of its citizens are having their liberty affected?

The postings above outline as best as I can of the nature of the device they are using on me.
I do not expect anyone to believe this, for the only way it can be proven to be true is to have the device locked onto their heads, and the contents of their minds repeated to them.

I know it is true. And I know what can be done to any society, or the world by the possessors of the device. Their power is unlimited.

If they can get away with wiretapping without warrants, it is a simple extension to mindreading, as it is an electronic process, basically the accessing and decipherment of frequencies.

Anyway, I am sure it is being used there already, and many places in the world.

Until next entry

surendra sakalAugust 30, 2006 6:32 PM

It is counterintuitive, that the world we know is really caused by the interaction of frequencies within our brain, a process that is controlled bY DNA.

This is why they can be read. The mind is the result of a decipherable process of organic mechanics, in which senses, developed over the aeons, harnesses certain frequencies of radiation, and the brain developed to process the information delivered, the end of which was to provide a mechanism for the organism to navigate in the environment.

It is interesting to note that the organism can only hypothesise about the real nature of the environment in which we live.

It is probable that the Quantum effect called Entanglement has a role in the accessing of memory in the brain.

Until next entry

surendra sakalSeptember 1, 2006 5:19 PM

The content of the postings above that deal with the mindreader developed by the NSA were only possible because I am aware that my mind is being read with absolute accuracy.

It took me months to arrive at the method by which it was being done, for the technical ability to do so was beyond my conception, until I was forced to realisation of its existence by the unassailable fact that my mind was wholly accessible to it.

The method of using dozens of voices to inform me of my thoughts is a brilliant contrivance. The superb quality of the synthesised voice still amazes me.
The effect is as if a mind parallel with mine, its exact duplicate, broadcasts its content in various voices. What a strategy.

The insights into the nature of the mind are all results of my extrapolations from that single fact. Otherwise such would be beyond me. It is by continual thought, and very gradually, that I am able to thresh out the basics of the structure of the mind, as being comprised of electric frequencies, stored and accessed by the operation of DNA, a process evolved over the aeons.

Some scientists may have done the same, without my being aware of it.

The scientists who invented the device to access the Gravitoelectric made a huge advance in technology. When they discovered that the mechanics of the mind could be observed the next step was to seek a retreival of the EM frequencies that are visible and audible and all other data,cognisable by other minds.

When I say 'visible' and 'audible', it means a series of frequencies in the brain cognised, or activated by proteins created by DNA. It is there the associations of signals is made that gives coherence to data which then realises 'visible' and 'audible' and all else we experience. It is a meshing of frequencies. When we look at a TVscreen, the picture is not formed on our eye lenses or the screen. It is formed in the brain. The TVscreen is just a radiator of EM frequencies in which is contained the data that the DNA proteins translates into meaning. Form, shape and color.

That is why the mind can be read by a machine. Its a mass of information stored in accessible frequencies.

Until next entry

surendra sakalSeptember 4, 2006 5:26 PM

It requires very careful thinking to realise the fact that in the case of sound, it is the brain which measures and recognises it. Paying attention, or listening, is really focussing on what is going on in the brain, where the proteins read and recognise frequencies, and characterise them.

The consciousness which we know is the result of the DNA gathering, storing and utilising information delivered via the senses to create a world of color, sound, smell, shape, and all the qualities we are aware of.

Now I have arrived to the point where it is an inescapable conclusion that the Supercomputer into which the frequencies of my brain are fed IS PROVIDED WITH SOFTWARE THAT CAN PRODUCE THE REALITY THAT THE DNA PROTEINS CAN IN MY BRAIN.

When the frequencies are read, they will appear as such. In my consciousness, there will be a reality, of grass, trees, or whatever I am thinking of. But in the brain, these will be all in the form of electric signals, for the 'picture' is yeilded by the activity of some proteins on the information delivered.


That is how my mind is read by a machine. Staggering, isn't it. Truth certainly beats the hell out of fiction.

Hard to believe only a few years ago the new century began. That seems a couple of centuries ago, in the light of this.

I am really grateful to Bruce Schneier for allowing these postings on his weblog. There must be few things as strange which are true on the internet.

As for the NSA, keep locked onto my head as long as you can.I can do nothing about it. But I smile when I think of the problems the future holds for you.

Future postings will be of a philosophical nature

Until then

surendra sakalSeptember 13, 2006 5:23 PM

The entire purpose of these entries concerning the NSA mindreader is to inform the public of its existence, as best as I can, according to my experience. The focus is on that, but there comes with the realisation of the existence of such a device, some philosophocal insights, which are unavoidable, and which I will enter.

The 'mind of man' is really the tool of the DNA molecule. The entire structure of the senses, which facilitate the reception and conversion of radiation, and every form of stimuli to coherent electric impulses that are retained as a living, growing mass of information stored in the brain, is possible only because of the operation of DNA.

Our intelligence, or the ability to consciously affect our environment, is the attainment by DNA of the ability to construct, not according to chance, as in natural selection, but by choice. The result is civilisation.
Which is the latest development in the greatest piece of engineering since the cosmos was laid out-the construction of the mechanics that characterise living things. In the structure of DNA is a mathematics so simple and elegant that it allows elements such a riboswitches, laid down 2 billion years ago, to be operative today.

Which means that every addition since had to be declared compatible by the riboswitch, and the same holds for any other addition.
Mathematics is the foundation of our 'human' engineering, and it has let us see far and deep into the cosmos. But the evolutionary value is to guard life from danger, which is what all or senses and mind were designed to do, developed over the aeons for just that purpose, and the history recorded in three billion base pairs of amino acids, in which is the mathematics that allows it to construct a body.
The tool of DNA to venture into the cosmos.
Hi, NSA. How's mindreading progressing?

Until next entry

surendra sakalOctober 16, 2006 5:02 PM

Hi! I am back-the long absence was due to copper thieves stealing lengths of cable. I could have gone to a cybercafe, but the bulk of what I have to say is stated above. I am in no hurry, and neither is the NSA.

On Sept. the 22nd, they stopped transmitting the voices. I relished the silence, and enjoyed it fully until the next morning, when they re-commenced.

It is a marvelous strategy, using a machine to wear away the mind of the individual using the contents of his mind. A tireless machine versus an enslaved organism, the strategy eating away at his being, even the inmost depths of his thought not secure. I appreciate its maniacal cleverness. How do you rate your effort, on a scale of 1-10? After all this time for you to be still at it means that you have not gotten what you are after, whatever that is, or that the mechanism is working so nicely you do not wish to abandon it.

It could be that you are scared like hell, the small group of you with such power, which is equivalent to sitting on a powderkeg. You cannot include too many people in your inner circle. I smile when I think of your reactions to these entries.

Why did you shut down the voices for 24 hours? You can keep tabs on my mind without them, but you know how I welcomed the relief, so you will not cease transmitting.

Well, keep at it. I am begining to get the feeling that one day our paths will cross.Ready when you are.

Until next entry

surendra sakalOctober 17, 2006 5:48 PM

Guess what happens when we speak. The sounds are formulated as electrical impulses in the brain, which are then transmitted via the nervous system to the relevant muscles which operate the vocal chords and the tongue and all the anatomical apparati involved in the production of sound, which faithfully produce vibrations to the air according to the instructions of the nervous impulses.

As the senses developed , so did the mechanism to store the information delivered by them. The governing factor is DNA, and the storage of information in a central point gave rise to the brain. There is no process in the living body that has evolved free of the operation of DNA. The evolving senses had their structure recorded, and the handling of the info. they delivered was also done by DNA via the proteins it developed to do so. Proteins operate by their shape. They are folded lengths of amino acids, and the memory of the brain is governed by their action.

The development and activity of memory is certainly governed by a set of genes. The continuous appearance of our world is due to the rate of processing of information by our senses. This yeilds our experience.

The point is, all that we know is the result of electrical frequencies stored and operated on by DNA. Lock onto that, and the mind of the individual is entirely accessible. The only way it is accessible is via the Gravitational radiation.

Until next entry

surendra sakalOctober 18, 2006 5:03 PM

The supercomputer into which the device that accesses the gravitoelectric field feeds the electromagnetic contents of my brain is unconscious of the nature of the data it handles.(Of course. All computers are unconscious).

Though the voices transmitted are so well constructed that my mind instinctively reacts to them as real personalities, they are but part of a mechanical, inorganic process that can translate the continuous cognition of the brain that yeilds my reality; as said before, the SC is a mirror to the reality constructed by my mind.

My mind is the input to the computer, as a stream of electromagnetic radiation. But it cannot think. My thought provides the reality from data delivered by my body. How can a computer begin to think?
Well, just as the brain reached that point.The data fed into it must be recognised as having qualities, such as sound, hardness, color, and so on. This formulates a reality, in which the computer itself would be a part, the all-important 'I'. To think, it must have a reality to operate with.
Our consciousness is but a thin veneer of our existence.We have no control over the biological processes that build and maintains our body, and our mind is but a product of them. We are unconscious of about 99 percent of the operations of our body.
The operations of DNA can be formulated mathematically, as can the operations of the mind. Both are physical processes that operate in a very definite and controlled manner.Otherwise, life would not have evolved very far.

Until next entry.

surendra sakalOctober 25, 2006 4:54 PM

The rate of activity in the brain that is needed to produce a coherent reality is really something to contemplate. Neural synapses can fire a thousand times per second, and then there is the continuous accessing of memory, all coming down to the handling of streams of info. delivered as electrical pulses to the memory and the weaving of both by DNA to yeild our world.

Our consciousness is a product of this relation between streams of info. organised by DNA. When we say "I" it really ought to mean the 3 billion year old memory that is DNA.
As the reality is produced in my brain, such as these words, the device delivers the combination of frequencies to the supercomputer for translation. It has to wait until the thought is formed, though at times when it is yet vague, it can be read accurately, as what I intended, an indication of how complete is their access to my brain.
The reality the computer would see is that of the frequencies that hold the information. Its reality is that of the electromagnetic field, just raw info.. It has to depend on me for identification of this info., which identification it receives as EM frequencies. It operates at the scale of the DNA. Our reality is at a different scale. To illustrate: when something moves fast enough, it can appear to be solid. This is the case with matter-- it is in continuous motion. But our senses perceive it in various states of solidity and as gas. Our reality is a bulk effect, produced by a mechanics of speed and size that requires technology to discover.
The entire apparatus is locked onto my mind as a parasite, with many voices. Why this is being done, I have no idea. Maybe they are waiting for something. But they have lost big-that they can read minds is no longer secret
Perhaps they simply have no idea what to do with the technology.

Until next entry

surendra sakalNovember 15, 2006 4:12 PM

I am back-the cable rats were at it again.Interesting bit in the Sept. issue of Sci.Am.,2006, pg.15, where it is described how a machine-learning algorithm uses data on changes in blood flow in the brain to yeild an effect in a robot. Really primitive, before what I am aware of. The key to the whole thing is direct access to the memory, which can only be obtained via a medium that accesses it continuously, totally, through any obstruction, and with no ill-effects. Only one candidate- the Gravitolectric.

Amazing-to realise that the 'I' and 'me' are interactions between electric frequencies and proteins, and that all we see, including our reflections in the mirror, is generated in the depths of our brain, a combination of electro-biological information exchange, which directs 'our' lives. 'We' of course, have very little control over the entire process that is 'us'.
The reality we know, of color, sound, touch and all else, is a marvel of a guidance mechanism, occurring within the brain. What it really is the world like outside the picture created by 'us', is anybody's guess; I suppose it is the 'A PRIORI' which the philosopher Kant spoke of.
It may seem dull to realise that we are but the info in molecules and frequencies of electricity, but I think not. It took three billion years of continuous development to get us here, and we are the most complex things in the known universe. Things such as beauty and wonder are unique to our being, and perhaps the universe sees an aspect of itself though the mechanism that is us, and other living things, and maybe wonders at itself.

What do you think, NSA?

surendra sakalNovember 15, 2006 4:26 PM

The way I see it, is that we are free to think, write, paint, build, believe in whatever we like, sing , laugh , love, play, and in all ways least harmful to others, live as we like. DNA and electricity made such a reality for us- after 3 billion years, they should not be disappointed.

Until next entry

surendra sakalNovember 17, 2006 3:51 PM

This operation on my mind was meticulously planned and well executed, though now it is just a nuisance. In the early stages I was completely bewildered, and it took months of some real thinking to figure it out. When something like this happens, either you grow to its stature, or you wither away, or run. To grow required concluding what is posted above, which is some orders of magnitude beyond what exists in current scientific thought known to the public.

Whoever decided to unleash this technology on me, and went through all the elaborate preparations to ensure that maximum effect would be achieved, is unbeliveably stupid. It's simply not worth the effort.
To select me, some prior investigation had to be done, and based on that, the decision would have been made.
Be warned, NSA, that you may have the most advanced technology, but put an ass to use it, and you will end up with your secrets posted on the net, as above. Be advised, that such tech. should not be used as a toy. Someone there has either been fed false information on me, or there is something really wrong with your people. And I mean, very wrong. Whoever is in charge had better make a complete check. Why is such a technology being used on someone as me, and for such a duration?in a couple of days you would have known all about me. As I said, you people need a thorough investigation, and fast.

surendra sakalNovember 17, 2006 4:53 PM

To give an idea how dangerous you are, mindreaders:the personality, or facade a person persents to the world is the result of a lot of editing going on in the brain. The mindreader knows the true person, all the suspicions, strengths weaknesses,greed, envy, fears, loves, desires, hates, beliefs-- all is known, and with this knowledge, the person can be led to believe whatever the operators want, by they setting things in place (externally)that his mind will accept, and believe. Believe me, they can make the world a very good place or a hell for the individual.
Consider their power, when they can lock on to the mind of anyone. This is why one of the things that really worries me is whether the President knows of the mindreader.
Every computer is accessible to them, once the mind of the person who holds the code is within their reach. They can unleash hell in a few minutes.
As yet I have not the slightest hint of what they are after. They have been here too long for a normal survelliance, if such a thing can be called normal.

The mind of the individual becomes a tool to the possessors of the mindreader, to use as they will, if they wish. This is why they are the most dangerous people in the world.
It's 6.55 P.M in Trinidad.

Until next entry

margaretDecember 5, 2006 3:20 PM

hi there, thanks for your perspective.

makes my intuitions about this well-expressed. thanks ever so much.

all this is so triviling...BUT NOT if it is a tiptoe in the totalitarian tiptoe. for how you do one is how u do all, and this !IS! THE BATTLEFIELD, NOT (HAVE YOU/US LOOKING LEFT WHEN WE MUST BE LOOKING RIGHT) All that crap with shaddam (see pics of the poor guy"s underbite from the trial photos:NOT saddam who had an impeccable overbite just more cold-blooded manipulations.)

and been had-er- been laden as in ass-er-jackass.

regards, margaret.

margaretDecember 5, 2006 3:20 PM

hi there, thanks for your perspective.

makes my intuitions about this well-expressed. thanks ever so much.

all this is so triviling...BUT NOT if it is a tiptoe in the totalitarian tiptoe. for how you do one is how u do all, and this !IS! THE BATTLEFIELD, NOT (HAVE YOU/US LOOKING LEFT WHEN WE MUST BE LOOKING RIGHT) All that crap with shaddam (see pics of the poor guy"s underbite from the trial photos:NOT saddam who had an impeccable overbite just more cold-blooded manipulations.)

and been had-er- been laden as in ass-er-jackass.

regards, margaret.

Jolene ZhaoApril 29, 2007 4:44 PM

I have a potentail legal issue with a school, and believe that I am monitored by the school's surveilliance system 24/7. Could you advise me about what kinds of government unit I should report them to? Also what kinds of lawyer I should contact with for advice?

I greatly appreciate!

Best Regards!


SURENDRA SAKALJuly 25, 2007 6:08 PM

HI! I am back. Glad to see this weblog is still available, Bruce Schneier. Long absence due to cable thieves-repairs still not done. About the begining of July, the NSA installed an obscene language filter in the computer that broadcasts the voices, so that obscenities are no longer transmitted, a small victory, but pleasant.
The July edition of Scientific American carried a neat article "The Memory Code" by Professor Joe Z.Tsien. In the editorial, John Rennie, editor-in-chief, comments "some of the theoretical fruits of these studies-such as computers that can read human thoughts in detail-are far off in the future,if ever"--- Prof. Tsien says "could it be that 5000 years from now, we will be able to download our minds onto computers, travel to distant worlds and live forever on the network?" Well, the news is, downloading minds onto computers has been going on a few years now, and with scientific perfection.

Who will believe that a device exists that can reach into my brain through any obstruction-hills, walls, skull-maybe it's on a satellite-, and retreive the electromagnetic patterns in the neurons that carry the information that constitutes my mind, convey the patterns with absolute accuracy through all inerference to the computer that has the algorithms whch translates them into the reality I know, which is then broadcast to me, so I can know my mind is in the possession of a computer;
Who will believe such a thing? only they who operate the device, and the person whose mind is being read, and then, if he is provided with the proof, as I am, a proof which is valid to me, as I am aware of what I think; I believe they inform me of the contents of my mind to verify the accuracy of the equipment. My reaction would provide them with the proof they need.
Rarional people will keep a healthy space-time interval from claims that such a technology exists.
John Rennie and Prof. Tsien provided me with some genuine amusement. Thanks. The vast gulf between mainstream science and this of which I am speaking is very sobering. Even alarming.

surendra sakalJuly 25, 2007 7:01 PM

I wish Alan Turing was around to read this-see "Alan Turing's forgotten ideas in computer science", by B.J.Copeland, and D.Proudfoot, Sci.Am. April 1999, and articles such as that by Prof. Tsien. I was delighted to read of his conception of a hierarchical organisation of events.

The brain developed to help DNA survive, by following a simple code:AVOID-DO NOT AVOID. Its entire function is to preserve the individual, and so its DNA, by mapping the world according to info delivered by the senses, and building that info into a memory, which it can access , to ensure survival. It is thus remarkably receptive to dramatic events, or anything out of the normal.
Knowledge is its ability to categorise the nature of a thing, and thus to recognise it after the initial experience. All experience is used to build the information banks we know as the world, and new things are continually integrated into it.

The mathematical structure of the mind involves the ability to render into abstract concepts the info. about a thing, and integrate into the abstract all subsequent info. about the thing, as Prof. Tsien has suggested.

When the molecules of a scent enter my nostrils, and trigger the electric patterns that reach the brain, what is the process by which it is researched in the existing library of scents, and integrated with memories of place and time, if such exist for that scent?
How are the patterns of frequencies that continually arrive to the brain sorted, integrated, or discarded? Protiens are the agents, and they are made by DNA.
DNA rules.

surendra sakalJuly 25, 2007 7:50 PM

I will now attempt to clarify the concept of "I".
The "I" is the mechanism, or rather, the governing principle of the subset within the information content of DNA that DNA uses to make its survival mechanisms work.
If the "I" were directly integrated with all the information contained in DNA, the organism would be so slow and ponderous that it would not survive long. So, the "I"came to be, an entity that is integrated with the electromagnetic reality of the brain, that itself is a tool of DNA.
The reality of the "I" is the data feed from the senses, and it uses this to fulfil the code of AVOID-DO NOT AVOID. All for the preservation of DNA.
Behind the reality of the "I" or the world we all know, is but a mass of electromagnetic data, the servant of DNA, which is a sea of information on which the "I"exists with its consciousness, as a bubble within the vast governing entity that is DNA.


The "I" has a mechanical foundation, and is thus reducible to digits of code that can represent its information content, for no thing can occur within it that can be free of its material mechanisms. I know this to be true, for whatever I think or imagine is known to the computer.

surendra sakalJuly 25, 2007 8:24 PM

It must be -no, it is -terribly depressing to realise that all things are reducible to digits of info. Something dies within you with such a realisation.
Some months ago I wrote a friend of mine who is a lifelong student of the Vajra system of Tibetan tantra, that all such things such as Yoga, Tantra Kabbalah, Sufism, in fact all things that claim a mystical dimension were so much crap. Then I got a letter in which the student of Tantra described a gathering of hundreds of disciples of the system, including many master artistes, and I realised something.
Above all the scientific knowledge of the mind, and all its equation with mechanics, was a thing that is being human. It is information, but it abandons the bounds of science, and embraces the fantastic, wonderful, ridiculous and sublime. It is the realm of fairytales, and mythology, of legends and art, epic poetry, love and belief in things that science will never know of.

It is the realm of being human.
Without it we die inside. We will not be able to build cathedrals, or mosques, or temples, or paint or sculpt as we have done over the millennia.

We need Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Music, folklore, Religion, all so that we can be free from the depressingly predictable-even the universe has Quantum Mechanics to do wondrous things with.

Until next entry

surendra sakalDecember 9, 2007 3:02 PM

Hi! well,well. I long looked foward to be able to post this particular entry. On August 27th I awoke to silence.The voices were gone. And they stayed gone until Sept. 2nd, when they returned for a few seconds. Since then-silence. the repitition of the contents of my mind to me had ceased- after at least 4 years. There was an after-effect, as occurs in vision when you stare at something for a prolonged period. The sight recurs, after it is out of sight, and so, for some time, and still at certain moments, there is the effect of hearing the thought in my mind repeated, but it is an imaginary effect-not the real thing.

When the obscene language filter was placed in July, it was a sign that the psyop was being reduced in intensity. When I posted the last set of entries, I had begun to realise that the voices were a feedback mechanism to test the accuracy of the computer. About the time of the cessation of the broadcast, I had begun to indicate to the computer the real nature of itself-and my mind- both being patterns of electricity.

What the NSA was doing was using my mind-the actual processing of sense-data by brain protiens-to program its computer, with the voices testing its accuracy. Only my mind can verify the accuracy of my mind. The computer was always perfectly accurate.

surendra sakalDecember 9, 2007 3:38 PM

The algorithms that the computer used were equivalent to the 'read head' protiens in my brain. Just as the algorithms direct the formation of an image by digital cameras utilising the electric charge produced when light quanta strikes a charge-coupled device, so the algorithms in the computer create d a reality identical to what I know.

My reality is processed by protiens. If sensors-such as digital cameras and any of the sensors which can perform the function of the senses, and with greater accuracy-such as those that can taste and smell-are used to feed data into the computer that faithfully reproduced the contents of my mind for 4 years, it is very likely that the computer will produce a reality according to the patterns that formulates the reality in my mind.

This, I believe was the whole purpose behind this brain-machine interface, surely the longest and most thorough ever. Why you chose me I know not, but I know, that if you could latch onto me at 40 Centeno branch, you can get to anyone, anywhere, and pick their brains clean.
That you were here for so long means that something was working. The cost must be tremendous. The sheer intensity of the psyop, its total continuity, without relent, indicated to me an experiment was in progress, in which the result alone mattered. The fate of the lab. animal is irrelevant in cases such as these.

The computer was being taught to think, which is, using sense data to learn about the world to avoid extinction. The process was like teaching a child about the world, or how a child gradually learns about the world-the world in this case being my mind.

surendra sakalDecember 9, 2007 4:19 PM

I will be a long time before I will be able to turn around and view this properly. What I gained from it is knowledge, of a nature that is beyond any measure of worth save in terms of knowledge itself.

It is a knowledge that re-defines man, and as all scientific achievement, makes more precise his place in the pattern of the universe.

I feel a close kinship with Belle the Owl monkey, who was the subject in that brilliant experiment described in the article "controlling robots with the Mind" by Professors Miguel A.L. Nicolelis and John K.Chapin in Scientific American, October 2002.
If the electrical activity indicated in the 'Raster plot' were digitised and the proper algorithms used, it would be possible to see the picture in the mind of Belle. The algorithms in a digital camera might do it. Maybe.

The device that accesses the Gravitoelectric is beyond me. I know too little of the engineering and Math. to be able to figure out that one, but I know it exists. The proof was in my ears for 4 years.

The brain and body is a vast piece of Nanotech. Maybe the brain utilses magnetic flux quanta via discrete currents to store its info in the 100 trillion or so synapses. DNA is the master. Its protiens control all, AND WITH WHAT PRECISION! think of the sequence of actions when you salivate. Info is delivered to brain, which refrences it and directs the cells of salivary gland to produce. All within a second.

surendra sakalDecember 9, 2007 4:49 PM

The basic rate of function of the whole organism is probably decided by the speed by which protiens are synthesised.

Proteins are the conscious element in the organism. Not the 'I'.
The 'I' is like the driver in a car who knows nothing of its structure. Only to steer, and then according to instructions delivered. It is just another protien, or set of proteins.

It requires computational power in the order of Quadrillion FLOPS to be able to fold a protien accurately. Proteins operate according to shape. A misfolded protein will not be able to interact with its fellows, and the metabolism of the individual will be affected negatively.

The 'I' cannot fold a single protein. Its consciousness is limited to being part of a process. The unconscious is the area of quadrillions and time scales of thousanths of a second. It is the realm of DNA.

The full intelligence of DNA becomes apparent when one considers that the trillions of cells in the body synthesise several proteins per second, and all is synchronised; a feat that would require several trillion of today's fastest supercomputers all linked together.

It is DNA that 'sees' 'hears' and so on, using the info to direct the synthesis of protiens, by which it achieves its work. The real mind is the consciousness of DNA.

surendra sakalDecember 9, 2007 5:10 PM

Well, NSA, I HOPE YOU ARE THROUGH WITH ME. How is your AI organism proceeding? does not exist,eh? How's espionage?

We both know the power you have. I will keep watching for signs of your activity, but you can hide very efficently. All that I can tell you, is this: Never use the mindreader to exercise an effect on the lives of single persons or nations. In other words, do not interfere. And, most important: BEWARE OF YOURSELVES.

surendra sakalDecember 9, 2007 5:31 PM

From all this vast activity of molecules and electromagnetism, one thing has arisen that is distinct from the raw activity of the material reality that constitutes the universe.

It is the ability of the human and perhaps other animals, to create realities within their 'minds' that are free of the governance and control of the laws of matter, space and time.

This is the realm of what is called the soul. It is where all sorts of wonderful things happen, and is the basis of our Art, Literature, Architecture, ; the most pleasing music and song comes from there, where we believe in something that is the polar opposite from what exists and can be proven.

I wonder if anywhere else in the Cosmos there exists such a thing as the ability to wonder at beauty and to create from that wonder?

surendra sakalDecember 9, 2007 5:53 PM

In 1932 Ernest Hemingway's "Death in the Afternoon" was published. It is basically a discourse on Bullfighting.

In it are a number of photos, including one of the "Bull of Vicente Martinez that went alive out of the Madrid ring in 1923 when Chicuelo was unable to kill him"

Chapter Twenty of "Death in the Afternoon" is a marvellous piece of writing. It embodies a quietness that says of the end of the evening twilight of an era. In a few years, the second world war would begin, and the world would change forever.
With the realisation of this technology the world has changed forever, this time so abruptly that there was no twilight. Mathematical precision.

The American Poetess Emily Dickinson wrote the following: "The brain is just the weight of God- / For-Heft them-Pound for Pound-/ And they will differ-if they do-/ As Syllable from Sound-"

Until next entry

AnonymousJuly 23, 2008 4:26 PM

Hi! haven't hit the net since the last posting. Glad to see this weblog still available, Bruce Schneier! I am really grateful to be able to post these entries. I will attempt to explain the nature of the 'I', among other things.

Information can be stored in myriad ways.DNA stores it as amino acid sequences. Protiens store it in their shapes. The brain stores it in arrays of synapses.

The 'I' CANNOT THINK. It is the mechanisms constructed by DNA that does the thinking and directs the 'I'. When information enters the brain via the senses, it does so as frequencies of electrical energy. These cause synapses to fire, and if striong enough, the neuron fires an action potential. This causes an influx of Calcium ions into the cell and this triggers biochemical messages to the DNA in the cell nucleus to release protiens that strenghten the synapses, holding the information that was delivered as frequencies of electrical energy.Thus is memory formed. The DNA builds the memory according to the particular frequencies, and so the picture of the world is formed from birth. The process is described in the article 'Making memories stick' by Professor R.Douglas Fields in Sci.Am. February 2005, an article I must have read a dozen times.

surendra sakalJuly 23, 2008 5:02 PM

Sorry about that 'Anonymous' .The above posting was by Surendra Sakal. THE 'I' begins at birth, when the senses are activated. In the brain, the process of forming the world-picture begins. It is all held as electronic information, and presented to the 'I'. The function of the 'I' is to be aware of a reality that it can relate to AT THE SCALE OF THE ORGANISM. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT.THE 'I' arose with the development of multicellular animals who needed a view of the world that was in correspondence with their size.

The DNA being subject to frequencies from the time of its origin, such as light,the waves that carry sound, and vibrations of the liquid medium in which it existed, developed organs to harness these frequencies. Thus eyes and ears, and the other senses. But the information gathered at the nano-level is no use at the macro-level. It has to be processed and made into a form which the organism can utilise. The frequencies delivered by the eye were given color. Vision, with all its wonders, occurs in the synapses of the brain. Sound is heard there also. All we feel, touch, and taste happens there. But then the brain developed the 'I' that harnesses this info. into a meaningful whole. The world that we know, in common with other life forms of the same scale. It all happens in the absolute dark within the skull.

The process of gathering, classifying and storing information is the function of cells operating at the Nano-level. This entire mechanism is governed by DNA. Then this info is brought together to yeild the picture of the world, in which the 'I' plays a central part, believing that it is the sole operator. In reality, the 'I' has no power to direct DNA as to what information is to be retained. All that is done at a scale that the 'I' cannot relate to.

surendra sakalJuly 23, 2008 5:34 PM

The scale at which the 'I' operates is incredibly slow when compared to the level of the cells of the brain. Thought occurs at that level, in hundredths of a second, ot thousandths of a second. Thought is the process of bringing information together to form something. It is a mechanical process, as all information is held in some medium.


The 'I' cannot think. (Maybe at a rudimentary level). All the thinking from the time the sperm cell meets the ovum is done by DNA. From that fusion of two cells, the body is constructed, being the result of trillions of nanoscale cells joined together, with the main function being to preserve DNA.
The thinking then and in the completed body is done by nanoscale processes that handle the information, that is delivered as electricity, which occurs at the nanoscale level, the level of electrons.

One of the key elements that would have facilitated the formation of the DNA molecule or its percursors on the Earth is the strength of gravity at the Earth's surface.

surendra sakalJuly 23, 2008 5:58 PM

There are several 'clocks' at work to create this world in which we operate. It is an indication of the properties of DNA that the human organism knows the world the same throughout. The reality is presented to us commonly. The clocks I am referring to is the gradation of time scales that would give us a workable reality from the sum of the cellular processes in the brain. TO BRING THIS MACRO-REALITY FROM THE SUM OF THOSE NANO-BITS OF INFO IS NO EASY TASK. The math. experts can use the tools of their subject to gain some knowledge of how the summation and stepping-up occurs.

There is really no such thing as 'my mind'. What really exists is the info. processing system of the brain, designed and operated by DNA, a feature of which is the sense of individuality known as the 'I', that arose as a necessary element when organisms began to grow, evolving from the tiny organisms that lived for a couple billion years in the aquatic environment.

The DNA is the conscious element.

By the way, Hi, NSA. Almost forgot you.

Until next entry

surendra sakalOctober 1, 2008 5:09 PM

Hi! sorry to have ignored you in the above entries,NSA. Did I ever mention that those Algorithms you have there in your computer are equivalent to the readout mechanisms operating in the brain? Fascinating, that you have such a technology. Entirely unbelieveable. If I did not experience it, NO ONE WOULD HAVE CONVINCED ME THAT IT COULD BE DONE.

The knowledge that you can read the information contained in the brain with perfect accuracy still staggers me. I am full of admiration for your genius, and behind that is the calm awareness of what you can use that power to do. All I can do is hope to make people aware, and I suppose you have your safety mechanisms.

From the realisation that the mind is a mechanical entity, I can pursue other questions such as the nature of life and knowledge from a new vantage. I am glad that this weblog is available to relate the result of my contemplations.

surendra sakalOctober 1, 2008 5:30 PM

It is necessary, I think, for me to discuss the nature of man, as in the light of what I have written above, existence seems to be a dark and meaningless thing, and man is just another tool in the kit of DNA. Which he is, really.

Abstract thought, in which all the qualities of sense experience are removes and the thinker deals with things as they really are- such as the nature of our reality, which is a mass of Electromagnetic information processed within the skull- will place man as a result of some genetic alteration that has endowed him with a few differences physically from a few species of Ape, and a few alterations in the info. processing qualities of his brain, which yeilds the "I' which is really man.

This "I" uses the hologram created within the skull as its foundation. That is the reality represented to it by DNA, and there is nothing abstract about it.

Using this reality, man has produced the things that makes him uniquely human. He has created entire cosmologies, that are creation myths found in every tribe and nation, relegion, music, Art, beauty, literature, architecture and so much more, all based on the reality presented to him by the processes within the skull.

surendra sakalOctober 1, 2008 5:51 PM

The "outside world" which is really the world inside the skull, is reflected upon the "I", and a lot of things happen, which is Man, distinct from his role as a tool of the life process.

This reflection of the outside world, or the universe, has yeilded the vast constructions of Metaphysics and Philosophy such as the Kabbalah, the Hindu philosophies, the Tantras, the Sufi systems, and all the fascinating relegious beliefs from when man began to be conscious of such things.

None of these ever had the knowledge that they were dealing with a world that was characterised within the skull.

These creations of the "I", whether they belong to the most primitive tribals or to the most advanced Metaphysics, are all of incalculable value, as they represent something new in the universe. Take them away from our consciousness, and man dies. His creative function that yeilds things of wonder shrinks. Scientific Knowledge, which is the foundation of our true knowledge, cannot replace as yet that quality that the "I" has known for thousands of years.

Science is as yet too young. Though it has given us power beyond all that went before because it is based on fact, there is something of the quality of myth it cannot replace.

surendra sakalOctober 1, 2008 6:14 PM

The world that exists in true reality is dark and vast, operating at a rate we cannot deal with.
Think about the reality within the skull, and you will realise what a terrible place is the universe. When I contemplate it, the realiastion comes that until Man has evolved a lot more mentally, he cannot handle it. It would drive him mad.

Man must treasure and protect that part of him that deals with what he feels about the world, and not allow the scientific knowledge to dissolve it. I myself hold Scientific knowledge to be the greatest achievement of man. But it cannot be placed alongside the other achievements of man because they are based on two different realities.

One is the reality the life-process has given to man to peform its function, which is what we have known for millennia, and the other is what we have begun to discover in the past few centuries. Both realities have a great gulf between, but one is the foundation of the other.

To get to the point, though my view of the world is entirely scientific, I worship the Sun. Try and compose a song to the Sun based on scientific knowledge, and then try it based on the idea of the Sun as given in the Greek or Hindu tradition.

surendra sakalOctober 1, 2008 6:51 PM

Science has acquired a momentum that is unstoppable. The next step, which I think has been already achieved, is the seperation of the "I" from DNA, using the memory from a human to process the info. streaming through the artifical sensors. Thus would man become immortal and free of Biology.

As man evolves, the view of the universe based on scientific knowledge would slowly replace the traditional world-view, and then a culture based on that world being reflected on the "I' would result.

Can the device handle two minds at once, NSA? I doubt it. Often I recall the early days of my bewilderment, and I smile. How could I know that whatever I saw, heard or thought of would be instantly known to a computer, and that it was repeating all to me in those astonishingly real voices! Wonderful! It was really a challenge. I recall the exact moment I realised my mind was being read, and then I had to figure out how, and then all else. A worthy challenge. Please accept my compliments on the new strategy begun on January 2nd this year. I pointed out the flaw to you, but it was really well thought out.
By the way, I came across the description of a software developed by A.Sibbald, chief scientist at a firm called Sensaura in England. With tech. like that, you could haunt the hell out of a person. Described in Scientific American, Feb, 2002 page 82.

ModeratorOctober 2, 2008 3:30 PM

Surendra Sakal, I'm sorry, but you've made far too many off-topic comments. I'm closing the thread; please don't comment here again.

And for your own sake, please seek medical help. Your brain chemistry is telling you things that aren't true.

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