Thursday, March 03, 2005

Blowing In The Wind

Site of Reference:

This is from an interview in the Washington Post with Patrick Radden Keefe: “In the end, Keefe argues that the vital debate over where to draw that line should not be left just to intelligence officials and Congress. The public, he insists, must educate itself as best it can and weigh in on the decision: "The one conviction I came away with is that if we ignore this issue, put off by the level of secrecy or the technical complexity involved, we do so at our own peril." His concern is reflected in another old Latin phrase, Quis custodiet ipsos custodies: Who is watching the watchers?”

An excerpt from Mr. Keefe’s book,
Chatter: Dispatches From The Secret World of Global Eavesdropping,
"Over the next several hours, Alistair (Alistair Harley) and I drove around the area near his house, listening. The dashboard of his car was a jumble of receivers and switches, black wires and knobs. He fiddled to get the right frequencies as we zipped along, listening to the messages flying around us. As we drove down empty roads, without a person in sight, the inside of the car sounded like a cocktail party in full swing; cellphone conversations, the bark of walkie-talkies and CB radios, the gibberish of encrypted calls.
This was in the summer of 2002, and on the other side of the planet the war on terror was under way. We stopped at Lakenheath, the largest American air-force base in England. Bombers and supply planes bound for Afghanistan maneuvered on an endless runway. Alistair fiddled, and soon we were listening to exchanges between ground crews and the control tower as the planes were readied for takeoff. “It works out well,” Alistair told me, as he took a pair of binoculars out of the glove compartment. “I can sit at th eend of the runway and look like an aircraft spotter.” I can sit at the end of the runway and look like an aircraft spotter.” For the first few minutes, I didn’t even register that the voices crackling through the receivers and into the car were not British but American.
It was a peculiar kind of voyeurism: the knowledge that the flight plans of Amercian F-15s would qualify as extremely valuable intelligence for a broad assortment of enemies of the United States and that the signals were right there in the air, asking to be listened to. “If you listen to the ground crews at night, you can hear their mission briefing for the next morning,” Alistair told me with an excited grin. He explained that as a general rule “if it uses radio waves then there is nothing that cannot be intercepted, monitored, stored. There’s a certainly not a lot around here voice- and data-wise that I can’t intercept. And with GCHQ’s equipment, it must be tenfold.”

As you can read in the words of someone who has witnessed this first hand and who is a recognized authority on this subject, you can well see that we are not as safe, our military and therefore American citizens are nowhere near as safe as we might have thought we were. These two men, Keefe and Alistair Harley are of Arab decent, they do not have brown skin nor thus they would not be judged suspicious. You do not have to be of Arab descent or to be an Islamic fundamentalist to attack our interests in the U.S. or abroad. If we are to believe the Bush administration we need only to look for people of color. The answer is we may never know who is spying on us or intends to do us harm but before we go to war it would be helpful to have evidenced that can be verified.

- Chris Mansel

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