Liberal cries of horror have echoed across the fruited plane in the aftermath of a New York Times article revealing warrantless surveillance conducted on some Americans on the grounds that said individuals might be in collusion with al Qaeda. The Times seems just horrified, too, that such a horrible thing is happening. Why, this could be the beginning of the end of your freedom!
I found the Times’ reaction unsurprising, that is, until I discovered something very interesting. You see, in spite of the obviously negative reaction of the Times and others like Al Gore over a surveillance program focusing only on the international communications of no more than 500 Americans at a time, those very same people didn’t appear to have any problem with the creation and implementation of a National Security Agency electronic surveillance program which “collectively monitored millions of voice and data messages each day” as well as “virtually every phone call, fax, email and telex message sent anywhere in the world,” according to an earlier New York Times article and a European Union report on the surveillance system. The codename for the system was “ECHELON” and according to an April 2000 article in PC World magazine, it could process up to “1 million message inputs every 30 minutes.”
In a 1999 study cited by the Times, Patrick Poole, a professor of government and economics at Bannockburn College in Illinois, had determined that “ECHELON is also being used for purposes outside its original mission” stating that this surveillance was being “targeted at American civilians for reasons of ‘unpopular’ political affiliation” or in some cases “for no probable cause at all.”
Call me crazy, but ECHELON sounds a hell of a lot worse than whatever President Bush is doing. In the case of ECHELON there were no cries of outrage from the Times or even from Al Gore. Why is this, you ask? Because ECHELON, which was also highlighted in a February 2000 piece on 60 Minutes, was reported on by the Times in May 1999. Al Gore as you may remember had another job then-vice president of the United States. And who was president then? I’ll give you a hint-it wasn’t Bush.
A small limited surveillance program initiated by the Bush White House and it’s portrayed like we’re all living in a police state. A massive, all-encompassing widespread eavesdropping operation initiated during the Clinton administration and how does the Times react? With doom and gloom? No. According to them the bigger, more intrusive program was something “few dispute the necessity of.” in apprehending lots of bad guys, including terrorists.
This couldn’t be because the Times likes liberals better. could it?
Scott Wacholtz is a graduate student in Middle Eastern studies. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.