BALTIMORE -- Following reports that Baltimore peace groups have been targets of illegal spying, the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland today filed public information requests with federal and state authorities. The ACLU said it is concerned that the disturbing national trend of government surveillance of political and religious groups may also be happening here in the "Free State."
"It is fundamentally un-American for the government to invade the privacy of peaceful political and religious groups under the guise of fighting terrorism," said Susan Goering, Executive Director of the ACLU of Maryland. "Such illegal surveillance by the Bush administration and law enforcement agencies abuses our trust and threatens our freedom."
Among the groups the NSA has been listening in on is the American Friends Service Committee -- i.e., Quakers. According to AFSC's mission statement, "The American Friends Service Committee is a practical expression of the faith of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Committed to the principles of nonviolence and justice, it seeks in its work and witness to draw on the transforming power of love, human and divine."
The ACLU quotes one of the wild-eyed operatives of global terror:
"It is evident as people of faith and people who subscribe to democratic principles that we have a responsibility to speak out regarding our own convictions," said Sister Ardeth Platte, a Dominican Nun with Jonah House, a faith-based Resistance Community dedicated to non-violence. "We believe that the government is engaging in illegal and immoral actions, and if they are monitoring our non-violent and loving work, they are further undermining our democracy and human rights."
Somebody keep an eye on these guys, they're obviously a terrorist threat.
Bush claims that this program is necessary to protect americans, but in February the Washington Post reported that the program hasn't really been all that effective:
Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.
Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as "terrorist surveillance" and summed it up by declaring that "if you're talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why." But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no.
And it's not like Bush hasn't lied about the program before. Despite assurances that the program was targeted and limited, Rueters reported in 2005 (emphasis mine):
The volume of information gathered from telephone and Internet communications by the National Security Agency without court-approved warrants was much larger than the White House has acknowledged, The New York Times reported Saturday.
So, basically, the NSA's wiretapping seems to be almost random. I say 'almost' because the groups named by the ACLU have one thing in common -- they oppose the war in Iraq. If there's one thing we can pretty much all agree on, islamic terrorist groups are all for war with the US -- whether in the US itself or in Iraq or Afghanistan.
No, the Bush administration is clearly spying on its political enemies. This isn't what a free people should have to worry about, this is what people in the USSR had to worry about. If we let this go on, how long will it be before we all assume that we're being watched or listened to, like diplomats in Cuba?
We're told that all of this is necessary to defend the US. But if we give up all of our freedoms, what the hell are we defending?
Technorati tags: politics; Bush; privacy; terrorism; the NSA warrantless wiretap program is keeping us safe from Quakers, nuns, and other dangerous terrorists