Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Opinions can be threats to national security:

The NYT reports:

"A consortium of major universities, using Homeland Security Department money, is developing software that would let the government monitor negative opinions of the United States or its leaders in newspapers and other publications overseas. Such a 'sentiment analysis' is intended to identify potential threats to the nation, security officials said. . . Ultimately, the government could in a semiautomated way track a statement by specific individuals abroad or track reports by particular foreign news outlets or journalists, rating comments about American policies or officials."

Letter to the editor writers or bloggers in the US don't have to worry about this, right? It's only newspaper opinion pages in other countries, right?

"Federal law prohibits the Homeland Security Department or other intelligence agencies from building such a database on American citizens, and no effort would be made to do that, a spokesman for the department, Christopher Kelly, said."

Wew, that makes me feel a lot better. After all, W. & Co. told us they didn't spy on domestic phone calls or emails inside the US before and we all believed them. Of course, then it turned out that 'yes,' in fact, they had been spying on domestic communications through switching boxes at all the major communications companies. But, that's not going to happen this time, right? Right?

See, they're only looking for opinions that might be "indicative of threats to the nation."

Like perhaps Steven Howards of Beaver Creek Colorado who was arrested by the Secret Service for walking up to Cheney and giving him his opinion? According to the NYT, Mr. Howards was taking his son to a piano lesson when he saw Cheney standing in an open area of a mall. He walked up to him and said, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible." Or "words to that effect" according to his law suit against secret service agent Virgil D. Reicle, the man who arrested him several minutes later. [Could it really have been 'go fuck yourself?']

NYT: " June 16 article in The Vail Daily quoted a spokesman for the Secret Service, Eric Zahren, as saying that Mr. Howards 'wasn’t acting like other folks in the area,' and that he became 'argumentative and combative' when agents tried to question him. Mr. Howards said Tuesday that he was never threatening and did not become upset until his arrest.

'This was not about anything I did — this is about what I said.'

[Can you imagine Cheney standing there and having some pleb come up to him and tell him off? Lucky for Howards he didn't have his shotgun handy.]


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