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Spy vs. Spy

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 18 years ago, in 2006, on the World Wide Web.

(Link thanks to No Treason 2006-04-23.)

Here’s erudite, conservative intellectual Kim DuToit breaking it down for us on why he has no problem at all with the NSA collecting a massive database of your phone records, and why you shouldn’t have a problem with it, either.

By way of background, DuToit has just spent a great deal of time discussing his experience collecting a huge database of information on customer purchases for the grocery store he worked for, using one of those annoying little loyalty card swipers. The idea is that you collect a lot more data than you could ever reasonably be interested in, and then ignore 80% of it to focus on the folks on the margin that you’re interested in:

Here’s the Big Clue for the Clueless: if you don’t collect all the data, you can’t narrow the search at all. And it’s only once you’ve established that Abdul is a Bad Guy that you ascertain his number, and the numbers of his correspondents, and their names. Most of the calls will be innocent: the dry cleaners, the gas company, the liquor store, whatever.

But out of the couple hundred calls, you may find five that are to Mohamed Semmteks, and to Tariq Pilota, who are also terrorists, and whose calls you can now start investigating.

So from tens of billions to a couple hundred to five. And in these cases, it’s NOW when you, as the investigator, can get a warrant for a wiretap so you can start listening to actual content, which, out of all the data mentioned so far, is the only part protected by the First Amendment.

That’s how to do it—and more importantly, that’s the only way to do it when you’re starting from scratch.

As far as the vast majority of us are concerned, there’s not much to worry about. Nobody at the NSA is interested in the call you made to your Mom, or even to the call you made to your mistress. Don’t kid yourself: you’re not that interesting.

Just as I was never interested in whether Betsy Smith bought Tide or Tidy-Cat.

But I have to tell you, I am really glad that someone at the NSA was doing their job, and began to collect the data a long time ago—because otherwise it would now be gone, and we’d be behind the curve, just as we were on 9/10/2001.

Kim DuToit, The Other Side (2006-05-12): Database ClueBat

On the other hand, one wonders whether there’s any guarantee that what No Such Agency is interested in will always line up with your freedom and personal safety. Perhaps the government spooks’ interests aren’t always interests that they ought to be able to pursue. I’m sure I’m just being Terminally Clueless here, and wildly paranoid to boot, but, hell, let’s check and see what an expert thinks about the government keeping massive databases for surveillance of legitimate exercises of individual rights, and the potential for abuse of those databases.

Specifically, here’s erudite, conservative intellectual Kim DuToit breaking it down for us on why he has a problem with the Justice Department collecting a massive database of his gun purchases, and why you should have a problem with it, too:

One of the basic disadvantages of the State knowing who is armed and who isn't, is that the State knows who has to be disarmed, if they are to impose any kind of tyranny. …

As we saw earlier in the case of Nazi Germany, by giving the State the ability to identify gun owners, we give the State the ability to disarm us.

This is not a situation of Trust us, we'll never do that. We would be incredibly naïve to fall for that nonsense. In all of history, assumption of government benevolence has been betrayed, sooner or later, and the greater the power of the State, the sooner comes the betrayal.

Gun owners know the underlying motives behind gun registration, and we are not reassured or fooled by the weasel denials of politicians. Licensing and registration constitute infringement, and that's prohibited by the Second Amendment. Anyway, we know the progression.

— Kim DuToit, The Other Side (2003-02-26): Part VII: Gun Registration

I guess it’s a good thing that freedom of speech and freedom of association aren’t important individual rights like gun ownership is. Otherwise, we might have a real problem here.

3 replies to Spy vs. Spy Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Lanoire

    This is something I will never understand about “small government” conservatives. If they were truly for small government, I could respect them. I could even agree with them.

    But don’t they give themselves cognitive dissonance by crying for “small government” and then espousing this shit and stuff like abortion bans?

    I can’t help suspecting that these so-called small government conservatives are really all about freedom for white rich men and state suppression for everyone else.

  2. Wild Pegasus

    I know where to send people when I need to illustrate cognitive dissonance. That is just astounding.

    • Josh

· December 2006 ·

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Geekery Today:

    I feel safer already…

    (Via Anarchogeek 2006-12-03.) The FBI appears to have begun using a novel form of electronic surveillance in criminal investigations: remotely activating a mobile phone’s microphone…

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