Historical Parallels

The Critic finds a great historical parallel between the NSA and phone records and the precursor to the NSA called The Black Chamber:

In light of recent news regarding AT&T and other telcoms providing all your phone records to the NSA, I read this passage tonight from James Bamford’s enlightening (and rather terrifying) 1982 expose of the National Security Agency, The Puzzle Palace, and was rather stunned. It describes the precursor to the NSA, Herbert Osborne Yardley’s Black Chamber, an organization devoted to deciphering telegraph communications as part of the war effort, an organization that was part State Department and part War Department:

“With the end of the war [WWI] came another problem: the Radio Communication Act of 1912 was again in effect. This act provided that the government would guarantee the secrecy of communications:

No person or persons engaged in or having knowledge of the operation of any station or stations shall divulge or publish the contents of any messages transmitted or received by such station, except to the person or persons to whom the same may be directed, or their authorized agent, or to another station employed to forward such message to its destination, unless legally required to do so by the court of competent jurisdiction or other competent authority.

Bush’s Approval Rating Down to 29%

Bush confused 21_a.jpg

The Decider busts through the 30 percent mark.

President Bush’s job-approval rating has fallen to its lowest mark of his presidency, according to a new Harris Interactive poll. Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush is doing an “excellent or pretty good” job as president, down from 35% in April and significantly lower than 43% in January.

Roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults say “things in the country are going in the right direction,” while 69% say “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track.” This trend has declined every month since January, when 33% said the nation was heading in the right direction. Iraq remains a key concern for the general public, as 28% of Americans said they consider Iraq to be one of the top two most important issues the government should address, up from 23% in April. The immigration debate also prompted 16% of Americans to consider it a top issue, down from 19% last month, but still sharply higher from 4% in March.

How low do you think he’ll go?

The Article Every American Should Read

If you haven’t seen the USA Today article on the NSA’s database tracking your phone activity, go read it now.

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA’s activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.

The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated Monday by President Bush to become the director of the CIA, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. In that post, Hayden would have overseen the agency’s domestic call-tracking program. Hayden declined to comment about the program.

Stairways to Heaven

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog has collected about 70 mp3s of different versions of Stairway to Heaven by different bands.

Here are 68 73 versions of the song that doesn’t remain the same, depending on whether it’s the the Australian music hall version, the Gilligan’s Island version, the backwards version, the backwards splice-and-dice quarter note version, the glass harmonica version, the Doors version, the reggae version and on and on (all MP3s). Much of this came from former FMU DJ KBC’s CD of the same name, which took much of it’s content from this 1992 LP.

Book Banned by the US Government


LAS VEGAS, NV — Irwin Schiff is a well known author with over 500,000 books in print about the economy and the income tax. He is also now amongst the few who have had a book banned by the U.S. Government. On March 19, 2003, Federal Judge Lloyd George ordered Schiff to stop selling his book “The Federal Mafia” which has been in print for over 13 years. According to Schiff the Federal Government is using the American people’s preoccupation with the war in Iraq as an opportunity to squelch freedom here at home.

Mr Schiff says, “The 1st Amendment is designed so people can have opinions different from the government and there is no legal basis whatsoever for banning my book. Its all contrived, it’s bull***t. The government is banning the book because the information is accurate and correct.”

With the exception of the Las Vegas Review Journal, there has been very limited press about this book banning. Mr. Schiff attributes this to the timing of the government’s actions.

Here’s the article from the Las Vegas Review Journal. It still seems to be available through Amazon.

This site has a pretty nice history of banned books in the U.S.