Sunday, November 06, 2005

Wow, Brazil is big


If you haven’t read the WaPo piece on the FBI’s use of 30,000 “national security letters” (i.e., executive subpoenas), do so now. I especially like the quote from Jeffrey Breinholt of Justice’s counter-terrorism section that having all your personal information perused by government employees is harmless unless they, like, make a mistake and seize all your worldly goods or put you on a no-fly list or send you to a secret gulag or whatever. Civil liberties and privacy concerns, says Breinholt, whose email address is jeffrey.breinholt@usdoj.gov, are “eccentric,” like, you know, having too many cats. About half-way into the article is the pertinent datum that John Ashcroft rescinded a 1995 order that information on Americans obtained through use of a national security letter should be removed from FBI databases if not relevant. Now, the government is building a vast database of information that it will retain, analyze, and disseminate as it pleases, forever. Yes, the feds have naked pictures of you, and they bring them out at the Christmas party. And buried at the end of a long article is a quote from the Justice Dept inspector general, who investigates abuses based on complaints from the abusees, but acknowledges that “To the extent that people do not know of anything happening to them, there is an issue about whether they can complain. So, I think that’s a legitimate question.”

The other two (long) must-reads in the Sunday papers are the LA Times story on the Polish-Iraqi who returned from exile in Poland, where he sold used cars and owned a pizza parlor, and was given control of over $1 billion in Iraqi defense money, with predictable results, and the NYT story which gives more detail on the not entirely gasp-worthy news that the Bush admin lied about the intelligence on Iraq in the lead-up to the war, and knew it was lying.

George Bush, who supported a coup attempt against Hugo Chavez, has delivered a speech in Brazil, widely described as aimed at Chavez, tut-tutting attempts “to roll back the democratic progress of the past two decades”. And like Ronald Reagan, who once returned from a Latin American trip eager to report his discovery that “you’d be surprised – they’re all different countries down there,” Bush also learned something: “Wow, Brazil is big.”

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