PUNCH HARDER, DON'T RUN. Obviously, the public's initial response to the latest from the NSA hasn't been the outrage I would have hoped for, but nonetheless I think Democrats desperately need to ignore this implicit advice from Mark Blumenthal:
THE WASHINGTON POST'S POLL IS FLAWED. Let me get the fun part out of the way first. Here's an answer to Matt's question about the identity of Specialist (whose criticism, which has on occasion targeted yours truly, is indeed valuable and well-argued sometimes). "Specialist" is the code name for a secret team of a dozen White House interns targeting liberal blogs who have been chained to their desks in the basement of the West Wing and who suffer regular whippings at the hands of Tony Snow.
IS THE NSA PROGRAM ILLEGAL? COULD IT BE CRIMINAL, TOO? Is the NSA's newly-revealed program to collect the phone records of millions of Americans illegal? Experts are expressing different opinions this morning. But Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, thinks it's clearly illegal -- and she says it may even be criminal, too.
I just got off the phone with her. And I'm going to try -- and probably fail -- to accurately boil down what she said into something real, real simple.
WHEN PSYCHOTICS ATTACK. Giving a speech at a Library of Congress lecture yesterday, former senator Alan Simpson was "shocked to read that House Republicans wouldn't pass a mental-health bill because it had Democratic sponsors. 'You've got to have rocks for brains to do that,' the Wyoming Republican complained. 'We never had that kind of thing. We just didn't do that to each other.'" It's not the rocks for brains that bother me so much as the extra headstones. America views treatment for mental illness as a luxury commodity, obtainable for the rich, unnecessary for the poor.
WHAT�S THIS ABOUT? Like any lib, I was somewhat surprised by that Washington Postpoll this morning finding that 63 percent of Americans approve of the NSA surveillance program (and when people were asked how they�d feel if their own calls were being monitored, approval went up by 3 percent!).
WHO IS SPECIALIST? I have to say that I'm growing concerned about the rapid pace with which frequent TAPPED commenter and detractor Specialist manages to put up comments on this blog. What person could have the requisite stamina? Is it possible that the NSA is running some kind of massive blog-trolling program with hundreds of operatives -- or automated computer routines -- unleashed upon the progressive blogosphere to contest our arguments? The American people want to know.
PRIVACY FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE. Many props to the Washington Post who led off their front-page, top-'o'-the-paper story on the NSA scandal with this bolded quote:
The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all of our activities. We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al-Qaeda and their known affiliates.
POISONED FRUIT. Perhaps this is obvious, but the thing about the big NSA phone records dragnet is that this gives us the previously missing explanation as to why the administration thought it was so important to illegally wiretap people without warrants. That used to be a bit mysterious -- if the idea was to spy on people with al-Qaeda connections, getting a warrant should have been easy. The problem is that the evidentiary basis for believing the people in question had al-Qaeda connections now turns out to have been illegally obtained evidence from the broader NSA program. And then the problem reiterates itself -- if the listening-in stage of the program reveals anything interesting, you can't use that in a court either.
MORE ON DEAN, AGAIN. Following up on Ezra's contention yesterday that he's not an anti-Deanie meanie, I'd also add that my own thinking on the 50-state strategy is far less negative, as should be clear from this April item, than Kevin Drum suggested:
EVERYTHING IS EVERYTHING. Last week I argued that the burgeoning prostitution and bribery scandal involving contractor Brent Wilkes could be used to tie the abuse of women to abuse of detainees in the public mind and create an overall picture of the attitude of the administration toward human dignity. Now Laura Rozen is suggesting those two things have even more in common than a disrespect for human rights: